Little Busters! Refrain – 06

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Well, any way you slice it that was a “Shaka, when the walls fell” kind of episode.

I’m trying very hard to trust Kyosuuke here, because in my gut I can’t help believe he has what’s best for Riki and Rin – and all the Little Busters – at heart.  I have my theories about exactly how that’s going to play out and nothing that’s happened has contradicted them yet, but damn – an episode like this is hard to watch.  The thing is I can really feel for Riki here so much (thanks in no small part to some very fine work by Hochan), because what he wants more than anything is exactly that – to be able to trust Kyousuke.  And more than that, he wants to rely on Kyousuke to make everything all right, just as he always has.  But right now, that’s a very hard thing for Riki to do.

This episode was the $50 buffet brunch at the Hilton when it comes to all-you-can-eat sadness.  Take your pick, but I guess we can start with the texts between Riki and Rin.  That’s made worse, of course, by the fact that just two weeks ago we saw them giddily exchanging shy and pointless midnight texts, flush in the glory of their new relationship – an intentional contrast, no doubt, but one that makes the heart-wrenching texts from this week (though interspersed as they were with the only comedy of the episode, the “Ooh!” texts from Masato) all the more, well – heart-wrenching.  What a terrible thing, to know that someone you love is suffering and be able to do nothing about it.  All he can do is tell her to try – a terrible word, as Riki says, because it absolves him from all responsibility.

It’s easy to see how Riki gets from there to hating Kyousuke – or at least resenting him very much.  Not only is Kyousuke causing Rin such terrible loneliness, he’s breaking up that which Riki holds even more dear (let’s be honest) than Rin herself, the Little Busters.  No end goal could be worth that – a perfectly natural conclusion, from someone in Riki’s position.  Making things worse is the seeming betrayal by Masato, whose repeated hinting that he knew what was going on has finally connected the dots in Riki’s mind about him.  Masato even more than Kyousuke has seemed dedicated to Riki specifically, taken a personal responsibility for him over all the others, and it hurts to see him cast in this light.

That leaves Riki, effectively, alone – alone that is, apart from Kengo, to whom he turns for help in resolving his existential crisis.  Riki’s anger and desperation wins a small concession from Kyousuke, that Rin will come home for weekends (Riki quite rightly wonders how that’s up to Kyousuke in the first place) but it’s not much consolation as Rin is so beaten-down she can’t even get out of (Riki’s) bed.  And she won’t show herself to Komari, with whom she’s mysteriously become incapable of communicating with by phone.  Only Kengo seems to be on Riki’s side, and he pledges his support to him – though my sense is that he does so not because he too has been left out of the secret, but because he’s made a choice to support Riki in spite of knowing what he knows.

The baseball scene is possibly the darkest and most bleak in the entire series so far.  As storm clouds (which have been a common occurrence of late) gather, we see the four childhood friends cast as enemies with Rin’s future on the line – and on the baseball diamond of all places, the symbolic Shrine to the unity of the same Little Busters that Kyousuke seems intent on tearing apart.  What’s most striking is the change in Kyousuke and Masato – all trace of jovial friendliness gone, they wear the faces of soldiers assigned to fulfil a mission they find distasteful.  Worst of all is the moment when Kengo sees the image (I was going to say “ghost” but that’s too loaded a word here) of Miyuki just as he’s about to swing the bat, and immediately turns on Kyousuke in a rage.  “These are cheap tricks!” he screams, and goes on to pummel Kyousuke until Masato and Riki wrestle him off.

I’m going to avoid specifics for the most part here, but only one broad scenario makes sense to me – that Kyousuke is doing all these terrible things (and Masato is helping him) because the alternative is even more terrible.  “Show me you can endure this.” he tells Riki.  “Can you do that?”  It’s a strange request, in the fashion of something a parent would say to their child.  I can’t help but feel that this is even harder and more painful for Kyousuke than it is for Riki and Rin – which is quite a statement in and of itself.  As for Riki’s desperation plan to flee with Rin to the old house “where we used to play together as kids”, well, for me that’s mostly just sad as well.  It’s a further reminder than both Riki and Rin are still children, running away from home – it’s a futile gesture and we know it, so the ending of the episode is no surprise.

There’s never been any question in my mind that the main theme of LitBus – along with friendship – is the painful realization of all that must be lost when we leave childhood behind and become adults.  If the series has largely been a celebration of the simple and innocent joys of childhood, this episode and its ending are a kind of splash of cold water to the face – a reminder that being a child also means being powerless against a world that we sometimes see as cruel and indifferent.  Riki’s last line of dialogue echoes ominously long after the ED has stopped rolling: “For such a long time I’d forgotten…  That to live means to lose.”  It feels as if we’re going to be reminded of that frequently and painfully over the next several weeks.

Author’s note: Please “refrain” from posting any VN spoilers (or hints, or confirmations or denials of guesses, or clever spoilers disguised as jokes) into the comments section.  I don’t want this experience ruined for me, and I don’t want it ruined for any other new viewers.  Read the comments at your own risk, because I make no promises about catching every spoiler soon after its posted.  All I can do is delete the comments as soon as I spot them, but that might be after you do.

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ED3:”Hanabi” by Lia

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  1. P

    Not sure what happened in the end ? Was it a narcolepsy crisis (it's been a while since he had one) ?

  2. B

    Okay they cut a lot here, but nothing was THAT important, anyway i feel like mentioning some trivia that they skipped. First about Rin's phone, Riki saying that Kyosuke tempered with it may seem like Riki being paranoid, but actually in the VN there was this scene where Rin tells that she had Kyosuke configure her phone since she did't know how to do it. Also as you might have guessed, in the VN they arrange the baseball competition a day before actually doing it (other wise Masto being there beforehand doesn't make much sense). The last part got really cut, it mostly served to show Riki's inability to take care of Rin. First he takes money from an account his parents had left him but doesn't take all, so when it gets blocked he can't get the rest (he mentions that his tutor/advisor probably blocked it since hi left school), then he works at a farm for food, but he gets a narcolepsy attack an the owner doesn't allow him to work there anymore because she's worried. So until they get captured they eat what Riki manages to fish in a nearby river. Also the cats may look cut, but actually they were a big problem since they had to feed them (an Rin kept bringing more, further prove that she is still a child). And yes, when they get captured Riki gets another narcolepsy attack

  3. E

    Oh. That is a good information. I had this feeling that they cut a lot this episode. From the moment they jumped over the school gate, traveled using train, arrived at their hometown, got in bath together, got found by police (?), it's only 5 minutes in entirely. WTF. I thought. If it was the VN, those scenes must took hours to finish.

  4. H

    It's really hard to get away from the feeling that Kyousuke isn't doing this for anyone but himself. He's trying to absolve HIMSELF of some responsibility he feels, by pushing unhappiness on everyone else. Trying to force Riki and Rin to 'grow up' when they aren't ready to just seems like a selfish act. And the way he's going about it, taking away the friends that Rin made, runs contrary to the way human relationships and growth happen, where people build larger networks of friendship and support as they grow.

    Maybe Kyousuke has some 'reason' for it, but even if it's done with knowledge of the future, it seems like it's just needlessly cruel.

  5. d

    Yeah, early this year (towards the end of the original anime's runtime) I read through the Haruka and Rin routes on Youtube, and felt much the same about Kyousuke's actions as you do. I'm hoping that Kyousuke's ends justify his means, because he's coming across as very coldhearted.

    Speaking of which, Enzo – one of these days/weeks/months/years/decades I would recommend reading the stretch from the original Visual Novel where Riki and Rin run away from home and live on their own. It's maybe an hour and a half long, if my memory's right. It's an extremely atmospheric and outstandingly written piece; the sense of isolation and uncertainty, the numbed and moody days where each one's the same as the last. Truly a special little story there, every bit as enchanting as the baseball showdown this episode was exciting.

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