Relentlessly adorable, though not quite as engaging as some of Key’s other titles.
What They Say:
When tragedy struck Riki Naoe as a child, he was rescued from grief over his parent’s deaths when four other kids “recruited” him for their group, the “Little Busters.” Now in high school, Riki and the other Busters are still fast friends, and though their vision of being heroes for justice may have faded, they’d still do anything for each other – which is why Riki is now on TWO special missions.
The not-so-secret one: recruiting new members so the Busters can form a baseball team. Preferably female recruits, as the current dude/babe ratio is an inconvenient 4 to 1. The other mission, though, that’s the strange one. Riki and Rin, the group’s singular girl, are receiving odd messages delivered by cats concerning the existence of a “secret world” and assigning them tasks they have to complete. Were their youthful dreams of being crusaders not so fanciful after all? Or is there something even more vital at stake?
For this viewing, I took in the English dub. Both the English and Japanese tracks are offered in 2.0. As is typically the case, I would have liked to have had a 5.1 mix, but the lack of one here isn’t detrimental. The various tracks come through cleanly with no dropout, and there’s some nice directionality across the two channels. The English cast is well varied too. I really enjoyed their performances, as I felt that each voice was well suited to their roles. Like the Key titles before it, the soundtrack is gorgeous too, adding a lot to each scene.
This release comes in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. As with pretty much all Key titles, the art is gorgeous and the characters all have an individual look. The transfer for this release is clean, and the colors show up brilliantly. All-in-all, it is a gorgeous release.
The three discs for this release come in a single amaray case with center insert to hold two discs. The front cover has a shot of the main female characters laying in a circle. The back has a picture of Riki and Komari looking at shooting stars with the series summary and some screen shots surrounding it. I really like the way the back of the case is put together; it has a nice visual appeal. Overall, the rest case is well done too.
The menus for this release are fairly basic. There is a picture to the left from one of the episodes on the disc with the selections offered to the right. A cat’s paw print acts as the cursor and stands out well against the rest of the menu. It’s a good contrasting color (for example, the paw print on the third disc is red, while the general motif of the menu is blue) and is easy to see. The background music plays on a 40 second loop, so it doesn’t repeat too much.
The only extras offered on this release are clean versions of the OP/ED.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Since the first time I watched Kanon, I have been a huge fan of the Key titles. Air was a bit of a disappointment, but Kanon and Clannad rank as some of my favorite titles. New Key titles are one of the few things I keep an eye out for in Japan, so when Little Busters started a year-and-a-half ago, I was very excited. Having now seen the first half of the original series, I will say that it almost lives up to my expectations. I don’t like it quite as much as Kanon or Clannad at this point, but it is a lot of fun and has a lot of heart.
Riki Naoe is a member of the Little Busters: a group of five inseparable high school friends who have been together since they were children. Riki suffers from narcolepsy and had just lost his parents when he met the other four, and their fast friendship allowed him to move forward with his life. However, now they are slowly approaching graduation, they are beginning to worry where they might all go and whether they will still be together.
Kyousuke, the de facto leader of the Little Busters, comes up with a plan to form a baseball team. Between practice and games, they should have plenty of time to spend together before life sends them on their separate ways. The problem is that there is only five of them, and nine is needed for a full team. So Riki is nominated to find new members to add to the group, and in doing so, he is given the opportunity to touch the lives of many people.
In terms of general concept, Little Busters has the same basic setup of Clannad and Kanon before it: Riki meets a person, discovers that s/he (all she’s so far, actually) has a problem, and he sets out to do what he can to help her out of it. In the process, he forms a strong bond with the person, and she usually joins the group. To this point in the series, Riki has helped out one girl with her problem, is well on the way to helping another, and made friends with a few others that are likely going to need help down the road.
And like Clannad and Kanon, this concept works for Little Busters. The characters are likeable, and there’s more than just a little adorableness to go around. So far, Little Busters is the match for its predecessors when it comes to the more light-hearted moments, though in general, the humor tends to be a bit more on the cute side. Much of the humor from Kanon and Clannad comes from Yuichi’s and Tomoya’s sarcastic and prankish tendencies and how they react to some of the inanity around them. With Little Busters, its often the unimpeded inanity that offers the humor, as Riki just doesn’t have the same mocking personality as the other two. If you loved Ayu in Kanon or Fuko in Clannad, then you’d likely enjoy a lot of the humor in Little Busters.
But it’s Riki’s softer nature that causes the more dramatic moments to not strike as much of a chord with me as with Kanon or Clannad. Both Yuichi and Tomoya are just as friendly and helpful as Riki is here, but their acerbic countenance in their everyday lives provides a nice counterbalance to the more serious moments, and allows those moments to really shine through. When they stop joking, you know it’s about to get dusty. Riki doesn’t have that sort of switch, and instead, he comes off as somewhat of a generic, harem protagonist. It’s not that I don’t like him; it’s just that he is a bit more stereotypical than Yuichi and Tomoya, and so the dramatic tension that Key is famous for suffers a bit because of it. Maybe I will change my mind when I get to see the rest of the series, but so far it isn’t quite measuring up to it’s predecessors.
Little Busters is a title I have been looking forward to seeing since it first started airing in Japan a couple years ago. And so far, I am happy that I am finally getting to see it. It’s charming and has a lot of heart, though it’s more dramatic moments do not quite live up to the expectations set by Kanon and Clannad before it. It’s not that they are bad—quite far from it—it’s just that it isn’t Kanon or Clannad. But then, how many things actually are? Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System