This one has been a long time coming, I confess. There was quite a wait for a subtitled release to begin with, and I’ve had so little time of late that this episode sat in the queue for way longer than normal. Eventually I thought about doing a combined post with the finale of “EX”, but, well – we’re still waiting on a good-quality version of that episode. So with apologies for the lateness, here’s a return to LitBus at long last.
In the final analysis, I think this was probably the best episode of “EX” to date. It felt the most like a canon LB episode, and had the best balance of humor and seriousness yet. It was also nice to see – if only briefly – the whole gang together and being led in time-wasting by Kyousuke (was this the legendary “Kick the Can” game whose absence so many VN veterans were bemoaning?). It also doesn’t hurt that it has probably the strongest route of any in the “EX” pantheon.
We saw a good deal of Kanata during the regular series, of course – her painful history and her relationship with Haruka were the subject of an arc already. They’re two very good characters, these sisters, so this is fertile ground for story development. Haruka is mostly comic relief in this episode – a role she fills admirably – but Kanata is in her full tsundere glory as the center of events. She and Riki are thrown together by Kyousuke’s plan to enlist the Busters to help out around the school in order to score brownie points to keep their threatened clubroom, which involves Riki volunteering to help out the Dormitory Council at Kanata’s side.
This twist also brings A-chan-senpai back into the mix after a long absence (I don’t recall her showing up in Refrain at all), and she seems eager to throw Riki and Kanata together as much as possible. And Kanata drops heavy hints that she’s well aware of the secret of this world – her comments about people “disappearing” are about as pointed as it gets, though Riki’s reaction would seem to place the events of this episode sometime before Refrain. The scenes between Riki and Kanata are about as low-key and dignified as LitBus gets – we (and Riki) know Kanata’s real story by now, so it’s impossible to take her prickly nature as anything but the defense mechanism it is.
This works very well for me, because fundamentally Riki’s kindness – and drive to use it – is the glue that holds Little Busters! together. He’s so decent that he can’t help but hurt for Kanata no matter how brusque she is with him, and it’s his perspective that winds up being our perspective (as usual with LB, and fittingly for a VN adaptation). So when Kanata’s terrible secret is revealed through an act of bravery after a fire in Cooking Club’s kitchen (one Kanata obviously knew was coming, not coincidentally) it’s a pretty heartbreaking moment – not just for Riki, but for us. This is the sort of material that LitBus is usually really good at, and this episode is no exception – it’s right in the series’ sweet spot, and makes the highlight of “Ex” so far.