Little Busters! – 09

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It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that my view on Little Busters and the general zeitgeist are two ships passing in the night, likely never to meet again.  But in the immortal words of George Costanza, “Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care.”

I’ve been spending weeks trying to figure out why I like Little Busters!, and coming up with reasons to defend that view – but I think a better question for me to ask would be, why do so many people not like it?  I suppose that’s for them to share if they want to, but after some noodling on the subject, I think cynicism has a lot to do with it.  As in, whatever cynicism the viewer brings to the table, and the complete and utter lack of cynicism evidenced by Little Busters.  I’m normally a pretty cynical person myself, which is why I was so surprised for a while that I liked a show that on paper I shouldn’t, but for me the answer lies in another one-word answer: sincerity. 

For me at least, there’s absolutely nothing insincere about LB.  Not in the moe, not in the humor, not in the themes it chooses to focus on.  It can rightfully be called many things, and it can’t be called slick or subtle – but for me the show plays as if it couldn’t possibly be any way other than exactly how it is, any more than a cat (never pull on a cat’s whiskers, by the way – they’re very sensitive) could decide to be a dog.  All the kawaii and sincerity and goofy humor are intrinsically a part of what the show is, and if they didn’t work for you out of the gate, I think it’s pretty unlikely they ever will.  But if you buy into the premise, as I did, I think the charms of the show are pretty hard to resist.  Perhaps it’s because my schedule is so top-loaded with depressing and dark series like Shin Sekai Yori, but this one makes a welcome relief from all the irony and pathos that pervades most of the series I follow.

A commenter named Slashe posted on my other blog after last week’s episode, and since he captured the essence of LB more eloquently than I ever have, I’m going to quote from him here:

What dawned on me recently about Little Busters was that despite the premise of Riki building a baseball team via harem creation, the real focus on the show is not romance, but actually friendship, despite the Key label.

And that answers many questions I had behind LB and its production.

…It is this focus on friendship by the LB source material that it is well-loved by fans, and why JC Staff picked it up, and why, like you, I find it so charming and comforting.

The focus on this episode is on Kud’s isolation and loneliness, as Riki searches for a roommate for her. It surprises me how LB uses loneliness and separation as a recurring motif, as Riki reaches out voluntarily to these withdrawn girls. It starts out with Riki first being taken in by the Busters, and now, gaining the hope and strength from these friends, him going forth and aiding these new people…

Slashe also pointed out something I think it quite true – JC Staff gets friendship.  It’s a prevalent theme in many of their best works, and looking back even many JC Staff classics that are theoretically romances are actually more about friendship than the romance – Ano Natsu and Toradora come to mind, for starters.  What makes LB pretty rare, among Key works and anime in general, is that it unapologetically thinks that friendship is important enough to stand as the main theme of a series – that it can be the point, and not just a subplot.  This really is a story about people supporting each other and having fun together, which is what friendships – especially those of our youth – really should be about.  There are obviously other themes and plotlines and they’ll gain prominence as we go, but it’s the Little Busters themselves who are the heart of the series, and I don’t think that will ever change.

Another thing that struck me about why LB works for me – the comedy, specifically – is that the show is actually using a textbook manzai style.  Riki is the perfect tsukkomi, and the rest of the cast – sometimes individually, sometimes collectively – plays the role of the boke.  Manzai is by nature a pretty hammy style – it’s practically vaudeville – and clearly not to everyone’s tastes.  But in context I enjoy it, and some of the jokes here which I know can go either way have totally connected with me.  This week’s examples would be the “Viva croquette soba!” routine with Sasasasa Sasami, Rin’s arch-enemy – it’s not like we haven’t heard the ojou-sama laugh a million times in anime, but there was just something about the scene (maybe the half-turn foot-kick by her chorus) that made me laugh – and Rin running out of the room to text “What should I do?” to Riki.  Very different types of jokes, but both very effective.  Your mileage may vary.

As for the episode itself, I won’t pretend it isn’t a pretty bare-bones premise – the gang gets together to save the cafeteria after all the ladies mysteriously fall ill – but it ties back into the idea that a series can devote an entire ep to what’s basically a comedic team-building exercise and that’s enough.  There was some nice focus on Rin’s struggles to come to terms with her social disorder, and an appearance by the canon story, both in terms of Riki’s narcolepsy making an unwanted return and another strange note tied to Lennon’s leg.  Indeed, it’s obviously no coincidence that whoever wrote that note knew the cafeteria was going to need saving, but it’s clear the series is going to take its time meandering its way towards solving that mystery.  And that’s perfectly fine with me.

I’m under no illusions that LB is going to win over legions of new fans (or win back disgruntled old ones) with an episode like this one – I suspect it was strictly preaching to the choir.  But I do hope that those who’ve decided the series isn’t for them realize that those of who like what JC Staff is doing here have no reason whatsoever to apologize for that, and no responsibility to justify it to anyone who disagrees.  There’s plenty of anime out there for every taste and someone liking a show you don’t isn’t a personal attack on you, even if you’re a fan of the VN who’s displeased with the way it’s being adapted.  I’m quite satisfied to go on siding with the minority on Little Busters, no matter how loud the shouting from the opposition gets – it makes me laugh and it strikes an emotional chord, both in a very straightforward and honest way, and that’s more than enough for me.

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  1. E

    What bothers me is, they are not showing Rin's cat-fight with Sasasegawa Sasami (and her sidekicks). JC Staff is really trying to make this a family friendly anime, it seems.

  2. A

    Key didn't really show the fights between Rin and Sasawhatever in the VN, either. Whenever Rin lost in the standard fight interface, we'd cut back to the boys (on the other end of the earpiece) listening to Rin getting beaten up. So JC is just following the source material. I suspect that eventually Rin will win one of these fights one of these days, so we'll likely see a bit more of that.

  3. A

    I often get the impression that a lot of people out there, when they heard that Kyoto Animation were not making this, decided that this would be the WORST ANIME EVER before a single episode aired and were not of a mind to base their opinion on actually watching the show.

    I know nothing abou the original VN and am taking this series on its own merits. I think it's fun and I'm enjoying it!

  4. Eternia, that's fair, although I can say honestly that I couldn't care less about seeing that on camera or not. Maybe it's a VN purist thing.

    Antony, I don't disagree with that – I wrote a post on it months ago – but I suspect it's only part of the issue. It is what it is, I suppose.

  5. H

    The series is fine. That's about the most accurate description I can come up with. It's definitely sincere, and it's fair with the friendships, but it also feels repetitive and cliched. And honestly, to this point, it feels overly simplified, like it's *trying* to keep a high school series on more of an elementary school level.

    But it is what it is, and like all series, people can take it or leave it.

  6. S

    First off, let me say that I am incredibly humbled and honoured that you would quote me in your post. The rush I am getting now is akin to been invited onstage to sing a verse with a rock star and being told that I have a nice voice. I am truly thankful and elated that I could aid you in this post.

    Back on topic, I am also lost as to why there is so little love for LB, so little love for Bakuman, but everyone seem to be watching K and Sword Art Online (though many are dropping the latter). I think it is due to the current trend turning towards a preference for darker and edgier shows and a maturing viewing (aniblogging) audience.

    Looking at the shows that are out this season, I feel that Fall 2012 is rife with cynicism. This could be a spillover effect from the move towards a more dark, snarky and cynical mood laid down by the super-hero movie industry (with stuff like TDK, Iron man and x-men FC), influencing a more recent shift in anime towards such themes (with Madoka and Fate/Zero, Black Rock Shooter, Anohana, Kokoro Connect and SAO).

    Just look at it. We have BTOOOM!, Code-breaker, K, Robotics Notes, Psycho-pass and so forth. Shounen battle manga/anime never used to be so dark and cynical, despite world-ending settings, with how Naruto used to being full of cheer, and others like Rave-master and Gintama being full of fun. Shounen used to be be at most 25% angst and 75% fun, but the ratio seems to be inverting.

    This shift in consumer and producer tastes is not without its perks, as there is an increased focus on plot and character development and setting conceptualization in shows these days(with K being the exception).

    Little Busters, together with a handful of shows, stands out to me from this muck of despair, similar to how Captain America was presented, a show full of sincerity, hope and faith in humanity despite grim settings or plot elements. This is probably why I can look forward to and enjoy Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun but drag my feet to catch up to Sukitte na you ni.

    Unlike you, Guardian Enzo, I feel a probably misguided intution that the world (or maybe just the anime community) would not write off JC Staff anymore and pick up LB and Bakuman and Sakurasou eventually, as it continues on into their second cour next season.

  7. K

    Actually shonen manga and anime used to be significantly more violent and morbid during the 80's (see Jojo's Bizarre Adventure this season for a great example of what I mean), then with the 90's and the likes of Dragon Ball Z and One Piece you started to see a shift towards slightly more lighthearted fare that took itself less seriously and was more about the wacky adventures than gritty violence and then again with the mid 2000's yet more lighthearted stuff started to become all the rage as the moe concept took off as a huge thing. Now I think we're just seeing a shift back towards the sort of anime fare that we saw in the 90's (fantasy settings like SAO, near future settings like Psycho Pass) though still not as violent and cynical as it what you'd frequently see in the 80's where for example bad endings to story arcs in manga and anime weren't all that uncommon at all. If you had seen some of the OVA's they used to put out back then you'd probably cringe and wonder if what you were seeing was relatable to what we consider to be anime at all.

    I still strongly believe though that if Little Busters had that Kyoani factor you'd be seeing a totally different story. It could literally be the exact same show executed exactly the same way with the exact same art style and inclusions and exclusions from the source and I am absolutely 110% convinced you'd see a totally different story of how Little Busters is the greatest thing to grace anime this season regardless of how trends are shifting. I think people are really over complicating things by ignoring this one simple and consistent trend of any time Kyoani does anything at all or say they will that people proclaim adoration for it and shower it with attention.

  8. A

    I completely agree. This show has a special charm to it that is undeniably hard to resist. Kanon 2006 made me laugh a lot (as well as feel depressed a lot) and Little Busters is so far making me laugh just as much. I am sure some of you have seen an anonymous poster who talks about Kurugaya a lot. That would be me. She is by far the most interesting of the girls and the joke with Kud and Riki last episode was hilarious, the funniest so far. Her carving the word depression was pretty funny too, but also is interesting to her character as well considering how she was playing the piano last episode. Also wrote a mini review on Komari's arc (Not off to a good start, but she wasn't going to be my favorite to begin with). Anyway, as someone who hasn't played the VN, but knows the main plot twist, I came to appreciate this episode much more. there were a lot of subtle hints dropped in this episode. I'm not sure if that is how JC Staff is going, but it is interesting to consider. I give this episode a nine out of ten.

  9. A

    And to all those who disagree, I say to you… Wafu!

  10. T

    There's a pretty general saying I tell myself in regards to the series I watch: I like what I like and that's my buisness.

    I too admit to being a cynical, wannabe snarky prick myself, my typical outlook on the world is that there seem to be an increasing amount of bad things and people over good and sometimes when I see certian things that are supposed to be 'cheerful' or 'uplifiting' I'd tell myself its some cheap way to tap into my emotions. Free Speak in of itself seems to be bull because either no one acctually care about what you have to say or they'll just bombard you with reasons on why you're wrong. It's real easy to be cynical.

    However that dosn't neccesarily mean all I want to look at is cynical stuff. I once told myself back when I was a naive brat who only watched cartoons that if I wanted to see people arguing about their relationship I could walk outside and instigate. Sure I'll watch some dark shows because their concepts are interesting, I want to challenge my mind or I just enjoy the snark of it all, however I find myself more eager to watch stuff like Magi, Little Busters and Tonari. Heck Marathoning space brothers has been quite the joy for me. Does this make me a weak minded person? Nope, at least I don't think so, as just as I enjoy those shows I enjoy shows that are in the inbetween just as much, One Piece, Hunter x Hunter and Index's novels are series that have their dark momments, but its with how they handle them that I think makes it just as fun to watch when they aren't focused on bloody combat, mind games or power struggles.

    For however much dark shows we watch its nice to have some chilled laid back shows to watch.

  11. T

    No Enzo, hating this show doesn't necessarily involve cynicism.

    you're entitled to your own opinion and even though I think it's a part delusional/a part accurate observation (I have no doubt some does involve a good dose of cynicism)/a part passive-agressive putdown on haters of the show. The reason I hate this show has nothing to do with cynicism; I hate it for its silly character designs (never ever been a fan of any of KEY show's look) and silly content (not-at-all-funny, rather sad how unfunny and repetitive they are, slapstick comedy; ridiculous pandering brought on by new-moe-girl-of-the-week format followed by this equally ridiculous "dating game style" character arcs -never ever been a fan of shows like Amagami SS; uninteresting and boring plots).

    You can call this pure and lacking cynicism or however you want; I don't care really one way or another how you define/justify your likings on a show I hate as knowing how many or few likes this show (or that you like this show) does't increase or decrease my disliking of this show. My attitude towards KEY shows and "dating game" anime adaptions have ALWAYS been consistent. But hating this show does NOT mean I'm cynical towards something "pure and honest and lacking cynicism or whatnot". Nothing to do with cynicism; sometimes lipstick on a pig is still a pig in my view. This show just sucks and pisses me off endlessly.

  12. T

    I interpreted his confusion here as being more about why people who seemed to like Clannad and Kanon would turn on this one. Clannad was pretty damn popular, but as much criticism as it got, this here show seems to've gotten much, much less love. So where do the inconsistencies come from?

    I'm probably missing something, though.

    (Also, @Enzo: part of what I personally found so endearing about K-On! was its energy and lack of cynicism. Why does this show work for you, but not K-On? Not saying you should like K-On! or anything (heck, I'm not really interested in talking about K-On! in particular so much as I am in talking about shows like it in general)—I just think that might be an interesting sort of way of looking at things.)

  13. A

    Now that's what I believe is proper criticism. It's a perfectly natural reason to dislike shows. Style isn't something meant to appeal to everyone. A nice example for me would be Bakemonogatari. I personally was never able to warm up to its style, but there is no denying that it is a very well written and well directed show. Do I hate it? No. It was a fun series to watch, but its not something I need to watch again or praise it to the world. That being said, I'd easily give it at least an 8 out of 10. I think the important part to being a reviewer is to not judge a show based on genre, but for rather what it is. I agree with you on how it can piss you off, but I think saying it sucks is not giving the show enough credit. It looks (At least to me) that you are review Key the Company and not Little Busters the Show. Then again, I am no expert on the human psyche, but criticism to criticism is important.

  14. T

    Anon, no, the only time I mentioned "KEY" was that to say that I was not a fan of KEY character designs/look in general (and LB is no exception). But the "look" is superficial, obviously, and it doesn't decide everything even if it doesn't agree with me, it certainly doesn't help the cause.

    Make no mistake, however, as I was definitely not reviewing the KEY studio in the orignal post, similar to how I was not reviewing Amagami SS-ism shows; it was through and through about LB and its content -or the lack of. I didn't write anything about the other KEY show's content in my original post -though I could've easily mentioned that shows like Clannad indeed did have that "date-game style" character arc format I detest, I didn't.

  15. T

    My attitude towards KEY shows and "dating game" anime adaptions have ALWAYS been consistent. But hating this show does NOT mean I'm cynical towards something "pure and honest and lacking cynicism or whatnot".

    I'd say that implies that you don't really like KEY's other stuff either—something that goes beyond mere visuals. One point you stressed there was the consistency of your opinion. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

    And I think the Anon above has a good point: what use is there in hating a show? What do we gain from it? How does that enrich our lives in any way? For that matter, what good does it do you to comment on a post for a show you seem to detest with such a passion?

    I'm not aiming for a putdown of any sort here, though it probably comes across that way. I'm really just plain curious.

  16. h

    Well just because you hate an anime show does not mean you think about hating it all day while you go through your daily life, Kenosha Kid. You don't gain nor lose anything. There are shows you don't like and there are shows you hate AND there are shows like and there are shows you LOVE! That's it, no need to over-think it. It's not like an anime show is unavoidable like your co-worker or something, in which case hating with passion might cause some issues. Otherwise, it just means you care on anime shows. Otherwise why bother posting in the first place at anime blog if there was no passion involved?

  17. h

    Also, I welcome seeing negative posts; otherwise it's god-awful cheerleading circle-jerking gloating post after post it gets sickening even on a great show. It's not democracy if everyone agrees on everything. I never understand this logic of "why bother posting here if you hate it so much and hurt our feelings?" I don't mind as long as it's not brain-dead equivalent of one liners such as "I love this show" or "so and so is so cute" -i.e. "this show sucks and y'll suck" or "I hate so and so". That doesn't lead to anything.

  18. T

    Oh, I certainly like criticism. I don't even mind hatred, as long as it's interesting. But just dwelling on your hatred of a show rather than articulating it? Not quite as interesting, and nothing is gained.

  19. A

    I think Tim did articulate it just fine. Where is this "dwelling on hatred" comes from, Kenosha Kid? From your head?

  20. As a general rule, Tim, replying to someone with "quoted" text that completely misquotes what you're replying to is pretty bad form.

  21. G

    This year has really been a year for negativity on half the series I've chosen to watch. But that has nothing to with those of us who actually enjoy these series. If it's anything I learned from E7:AO, it's that haters are out there but we don't need their approval to enjoy them anyway.

    I'm sticking around for the long run on this one. It's been a long time since I could enjoy such blatantly anime-styled antics so easily. There's just a lot of fun to be had, the kind I can nostalgically remember from when I first started watching anime nearly a decade ago, that I don't necessarily find or enjoy on other shows.

  22. H

    I don't know if there's that much more celebration of cynicism this season than others, or even recently. It's always a critical darling, because reviewers tend to like to be critical and a show that plays to that tends to get better mindshare. But in the last couple seasons we've seen quite a few shows that I think could be considered to trade on positivity: Rinne no Lagrange and Tsuritama spring quickly to mind as well as from this season Sakurasou, Chuunibyou, and especially Girls und Panzer.

    So I don't think it's possible to dismiss criticism of LB as just people wanting to hate something, or thinking it's "too" pure. I personally don't care for many of the more cynical shows. I dropped K after one episode, Btooom! after 4, never was into Jormungand or Code-Breaker. And I love the other three from this season that I mentioned, absolutely love them (even Busou Shinki is overly positive, and utterly silly, and I like it more than LB). It's more that the content of LB just doesn't do that much for me. It does enough to keep me watching that, instead of going to watch Magi, or Ebiten. But it's not appointment watching. For me, it's "I could watch a 4th episode of Haganai in backlog or I could watch LB…"

  23. K

    Honestly it strikes me as the reason there isn't much expression of love for the show is that there's no Kyoani factor and it's as simple as that. And by that don't meant that if they were doing it it would be better or, what I mean is that whenever that studio is involved in a work I can't help but stand back and be amused by how people practically start tripping over themselves to just shower them with unconditional love and admiration in blog articles, threads and texts almost as if it's expected of them and while practically ignoring or failing to discuss what actual went on in the show itself that moved them.

    Without that factor you just have Little Busters left to succeed or fail on it's own merits and shortcomings, which is to say it's getting a normal reception. Basically I think people just jumped into Kanon and Clannad more cause they couldn't pass up the opportunity to worship and praise Kyoani just that much more. If people don't believe me then just look at some threads blog articles and forums around the internet that talked about Clannad while it aired and see how many points of appreciation are about the actual story and characters themselves versus talk about just how damn much people seem to love Kyoani. What a sham….

  24. S

    It's hard for me to put in words. I originally didn't care that this wasn't being animated by Kyoani. Hell I was simply happy it was being animated to begin with, but the more I watched, the more I felt that something was missing. It lacked the impact I got from the VN.

    Is it because J.C. Staff dropped the ball? Probably not, as they're trying to stick to source material while trying to make all the scenarios flow as one singular storyline. Yet therein lies the rub. How does one adapt something so (for lack of a better word and for those who don't already know the ending) "meta"? One may argue that Kyoani did it with Clannad, but it isn't the same. The key magic in Clannad wasn't absolutely integral; it played no role until the end, thus allowing it to work as a linear story. It simply isn't the same with LB.
    Animation-wise, nothing to say besides that I haven't seen any QUALITY yet so nothing to gripe about. One thing that does irk me is the lack of subtlety in Riki's narration. It seems as though they want us to know the doubt Riki feels by simply stating it rather than show us through his actions/emotions.

    With that being said, I think even if Kyoani animated this, many of the same issues could be present. People wouldn't complain as much because, well, Kyoani 'nuff said. Then again I may be biased. LB was the first Key VN I played (let alone right before the adaption came out) so eff. I committed to finishing this, and I'll be even happier if they pull the ending off well.

  25. A

    I'm assuming you know the story here. There are some subtle hints that suggest JC Staff might be going for the "meta". Most of it involves some of Riki's dialogue, but there's one visual (After Riki's narcolepsy attack) in his room that is interesting. Another moment leaped out at me was during the very first scene in episode seven (Note: The episode after the end of Komari's route), but I need to wait for another route to end before I get more suspicious which won't happen until next year.

  26. A

    "One thing that does irk me is the lack of subtlety in Riki's narration. It seems as though they want us to know the doubt Riki feels by simply stating it rather than show us through his actions/emotions"

    That might be the casualty of JC Staff really hard adaption of the VN. I notice how Riki's thoughts are very prevalent in the anime, almost to the point where it indeed can be jarring. It makes sense in what essentially is a novel, but not so much in an anime. I think Riki is showing it in his emotions in the anime, but the thoughts are more noticeable.

  27. S

    Had to pull up episode 7, but yes I see what you're getting at. If that is true then all the better.

  28. S

    And yes, the jarring part about Riki's narration is what I meant. Emotion may not have been the best word.

  29. I

    For me it's not the moe that keeps me from liking LB, it's the lack of strong male lead like in other Key pieces. Without a Tomukazu Sugita, Nakamura Yuinchi or such the strongest part of the manzai act, the tsukkomi, is lacking punch with Yui Horie. Maybe my ears are just sensitive to that.

  30. A

    While Riki is nothing like the three male leads before him, I think its important for from Key Protagonist to be different, because if everyone had the same personality I'd feel like Key isn't being original here. I'd rather see an experiment in protagonists then a tried and true formula.

    Here's my take on Riki. He is staring out pretty naive and innocent here, but I suspect this will be about his growth as a person who won't always have to rely on his friends for strength. A big problem I had with Komari's arc (Besides Komari) was that while Riki was right to an extent on what he told her, I saw his view of friendship as sort of naive. It is true that friends can help you whether the toughest of times, but fate can easily steal those friends away at any time. Granted, Komari is the most naive of the bunch, so I see each subsequent heroine as a way for Riki to see an aspect of life and potentially grow up.

    In that way, I see the order of the remaining routes as following (This is based on if JC Staff will make another 26 episode series to finsih the story after the 26 episodes here are done: Kud first (Enzo will delight at this), then Haruka, then Mio, which I suspect will end the first season. Second season will begin with Kurugaya (I see her as the most mature of the females), then Rin (Since she is the main heroine most likely). That will be about 10-12 episodes and the rest will be the Refrain Route.

  31. A

    Im not sure if this counts as a spoiler, but if it does i'm sorry.

    Anyway the main premise of the story has always revolved around friendship, growing up and overcoming hardship. I think that much was prevailent in Komari's arc. To be honest I didnt like her arc, not here or in the VN but that doesnt take away from the point that LB's focus is on those three themes.

    Now imagine if Riki was already strong and decisive from the start like the other three of his male friends. Then you already throw out one of the key elements of the story. Actually, i wont sppil anything but ill tell you this. Grow up or getting stronger is the more main point of the entire show and we'll be seeing why.

  32. A

    I think Yui Horie was a pretty good choice. She makes him sound weak and submissive. I mean even in the VN riki sounded weak, even more so. In fact rin and riki shares the same voice actor in the vn. I really want to know how it was when they were recording the eroge version. Mustve been super awkward.

  33. v

    Bah, I will never understand the mainstream crowd, thus it's a waste of time to figure out why there's so much criticism over JC Staff adapting the Keyworks.

    JC Staff definitely understands anime about friendship. You can look no further than Azumanga Daioh. I am always mad at how little respect JC Staff receives considering it was probably responsible for the first anime attempting cute girls doing cute things.

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