I’ve come to the conclusion that I really need to blog LB! differently than I do other series, because I react to the show differently than I do any other. I’ve often struggled to figure out just what the unique quality or qualities of LB are that make it work. Yes I’m weak for Kud, I won’t deny that, and that surely makes liking this episode easy to explain – but there are much more involved factors than that. If I’m to choose a word, I believe it’d be hard to find another anime that’s more straightforward than this one is. Little Busters is almost totally transparent – it tells you from the beginning exactly what it’s about (“secret of this world” questions aside – one wonders is this smirk has something to do with that) and goes about doing exactly what it promises. It’s an absurdly simple series in terms of theme – friendship is good. Observe the Golden Rule. Mean people exist – screw them. It delivers angst and drama, for certain, but almost entirely lacking in irony. I love irony as much as the next guy, but there’s something about this direct approach that’s really refreshing.
That said, getting a Kud episode was clearly something I was looking forward to, and she certainly delivers the goods every time. I really like the sheer oddity of Kud – absolutely nothing about her is average. And the more we learn, the more of an odd little puzzle she becomes. She’s a year younger than the other Little Busters, having achieved so many credits through international correspondence – necessary because she never lived anywhere long enough to attend a real school – that she skipped a grade. Of all the many places she lived, the longest stay was in Tevua of all places – a tiny island in the Solomons, near the equator (I confess I’d never heard of it). Her Grandfather worked for Glavcosmos, the old Soviet Space Agency, and Kud is quite the expert in esoteric physics and subjects like hazardous materials management.
There’s more to all that than just backstory – it’s far more unusual than it needs to be simply for narrative purposes, and I like that. I like the fact that Kud isn’t a simple ditzy airhead moemoe girl – she’s actually extremely smart. She passes international exams by mail and writes cogent notes (in Russian) in the margins of her quantum physics texts. She just happens, as Riki sagely observes, to be “good at complicated things and bad at simple things.” She gets nervous and flustered easily, which leads to mistakes on exams. “I have trouble filling in those little bubbles” as she says herself – and in an age of standardized tests, this is a real problem. Given that these are the Little Busters, what else can they possibly do but all pitch in to help her prepare for the next national placement exam?
There’s another recurring theme that appears in this episode too – despite the focus on friendship, there’s no shortage of cruelty in the world. And that certainly includes the girls who mock the “cute little quarter-Japanese” who can’t read English properly and gets flustered every time she speaks publicly. I’ve noticed that it’s the girls in Little Busters who tend to be the really nasty characters, for what it’s worth, and the three who come to gawk at Kud and mock her as she’s studying for her exams really set the blood to boil. Needless to say I knew plenty of people like that in high school – I imagine we all did (or do) – but here’s the thing: wouldn’t it have been great to have a group of friends like Kud has? People who are always around when the assholes pick on you or when things generally so bad, and who never judge you – only support you unconditionally and help you solve your problems? Again, absurdly simple, and there’s possibly an element of wish fulfillment here, but I think that’s a big part of the reason so many find LB to be an appealing story.
There are two other developments in the episode that I find quite interesting, the first of which is that Mio is back, without a word of explanation for her virtual absence in the Haruka arc. Perhaps she just really doesn’t like Haruka – their personalities are certainly oil and water, and that dichotomy generates one of the funniest scenes of the episode when Haruka presents herself to the rest of the group during Mio’s physics lesson and offers up a lame string of gags. Mio stares ahead impassively, wordless, then continues her lecture without a word of acknowledgement. These two are quite like a Manzai team – that Manzai theme tends to run through a lot of the humor in LB, with Riki as the tsukkomi. I also loved Haruka’s “Hey, hey, Girls!” (in English) entrance later in the ep – and the other interesting development was that it seems as if her reconciliation with Kanata has taken hold. In fact with her sister’s tutoring she manages to get an 85% on the tests – but when poor Kud flunks out after (yet again) putting her answers in the wrong column, Haruka pretends she flunked too so she’ll have to take remedial classes with Kud. Of course when the moment comes it isn’t just Haruka, but every member of the Little Busters who’s there in that classroom for Kud – a development that on some shows might have seemed overly sentimental, but on this one was really the only believable outcome.