「リトルバスターズ」 (Ritoru Basutaazu)
“Little Busters”

I’m still struggling mightily to wrap my thoughts – and feelings – around that ending.

OK, was anyone besides me thinking, “For God”s sake Riki, don’t get in the van!”?

It’s finally over (apart from EX and hopefully Kud Wafter, anyway) – after 39 episodes and a veritable avalanche of emotional highs and lows, Little Busters! comes to an end that’s undeniably a happy one. And while part of me is happy about it, I can’t help wondering why I’m not happier than I am. This isn’t a simple thing to answer, and I think it’s fundamentally tied into human nature and what one’s expectations for this finale were.

I didn’t know the details of the “True End” that this turned out to be, but it seemed pretty obvious after Episode 12 that we were headed for something more or less along the lines of what happened. I don’t have any major issues with the way the anime chose to go about depicting it. It was surprisingly mundane, and I mean that in a good way – Riki and Rin pulling everyone from the wreckage, lugging them up the hill on makeshift stretchers. I might have taken a few moments to call the authorities, and I’m still not quite clear on why Riki, Rin and Kyousuke weren’t killed when they were so close to the bus (they even got the driver out, too) when it exploded. But generally speaking, it was all sensibly carried off.

The key issue here was Kyousuke, who was indeed blocking the gas from escaping with his body. Riki realized that the only choice he and Rin had was the save everyone else first, and go back for Kyousuke last – which they did – and probably the emotional highlight of the episode was when the critically wounded Kyousuke reached out and wiped away Riki’s tear before losing consciousness. Fundamentally, all shipping aside (though not at Comiket) that’s the most important relationship in the series.

There’s some stuff here that definitely falls into the Visual Arts metaphysics realm, like Riki seemingly going back to before he was born to confront the issue of his narcolepsy. I take that as metaphorical but with Key you can never be sure, and there is a sort of Buddhist quality to it. The issue here is simple: is it worth living, knowing that sooner or later you’ll lose everything that you love? As you become more ensconced in Japan’s literary culture you realize just how much of it – anime and manga included – is rooted in Mono no Aware, the realization that impermanence is our perpetual state of being. “To live is to lose” – this is essentially a re-statement of mono no aware. In deciding that life is indeed worth living and that pain worth enduring for the sake of loving others, Riki – either symbolically or literally – rejects his narcolepsy and finds himself outside the bus, with a choice to make.

This is where things get difficult, and I think that can be summed up in one question: would Refrain have been a better series if Episode 11 had been the finale? There’s no question it was the emotional climax, but that’s a separate issue. In choosing this route – where everyone walks away (eventually) healthy and happy, is LitBus diluting the power of its core message? To some extent I think the answer is yes, and that’s why – despite the affection I have for these characters and the joy I get from seeing them live on – my feelings about the ending are mixed. I won’t go so far as to call the True Route a cop-out, but I think it is fair to ask – if there are no consequences for what’s happened, what was the point of it all?

To put that another way, if you frame the series around the question naked-universe Riki asks at the beginning of this episode – “is it worth it?” – the answer is a lot easier when the reality is what we got here than if it had been what we got at the end of episode 11. My answer would still have been “Yes” – it is worth it, because life is hope, and because even if they were gone the people who loved Riki wanted he and Rin to carry on and support each other. But making the question so much easier to answer robs the premise of some of its emotional power, at least for me.

Without any doubt this is a question that can be debated and debated, and certainly one on which reasonable people can disagree. It doesn’t change the fact that LB – especially Refrain – does a remarkable job of depicting the power of love and the difference it can make in the world. This is the essential nature of Little Busters! – a simple and innocent story about loving other people, how kindness can impact the lives of others and how the urge to protect those we love can sometimes be in conflict with the desire to see them grow strong enough to face the world. This is why of all the Key works that have found their way to anime, I find LitBus to be the most unspoiled and emotionally powerful. Kanon probably remains the best series when all factors are measured in, but Little Busters! is certainly the most emotionally effective for me.

There’s not much else to say, really – this is a show where the emotions do a very good job of speaking for themselves. LitBus is a series where you need to check your cynicism at the door and embrace the innocence of its vision for what it is – highly idealized, no question, but grounded in something that’s elemental for all of us. Whatever qualms I may have about the ending it’s undeniably fitting to leave the cast as we last see them – playing innocently as children, smiling, laughing (though not the uncharacteristically thoughtful Masato, interestingly) and most importantly, all together. Kyousuke isn’t weak and on crutches but his old, smiling self, stronger and more unstoppable than ever. If one were in a metaphysical frame of mind they could almost imagine that what we were seeing wasn’t the real world at all, but in fact a sort of Heaven or dream – because surely, for these children, this is the Heaven they would wish for. I don’t think that’s how it was intended, but with Key you can never be sure. Perhaps the idea is that what we’re seeing is whatever we bring to the seeing, and that whatever answer you arrive at, the ending is a happy one either way.


ED Sequence

ED: 「Little Jumper」 by (Rita)


  1. The ending was beautiful. I loved it though I feel like because everyone actually survived it took away some of the feels that I experienced throughout the series but the feels were still powerful ;_; Though if I was in a vehicle accident that almost caused me my life, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to get in another vehicle for a while lol but nonetheless it was a good ending.

    1. This ending didn’t make me cry- we can thank the end of CLANNAD: After Story for that- but I did actually cry a few times in the middle of this series, with the end to Haruka’s arc, and the episodes before this finale, as examples. JC Staff, it turned out, did a wonderful job with this very hard story to adapt.

    2. Just wanna note that there is a bit of a time skip between the crash and the Little Busters field trip. As Riki notes, the class members get released from the hospital over time, and Kyousuke was the last one discharged. He isn’t really the type to let a near-fatal accident prevent him from having fun with the rest of them (the new trip is his idea, after all), and everyone else has had some time to come to terms with the accident.

    1. Plenty of people that I noticed on MAL discussions are discussing on the canon-direction of certain stuff in the VN, pointing in different aspects.

      1)Kurugaya’s True End (Available after clearing Refrain, thus debated to happen in real world)
      2)A certain special scene with Rin (Available on a 2nd playthrough of Refrain)
      3)Tokido Saya’s story (heard it contradicts the main series, but that would be spoilerish)
      4)Sasami Sasasegawa’s story
      5)The events of Kud Wafter to be implied as LB canon?

    2. I honestly don’t know what you’re complaining about.

      This is the ANIME ending, for all I know. And it ain’t too shabby in terms of closure.

      JC Staff may not be Kyo-Ani, but credit where credit’s due, they have more than proven the doubters wrong by making a quite decent adaptation that stays true to the spirit of the game.

      Why do you think JC Staff have specifically gone on to make yet some more OVAs to be bundled with the Refrain BD releases, titled Little Busters EX, just to cover the parts which would be difficult to fit into the TV narration? Namely the Saya arc, Kanata arc and Sasami arc.

  2. awww you put up the the focused camera snapshots of most of the Little Busters except for Rin’s and Mio’s. (2 cute candid scenes & her with Kyousuke+Riki)

    Kudos for the 2 groupshots. (1 by Mio & the other by Masato)

  3. The ending was really satisfying for me, and it didn’t ruin the impact at all. The emotions they had in ep. 11 are valid, and it was a necessary parting. That bus could have exploded at any time, violently erasing everyone they loved. Putting that on top of the emotions from ep 11 would be horrifying, but that’s what Kyousuke steeled them for.

    Riki & Rin’s growth in that world is what caused them to save everyone. And I expect that the reason they survived in the first place was because their weaknesses caused Misato & Kengo to naturally protected them.

  4. Now that the ending is out of the way, I guess I no longer have to fear discussing about certain speculations about how the dream world functions without being wrongfully accused of spoiling.

    Last episode, the part with Komari and Rin’s conversation puzzled me a bit.

    So I’m guessing, after Kyousuke, the “Architect” of the original world, left as well, the world was supposed to collapse and disappear, only that Komari has remained behind to keep it barely alive, waiting for Rin to re-enter one more time so she could tell Rin her wish.

    Upon exiting the world with Riki not long ago, Rin somehow re-entered it. Rin talking to the other girls while they appear in black-and-white is a manifestation of Rin’s subconscience – her own memories of this world – though as Rin has no intention of staying in this world, they remained mostly black-and-white and disappeared once she’s done interacting with them. Komari OTOH still exists in this world, thus she appears in full colour when speaking to Rin, before she too disappears in the same manner Kyousuke et al did.

  5. mission complete!

    it was one hell of a ride throughout 39 eps.
    for me it was almost a full-year of LB, including both season 1+2 and playing VN.

    LB main theme is love and friendship. but also, maybe above that, is to overcome your difficulties and not running away and hiding yourself from reality even if that’s the hardest thing. as demonstrated this very last episode with Riki’s case and throughout the entire season. of course, you do it with your love and your friends. you stands stronger.
    although they didn’t include directly the famous hospital scene and the failure of Riki’s 1st attempt, they did conveyed the feeling with Riki’s inner monologue. it’s a bit unfortunate since the hospital scene is one hell of a scene in the VN. it is very conventional in LB since a lot of people are mixed whether LB should have ended in that scene. and I admit there is something to it because a lot of things can be said about it in context of the main theme.
    but I think the end is satisfying enough and preserved the essence of the meaning and impact.

    I am eagerly waiting for LB EX!

    thanks for blogging LB refrain. although I am a VN veteran, it was nice to read your posts week by week.

    1. except you can see from the scenes that it was beyond the driver’s control. at least, for the people directly related to our cast. Riki’s Father’s car was crashed into by another car (so I guess you can blame that other person but if that was a complication, who knows). the bus iirc just had some complication? don’t think it was largely the driver’s fault.

  6. I had mixed feelings with how quick this season seemed to be going but in the end I’m very satisfied with the conclusion. In the end I think JC staff did a great job with he series. Can’t wait to see how they handle the EX stuff.

  7. Little Busters literally returned to being Little Busters.. :3 not the ending I was expecting though, but still good as long as Nishizono-san is there ^_^ (those camera shy shots were kawaii~)

    Red HeartGold ZX
  8. I was really happy with the outcome of this. JC staff definitely did a great job with this. I know I wasn’t the only one who started to sing along with the chorus when it kicked in…


    And afterwards, someone animate Rewrite!!!! I don’t know how anyone is going to do it, it looks like the most confusing one to animate from my point of view, but someone has to do it.

  9. Fans of this show keep asking how Rin, Rki, and Kyousuke survived the explosion. Personally, I don’t think they did. Or at least, Riki definitely didn’t. If that happened, maybe the rest of the survivors created a new and stable dream world where everyone lived and time passes.

  10. I remember playing through the VN a while back, getting to this point and wondering the same thing about their choice to have the ending they did. Because by all means, the ending where only Riki and Rin survive was definitely one way for the series to end. For me though, it just goes to show how well they did things here to make us believe that there was no way they could’ve saved them — and maybe, it might’ve been a little too well to the point where you can’t help but feel slightly off about them actually having a happy ending.

    Regardless though, the thing I felt was, even if this may not have been the ending everyone might expected/wanted, the key part is that these guys were group of people that deserved their happy end. It took a bit of the Key magical realism to do it, but they worked for the end that they wanted, got it, and it was an ending that tied back to the thematic notions of growth, maturity, and overcoming the realization that to live means to lose. The decision to go right into a field trip again right after Kyousuke came back was particularly important, and it was just a happy ending done right. These kinds of endings are hard to do right, and I felt like at least they did it right here — even if it does leave you wondering about some of the things having it end at an earlier point wouldn’t have.

    That said, there were a few changes from the VN that I noticed that may have added more to the impact of these last few episodes, but I guess in the end there were some time restrictions and such, so it’s understandable that weren’t put in. I’ll leave them here in a spoiler tag if anyone wants to know what they are:
    VN Spoilers
    Show Spoiler ▼

    But yeah, I have to say one last thing, and it’s that J.C. Staff did a great job with this series. They earned a lot of kudos here, and really, they did a lot better than Kyoani could’ve with the story here.

    1. I kind if intentionally left it as an “oh, by the way” at the end of the post (who wants to be the guy who ruins everybody’s good mood?) but don’t you think it’s interesting that they cut to Riki’s startled face right before the bus blew up? Or that Masato looks so serious and thoughtful? Or that Kyousuke shows no signs whatever of having been in ICU for months? Just saying… it’s interesting.

  11. So I ended up watching Refrain after all – maybe you remember my comment from the last episode of the first season:

    I don’t know the VN but I found this anime pretty boring. I actually wanted to drop it after three eps, but then read a lot of comments how it gets better later. I like Key stuff in general so I kept watching, but the series didn’t improve for me. A few episodes were ok, but it was mostly drowsy – at least the characters were cute.

    Sorry guys, but Refrain didn’t work for me either. My statement from the first season holds true for Refrain as well.
    Yes, I got answers at the end, which were ok. The characters were mostly nice, but some of them got really annoying after some episodes repeating themselves again and again (e.g. Riki and Kyousuke). Everything felt so much dragged on, especially the last two episodes in the “real world”.
    The end itself was somewhat “unexpected”, because the series hinted towards a “worse” end with its melancholic touch (also being Key). A not so happy ending would have fit better imho.

    But these are details, overall I just found Little Busters mostly boring and despite some interesting characters not worth watching.

  12. For me, a VN reader, lack of the certain bad ending, the ending is a letdown for me. =/

    Ah well, at least episode 11 is as strong as ever. I really cryhard that episode. Kyousuke’s VA too strong.

    Looking forward for EX!

  13. Well, I make no illusions that I never liked LB as a VN (Nor do I like any Key works really, except for Kanon). I personally thought the true ending was an insult, considering most of the game, sans the common route and Mio’s route, were painfully mediocre. And Komari and her route being perhaps one of the worst VN heroine and route I have ever read. So the fact that JC Staff was able to remove the dues ex machina of the true ending and make it less insulting to me is nothing short of a miracle.

    There’s also a matter of Rin and how much better a character she is in the anime, with character development that makes sense instead of being disjointed. Her scenes with the girls are also much better too and honestly anyone who think VN Rin was better is lying as far as I’m concerned. And chances are if the second half of the last episode whiffed on anyone here, it would have whiffed like a development in anime or anywhere would never have whiffed before. It was that bad in the VN.

    Are there things that should have been done better? Sure. The comedy for the first cour of the first season could have been executed better (Though for some explicable reason, the execution got much better in the second cour). In trying to fit Haruka’s route into three episode, there were changes to the plot that were quite honestly baffling (The resolution of Haruka deciding to forgive Kantata was much better in the anime though) and despite me hating Komari with a white hot intensity, having her route so early wasn’t the best idea. But really, what anime adaption of a VN is perfect? And for every mistep, there are plenty of improvements here and there (Combining unrelated events of the common route into one episode was a particular brilliant move).

    So yeah. This was a good adaption. I just don’t happen to like the source material a lot, so I don’t happen to like the anime. Nothing wrong with that and don’t let some VN readers tell you that just because you didn’t think LB is the best Key thing ever, makes JC Staff a screw up.

    1. It’s nice (and unfortunately rare) to see an opposing view that makes clear points and doesn’t resort to trolling. Just curious though, is there a reason you watched an adaptation if you didn’t really like the source?

      I did enjoy the VN, but I didn’t really enjoy Komari’s route either. Based on reactions I’ve seen, this seems like a common sentiment. However, given the differing amounts of foreshadowing in the routes, I would recommend Komari’s route on the first playthrough, so it is a logical choice for the first route covered in the anime. I get that putting a poor route first may put off some viewers, but for the overall narrative it makes sense to do it that way.

      Anego, Kud, and Mio are too mystical to be good starting routes. That leaves either Komari or Haruka (Rin is out if they aren’t going to explicitly separate her routes). Choosing Haruka adds Kanata, who has some interaction with Kud, while Komari adds her grandfather, who only shows up in her route. Given the first few episodes are introductions to the main cast, I would rather go with Komari, since you don’t need to remember her grandfather after that.

      1. But be careful. If you put the Bonds of Friends higher, then Bonds of your own Family..

        Well, just chose wisely. Okay? The love of your Woman and your Kids, are they weaker then your Nakama?

  14. These kids have earned their “everyone lives” ending. This wasn’t just a miracle handed to them out of nowhere. Everyone worked hard to give Riki and Rin the strength to be able to stand without them, and as a result Riki and Rin grew strong enough to overcome their failings, and strong enough to go back and take the chance to save everyone. This is the result of everyone’s effort: an unintended consequence, but a very real one.

    Besides, no matter how poignant, I could never be satisfied with an ending without my girls in it. I have come too far with them to let them die now.

    1. I definitely take no issue with the idea that the kids earned happiness. They’s all good people – Riki and Kyousuke and Kud especially are heartbreakingly good – and they’ve all suffered (especially Riki). My only question is whether the true end dilutes some of the power of the series by making the central question it asks too easy to answer.

  15. I haven’t played the VN yet but speculating from the scenes after the blowup of the bus, i think Riki is still in a dream albeit a different one

    It’s just that everything was too good to be true…

    like all of them complete without injuries, kyousuke jumping and flipping after months in “implied” coma, having another trip using a vehicle

    Everything in that end was like a dream-like scenario

    It would have been better if they showed a scene where Riki and Rin is in the hospital visiting each member of the Little Busters and speaking with them, then lastly, going into Kyousuke’s room while he’s still in a coma, then having a monologue telling kyousuke of his intent to stay strong and lead the Little Busters until his return…

    IMO this would have been the best ending for the show

  16. I think the problem with people’s perception of the true ending, with the VN readers being quite satisfied, while some of the non-VN people see it as a cheap cop out, lies with the difference in the medium the story was portrayed.

    In the VN, the game makes you go through each and every one of the bad endings, so that you meet all the requirements needed to earn the ultimate right to get your true happy ending. The VN audience gets that attachment with some of the profoundly Bad Ends, and thus cherish the true end even more. The anime audience has no such luxury.

    The anime medium is bound by its linear narration, with the only hints of the world being reset shown by Riki waking up in the same position in bed once he’s “cleared” a girl’s route, until he reached Refrain, where the narration can no longer continue with the pretense that it’s the same “timeline” we’ve been watching, when the truth is that the world has been reset many times.

  17. Honestly, Enzo.
    I had to bare my anger every time the post goes out.
    Glad that Refrain made some part right. Mostly OST arrangement error and insert in the anime. I’m just glad that I made it to the very end.

  18. The only thing I would have changed would be instead of only Riki and Rin dragging everyone out that they wake a few people up like Haruka or Kurugaya, supposing they might not have awaken naturally, or even other non-little busters. I was expecting that. But I can lie with this ending all the same knowing things like it have happened in real life where adrenaline kicks in and will over matter occurs. To have had each and every one of them on board stay out even after being dragged out away from the fumes and into the sun seemed a bit deus ex in itself. Convenient for dramas sake to be sure. I would have readily accepted it if only a few of them had survived as well. I was rotted with “they all died except you two” result haha. So if it’s all or nothing then all please!

  19. actually i love the ending. but there’s also a part of me that don’t like the ending because… what was the jearjerking moments for? the midorikawa hikaru’s crying sounds like real moments? and i thought the ending would be bittersweet but yeah… i don’t read the vn

  20. It’s finally ending, in a very satisfying way for me.
    Even though most of the show doesn’t give me Key Magic, but the ending is as interesting as I’ve watched Clannad in the past (even with different animator/studio)

    Hope sometimes soon Rewrite got animated

  21. As a VN player, I got flashbacks when Rin told Riki to save Kyousuke first instead of the others. Good thing they didn’t!

    In the game, making a wrong decision would mean an instant bad ending. If I remember correctly, there was a part where Riki and Rin already saved everyone (including Kyousuke) but then there was this choice asking if you want to check if there was someone else on the bus or run the hell out of there. Aaaaand I just had to go back there and check. *facepalm*

    That being said, J.C. Staff’s adaptation is pretty good. Can’t wait for LB Ex!

  22. While I am also a bit disappointed that everything worked out in the end, I would say that Riki/Rin earned it. Its a sharp contrast to Clannad After Story (though the cop out was explained in the game, though not too well in the anime version).

    It would’ve been strange to leave things be at episode 11 as there would’ve been no closure to the fate of Riki/Rin. An alternative would’ve been to see Riki/Rin being forced to leave alone. It was the route I was expecting them to take after we see a flame getting lit up in the previous episode.

    I think it would have been better if there was a scene regarding the immediate aftermath of the accident (e.g. a few weeks rather than 3 months into the future). It would’ve given a sense that Riki/Rin were heroes to be able to save their entire class. The ending made it seem like the accident never really happened. But nonetheless, all the characters lived. Always nice to have a happy ending for the tear-fest which was Little Busters 🙂

  23. Don’tcha love happy endings? Because I sure as heck love them!

    And this final episode is one great example of one. With all the tearfest that happened this deserves to have a happy one.

    Mission Complete.

  24. The ending wasn’t happy to me. It made me a bit sad. No matter how I look at it, all I’m seeing is that Kyousuke, Rin, and Riki all died in the explosion. Considering this, I can only assume that everyone else died as well on that hill with nobody to go for help. And then they all end up in the dreamworld.

    Then again, maybe the dreamworld actually cannot be created by the dead, as it is shown that Kyousuke was not actually dead when he created it. So… I dunno…

    I could not enjoy the ending because I kept thinking “wow they’re in the afterlife… ;_;”. If my thoughts are true, than that makes this a GOOD ENDING where everything follows the consequences of what was set before.

    Everyone dies. The End. Maybe people would not like me expressing my true feelings on the ending, but I have to express them somewhere.

  25. I feel like everyone living in the end added emotion, because the plan was to make them strong enough to face death, however, they became even stronger than that, they chose to be strong and save everyone. This is why Kyousuke told Riki that he had indeed surpassed him.

    People are saying “oh but Rin, Riki, and Kyousuke died right? And everyone else too because they were all together in the end?”
    No. Kyousuke was in the hospital for a very long time, because he was soaked in gasoline so the burst of fire to their backs caused severe burning to him, but minor burns to Rin and Riki. The others were on a hill a good distance, so all they had to deal with was maybe singed hairs.

  26. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added”
    checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?

    Appreciate it!

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