I suppose I should really have seen this coming – but in terms of the plot twist and the general tone. Saya’s arc in EX plays out a lot like Little Busters in miniature – starting out rather light-hearted and silly, dropping hints of a deeper mystery at work, and finally getting serious and sad at the end. It’s not quite the same as the main storyline which had three cours to build up attachment, but it stands on its own pretty well.
As is so often the case with LitBus (maybe this is a function of the fact that it’s adapted from a source with multiple possible routes) the anime gives us enough information to form a guess as to what’s really going on, but leaves us enough leeway to draw our own conclusions – and that applies to the end as well. It was clear all along that Riki knew Saya from their childhood, and that part at least seems locked in – she was a lonely girl who’d just come back from living overseas with her father in a war-torn country. Riki – as he always is – was kind to her, they became friends, and – this being Little Busters – she died. Seriously, this mythology is just up to the neck in tragedies. A mudslide this time?
That’s where things start to get a little murkier. As best I can tell the soul of that dead girl somehow got swept up in the dream world Kyousuke created for Riki and Rin and became a ghost in the machine (very nearly literally). Somehow she became the main character in a subset of the world taken from Kyouske’s favorite manga “School Revolution” (that casts his manga reading in the main series in a different light) but she always knew she didn’t really belong there, and that she’d end up dying every time. It would seem she died a long time before the bus crash so I have no idea how her soul hung around that long, but maybe it was just simple desire – to experience a little of the life she never had, with the only boy she ever liked.
As for the ending, that’s also a bit murky. Kyousuke appears to sort of semi-tolerate Saya’s presence inside his construction, but she seems to bargain one last chance to end it on her own terms – and that involves re-starting the game and tricking Kyousuke by putting Riki in drag (which explains a doujin I saw at Comiket once) and taking her own life at the end. Does she really die for real, or is what Kyousuke tells Riki about the time machine being stolen (in the manga, of course) somehow true? It seems to me as if Saya ends up in her own dream world at the end – one devoted to her the way the one in the main storyline is to Riki and Rin – but I don’t think she’s actually alive.
In any event, all of that is brought off with considerable flair and sincerity – Yamakawa Yoshiki and JC Staff seem to have a good handle on the big, emotional parts of Little Busters and they consistently get them right. I very much missed the presence of the regular cast during Saya’s arc, but I found myself surprisingly emotionally involved by the time it was all said and done. Episode 5 seems seems set to transition to Sasasegami Sasami, who appeared in a couple of eps in the first season – and if those eps are any indication this mini-arc may be a lot more humor-driven than Saya’s. I thought Sasasasase was involved in some of the funniest bits in the series, especially her cafeteria feud with Rin., so I’m looking forward to some solid laughs in the next two episodes.
ED: “Saya’s Song” by Lia