「最後の課題」 (Saigo no Kadai)
“The Final Task”

Sometimes the suspense is not in the “what”, but the “why”…

Raise your hand, anime-only viewers, if you hadn’t guessed by now that Kyousuke was the one sending the cat-tail messages to Riki and Rin. I imagine if we were all in a room it would look like I just asked for volunteers to watch Blood-C. Poor writing? Of course not – we were fully expected to have deduced that point, and quite some time ago at that. But just as we knew Kyousuke was behind those missions, the real tension comes from wanting to know the reason – just as we knew watching this season was going to be a much more intense and difficult affair, but the suspense came from wanting to know why that would be.

We’re getting to the point now where it’s harder and harder to write these posts without acknowledging the elephant in the room – the Secret is largely the story at this point, and speculating too specifically about it is inviting trouble. But certain things that can be inferred from what’s happening on-screen are obvious enough to be discussed safely, I think – among them the fact that symbolically, at least. I’m more and more convinced that Little Busters! is thematically focused on the question of childhood’s end, and what that means for all of us. Just how literally that plays out in terms of the plot is an open question (I’d say current indicators are that it might be pretty literal), but the meaning behind the story seems clear enough to me.

One thing I’m still not quite clear on is Riki’s grasp on “reality”, however we define that term – and for that matter, that of everyone else in the cast not named Kyousuke. One by one the non-essential Busters have disappeared, all but Komari (which is a bit of a shame for me, as I still wish I could hit a “delete” button every time I see her and make her vanish). Of course that’s a question in itself – why is Komari materially different than the other peripheral Busters? But the larger issue is how the absence of first Kurugaya and now Kud (booooo!), Mio and Haruka can be dismissed with “They must be taking a day off (again?”). When Riki, Masato, Kengo and Komari are gathered on the diamond the only question Riki asks is “Where’s Rin?” as if it were perfectly natural to hold a baseball practice with six people instead of nine.

The focus on Riki and Rin, setting aside The Secret, is one of the stronger elements of this episode. Of course you can’t totally set it aside, because their innocence is very much at the heart of their relationship. I can’t get over how naturally their segue into boyfriend-girlfriend had played out, as their lifelong relationship has become slightly tense despite the fact that they haven’t done anything overtly romantic yet. As I said last week these two are still very much kids, and that’s what makes their relationship so charming. But there’s a difference, and that’s in terms of self-awareness – Riki has some sense of just how much growing up both of them have to do – especially Rin.

The practical implications of that come into play with Lennon’s final challenge, which is what finally leads Riki to put some though far from all of the pieces together. As always there’s a preternatural awareness of events to come implicit in the challenge, as Riki and Rin’s decision to volunteer to lead a group of VIPs around the school leads to Rin being offered the chance to participate in an exchange program with another high school. The volunteering itself is another case of Rin being forced to confront her extreme shyness – there’s even an issue in the fact that she doesn’t know keigo (Japan’s maddeningly complex honorific speech) but in forcing herself to go through with it Rin charms one of the Oji-sans enough that he recommends her for the exchange with another school – one that’s lost a number of students in a bus crash and fallen into a depression as a result. I don’t know if that tragic element specifically is a clue, or simply a pretext for the exchange to happen (I suspect the latter) but it certainly puts Riki in an awkward position.

Again we see LitBus playing out on two tracks here. The event itself is not insignificant – Riki quite naturally wants Rin to stay, as they’ve only just begun their formal relationship. It’s the most natural thing in the world for him to tell her not to go, but Riki again shows the self-awareness to realize that he’s being selfish in doing so – and that in her acquiescence, Rin demonstrates that she’s still very much a child. And as such, she’s not ready to understand what a real relationship with Riki means, and won’t be until she has more of a chance to experience the world (as always Masato is the purveyor of seemingly random foreshadowing here – his “Even if I had an opinion I wouldn’t share it. That’s been my decision all along.” is certainly significant). That’s a good lesson to learn and it’s well-played here, but in the process Riki realizes something much more – that all of the challenges have been designed to force Rin to grow up and become independent, and there’s only one person who has both the motive and the means to have pulled this caper off.

When Lennon leads Riki to where Kyousuke is waiting for him in a clearing in the woods, it’s a surprise neither that it’s Kyousuke or that he tells Riki that he’s not seeing the whole picture. Part of that is obvious – it seems to me that these challenges have been just as much about forcing Riki to grow up as Rin, and in fact much of Rin’s social maturation, even her friendships with the other girls, comes from Riki forging the path for her. But there’s clearly far more here, and while Riki can’t grasp it yet he certainly sees that Kyousuke – or any normal human – could never have predicted future events the way he has. Why does Kyosuke find it so funny when Riki suggests that The Secret might be a “philosophical quest – or some historical or scientific thing?” The implication is that the truth is both far simpler and far more immediate. As for the implication of what follows – Riki grasping Kyousuke’s hand as they flee through the woods, only to trip, fall and be left behind as Kyousuke disappears into the darkness – answers are left for another day, but there’s a strong feeling that Riki is about to be forced to grow up even more, and that the trials facing him aren’t going to be easy ones.


Author’s note: 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 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.


  1. Riki, that was absolutely beautiful. It moved me so much. *tears up* when he realized Rin needed to be free to experience life first before being set in a relationship.
    If you love someone, let them go. If they come back to you, they were yours all along.

  2. Oh man…the best parts are coming up and I absolutely can’t wait! I wish they did show Rin’s training but with all the drama (and the buildups) I’m totally okay with it 😀 Plus, the amount of foreshadowing and the hints left all over the place…EVERYWHERE D:

    P.S. I think you made a type: “When Riki, Masato, Kuragaya and Komari are gathered on the diamond the only question Riki asks is “Where’s Rin?” as if it were perfectly natural to hold a baseball practice with six people instead of nine.” Instead of Kurugaya, I think you meant Kengo.

  3. My impression was that Kyousuke laughed because Riki hadn’t figured out the secret which saddened him. There was a tinge of sadness in that laugh as I heard it (Excellent work by Midorikawa by the way).

  4. That BGM when Riki was running with Kyousuke and tripped sends me a chill and a single tear. That, along with BGM for the end of Kud’s route must come from “The album of Little Buster’s another side”, as they’re very different with every other normal BGM that we heard from the previous episodes.

    They’re melancholic and… creepy.

  5. someone was asking “what makes LB appeal so much?”
    well, I can say many many things in that matter. starting with the characters, story, mystery, SOL, the amazing OST and move on to how it captivates me and make me feel one of the LB for the good and for the bad (and I really identify with the good and bad feelings of each character)
    but this kind of answer won’t satisfy someone “from outside” who isn’t familiar with the VN and reluctant to start now.
    I think what really makes LB is that you can’t grasp it until it hits you in the end at some places (routes climax and the refrain). then, when you try to grasp it fully, you’ll need to watch it again, only then you will understand the true meaning of the term called “Little Busters!” as a whole.
    that’s the secret(of the world?). that’s key’s magic.

    let put that aside now.
    LB refrain has started dealing with some of its major issues.
    at first, Riki understands his manipulation over Rin and decides not doing so. however it got quite an impact on both. those two are certainly in love and fits to one another, but it’s tough for them to express it. that’s why their realtionship are still childish, yet indeed chraming.
    the second thing is between Riki and Kyouske. the latter seem to have some secrets up until now, especially a certain one. yet the tension rises when the two meet for one on one, no secrets (or not?).

    Show Spoiler ▼

    things are far from over. Riki has finally become aware of Kyouske’s pulling the strings behind the scenes. clearly LB isn’t gonna sit back and wait for SOL-comic relief to calm things. we can see clearly that this season focuses solely on Refrain and its “darker” sides. things gonna be tougher and tougher.

    the disappereance of the 4 girls was also felt. but it was made in kinda smooth way as possible.

    1. To finsihed VN players only as to reply to thedarktower’s question:

      I wondered why they omitted the “training” of Rin.

      Show Spoiler ▼

      1. Show Spoiler ▼

      2. Frankly speaking? The answer is probably that it’d take too long. JC Staff doesn’t really have many episodes to work with and Little Busters is leviathan in length. Considering all the stuff they’ve cut already (some of which I’d consider fairly important), it’s inevitable that drawn out, dialogue heavy exchanges will have to get the axe. It’s a matter of pragmatism. As we approach Refrain I’d expect less and less (if any at all) lighthearted, development-centric scenes.

        VN discussion (spoilers, spoilers, spoilers):
        Show Spoiler ▼

      3. I don’t think the problem is the number of eps.
        total 21 eps for this season (13 refrain+8 EX). they can pull out another 2-3 if they felt like it.
        the problem isn’t money either, otherwise we wouldn’t witness such tremendous change in terms of visuals this season.
        so I think it’s solely for the purpose of the atmosphere.

        Show Spoiler ▼

      4. We should probably be practical here. If it was so easy to just ‘pull out’ more episodes I would have to start questioning why they haven’t already. A higher episode count will serve Little Busters well, but obviously there is a limit to the budget. Little Busters is very long piece of text, and something will always have to be cut to accommodate anime practicalities. I think in this case it’s fair enough.

  6. Speculation re: Komari
    Show Spoiler ▼

    Pity the whole training Rin on keigo was taken out due to time constraints as that was pretty funny segment to watch, though OTOH it might distract from the overall mood of the episode itself.

    1. In response to your other comments (and a few others that have been in reply to yours), I think the reason you’re getting downvoted and commented on the way you are is because the second part of your comment hints that you’ve played the VN. As such, it has been assumed that your first part is something spoiler related, even though you claim it was not.

      I’ve spoiler tagged it and labeled it as speculation. This should keep downvotes to a minimum and keep your comment from being misunderstood.

      Also, please note that downvotes are not necessarily indicative of how people feel about your comment. As long as your comment is not hidden due to too much, it’s okay. Trying to call out the people downvoting you will only lead to more, and I will not be able to do anything if your comments get hidden.

      1. Thanks for clearing up some of the understanding.

        It can be really infuriating that even the most innocuous non-spoilerish posts for those of us who have played the game can generate such an OTT paranoid reaction simply because we carry the Original Sin of “Having Played the Game”, and thus have our posts viewed with suspicion and scrutiny, whether deservedly or not.

  7. ‘Not the what, but the why’ is a good place to start. This is the point in the VN where everything starts to come together and one starts to get that nagging feeling that they know what’s going on. Of course, piecing together the secret of the world is not in itself a big deal. Although there has been quite a big of emphasis on it (arguably more so in the anime), the mystery’s never been what Little Busters is about at its heart. Yes, there’s a subtheme about searching for and confronting the truth, but the truth of Little Busters is really something more fundamental.

    So I guess I mean to say that when Riki asks whether the secret of the world was something philosophical and Kyousuke laughs…JC Staff probably didn’t intend it, but that could mean damn well anything.

  8. I didn’t watch the first season but I am enjoying this so much that I tried watching the first season but it felt too much like a slice of life anime which I am not a fan of so I abandoned it. But really this has been quite enjoyable and I look forward to finding out the secret of the world.

    1. While this has some elements of mystery, Refrain is not a mystery anime. In the end it will still leads to character drama, and there are a ton of things, character development, bonding and clues that you will miss if you don’t watch the first season >___>

      It’s an idea that’s even worse compared to something like watching Clannad After Story without Clannad, or probably comparable to watching Steins;Gate straight from episode 11-12 lol. Most likely you won’t enjoy Refrain too much without emotional bonding with the characters, and I seriously can’t reccomend that idea at all.

      1. i agree that i will miss out on some things but like i said i tried watching the first season but i didn’t enjoy what i saw as it isn’t the kind of anime i normally watch. i just tried the first episode of refrain out and liked what i saw. But i am still enjoying it so far and its not like i am not going to enjoy this at all if there are things i miss out on at the end of the series

    2. It’s simply not going to be the same. Those who have read the VN and enjoyed it (that includes me) will urge you to watch the first season because they want you to get the most out of Refrain. I agree with zeroyuki in that Little Busters is first and foremost a character driven drama. Although Refrain really is very good, it is built on the back of strong characters that the viewer/reader have invested emotion and empathy into. Heck, if I was being extreme I’d recommend you go all the way and pick up the VN, because the VN spends so much more time on development that the anime could not afford. Your connection with the characters really makes Refrain.

      tl;dr: for a character driven narrative, skipping 26 episodes worth of character development is probably going to detract from your experience, and that’d be a great shame.

  9. Seriously, I just have given up the fact that this anime will never be a perfect adaptation of the original.
    I’ll just sit back and relax(suffer included) and see how much JC staff improved the background visual and animation of season 2. It’s really lovely honestly.
    Season 1 visual did not impress me. They only put good visual on important part of the visual novel were in S2 you can see how much they improve the visual.
    Show Spoiler ▼

    1. I think it’s fairly impossible to have a ‘perfect’ adaptation of Little Busters without at least twice the episode length (and the more the better). The sheer volume of material is a strength as a visual novel and a weakness as an anime. I’ve talked about this before (actually, all the time) but I think JC Staff’s main goal was never to perfectly adapt Little Busters. Only Refrain. Every sacrifice made thus far has been for Refrain. It has to be. There’s no other reasonable explanation. And Refrain’s the best of Little Busters. We’ll see if they can make it damn good.

    2. the original will probably always be better, epsecially such masterpiece from KEY.
      we can’t copy-paste the VN into an anime. I wish it would be that simple…but it’s not.
      it’s impossible ’cause VN isn’t anime. those mediums are different, despite they have a lot in common, they are different. especially it’s hard if we are talking about KEY.
      it’s hard for consecutive anime to make time-loops when finish every route. animes like that(by that I mean anime based on VN and especially KEY) must have a main theme and focus on it as much as possible. that’s why for LB to be twich the eps…would ruin it, IMHO. imagine LB anime would last 90-100 eps instead the 40-50 now (considering the two seasons of course). it would be hard to follow main theme. no reasonable “outside” viewer would last long enough. there are many factors needed to be considered.

      I found LB anime quite fair with the VN. yes, not the best, but definitely not bad, moreover a good anime. it conveys LB true feelings. each part of the anime is focused on exactly the relveant theme (whether it be route/refrain/SOL or whatever). and it conveys LB essence – first season was mostly SOL with the dramatic touch of KEY, yet able to touch the mystery quite a lot. and now refrain enters higher level, focusing solely on refrain (and Riki and Rin as main heroine), which I found a good thing as an anime-viewers, cause more than it make sense, it fits to the situation.
      yes, I’d love to see most love-love hunters, Rin’s “training” and all other things they missed, but it is for the sake of an anime. I do believe they did the right decisions ’cause we see the results in our own eyes, yes, for good and for the bad. it’s tough(even impossible) to reach “perfect result” in adaptation. but I found the result more than a good one.

  10. As Anime only viewer, my theory on the secret of the world is as follow:

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Am I right on money?

    Kuma Kuma
    1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Dunno. Based on what I see is that, this is an anime adaptation. They might change the ending than what I expect it to be. I already gave up the fact that no matter how hard I whine for this anime series to dance what I want it to be, it will never happen.

      Therefore, I already given up and I just enjoy the visual view that they improved.

  11. It’s going to get more and more confusing from here on out. XD
    Though I’m still trying to figure out which episode will be the one that will answer every single question you brought up…


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