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Little Busters! Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

Little Busters Season 1 Collection 2
Little Busters Season 1 Collection 2
Life goes on and Riki finds himself helping more and more of his friends.

What They Say:
As if receiving enigmatic messages delivered by the cats wasn’t odd enough, Riki Naoe’s world continues to grow even stranger. Following the shocking twin revelations of Midori’s missing shadow and the fact that he’s the only one who seems to remember Mio, he’s determined to learn the nature of the connection between them.

Meanwhile, some of the secrets Haruka is keeping about her family are revealed with potentially devastating consequences and Riki finds himself pressed into a completely unexpected situation when a sleepover held by Rin and the other female members of the team goes out of control. As overwhelming as all that seems, however, it’s merely the preamble to the drama that’s unleashed when Kudrayaka learns that her cosmonaut mother is going to be sent into space! And in-between it all, the Little Buster’s first ballgame is approaching, even though they still haven’t found a ninth player!

Contains episodes 14-26.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release gives us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The series is one that’s all about the dialogue here as there’s a good cast of characters that grows into things and plenty of back and forth between them all. It’s not big on action, though it has its couple of moments where it goes big, but that’s not something regular. The dialogue is pretty well placed overall with some good noticeable moments where the conversations come across richer and more engaging because of it. But mostly it’s a standard high school comedy/drama show that hits the usual notes with ease and style that makes for an engaging mix no matter which track you select. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2012 and 2013, the transfer for this TV series contains the second thirteen episodes and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, giving plenty of room to do what it needs to do. The series is definitely what you’d expect from a show of this nature as animated by JC Staff with lush, vibrant colors – particularly in the greens and blues – with a good bit of detail and a lot of fluid situations. The animation comes across really well here with the detail throughout, though the backgrounds make out better, but the character animation has a lot going for it and maintains a very solid feeling throughout without any breakup or other problems. Colors are rich and solid without being oversaturated and it’s largely problem free, making for a great looking visual experience.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release goes with the more expected route of just giving us a look at a couple of the girls looking cute and adorable, which is enough of a draw for a lot of people. With this cover, we get Rin and Kud together where they each have their trademark moments where Ri’s feeding the kittens and Kud is in her specially designed outfit with a bright smile and simple cuteness. It works well for what it wants to do, but like so many shows it’s not about telling us what the series is about but rather just the look of it. With the back cover, we get some good artwork of a couple of the characters along the left with a dark and moody approach as well as a nice selection of shots from the episodes themselves on the right. The center gives us the premise and hints at the larger nature of the series which is only lightly touched upon in these episodes. The discs features are all listed clearly and we also get the usual solid breakdown of the discs by production credits and technical grid that lists it all accurately and cleanly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for the release goes for a simple approach and goes in reverse from the cover artwork as each disc provides us the guys in different groupings rather than the girls. The first volume gives us a good looking static screen of some of them outside along the baseball field so we get the greens and blues of nature as well as the school and the characters in their uniforms. The second disc does an indoor scene with them sitting around which is a bit more serious and cooler in colors. The navigation along the right is simple but works off of the back cover design with blacks and blues that has the episodes listed by number and title which are quick and easy to navigate and select. Submenus load quickly with what few are there and language selection is a breeze.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences along with the various Japanese promotional spots for its broadcast, TV run and home video releases.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When you get a Key/Visual Arts series, there’s a certain level of expectation that comes from them that doesn’t always get fulfilled, but often leads to at least an appealing show with its visuals. The first half of the first Little Busters season, which came out six months ago, wasn’t a series that totally grabbed me or drew me into the story or characters in a deep way. While we had a few tinges of something more mysterious going on in places, it was largely a character driven piece in the real world that had a nice cast but nobody that I really rallied behind. I liked it and that it did a bit of sports with everything, but that was less the focus as one might expect. Returning to the show half a year after seeing the first half reminded me just how little of an impression it made overall beyond some of the designs and the general concept. That said, it was definitely easy to return to the show once it got going since it’s all smaller stories on an individual level with an all around wrapup, so you didn’t need to remember a lot from before.

Well, outside of the first episode, since that one brings to a close the storyline involving Mio and her other half with the swap they did. That’s been eating away at Riki since he likes both of them but doesn’t want either to disappear. It’s a curious situation overall since there’s a certain self awareness to it, but it’s also just difficult to really engage with fully since it’s the tail end of that storyline. But the characters can still manage to make it work on some level as it brings in the right reminders of what had come before and you get to sympathize with everyone, which doesn’t always happen. But there’s an advantage to having Mio in this form take control since she’s able to do things that her other self could not, which limited her a bit earlier in the series. Once this is all resolved, Mio’s able to help out more with the team itself and to be a minor character amid all the other stories.

Thankfully, the follow-up to that allows us to reconnect with the rest of the cast, or at least the girls, as Riki gets invited to the girls dorm for something and he has to sneak in there to do it. What they’re actually doing is having a sleepover and have basically captured him at this point and they get him to dress up in girls clothes, go through all sorts of silly games and even a bit of bathing events which is really cute as it unfolds. It’s not deep or weighty when you get down to it, but there’s a certain kind of fun to it all. The best part is when Kanata shows up with her heavy disciplinary hand and tries to get them to all settle down a bit. What makes it dangerous and fun is that since Riki is there and all dolled up, you have to wonder if Kanata will realize it. That she doesn’t has its own fun and the whole thing just gets silly from there, especially as the guys go to rescue him as the morning arrives since they wanted to see him all prettied up as well. There’s a good flow in how the characters all interact with each other and this kind of episode, light as it is, reinforces it nicely.

This also works as a good lead-in to the next arc, which focuses on Kanata and Haruka. Kanata has long been harassing Haruka in ways that goes beyond her position, but Haruka has also gotten herself into trouble repeatedly and made herself an easy target because of it. That gets taken to the next level here though as Haruka is getting overly disciplined and things she didn’t do are being pinned on her and that gets Riki’s hair up since he doesn’t like to see things like this happen. What it leads to is a lot more interesting as we discover that the two girls are actual half sisters/twin sisters in a weird way (I’ll let the science and accuracy of their birth be left to others) but in the end, they have two different fathers but neither knows which one is which. And to make matters worse, one of them was a criminal for various actions and that has one of the kids being ostracized because of it, which happened to Haruka at an early age because the family she belongs to can’t stand to have its honor brought down in this way. So as time went on, Kanata did well in everything and was praised as the right one while Haruka got taken down as the daughter of a criminal that could and should in their view be eliminated so as to not further stain the household.

It’s a pretty brutal family dynamic that gets explored, one that Riki gets drawn into easily since he doesn’t want to see either of them hurt, and there’s a lot to like and loathe with the situation as you realize both girls are under immense pressure and strain, something that Haruka hadn’t truly realized about Kanata along the way. The true villains of the story are never present and never really seen well since that’s the adults that took the kids in after things went south for both of their parents and that leaves a certain sense of closure as an elusive creature. We get to see how things unfold for the girls and it’s definitely important to see unfold because it helps them to break the cycle that their elders were trying to foist upon them. But I really wanted to see more of how they’d push back against them and what the long term fallout would be since that would end up defining the girls and their lives even more in the long run.

Less interesting, a bit more unusual and certainly a bit darker overall is the shift into Kud’s storyline. We get to understand more about her massive interest in all things related to learning and how she reads exam books just because it’s fun. With her being a year younger, that gives us a little more clue into how she thinks about things and some of what keeps her off balance with the others, but what really shakes things up is learning of how she had traveled the world for so long and been to so many places as that helps to explain her difficulty in connecting with certain things. But it’s the reveal that she holds dual citizenship with the countries of Japan and Tebua that raises the interest in others as that’s new to them, but it pales in comparison when they learn that her mother is actually an astronaut that’s about to go into space for her first mission.

That’s all well and interesting, albeit a bit of a disconnect from the way everyone else is presented in a way, but it takes a surprisingly dark turn when the launch goes poorly and an international flap ensues as Tebua becomes isolated amid a revolution with armed guerillas everywhere and no information on who, if anyone, survived the rocket incident. As unusual as some of the other stories are, this one just feels very out of place within the series as presented so far and even more so when Kud ends up going to Tebua due to a special dispensation and ends up in the middle of some nasty business all around her. And is left alone by her grandfather for a bit where there are roving gangs of thugs that could have completely ruined her. It’s just a little surreal and has a couple of weird steps to it that really left me uncertain of where they were trying to go with it.

Luckily, as the series moves towards its finale (as opposed to a conclusion), we get some fun stuff as Rin goes off and does a couple more missions based on the messages she’s gotten from the cat’s tail. Like previous ones, these end up helping to solve a few problems along the way and they’re cute and fun but feel like they’re portents of something larger and more sinister that’s never truly explored. I like Rin and her relationship with Riki is definitely pleasant, so seeing him drawn into events is cute and almost adorable in a way. But he also has to help her firm up a bit as the series moves on as the group gets their first baseball game coming up and she has to pitch against some real athletes. It’s familiar sports material condensed down a bit into a series like this but it shows the growth of the group as a whole and while we see Rin stepping up to handle the pitchers mound, we also see Riki forced into stand on his own and leading since Kyosuke makes it clear he won’t always be there. And similar to the children’s book that’s brought in to one of Rin’s storylines, it’s a nice touch that shows that they all have to grow up and face their challenges, sometimes with the help of others, but also often on their own. Having it so that that realize this but also that they understand that the time and place they’re in near is one that is truly special, it’s good to see them celebrate the fun and simplicity of youth and all that’s associated with it.

In Summary:
Little Busters is a pretty pleasing show on a couple of levels. It tells some decent stories with a bit of a decompressed pace that allows them to be explored without being rushed. It has a decent cast with some interesting quirks about them that lets the large number we work with stand out against each other and it also has some very appealing animation and character designs that sells it well. As a whole, it’s a competent work that’s well executed and does a lot of things right. But it’s just missing a certain something critical to make me fall in love with it like I have with other Key/Visual Arts series I’ve seen over the years. It’s not a direct comparison by any stretch, but there’s just a little less of a connection to these characters that never felt like they were truly realized. It’s a solidly done show overall and will definitely have some big fans behind it, but it’s not one I expect will have a cult like status about it.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Promos

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 22nd, 2014
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p VC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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