Better than Air, but not as good as Kanon or Clannad. Frankly, that’s not a bad place to be.
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.
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 Ron and Kud with Rin’s cats. The back has a picture of Riki and Kud looking at the night sky 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 and a few promos for the Japanese releases.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I watched the first half of Little Busters! a few weeks ago, my initial reaction was that while it had all the charm of Key’s other titles, it wasn’t really pulling the sort of emotional weight that Kanon and (especially) Clannad do. Therefore, while I enjoyed it, it just didn’t resonate with me as well as those other two titles. Having now seen the conclusion to it, I would say that the same holds true.
As the last collection ended, Riki was faced with the reality that the quiet Mio Nishizono he had come to know was gone forever, replaced by her boisterous, outgoing alternate personality, Midori. But while he continually pleads with Midori to bring Mio back, he also doesn’t think it is right that Midori must disappear instead. In the meantime, Haruka Saigusa finds herself the target of continual harassment from the student disciplinary committee, which has its roots in a long time family despute; Rin continues to get strange letters requesting her help to solve other people’s problems; and Kud finds herself torn between staying in Japan, where it is safe, or returning to her war-torn homeland when her mother’s rocket explodes on the launch pad. Riki, of course, drags himself into all of this. But how is he supposed to help everybody else when he views himself as virtually useless?
The problem I had with the first half of Little Busters was with the protagonist, Riki Naoe. Riki suffers a bit from a little brother complex as he is the smallest and weakest of the original Little Busters. Kyousuke is a confident leader, Masato is a boisterous and outgoing athletic freak, and Kengo is a master swordsman committed to perfecting his craft. Compared to them, Riki has nothing going for him, and so he generally finds himself going along with the crowd. It doesn’t help that he also has narcolepsy, which generally crops up at the most inopportune times.
In essence, he is no Yuichi Aizawa (Kanon) or Tomoya Okazaki (Clannad). Yuichi and Tomoya might both be nice and faithful to a fault (as is typical for a harem protagonist), but they also come off as more real. Neither is afraid to speak his mind, they love to play practical jokes on people, and events in their lives have given them streaks of independence. Riki has none of that going for him. His entire life is lived to follow the lead of others and try to keep everybody around him happy. Therefore, when either Yuichi or Tomoya stop to help out other people, it comes off as more genuine and has more emotional impact than when Riki does it. When Riki does it, it feels more like that’s his job. His role in life.
Because of this, Little Busters doesn’t really hit the heights that Kanon or Clannad do. Yuichi and Tomoya stand out as harem protagonists; Riki just fits in with the crowd. So when Kud is scared to go home and face her mother, or when Mio is afraid to face reality, or Haruka is afraid to face her family, it just does not resonate as much when Riki stands up for them as when the other two do. And frankly, he really doesn’t even stand up as much as the other two. Yuichi and Tomoya can be pretty “in-your-face” when they feel like there is an injustice being done; Riki just comes off more as the annoying person who won’t leave you alone. Maybe it isn’t fair to compare Riki to Yuichi and Tomoya (both of whom I have much love for, obviously), but as Key made its name on emotional harem titles, it’s only natural.
Now, to be fair to Riki, his plot arc over the course of the series is to grow from that little brother into the legitimate leader of the Little Busters. Kyousuke has made no bones about the fact that he is grooming Riki for that position, and so as the series progresses, he does gain more confidence. By the end of this set, Riki had really finished this journey, but he had taken steps. I imagine the journey continues in the follow-up series, Little Busters! Refrain and Little Busters! EX, and maybe once I have seen the journey completed, his wishy-washiness in the earlier parts won’t matter as much. But that is something I will have to judge then. As it stands right now, this has been an enjoyable series, but one that doesn’t quite live up to the standards Key set for itself with its other titles.
Much of this review has been critical of Little Busters!, but the reality is that it is a very fine series. It isn’t as deep as some of Key’s other offerings, but frankly, it would be an impossible task for everything to be a masterpiece from them. Judged on its own merits, Little Busters! has been very enjoyable. As long as you don’t go in expecting something as resonating as Kanon or Clannad, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy this. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 22nd, 2014
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