「最後のひとり」 (Saigo no Hitori)
“The Last One”

It seems to me that we’ve had an unusual number of girls with eyepatches in anime lately…

I think in terms strictly of narrative execution, this may very well be the best episode of Little Busters! to date. As a self-contained story with internal drama and humor, it worked pretty much flawlessly. The pacing was spot-on, the dialogue was sharp, and it probably integrated the disparate elements of LB – the mythology and the slice-of-life – more smoothly than we’ve seen so far (though to be fair, what we’ve seen so far has mostly been an intentionally stark contrast rather than smooth integration). While the serious haters will never be won ever, it’s pleasing to see LB gradually winning over many viewers as it nears the end of the first season and the reasons behind some of its choices start to become clear.

While we technically only had the introduction of one major new character this week, it almost feels as if it was two – and that’s because we’ve seen so little of Kengo up to this point. The newbie was Koshiki Miyuki (Honda Youko), an archery club member with an eyepatch. We don’t get a lot of details about what’s happened to her, but it’s clear that she has a deep and abiding love for archery – so much so that the prospect of being unable to continue pushes her to some desperate behavior. Where does Kengo fit into this? That’s also hard to say. Masato gleefully describes his conversations with Koshiki as flirting, but Koshiki claims she only wanted Kengo’s opinion as a fellow practitioner of martial arts.

Where does the truth lie? Given how much of a Sphinx Kengo has been and how little we know of Koshiki, the only logical thing is to take her at face value – but my suspicions are otherwise. In any event it’s very clear that he was mercilessly honest in whatever he told her about her prospects (with archery) and that seems to fit with what we know of Kengo. He’s obviously a bit of a facetious character to begin with, walking around school in his Kendogi and Hakama. But the impression he gives is of someone unfailingly honest and direct – I might even say rigid in his dedication to what he believes is important. I found the interaction between he and Masato especially interesting, and it’s always been clear that there’s something deeper in their mutual verbal sparring than meets the eye. There was just a hint of malice in Masato’s ribbing of Kengo in Koshiki’s presence, and some very real rage in Kengo’s reaction.

As with everything in Little Busters now, what happens has to be seen not just as an event in itself, but as a reflection on the mythology. Kyousuke has arranged a game – with an "All-Star Team" of athletic club captains – and as Masato points out (was his mistake in counting Riki and Rin twice a gag, or a hint? Hmmm…), the Little Busters need a ninth to make an actual baseball team. It’s always seemed likely that Kengo would be that ninth player, but the interesting element here is that Kyousuke has rejected Riki’s offer to recruit someone because "It’s only a matter of time until the final member joins us." With the benefit of perspective we of course have seen for a while that Kyousuke was obviously eyes-deep in the "Secret of This World" but this seems to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and opens Riki’s eyes. The obvious next conclusion Riki could draw from that is of course that the writer of the cat-tail messages also seemed to know things about the future that they should not have known…

Riki is creeping ever closer to the truth, and if indeed Kyousuke is the note-writer it seems that he’s been trying to help him get there. I found Riki’s wording of how narcolepsy "severs his connection to the world" far too provocative to be a coincidence. His inner thoughts tell us that Komari’s "Eight Dwarves" story is also a major clue (as I suspected), and the scene on the rooftop where we see Koshiki seemingly contemplating suicide is also seemingly more than simply a dramatic moment (though it is quite a beautifully-executed one). Koshiki obviously didn’t want to kill herself, she was simply feeling utterly confused and helpless – but it’s the involvement of the teachers that I find most troubling. It’s not just Koshiki’s terrifying vision of them – which could, at least in theory, be attributed to her situation – but the overall violent and angry tone they strike which seems ill-suited to the moment at-hand. One of them in fact quite literally punches Riki (which is like kicking a puppy) when he tries to help. Again, this could simply be clueless adults doing to worst possible thing when a teenager is in trouble, and it wouldn’t be the first time. But LB has a way of making you question everything you see.

In any case, things are building admirably towards a season-concluding ep (and an unusually late one at that) next week. We’re clearly at a transition-point in the story – as Riki inches towards the truth, Kyousuke suddenly announces that he’s stepping down as leader of the Little Busters and passing the job on to Riki (an acknowledgment, it seems, that Riki is indeed getting close to The Secret). Kengo has joined the team under circumstances I would never have predicted before this week – unable to participate in the kendo inter-highs because of the arm he breaks saving Koshiki’s life (and it’s suspicious that he didn’t break more than that) he decided he can be a one-armed swinger for the Busters (one might ask what defensive position he’s going to play, though clearly that’s not the most important question in the big picture). It seems all the pieces are finally in place for something big to happen – the game-changer that will make the second season fundamentally different from this one.




  1. And so the best character finally makes his appearance… next week. Kengo is friggin awesome from this point on in the story.

    Anyways, say what you want about the production values, but I think JC Staff has done a pretty good job building up the “secret of the world” so far. Thankfully, we probably won’t have to wait too long for the second season since it’ll probably air in the fall (probably… hopefully… maybe…).

    Interesting though that they made Kengo struggle to hit the ball in the anime, whereas in the game he hit a home run effortlessly on the first pitch.

    All in all, I’m very interested at the point where they’ll end season 1. They’ll obviously show the baseball game, but it’s the very end that intrigues me. Either way, Kurugaya, Rin and Refrain all in the second season (and Saya hopefully), I can’t wait.

    1. I second your third point. In the VN, Kengo is portrayed, largely, as being invincible. It was a deliberate thing. I am guessing Kengo’s struggle is more for the Koshiki story than for any future consideration.

  2. Most of my issues with the adaptation are very much couched in my having played the game. I doubt I would have had any issues whatsoever with this week and last had the adaptation of the Kud route not removed all my goodwill towards the anime.

    My issues with Kud’s route stem mostly from them trying to have it both ways, substantively changing the story for their own purposes while still jamming in the iconic sequences from the game’s version despite them making no sense in their new context. My distaste for it comes from less “but the visual novel did it this way” and more criticism of what is actually there at its expense.

    But that opened up these most recent episodes to me, knowing the secret of the world, and being almost disgusted by how they’ve removed all subtlety from the mystery. I think I’m mostly just still mad at how they handled one of my favorite routes, but I still think they’re making things too obvious at this stage in the story, considering they still have a few routes to do next season.

    Then again, I could be hypersensitive to the hints because I know the answer to which they are leading. But they still changed Komari’s hint from something that was a big second playthrough “oooooh” moment to something that’s kind of blatantly metaphorical, which pisses me off, almost more than any other change they’ve made.

    1. Different media requires different approaching.

      In the VN, you could set the pace as fast as you want and most of the demography of VN readers are very patient. However, anime viewers are much more “whiny” and need a bait in the story to make them glued to the medium.

      Just look at the first cour. They had been more conservative in adapting it and just look how many people that complaining about the first cour. Later, I think they learned about things that worked and not, and improvising to make LB suits more in anime medium.

      Yes, it become easier to predict, but even with this kind of approaching there are still a lot of people that didn’t grasp the clues that they have thrown in our face. Remember that besides of veteran VN readers, there are a lot of newbie watchers. Telling JC to adapt LB without giving attention to new viewers is, IMHO, too ignorant and elitist-ish.

      VN is VN, anime is anime. Anime adaptation is not an animated novel. If you’re not satisfied with the animation, you can always replay the VN, it won’t go anywhere :p

    2. I would also like to remind that Kud’s route was modified in Ecstasy and that most of us that read the VN read the translated original version. I was told that many of the “changes” in Kud’s arc were from the EX version and that it was still pretty similar to the story.

    3. Beating us over the head with the proverbial anvil does seem to be the modus operandum of JC Staff for Little Busters, and there are arguments for and against such an approach. Personally I have read the VN as well and it is difficult for me to give an objective assessment of the anime’s level of subtlety. However, based only on the narrative structure (which differs from the VN in key ways) and dialogue/monologue comparisons I will say that JC Staff isn’t chancing the possibility that things might go over some viewers’ heads.

      It is obviously true that a VN and anime must be presented differently–the comparative time limitation is always a factor, as noted–I would not say that a lack of subtlety is an anime-inherent feature. Sure, we can assume that all anime watchers are ADD teenagers who just want to ride one high to the next, but there are many examples of anime that do not always seek to be in your face. Even the immensely successful Studio Ghibli has works that, while still having stuff generally happen–tend to be understated and beautiful when minimalistic (prominently Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro).

      If Little Buster does lack in the subtlety department, I would argue that this is a deliberate directorial decision (correct or not). It is not apparent from the show that they have shifted gears like zeroyuki suggests. It was clear from the outset that JC Staff was not treating that anime like a “first time through” VN run. And it was clear from Riki’s frequent monologuing that they intended to make clear all elements of any mystery fairly concisely. JC Staff’s treatment of Mio’s route was like a canary in a coalmine, really; there was little time for subtext and the priority was on getting things done.

      This is not necessarily “Bad” or something, because in the end it is true that Little Busters does have lots of things in it that need to be done. But it does tend to lead to a laundary-list approach to narrative, where we’re just moving from event to event until climax. I would say, with the benefit of perspective, that Little Busters could have afforded a bit more subtlety. I never support spelling things out on paper. It is not just about fresh viewers vs VN readers, nor is it about VN vs anime as mediums; you can choose the weight of your hand for any audience in any medium. JC Staff has chosen to not take risks and keep things relatively obvious, which is the safer but duller approach. While I do not agree with their decision, it is within reason for them to have chosen it.

  3. Kengo is so much more awesome with his hair down.

    Some things:

    – Koshiki asked Kengo for advice because they both spent their lives in kendo and archery.
    – Of course Kengo joining the team was way too convenient.
    – Masato must have meant something deep and philosophical while counting. (or did he?)
    – Kyousuke giving leadership to Riki was a bit sudden.

    There have been a few pacing problems (especially Kud route) but I’m pretty happy with this adaptation. I hope they animate the EX routes as well.

  4. Koshiki-san kawaii

    While Kengo has provided Riki with any moral support Riki might need, it has always been at an arms length, preferring to be more of a passive observer during all this time.

    But now after this affair, Kengo has now become more involved (as well as more awesome looking). With Riki pondering Kyousuke somehow foreseeing that Kengo would eventually come onboard, I could almost hear Kyousuke quietly whispering “Just as planned!”

  5. Loved to see Koshiki animated!
    This was one of the most important events of the common route in the vn and the anime won´t dissapoint. Show Spoiler ▼

  6. This was a Kengo episode by far, in addition to being one of the best Little Busters episodes ever. Masato was this close to being a serious character for once! But the actual game, which I assume will be coming next week, is being hyped up as being better!


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