Liking a series and having no real idea how to explain why isn’t an easy position for a blogger to be in. If I’m to step back and look at Little Busters! honestly, I’m compelled to admit that at first glance this is a series I’d guess I would dislike intensely. It features a veritable laundry list of things I normally rail against in anime – moe near-lolis mugging endlessly for the camera being near the top of the list. An overreliance on the general cuteness of little girls and animals. Guys being mostly plot drivers with little focus on their motivation for doing the things they do.
And yet, somehow, I really like it. And I can’t quite tell you why.
The first and most obvious theory I can come up with is that Maeda Jun is quite good at creating characters I don’t normally care much for, and situations that normally drive me crazy. It’s easy to see why KyoAni was such a natural dance partner for Key because there’s an obvious crossover in their sensibilities, extending to a complete disregard for the notion of taking this sort of thing too far. I did love Kanon, though that was mostly Hisaya Naoki’s writing – so perhaps this is actually a better fit for me with a slightly less shameless JC Staff, and in KyoAni’s hands LB would simply have put me on tilt.
While the structure of the episodes continues to be a little clunky and disjointed, I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying the individual scenes as strung together. This week saw the introduction of Kud (Wakabayashi Naomi), full name Noumi Kudryavka, apparently half-Finnish and half-Japanese (and all moe). Kud is a living example of everything that should be all wrong for me in LB that I find mostly right – she’s adorable. I’m a sucker for badly accented Japanese (Kate from Sketch Book is among my favorite comedic characters ever) and the little snipped of mangled Japanese and Engrish between she and Riki was hilarious to me (I’m also weak against Horie Yui generally, especially speaking Engrish herself). Oddly, as was Haruka last week, Kud was introduced and then quickly moved away from the center of attention – another example of the somewhat odd structure so far that I take to be a too literal adaptation of the VN.
It’s clear that the focus of the first arc is destined to be Komari, who I don’t like as much as Kud but that I like her at all (“Uwah – I hit both sides!”) surprises me deeply. Her story is the first to get fleshed out – the dreams of “Onii-san”, the picture book (as classic a VN scenario as is imaginable) of the hen and the egg, and the fateful trip to the old folks home. It’s not bad enough we have moemoe-kyuns and kitties, we have adorable teens being kind to old folks as well? Yet again, though, where I should have gagged I find the scenes in the retirement home rather charming, though it does make me wonder – don’t old folks’ homes in Japan have maid staff? You actually need volunteer kids clean the rooms? In any event the clear point of this excursion (apart from the general warmth) was to introduce Kamikita Kojiro (Ookawa Tooru, a true seiyuu legend) – a grouchy old Ojii-san who not only knows Komai but shares a family name with her, and is clearly connected to the Kamikita Takuya whose name adorns Komari’s picture book.
So we’re officially into the routes now, and this will be the first test of how much staying power Little Busters! has. Almost invariably in VNs generally and Key specifically there’s a pretty sizable gap in quality among the individual arcs, but the better ones have a way of keeping you invested through the troughs as well as the peaks. We’ll see – for now I’m good, because I find the overall atmosphere of the series very winning. Little Busters! is betting everything on the likability of the cast and their chemistry as a group, and right now that seems like a pretty good bet.