What They Say:
Does the new girl in Riki Naoe’s life need his help, or is she actually trying to kill him? After a chance encounter on a rooftop brings the enigmatic Saya Tokido into the Little Busters’ world, the only thing that’s certain is that trouble is sure to follow. As if saving the lives of his teammates wasn’t enough of a task to handle, now Riki must also untangle a web of new mysteries that seem to be rooted in his own personal past! Who are the Dark Executives, why do they want to keep Saya and Riki apart, and what is the nature of the secret treasure that Saya seeks? Sometimes, answers lead to even more questions as Riki and the Little Busters discover that they weren’t the only people drawn into Kyousuke’s artificial world in LITTLE BUSTERS! EX!
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.
Originally released in 2014, the transfer for this OVA series contains the eight episode run and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is kept to a single disc with plenty of space to work with and 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.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that the disc against the interior walls. The front cover is all about Saya with the cute/sexy approach being hit with just about every quadrant, from the amount of visible leg with the skirt flipping up, the expression on her face, the twin-tails, and the costume itself, all of which is set against the familiar lightly cloudy sky with lots of blue space. With the back cover, we get some good artwork of a the sisters along the right with a dark and moody approach all around it as we get a nice selection of shots from the episodes themselves on the left. 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.
The menu design for the release is fairly straightforward as we get a standard layout with some decent static artwork to tie it all together with. The image here is a nice enough one of Saya and Riki sitting together as she’s draped over him a little as it’s set against the same kind of background as the front cover, the color of which gives it all some nice pop. 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.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having enjoyed a number of works from Key adapted into anime form over the years, Little Busters with its initial season plus Refrain left me pretty lukewarm at best about the whole enterprise. There were fun moments to be sure and the series had a more laid back approach than many others which made it interesting to get into at times. When Refrain went for the big reveal of why everything was happening as it was, I was interested in it but hadn’t formed any strong bonds with the characters over the course of the run as a whole compared to some other series and that muted a lot of the intended impact of it. So, when the Refrain series was released on home video in Japan it ended up getting bonus OVAs with it as a full eight-episode run of material.
Initially, the thought was that they’d be adapting off of the actual EX! route/game material that played to the sexual adventures of the characters in the game and that’s why it was getting a home video release so that it could just run with it. I certainly wasn’t expecting hentai out of it but we’ve seen OVAs really push the limits and engage the fans with something that you wouldn’t get in a broadcast run, both visually and storywise, so I was hopeful for something that shifted gears and just went all in.
Sadly, what we get here is instead guilty of just one thing – being boring.
The eight episodes cover three different stories and while there are cute moments to be had from time to time, it does end up becoming more of a slog than anything else the further into that you get. The opening four-episode arc involves Riki getting caught up in shenanigans with Saya where she’s secretly a spy that’s come to find some sort of really highly valued item of mystery being held by the Dark Executives within the academy. She ends up using him to navigate through the five sublayers within the academy that are like dungeons as he has a lot of luck and she knows she can use that. She’s actually using him for a different reason but it’s the kind of piece that would have been a one and done kind of episode that is just so dragged out and with no real tether to the main reality of the property that it’s incredibly easy to become bored by it as it’s like a groundhog day kind of story.
The remaining two stories are spread across two episodes each and that at least means that things are a bit tighter and not quite as sprawling. The first one involves Sasami as she and Riki are trapped in their own special variation of the main world where she becomes a cat if she leaves his room or if anyone else but him enters there. The two are looking for a way to solve it but it has its own quirks and rules that come into play, such as with Kengo, but like the first story just ends up feeling meaningless the further into it that we get. The final two episode story focuses on Kanata and her sister with what the two of them went through because of their family and how dark and creepy that is, but watched within the context of this set and away from the rest of the show – which I last saw a year ago – and it just rings hollow and, once again, pointless.
While Little Busters didn’t pan out as it could have overall as a franchise I’ll admit I held out a weird kind of hope with EX since the initial belief was that it’d play to the pervy side a bit more and offer up something new and different. Instead, what we get is the kind of weird and not all that engaging side story material that is, in the end, mostly meaningless with how the main story itself plays out. There are fun bits, such as Sasami as a cat, and seeing how the sisters interact and stand up for each other in the final arc, but that opening four-episode arc is such a trudge to get through the further that it goes on that it sucks the wind out of the sails for the remainder of the episodes. Sentai put this together well and I’m kind of surprised that they went the distance to dub it, but for fans of the show it’s a little more chance to connect with other versions of familiar characters.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Promos
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 6th, 2016
Running Time: 200 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.