Let me open with the usual disclaimer: I haven’t played the VN and have no advance knowledge to speak of what takes place in EX. So I’m coming at this from the perspective of a new viewer, just as I did the original TV series. This 8-episode edition (which will be released more or less monthly with the Blu-ray/DVD volumes) was originally titled Little Busters! Ecstasy in VN form, and seems to offer still another reset button – in the true fashion of VNs not existing before or after the events of Refrain, but as a separate timeline altogether. The Ecstasy VN, in addition to introducing new routes and a new character, also featured adult content – which is an interesting reversal from the usual Key formula of an adult version of the game, and an all-ages version coming later.
Some of us are ticking off the dates on the calendar until we get an announcement of Kud Wafter (you better be right, Zephycles!), another adult-content release featuring my favorite LitBus heroine (I’ve read the manga version, and liked it a lot). But EX is off to a pretty good start, with solid production values and a briskly-paced introduction to what looks to be an entertaining – if quite silly – new plotline. The premiere also has the assignment of introducing us to the new character, Tokido Saya (Sakurai Harumi) – though of course, she did make a cameo appearance in the “Sekai no Saitou” OVA (at least her hair did).
The line between “reality” and whatever you want to call the alternative in LitBus has always been a little fuzzy, and I’m not really sure how seriously to take this setup. It finds Saya as a spy (she’d prefer it if you didn’t ask what agency she works for) posing as a schoolgirl. She’s looking for treasure underneath the school (but not gold or silver, some kind of mystical booty) and doing battle with some kind of shadow warriors called “Executives of Darkness“. When this bizarre world intersects with Riki’s he does what I would, assume Kyousuke is somehow involved – and while Kyousuke seems as surprised as anyone he does recognize the name of the Executives of Darkness when Riki drops it, and describes them as his “arch-enemies”. If Kyousuke is aware of this reality, that makes the whole thing suspicious to me.
There’s an element of parody to EX so far as well, though the mood is certainly nowhere near as frivolous as much of the first season (and the OVA). I mean, going back to the school at night for a forgotten notebook? It doesn’t get much more formulaic than that, and I think there’s a bit of winking at the audience going on here. As for Saya herself she’s not a bad character based on first impressions – her situation is pretty bizarre and it forces her behavior to match, but she neither comes off as completely psychotic or a straight-up moeblob. She does transition from trying to kill Riki – twice – to offering him a partnership pretty quickly, I admit. But that’s interesting in that Masato and then Kengo save Riki from her assassination attempts – he chalks it up to coincidence, but I don’t believe in coincidences with Little Busters. I also like her rationale for finally coming around – she has the worst luck in the world and needs “lucky boy” Riki to counteract it.
There’s obviously a lot more to the whole EX mythology than what we’ve seen here. The preponderance of Saya and the other two heroines as children in the OP and ED suggests a connection to Riki that’s deeper than we’ve been told so far, and Kyousuke’s comment that the Executives know his weakness is Rin has an air of significance to it. I don’t expect we’re going to see all that much of the original cast in EX – or at the very least, they’ll clearly be in very much of a supporting role – and that’s too bad. But releases like this are all about the routes that aren’t part of the main storyline, and based on the first episode it seems that EX has a pretty good chance to be worthwhile in its own right.
Author’s note: You know the drill by now – please, no VN spoilers whatsoever outside spoiler tags! Please let those of us watching this play out for the first time enjoy the experience of being surprised.
ED: Mezameta Asa ni wa Kimi ga Tonari ni by Suzuyu