Wow – that conclusion sure arrived a lot faster than I expected.
As with just about everything else with Little Busters!, I’m very much of two minds about this episode, and the entire Komari arc (both episodes of it). On the one hand I can very much feel myself being manipulated emotionally, and while Maeda Jun supposedly didn’t write this arc personally it’s clearly written to fit with his style. But on the other, while I wasn’t devastated or anything it did have its moments where it really connected, though more so from Riki’s perspective than Komari’s.
It goes beyond that, to the length of the arc itself. I’m definitely of a mind that a little Komari goes a long way – between the way the character is written and the performance she can be a lot to take – so the fact that her arc was so short might just be a blessing. But the downside of that is that it definitely comes off feeling a bit rushed. The character development got to what felt like a fairly logical place, but there were some obvious shortcuts taken along the way. Given the announcement that the series would be extended beyond 26 episodes in some fort, it’s an interesting decision to cut the first character arc so short.
My general sense is still that LB is a more innocent and straightforward story than Clannad and Kanon, and the very expeditious and direct resolution here plays into that. It was pretty clear where the story was headed last week and there were no surprises on that front, and it was pretty clear from the look in Komari’s eyes when Riki took her to his room that the pilot light had gone out. I appreciated the fact that there were no halfhearted attempts to mine humor from the “girl in the boys dorm” scenario, and that Masato was allowed to behave with some dignity for a change – otherwise it would have felt cheap and inappropriate. From there the point was gotten to with astonishing rapidity – Riki went and got the truth from Koujirou, and devised a plan to try and bring Komari back to reality. And it worked on the very first try, in about ten seconds. If only all of life’s problems could be resolved that way.
The message of Komari’s arc is one I certainly agree with, but it was played out in very broad terms – running away from sad events only makes our problems worse in the long run. The storybook motif that ran through the arc is an apt one, because that’s very much what Komari’s story felt like – a fairy tale, with a moral at the end for all the learn from (and a very un-Mother Goose like happy ending). One might take issue with the fact that the bond among the Little Busters had grown so tight so quickly, and that Rin was able to overcome her anxiety and bond with Komari so quickly, but it’s not as though subtlety and realism were really the point here. The essence of Key under Maeda Jun is to play out big emotions in broad terms, and this was very much in line with that general tenor.
Whether we can make any inference from this as to how long future arcs are going to last I don’t know – we had basically three-and-a-half episodes of introduction and two-and-a-half for Komari’s story. The next in line is Haruka, apparently, a character who barely appeared at all in the first six episodes, so it seems safe to assume she’s not going to be a major player in the ultimate resolution of the story as a whole. Unlike with some VNs (though certainly it was the case with Clannad as well) there seems no suspense at all here as to who the main girl is, unless I’m very much misreading the situation. Perhaps a good deal of the series’ time is going to be spend not on the preliminary routes themselves, but on what happens after Rin has officially “won”. As such, I’m more or less expecting her time in the spotlight to be saved for last as she plays a supporting but significant role in the other arcs.