OP Sequence

OP: 「Boys be Smile」 by 鈴湯 (Suzuyu)

「それは突然やってきた」 (Sore wa Totsuzen Yatte Kita)
“It Came Around Suddenly”

There is a secret of this world – but it isn’t that Kuragaya is a badass. That was already pretty obvious.

Here we are again, beginning another go-around with Little Busters! (though not the last, as Ecstasy has already been announced, with Kud Wafter likely to follow). It’s a funny sort of show, this is – I noted that many times during the first season and it’s certainly no less true now. Let me state for the benefit of new readers that I haven’t played the VN and thus remain largely (though not totally, thanks to an insensitive few commenters) unspoiled about both the secret and the other mysteries at place in Little Busters!, and for the sake of discussion it should be assumed that everyone reading is in the same boat (and would like to stay afloat in it).

There’s a strange dichotomy to the experience of watching the first series, one which became harder and harder to ignore as it progressed. That is, the overall tone of the show was mostly light and comedic, and the focus mostly on slice-of-life stories. Yet even when LB wasn’t making its occasional forays into serious territory (which became more frequent as the season progressed) it was impossible to totally forget that something else was lurking, like a shadow at the edge of your field of vision that was always gone when you jerked your head in that direction to find it. It’s to the credit of J.C. Staff that they managed to make the first season as heartwarming as they did under those circumstances, and it was clearly a quite intentional decision – to build up our emotional investment in these characters before the series takes a much more savage turn in Refrain.

That kind of warm the heart, then rip it out approach isn’t entirely unusual for Key, but I don’t think the tonal contrast is as stark in their other adapted properties – or at least, there wasn’t so much of a sense of two overlaid narratives playing out at the same time, like the conscious and unconscious parts of our minds. It’s in this sort of context that it’s obvious that Little Busters! is indeed a VN adaptation, because Riki very much fills the role of both on-screen character and audience stand-in. Riki is aware of this hidden world in exactly the same way we are – he senses it, but can’t quite grasp it with his five senses. In that way he’s very effective as a character, because it’s so easy to empathize with what he’s feeling. It was my growing belief during the first season that his narcolepsy was a kind of defense mechanism/circuit breaker – whenever he gets too close to grasping the true nature of his reality, the circuit trips and he blacks out. The question is just why this happens – is it for his own protection, or is there a darker purpose at play? The answer, I suspect, is a little of both.

Knowing there’s so much hidden truth out there and not knowing what it is, it’s impossible not to see conspiracy in every shadow and significance in every detail. It strikes me as very significant, for example, that the penultimate shot of the OP is a lingering one of Kyousuke on his own in a field of light, and that he’s shown at a distance from the rest of the Busters in the ED. That he’s at the center of the secret is no, well- secret. I don’t think LB tries to pretend otherwise. It’s more of a question of just how everyone else fits in. It certainly seems that everyone knows more than Riki does, but there’s also a strong sense that not everyone in the group is on the same level of reality. There’s the obvious divide between the five original Busters and the others, but there’s more here too – strange character disappearances and reappearances, the story-within-a-story of each of the accessory characters (sorry, Kud – you’re first in my heart but in this sense, you are an accessory). If the first season was, effectively, shaking out all the puzzle pieces onto the table, Refrain will surely be about putting them together.

Refrain begins, more or less, with a story surrounding Kuragaya Yuiko, who didn’t have her own arc per se in S1 but rather functioned as a mover and shaker in a few of the others. She was the tough-as-nails, cold-blooded assassin of the group – a deadpan enforcer always ready with an insult and a little bit of muscle and no-nonsense advice. But if she’s any indication, the second season is going to see everything magnified and intensified from the first. This Kuragaya is genuinely scary, and the vehicle to revealing that is a group of students led by Takamiya (Okada Eimi) who played a very small role in S1. She holds a serious grudge against Kuragaya for supposedly publicly humiliating her as a first-year, and along with her friends – the eager Katsuzawa (Aoki Noriko) and the reluctant (likely future Busters-ally) Mutsumi Suginami (Hanazawa Kana) – plots revenge against her tormentor by targeting her friends.

This all plays out against the backdrop of a hotcake party thrown by Kud, Komari and Rin that serves as a sort of stealth reminder of the more carefree first season (most interesting potential clue here is the seeming change in Kengo’s personality, attributed by Kuragaya to his having "hit something" when he fell from the roof). Takamiya and her henchlings put tacks in Kudster’s shoes and bag (boo!!!) and rip up Komari’s notebooks (yawn). It’s obvious that the story is taking a darker turn here, but it becomes clear soon enough that this isn’t going to be like most of the developments in the first season. Riki – forever the moe mini-knight – follows Takamiya and discovers and confronts the trio, who arrogantly deny everything. But Kuragaya shows up having recorded them plotting everything (well, she is in the broadcasting club) and Takamiya not being sufficiently cowed by that, unleashes a terrifying display of martial arts and yandere expressions that would make Gasai Yuuno blush. It’s a pretty shocking sequence for its (and her) sheer ferocity, and while Takamiya and Katsuzawa flee in terror one suspects we haven’t heard the last of them and their lust for revenge.

It’s interesting to speculate just what sort of narrative form Refrain will take. I can’t imagine we’ll see many upbeat and light episodes reminiscent of the first cour, but the entire series clearly isn’t going to revolve around the mystery – will we see mostly eps like this, a mix of a seemingly stand-alone story and glimpses of the larger secret? When Kuragaya and Riki go to the P.A. room for tea he has one of those moments of awareness when the memories threaten to break through the wall, and falls into a narcoleptic sleep – and it seems clear that this is a sign that he’s getting closer and closer to the truth. Whoever constructed this illusory world, likely for Riki’s benefit, it’s obvious that the center cannot hold. The situation is not sustainable and he can’t be kept in the dark for much longer, and what happens as that truth asserts itself more and more seems likely to drive the story from here on out.


Author’s note: It shouldn’t be necessary to say it again, but I will – please refrain from posting any unmarked VN spoilers (or hints, or confirmations or denials of guesses, or clever spoilers disguised as jokes) into the comments section. I don’t want this experience ruined for me, and I don’t want it ruined for any other new viewers. Read the comments at your own risk,. Zephyr – who has finished the VN – has kindly offered to pop his head in here and look for spoiler comments, but that will not necessarily be before any potential spoilers have been posted for a while. Untagged spoiler comments will of course be deleted, and serial offenders will meet with further and more decisive response. Let’s be respectful and keep this a safe place for people who want to experience Refrain to the fullest without having to worry about that experience being spoiled because they want to participate in a discussion.


ED Sequence

ED: 「君とのなくしもの」 (Kimi to no Nakushi Mono) by 北沢綾香 (Ayaka Kitazawa)


  1. Little Busters is back with a blast!

    Well, pretty much I’m in the same position with you, Enzo. I’ve noticed that the series continuously progressing in term of clue droppings and awareness of -the secret of the world- (I’m still amazed that some new viewers are still not aware of this trend), and this arc is certainly the closest we could get to the meat of the story before we dive into Rin’s arc and the awaited Refrain arc. I’m very hyped!

    And about the adaptation itself, it’s magnificent! First thing that I noticed is a wonderful OP (for some reason it’s both beautiful and gave me some shivers of feels), and the show is going full commando at showing it’s true color, thanks to Kyousuke’s monologue before the OP and the last part of the episode.

    I also noticed a huge jump of budget here, I hardly notice any stillshots unlike the first season (seems that finally they pour the good number of sales into the production budget), and everything else is noticeably better executed.

    I think Little Busters finally getting an adaptation that it deserves and I can’t wait to roll on with LB for the next 24 episodes (according to Rita’s tweet). Looking forward to your weekly impression too, Enzo!

  2. I think you mixed up Mutsu and Takamiya in the description of what happened in the library. Mutsumi Suginami should be the likely Busters-ally and the ones who ran out in fear should be Takamiya and Katsuzawa.

  3. in one word: awesome! or awesomeness!

    anyway, I must say, JC put lots of money and thought in refrain. we could really see the changes in both animation and..perspective. that’s said – a lot of effort in every little detail whether it’s Riki’s dreams or other stuff as we’ll see next episodes.

    OP and ED were good. look at the video, it is so..little busters’s spirit. plus, the OP is some sort of remake for one of BGM in VN(AKA “boys be smile”).really great.
    the OST keeps escorting us from the VN’s music gallery.

    the pancake party served her part well – maintain the “gap” after the first season with comic relief and a lot of fun. it did lower some unseen pressure of the series.
    after that, kurugaya route has started. kurugaya is one of top favourite characters in LB, they really grasped her rage with that scene.

    now only left for us is the wait for next episode, week after week, but it’s worth it.a

  4. Ah, now that was a good first episode for the second season. In the Strike the Blood post I said that first episodes tend to need something to reel you in. Boy did that last scene ever. My shipping senses are tingling. Helps that I liked Kurugaya’s route the most out of all the non Refrain routes. Like I said in season 1, it’s the only Tonokawa written route that I actually found good.

    It kinda shows the fortitude those girls have that they went after the two meekest people in the Little Busters. In the game they actually went after Rikki, but man, bullying Kud and Komari is a big no-no. DEATH TO THE INFIDELS!

    Also not to hype up Refrain or anything, but I’ve only cried 3 times when watching anime/reading VN’s/LN’s/manga. Refrain is one of them. I’ve been going at anime and other related things since 2002. I don’t really cry easily at all (disregard my post in Strike the Blood please, I was a crybaby as a kid *blush*).

  5. Now this is now getting more and more like CLannad… First season: comedy with drama and different arcs. Second season: Darker arc and even MORE drama. Also, same with the OP; second season’s getting more dramatic and ‘teary’ theme.

    Red HeartGold ZX
  6. Oh yeah it’s back.

    JC Staff has also confirmed the working of a 3rd LB series: Little Busters EX, which is most likely OVAs or some sort featuring the three girls in the EX expansion game: Sasami, Kanata and a third girl of which I’m not at liberty to name.

    I actually enjoyed playing Kurugaya’s route the most, particularly how Riki slowly fell for her after seeing her show her emotions besides her usual cool image, realizing she IS a girl after all.

    How dare those b!tches mess up Kud and Komari? These two are like the most harmless bunch. In the game, only Riki was targeted, which is itself a flag for Kurugaya’s route. Good to see Anego give them hell. (Poor Suginami ended up being collateral damage, due to her not stopping the other two for their vile actions. Otherwise, she’s a good girl. )

  7. I love the sharp increase in visuals, especially little things like Kud and Rin acting out eating and drinking as Komari speaks. I for one am glad they decided to put Kurugaya’s part into this season since its better animated. Also, I really think the weather is so dreary and representative of the plot at hand.

    Don’t click spoiler unless you’ve read the VN. It’s meant as humor for those that have.
    Show Spoiler ▼

    Giorno Giovanna
  8. I still haven’t watched the 1st season which I found kind of boring(that pacing was so slow -.-) although this looks like it’s gonna be interesting.Now,I’m wondering if this would be worth marathoning the 1st one…

    1. The way I see it, you’ll probably end up in one of 4 scenarios:

      1)Watch only the 2nd season, & end up confused or raging because you don’t understand some parts of the story…..(What did you expect from skipping some earlier parts?)

      2)Watch S2 & quit partway..

      3)Play the VN then watch S2
      Though I think marathoning S1 would take less time than to finish the VN.

      4)Watch both S1 & S2 and enjoy the show..

      5)Play the VN, & watch both S1 & S2 and get to know which scenarios were better in which form.

    2. I don’t know in which point you quit s1, but it’ll be meaningless to watch s2 without completing s1. everything is connected so beatuifully..you;ll destroy that to you.

      what Tehim said is probably right, so option 1&2 are out of question IMO.
      VN is really really long. so for now, I’d recommend you to stick with s1, it’s indeed funny and touching in many parts. you just need a little push, survive first episode (even if Komari is too much Moe/loli for you) then the rest will come.
      after that..it depends on you whether VN or s2.

      LB is key’s second masterpiece (after Rewrite). you’d better not miss that 😛

      1. Oh, Komari’s arc was one of the most painful in the entire First Season, IMO. It probably turned too many people off Little Busters, but the only other plausible alternatives was probably Haruka, because those were the two routes that touched least on the nature of the LB world.

        The main problem, IMO was Komari’s VA. The sheer nasalness of that voice grinded on my eardrums, and it still does.

      2. I think Kud route was much more painful. but hey..I liked all the routes, all of them were..tear jerker.

        anyway, I am afraid you’re right.
        having komari route was the first was wise decision as you said, certainly if we look at the VN, it iss almost natural to put it first.
        however in the anime it is indeed turned people off, but not because of the route itself. the main problem was Komari’s voice, yes, but the fact that in the first and second episodes she seemed too much moe/loli…distant those who are unfamiliar with the VN. so someone (who isnt familiar with VN)…was most likely to quit in that point, even before getting to her route’s complex (though there were other who quit in the middle of the route’s complex :S )

    1. If they’re going with 2-cour (not confirmed yet but most likely),
      its possible Key could do what they did with Clannad for After Story..
      Eg finish the main storyline with 3 episodes remaining, then use those 3 for a summary episode, an OVA, & an extra (which could be Kud Wafter if Key does this for LB:Refrain)

      1. is very likely they´ll do so, if we consider how popular the series is in Japan. Remember that the first´s season blu-rays were always on the weekly rankings even when the quality was not that good.

    2. I think it is for the best. otherwise 2cour for refrain wouldn’t be enough. plus, the whole concept of refrain was losing itself a bit cause of..dragging around more routes. after all we don’t want this season to aim to be like the previous one…this one should focus on the main course of events of the VN (aka refrain).

      having said that, I am glad about the green-lit for EX!
      I still dont know what they are planning, but I am not sure about 2cour. after all, refrain is suppose to be the highlight for whole LB, so it’s better leave it that way and make EX third season but sort of side-story. plus, for only 3 routes..2-cour seems a bit too long(unless they’ll add more stuff, kud wafter is a possibility, though unlikely right now IMO). however 1-cour definitely seems a bit too less. and I don’t want ovas…whatever will be, I am glad for another LB. but let’s enjoy refrain for now. the season only started.
      I must say I am impressed that JC can run 2 series of 2cour parallel.

      1. Season 1 dealt with the Komari-, Mio-, Saiguha- and Kud-centric arcs.
        Theoretically Season 2 should then elaborate on the rest:
        (though I did spoiler-ize myself by accidentally viewing the CGs from refrain)
        Show Spoiler ▼

      2. Show Spoiler ▼

    1. Show Spoiler ▼

      There’s a reason why Riki is shipped most often with three girls (unless you consider Ecstacy) – Rin, Kurugaya and Kud. IMO though, in my view, in these three relationships, Rin assumes the inferior position, Kud deals with Riki as an equal, but Riki will be the sub-ordinate one in an Anego relationship.

      It’s a shame Anego hasn’t gotten the Wafuu treatment.

  9. that. was. AMAZING!
    I loved every second of it. I am one of these that think that the first season was pretty good, and this episode exceeded my expectation in every way possible.
    THAT Kurugaya. The door scene in the vn was epic but this is beyond description: The key animation, the character´s reaction, the details such as kurugaya receding some steps to kick de door (details that we would never have seen in s1). Everything was perfect.
    Thanks for the post! Is awesome to read those elaborated texts by someone who has not read the vn, it helps me to make an idea of what the anime is presenting.
    Regard from Chile!

  10. This is probably an captain obvious question but– Does the anime use the same voice actors as the visual novel? :O

    Great post Enzo! I kinda skipped around in the first season of Little Busters, but I am excited to view Refrain! (I already spoiled myself so I know what I missed and what is coming… and no, I won’t spoil it for the others.) I’m excited to see how JC Staff will unfold the upcoming episodes.

    I probably hold an unpopular opinion, but I’m really glad that JC Staff is animating Little Busters rather than KyoAni mainly because it freed up KyoAni to animate Free! which I absolutely LOVED and the action goodness that is Kyoukai no Kanata.

  11. You know, I just played partway through Kurugaya’s route after watching this,
    & apparently there’s been quite a number of changes from VN to anime transition..
    Shall I elaborate for those interested for the parts concerning this episode only?
    Spoiler mode:
    Show Spoiler ▼

    1. @Techim
      obivously it’s not the first we see modifications in the routes adaptation. there were also some in the S1.
      don’t forget it’s VN platform, moreover a dating-sim one, so..it is inevitable to avoid changes. however, the changes adjust themselves to anime and VN spirit IMO.

      Show Spoiler ▼

      1. That I know…..so far any anime that was adapted from manga/light novels, I check out their original sources..

        This would be the first time I checked out a Visual Novel though.
        I completely rushed through Kud’s route, but now regret it after noticing the differences in other routes…Will probably replay properly again sometime.

        As for now I’ve completed Kurugaya’s route, & completely spoiled myself for her arc in Refrain I guess. But from what I heard, Show Spoiler ▼

      2. Show Spoiler ▼

      1. Well I’ve already completed Kurugaya’s arc before Refrain.
        Look for the Show Spoiler next week then. :p

        About to attempt the Refrain route soon.
        Though apparently its famous among fans for being able to make even guys cry…

  12. If I remember correctly, on the first season´s last episode Riki blush after Kurugaya say something to him. I don´t remember what, I only know he was blushing and I instantly thought Riki was falling in love with her.

    1. There’s already some changes.
      I’d know cause I just played through & completed Kurugaya’s route 2 days ago.
      Look in the earlier comments.

      And also finished Refrain as of yesterday.
      Damn, I haven’t cried in a long time..
      Time to see how good JC Staff can make out of this 🙂
      Show Spoiler ▼

      1. The previews are from the magazine were is published all the info about little busters! I don´t remember the name. But these are the descriptions:
        Show Spoiler ▼

        It is so fast pased that it´s almost confirmed that there will be just 13 episodes. Also if you see the source code of the official web there are listed only 13 episodes.

      2. MAL eh? I thought I remember reading somewhere there of Rita tweeting 26 episodes, but that tweet got deleted later…

        Frm the descriptions of Ep4 to Ep6 you gave me,
        and from what I remember of the VN I completed, 2-3 days ago,
        Ep6 is probably
        Show Spoiler ▼

      3. Nobody knows why rita deleted her post. But some people say that was because she mistaken the lenght of refrain with the whole refrain + ex episodes.
        And in episode 6, I think
        [Spoiler of rin route]
        Show Spoiler ▼

        But nothing is clear yet.


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