I won’t say there were a whole lot of surprises in this episode of Little Busters, starting with the fact that most (but not all) of the secret of this world was revealed. But that didn’t stop it from being one of the best episodes in LB’s three cours of anime. The general nature of what was happening has been pretty clear for a while now, and nothing that Kyousuke revealed will likely have contradicted what most new viewers had guessed was going on. There’s still one big outstanding question – just how, exactly, did Kyousuke do what he did? But given Key’s track record I think there’s a good chance we’ll never get a definitive answer on that one beyond the usual Key “Stuff just happens, deal with it”.
The way I see it there are two principal questions that are central to the story and likely to be addressed in the remaining three episodes:
- Was Kyousuke right to do what he did?
- What happens next?
You can start with the second question, which is obviously unavoidable. We have three episodes remaining, and the next is titled “The End of the World”. I think it was quite a fitting choice that J.C. Staff chose to end this episode with the OP rather than the ED, because in a sense this was the beginning that Kyousuke has been building towards all along – “The frozen time will start to move”. But I don’t think it’s as simple as him taking Riki’s hand and finally saying goodbye, the artificial world he built succumbing to the void and taking the others with it.
In practical terms, I don’t think it’s wholly clear yet just what happened on the terrible night we finally see in detail this week. Obviously a bus crashed, obviously Kyousuke and the “outer ring” of the Little Busters – Komari, Haruka, Mio, Kuragaya and Kud – were on-board. Clearly, they all died. But were Kengo and Masato on that bus as well? I presume so, but that isn’t explicitly spelled out. And what of Riki and Rin themselves – did they survive the crash, or (as Kyousuke implies) were they not on-board that bus at all and would only find out what happens later? Somehow, Kyousuke – let’s just say using the power of love for now – managed to freeze time in an effort to try and help Riki and Rin grow strong enough to survive the horror of what they’re going to have to live with.
So much is explained by that, certainly. Kyousuke’s seemingly cruelty (“I could punch myself”). The seeming duality of Masato’s personality (“He played the idiot successfully as usual”). Kud’s desire to be a “good gear that helps the world to move”. And of course, Riki’s narcolepsy – as always seemed likely, a kind of circuit-breaker that Kyousuke tripped whenever Riki was headed towards a “bad end” and needed a reset. But whatever magic Kyousuke used to do all this apparently has limits – “My grip on this world is starting to weaken” (which in turn seems to explain the random character disappearances and weather irregularities) – and in a symbolic sense, these repeating false worlds seem to be contained in a single teardrop in Kyousuke’s eye as he’s waiting for the end on that fateful night. Thus by delaying it for even a few moments (stopping a leak of gasoline that will presumable cause the bus to explode, for example) he gives Riki that one more chance to grow into the man Kyousuke believes can shoulder the burdens he’s going to have to carry.
It’s really Kyousuke’s tragedy that defines this episode, and in many ways Little Busters itself. If you look at all this from his perspective it’s pretty damn heartbreaking. He’s always been the guy who takes care of everyone – the big brother, the defender, the ringleader. All he wants to do is take Riki or Rin’s hand and say “Everything is going to be all right” – and then go make sure it is. It’s what he’s done for his entire life, and all of the other Busters are much better off for it. But that’s no longer possible once the geas that he’s used to stop time runs out, and the idea that he has to turn Riki and Rin lose on the world without his protection is more painful to him that death itself. If there was one moment in the episode that really gutted me, it was Kyousuke’s “It’s all right… I’ll do something. Follow me… I want to say. But I can’t.” It perfectly exemplifies Kyousuke’s agony at having to let go, which is the most unnatural thing in the world for him to do.
It hurts, watching Kyousuke – dying both outside and inside. It’s supposed to hurt. But if there’s a fundamental philosophical question LitBus asks, I think it’s this – is it possible to love someone too much? If the first season was thematically obsessed with friendship and innocence, Refrain has cut that with a large dose of parental responsibility. Kyouskue’s intentions – as are the thoughts of most overprotective parents – are good, and driven by love. But perhaps he should have trusted Riki and Rin – believed in them a little more, because the strength he now sees in Riki was there all along, nurtured by the mentoring he got from Kyousuke and the group friendship that sustained him. I’m reminded of Kamina’s “Don’t believe in you. Believe in the me that believes in you” to Simon here – perhaps Kyousuke should have had more faith that the friendship and brotherhood he’d extended to Riki and Rin for all those years had helped shaped them into strong and good people. And that notion may very well be a big part of the story in the final three episodes of Refrain.
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. 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. There are still secrets left to be told, so please be respectful of those of us who don’t want our viewing experience spoiled, thanks.