OP Sequence

OP: “Little Busters!” by Rita

「チーム名は…リトルバスターズだ」 (Chīmu Mei wa…Ritoru Basutāzu da)
“The Team Name is…Little Busters”

I don’t think there can be any question that Little Busters! is one of the most anticipated, debated, pre-judged and agonized over anime adaptations in recent years. Now comes the only question that really matters: It it any good?

Greetings from sunny (for the first time since I’ve been here) Tokyo. It feels very strange to be here without a return ticket in hand – I have to tell myself not to rush through my days, because I don’t have a thousand things to fit into my schedule before my time runs out. To be blogging anime from the center of the universe is a weird and wonderful phenomenon, and Little Busters! is certainly near the center of that center. In case you aren’t aware, my qualifiers are these: I have not played the game (nor indeed, any Key game). In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to cover the series. I have seen every Key anime, with Kanon being among my favorite anime of 2006. And thus, my viewing perspective will be that of someone watching an anime, not someone comparing an anime to a VN. And considering how much rancor there was in the discussions of this series before the first episode even aired, I’m not sorry I don’t have that baggage to carry with me.

I don’t think a discussion of the LB premiere can truly begin until the elephant in the room is addressed. No, this doesn’t look like a KyoAni series. I happen to like many JC Staff productions and feel they get a bum rap, but I’m under no illusions that they produce shows with the lavish flamboyance of Kyoto Animation. If you’ve seen a good JC Staff project – Ano Natsu for example – you know what to expect here. Pretty fluid animation, and pretty good depth of field in the backgrounds – a trade-off, to some extent, for the typical JC Staff muted color schemes and soft focus. If it lacks the vibrancy, minute detail and ridiculous smoothness of a top KyoAni project, LB also has very good character designs that go beyond the over-the-top kawaii of KyoAni’s Key adaptations. In short, it looks like a JC Staff series, not a KyoAni one – and if I had the choice, of course I’d prefer something that looked like Hyouka even if there is some baggage. But if you were worried that the visuals would be a deal-breaker, that’s far from the case – at least for me.

Content-wise, if I’m to be honest I found the first episode to be pretty good but not great – largely because the humor that drives it is somewhat hit-or-miss. It’s easy to forget that Key’s works often start out being quite comedic in nature, with only minute hints of the drama to come – and this being a Maeda Jun work, I have no doubt the waterworks and magical realism are sure to follow. But I also suspect (and have reason to) that LB is somewhat different in tone from the likes of Air, Clannad and Kanon. Of course we have our male lead, Naoe Riki (Horie Yui, one of my all-time faves, in a rare boy role) but he’s quite different from the typical Key sensitive alpha male. Not only that, but in the core group he’s surrounded by a bunch of guys – musclebound goofball Inohara Masato (Canna Notobushi), kendo stud Miyazawa Kengo (Oda Yuusei) and beloved sempai Natsume Kyousuke (Midorikawa Hikaru).

While the boys are joined by Kyousuke’s little sister Rin (Tamiyasu Tomoe) and there are more girls who will be critical as the show progresses, there’s a discernible difference in tone between a show driven by male characters and one built around a more traditional harem setup. There’s a rollicking sense of adventure and a random note to LB that seems both refreshing and quite old-school. Old-school too is how I’d describe the comedy, though in that case it’s not such a positive for me. Some of it – especially Rin’s abusive interactions with Masato (who basic psychology suggests she has a crush on) has the feel of mediocre anime comedy from the 90’s and early 2000’s. It’s interesting that while LB is Key’s sixth game (released in 2007) in many ways it feels more innocent than some of their earlier works.

One might almost suggest that Okada Mari drew inspiration for AnoHana from LB’s notion of a gang of high-schoolers whose bond began as part of a grade-school club – heck, even some of the imagery is strikingly similar – but so far, the emotions here are low-key (sorry) in comparison. Why hero Riki was so unhappy before the four Little Busters took him under their wing will surely be explored, but for now we just know that the group bond means a great deal to him. Riki is bookish, quiet and slightly androgynous, while the others in the group are all more or less archetypal for the moment. Despite that, each of them has a strong presence and is pretty likeable, and the role the group – and especially third-year Kyousuke – plays in their school lives is hugely important to them. Kyousuke seems very much like the heart of the story based on the premiere – he’s a bit of an oddball (walking to Tokyo to try and find a job, for example) and his latest project of forming a Little Busters baseball team makes very little sense in any traditional way. But what’s clear is that the fate of the group after he’s gone weighs very heavily on the minds of the others – and on Kyousuke himself – and may form the emotional spine of the series.

Joining the fray are Sasami Sasaegawa (Tokui Sora), the arch-typical ojou-sama who has it in for Rin, and Kamikita Komari (Yanase Natsumi) who drops in on the roof in the final scene (and seems to have the most “magical” feel to her). More heroines to follow – we need “routes” after all – but one impact from having this done by JC Staff is that we have a healthy dollop of lesser-known seiyuu mixed in with Key regulars rather than the usual KyoAni repertory company. We also have relatively pedestrian names as director and writer (Yamakawa Yoshiki and Shimada Michiru) and whether all that will end up being to the good remains to be seen. But I did like the voice work in the premiere generally, though Hochan as a boy (even a slightly effeminate one) is a bit of an adjustment. On the whole I’d call this a solid start – I’m not blown away, but with Key I’ve come to expect a marathon, not a sprint. And if this does turn out to be a somewhat brighter, more rambunctious effort than Maeda’s usual fare, that will make for a refreshing change.


ED Sequence

ED: “Alicemagic” by Rita



    1. Somewhere Saeko Shimazu(Kodachi Kuno) wants her trademark evil woman laugh back, Tokui Sora and her character!! Seriously ever since the Ranma 1/2, it’s the go to evil female laugh, I tell ya!! Everyone copies that shamelessly.

  1. “but one impact from having this done by JC Staff is that we have a healthy dollop of lesser-known seiyuu mixed in with Key regulars rather than the usual KyoAni repertory company. ”

    All of the VAs are the same from the visual novel, bar Riki and Sasasegawa who had the same as Rin… I think even the “Kyousuke is back” guy from the first line is the same X-D

      1. Kyoani’s ‘regulars’ are the same VAs doing LB. Key choose the same VAs in Clannad for the same reason.

        For the record I thought Hocchan did a great Riki. I couldn’t tell the difference.

    1. Normally jumping to Kyoto Animation’s defence is not really a popular or necessary move and I have no intention of giving apologia on their behalf. But fairness and due diligence should at least be done. Kyoani has a history of experimenting with new voice talent (I suspect because it helps with the budget) though they generally do this mostly with female roles.

      For visual novel adaptations I see no reason, usually, for changing the original cast, if any. Faithfullness to the source is something I think should be valued and having a different actor could very well change a character, even if only subjectively.

      1. It’s more of an additional service to the industry than a matter of budget. Both J.C. Staff and KyoAni are well known for their success at promoting lesser known VAs (in the case of J.C., chief producer Matsukura holds auditions and selects new seiyuu himself), and it’s something that the sponsors consider when planning a project. Most studios don’t take as much interest in this.

    2. Am I the only one who was annoyed by the incredibly overtly nasal sound of this “Rin” girl? It’s very very annoying. Maybe that’s how the actress really sounds like in real life and I don’t want to discriminate against what one’s born with, but I don’t know if I can put off with that for a long… we’ll see.

      As for the show, which I’ve never heard of before, so far, I don’t really get all this hype. …but it’s only been 1 episode and it wasn’t, say, a self eye-gouging inducing dreadful “K”, so I will give a few more viewing before deciding what to do with it.

    3. The guy who uttered “Kyousuke is back” is none other than Sugita Tomokazu, who is credited in the credits.

      We also have Clannad girls Hirohashi Ryou, Kanda Akemi and Nonaka Ai cameoing as Sasara’s cute minions.

      Kinny Riddle
  2. I have never played the game (so I know nothing about the plot), but got caught up in the hype somehow. I am looking forward to see how this turns out, and with all the hype (and a great cast and good quality from the first ep) I am expecting quite a lot.

  3. Aw, I wanted Masoto to scream that ” MY UNAGI PIEEE!” line. I liked that stupid line. 🙁

    And well, that’s my biggest peeve really, so you can imagine I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. This was a enjoyably faithful, note-for-note adaptation of the game, from the dialogue to the silly pop-ups. LOVE the remixed OP and ED.

    You’re completely on the ball that Key stories are more marathons than sprints,and as I suspect with LB’s adaptation, that statement might hold more truth than its predecessors. I’m looking forward to your future posts! It’s going to be fun to read from the perspective of someone who’ve not touched the game.

  4. First episode is decent but just a stepping stone. I expect to see more in a few episodes since its from Key. Some of the “funny moments” were actually entertaining and worthwhile which is nice but nothing really happened this episode. That’s to be expect though since it is the introductory episode.

  5. hmmmmm 26 eps…. wonder how they ll fit in all the girls arcs without making it explode upon themselves…… on a side note first episode was good… but it somewhat lacked something to hook in new watchers. But since i ve played the VN safe to say i know whats coming and lol there was even a foreshadow in this episode if you watch certain reactions. Just hope they don’t screw up or i ll be raging xD

  6. As an ardent KEY fan, I’m rather happy with this episode, and I’ll say that the series DOES get stronger as it goes on. The fast pacing here is a good sign that J.C. Staff plans to allocate a decent amount of time to the best material (they’ve cut out a few of my favourite jokes already, but it’s worth it if that means they leave enough time for the later events).

    While it’s true that the tone’s a little different from previous KEY works, that’s just in the sense that none of them are exactly the same (I see Air as being more separate from all of the others, personally). If anything, I’d probably compare LB to Clannad – the structure’s similar, and there’s the same kind of focus on family and friendship

    I had my doubts before watching this episode, but it looks like J.C. Staff is determined to get rid of their bad reputation for visual novel adaptions – by any measure, this was a promising first episode. All that’s left now is to wait and see…

  7. The only real concern I have for this JC Staff adaptation of Little Busters is pacing. Jun Maeda makes a mess of pacing. He tends to meander to the plot, and then when plot happens it happens all at once in abrupt ways. That’s simply his style, and he has played to his strengths. Most of the story would be lackadaisical and comedic to ease the audience into getting used to the characters and even caring for them, and a sudden exposure to drama would use that built up empathy to create strong emotional responses. Eventually we’ll get an ending (often happy via the supernatural) and catharsis and we all feel good coming out of it.

    If this sounds awfully Greek then I guess it’s because I guess it kind of is. Jun Maeda is, by now, a veteran of setup –> tragedy –> catharsis. His visual novels are, essentially, melodrama (not in the pejorative sense). The problem is that this can take a lot of acts. It’s not a real problem for VNs because Maeda just adds more text when he needs it. Even for Maeda, who relies more on music than on intricate writing, this can turn into a lot of writing. Clannad the VN, for example, was a monster. For an anime with only two cours figuring how to fit in the routes and managing the pacing between each episode can be, er, key. Notice that Kyoani pretty much doubled the episode count each time they adapted a Key VN; this is not easy.

    Speaking of Greek theatre and music, my secondary concerns (actually not really concerns but more like curiosities) are with the way JC Staff handles the supernatural stuff and their sound direction. As I mentioned before, Maeda relies heavily on his music. The way Kyoani has always done it is simply take the Key Sounds music (be it OST, images or arranges) and work with that. The timing and choice of music will play an important part in building both ambience and drama.

    As for the supernatural, I’ll relate back to the Greek again. Greek plays often ends with deus ex machina — divine intervention. They rely on the supernatural to drive their stories and wrap everything up. Jun Maeda does the same thing. The difference is that for the Greeks having their gods involved was a very natural thing and it was part of their storyingtelling tradition to have gods meddle in the affair of mortals for really no good reason. For Maeda, though, his stories are usually set in a more or less modern setting. The supernatural elements are something he has to establish as being exceptional yet part of the setting. For Clannad, for example, this was an integral part of setting up for the ending. At the risk of spoilers, the good ending was deus ex machina, but set up in a way that is acceptable in the context of how the story was developed.

    For JC Staff this has only been the first episode. I eagerly await to see what they do with the rest of the series.

  8. Adapted from Key VN (Channad,Air,Kanon,etc) and animated by JC Staff (best romcom anime ever : Toradora),this is new anime that I had high expectation for.

    After watched Ep1 I,who never play this VN,haven’t yet to get any clues what this anime is all about.Baseball? Fighting? Harem? Adventure? So,I guess I had to watch more Ep then.

    Still Hope for the best.

  9. Awesome first episode! Btw, how do individual character routes work in LB? Is it like Clannad where after the routes are done, it continues with the main story? Or is it an omnibus format? Is it like, e.g., if Riki becomes interested in a girl and goes out with her and her route ends, when it starts a new route, does that route take place where Riki never ended up in any of the other routes? Or would it continue with him still going out with the girl but just meeting a new girl? I COULD just wait until a character route is finished, but I’m just so impatient.

  10. Topboy – fighting and baseball do play a part in Little Busters, but they’re not the main focus, particularly in the later parts of the story. It ends up being somewhat like Clannad – a drama-centric harem show with separate arcs, with some kind of melodramatic event for each character, and one final arc (the equivalent of Clannad’s After Story) with a more specific focus and the best dramatic parts of the series.

    Justin – visual novels are by their nature an omnibus format, with the player going back to the start of the story each time they finish an arc. That’s just how they are. Of course, though, that’s not to say the anime will turn out like that – it depends entirely on how J.C. Staff decides to handle it. I can’t say a whole lot without going into spoilers, but I WILL say that the format the anime uses will be crucial in determining how they handle the final arc. Note that, like Clannad, some arcs would not be able to be included in the main story without using an omnibus format – much like Kyou and Tomoyo had their arcs done as separate OVAs due to being romantically based, I think that the same would have to be done for some Little Busters characters.

      1. Lol… don’t worry, it’s nothing like that. As long as the anime stays anywhere near the visual novel – which it seems it will – the story stays pretty far away from a literal harem.

  11. ….. I’m going to LOVE this show. The friendship these guys have is so strong and their personalities really carry the depth! You feel that they can make an episode about them just going out to eat and you’d STILL feel satisfied watching it!

  12. To be honest, it’s rather disappointing for me in term of visual and animation though it’s by no means bad. Love the musics and our charmingly simple-minded characters. We have Cu Chulainn and Diarmuid in the same club! Joy!

    Wonder when should I prepare some tissues for this…

  13. I was very pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t a total disaster. Maybe it was the Negative Nancy in me, but I was worried that only KyoAni would be able to pull off a Key anime. That isn’t to say it was perfect, a lot of the gags felt rushed because they were missing the segways that the game had, but it was still pretty good. I’d say B-.

    The real question is how they handle the secret of the world. I won’t go into spoilers, suffice to say that the way they handle it will either make believability in the eventual twist, or break it. LB works in a way different from all other Key stories. Still, with this episode out of the way, I’m willing to let them take a shot at it.

    1. Also I’m amused by Enzo’s comment about Rin harboring a secret crush for Masato. Rin isn’t like your typical tsundere. She’s not even really a tsundere at all. She is just very antisocial. Almost autistic.

  14. As someone with no VN background I just don’t see what’s good about this episode. Yeah I know it’s only the first episode but this is the only ibservation I can come up with this first episode… so I guess I’ll just hope it does get better since this is pretty hyped up.

    1. You probably need to give it some time so you can get a taste of the characters and story.

      Honestly, I suppose it will all depend on how well JC Staff does with the adaptation. A major part of LB is about close friendship and lighthearted school life. I think personally how well they convey this aspect is one of my major concerns.

      I remember that the Majikoi adaptation got majorly screwed up because they focused on fanservice and girls rather than the other aspects like friendship and their interactions.

  15. Nice insight, and it’s interesting to hear some of your impressions given that you haven’t played the VN. If you’re not prepared to be spoiled, I hope you have someone reading these comments in advance of you and filtering out any accidental spoilers. =|

    Yeah, it probably really is hit or miss with the comedy… I’m fortunate enough to love it. In contrast, a friend of mine only watches Key for the tragedy and finds the rest of it boring, but considers the tragic parts so moving that they more than justify everything else.

  16. I feel like the series borrows too much from the VNs so far with the soundtrack and referencing the game animations. Its hard to get immersed in the series when you are forced to make comparisons to the original game so much. I liked the balance Kyoani/Clannad had with the choice Fuko master captions and the Mei elaborations. Still I guess I appreciate that it is following the source, but its hard to tell yet if it can do it justice.

    As for Rin and Masato, you might be able to get some hints but Masato being the object of violence is one of the running gags of the series (like setting him on fire). Rin is shy and not yet at the age where she is really interested in the opposite sex.

    1. I don’t think it comes so much from her age, but more just from her personality – she’s antisocial and a little awkward, that’s all. She’s the same age as the other characters, who each show varying levels of interest in the opposite gender.

    2. Sorry I meant emotional age in that she isn’t at the point where she is interested in guys yet.

      I don’t think she is antisocial, more asocial, as she doesn’t really know how to interact with people and has grown indifferent towards others. Perhaps she was overshadowed by her charismatic older brother in this regard.

  17. am one of the peeps who is not sure what the hype is all about. maybe i should watch this when it’s already complete? i was able to enjoy clannad and after story because i saw it after everything was done. will decide after seeing a couple more episodes.

  18. Riki is a departure from the usual cool, hunkish, and occasionally snarky Key male lead. At first glance, one would have thought Kyousuke to be the main character as he fits all those characteristics. That said, Riki is extremely likeable, and Maeda Jun didn’t just make him androgynous for no reason. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

    It’s not often hearing Hocchan voice a boy, but she did Riki just fine. (Though I admit I half expected for Riki to suddenly go “Uguu~” for no reason as a result. lol )

    I’m cautiously optimistic of this adaptation. At the very least, JC Staff has kept the VN’s BGM intact, as Key’s music quality (of which Maeda is also one of the composers) is already quite superior and needs little to no modification for the TV.

    Kinny Riddle
      1. Riki as Kyon clone? I shiver at the thought. lol

        Riki should be kept as pure and adorable as he already is. Besides, his androgynous feature means he has lots of potential, if you know what I mean. Considering Hocchan’s previous prominent male role is in OtoBoku…

        Kinny Riddle
  19. No disrespect to JC Staff, but a way to deal with expectation of this adaptation is to see JC Staff as a 3-4 star hotel and Kyo-Ani as a 5-6 star hotel.

    If you know you’re going to lodge in a 3-4 star hotel and you expect 5-6 star service, you’re most likely going to be very disappointed. But if you go in fully expecting them to deliver 3-4 star quality, then you would most likely be satisfied with the work they’ve done.

    Kinny Riddle
  20. I feel like I’ve seen all these characters before. And most of the humor just wasn’t my thing, so I’m not feeling it like I did the other Key anime I’ve seen. Waiting for final judgement, though.

  21. “Why hero Riki was so unhappy before the four Little Busters took him under their wing will surely be explored, but for now we just know that the group bond means a great deal to him”

    They answered that already. His parents just died. If you expect something more than that, I’m going to have to disappoint you, because Rikis family and his situation before meeting the Little Busters will be pretty much never mentioned again.

  22. As expected I enjoyed this more than Chuunibyou, though I wouldn’t be surprised if LB had a similar “daydream”-character among the other girls.
    Pretty unusual for a Key series having a girlish looking mainchara with a female seiyuu instead of the cool one’s we’re used to. I agree that I’d have prefered Kyousuke being the focus.
    What was that about the “Melvin”-joke?

    1. The ‘Melvin’ joke was just an attempt at translating a pun – it’s the kind of thing that couldn’t really retain its full humour no matter what the translators did. The original joke was something along the lines of saying that ‘Oliver sauce’ sounds like ‘Good morning’ (which, in Japanese, is ‘Ohayou gozaimasu’). Of course, it couldn’t have been kept the exact same for the English, so the translators tried to use different names. It was still kinda awkward either way, though.

  23. Well for the 1st Key series tht I watch…. its so cheerfull and comedic lol. (But after seeing AB!….. Yeah tht how they lured you in XD)

    Though Riki female voice is a bit…. well weird on a boy body.
    Croos-tan, had to agree w/h you, Kyousuke is more cooler than Otonashi lol.
    I find Rin voice to be cute and ok.

    Well so far so good. Not KyoAni good but still good.

  24. A good episode. Nothing special. So since JC Staff stuck to it the material brought the show. Keep it up JC Staff.

    Also next ep’s storyboard is handled by Nagai. I’m looking forward to it.

    1. The same with the rest minus Kyousuke. Probably she looks small since she’s always surrounded with big,muscular boys (this sounds somewhat wrong)…Except Riki which is almost as small as her.

      Wait till you see Kud.

  25. What’s with the KyoAni hype? I don’t think this was any worse than it would have been had it been animated by KyoAni.
    And I played a bit of the novel’s common route ( say about three episodes 🙂 ) and yes, this is very true to the source material ( which was, in my opinion, a bit awkward at times, not to mention very long… ) .

  26. I’ll give it to episode 3 before passing judgement. Throughout this episode I kept waiting for the hook to set and pull me in, and it never happened. I hope it gets better because it doesn’t look or sound bad, just no story yet. It’s just not a strong first episode compared to other shows this season.

  27. I want to see this, I really do!! I loved every anime by Key BUT somehow the main characters face man, I mean seriously man!!! I want to punch it, use a sander on it and burn it!!! I know I’ll probably get downvoted and all, but I felt like I had to let this out. 🙁 another epic series I won’t watch because I’m put off by the character facial design. (like eden of the east):(

  28. How’s Tokyo Enzo?! I’m so jealous T_T I really wish I could be there too! You’ll have to update us sometime on IRC when you’re not busy settling in… of course, our timezones would be really off too =P

    The first fall premiere I’ve seen… and it was thoroughly enjoyable although not mind-blowing. I never find that Key anime are though… so it’s really all about the buildup and the finale than the intro imo. I’ll stick with it until the end and just hope that all the hype is worth it. This intro actually reminds me a lot of Angel Beats in a way, with all the characters and a mix of males and females. Definitely not traditional guy + 2937482734 girls (like you mentioned) so that’s new. I find it interesting too how Riki is our protagonist but he talks so much about Kyousuke. Anyway! This is just a jumble of my thoughts now =) hope you’re doing well Enzo! Talk to you soon!

  29. I liked how you said it was a marathon, not a sprint. That’s a good way to put it. I’m a little worried, not over J.C, but how the pacing translates over into Anime. Although, I will say the drama really smacks you right in the face in the visual novel.

    As the episode goes, there’s not much to say it missed. It hit a lot of right. Yet I think if you didn’t like this here, you probably wouldn’t like the visual novel. It really is different than the others.

    I’m excited for the next episode.

  30. Little busters! is easily the best vn EVER. All the routes are in perfect harmony and no one feels like filler as is the case of others games like clannad. The characters are the most memorable of all the others key games. For those who criticize, just give it a time, j.c. staff is doing an awesome job with the adaptation and i´m sure that this will be epic :).

    sorry for the bad english because I speak spanish :C
    If only i could speak english better, I could express how awesome little busters! is…

    This is my first time commenting on this site, but I read your posts since a long time. I want to congratulate you for the great work you all do. The reviews and comments really helped me and I enjoy so much reading them!
    Please correct me if my grammar is bad. I have no much experience with english x).
    Greetings from chile!


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