First Impressions: Little Busters

Little Busters Title Card

Visual Novel Adaptation by J.C. Staff
Currently Unlicensed

Premise: A group of close friends decide to challenge the mediocrity their mundane lives by playing baseball before one of them graduates, and is forced into to join the work force as a salary man leaving the group behind.

He was a good kid.. Not too bright though.

He was a good kid.. Not too bright though.

Lifesong’s Verdict: This Is One Game I Won’t Miss

Jun Maeda’s stories have a special place in my heart. Ever since watching the Kanon anime I’ve been a fan of just about every anime adapted out of one his stories. Going into the Little Busters anime it’s been hard to pace my expectations. I know how amazingly well a Key anime can be adapted into anime; KyoAni has shown us several examples of awesome adaptations in the past. The simple truth of the matter is that J.C. staff did not handle this opener for Little Busters with the finesse or KyoAni, nor even the level of comedy, or the sense of wonder that PA Works managed with the first episode of Angel Beats. The directing here is, as feared, sub par.

There is a lot that can be said for the pacing, some of the jokes feel rushed; the bits where the anime shows the protagonist deep in thought feel a bit awkward. Honestly I could rant like a spoiled brat about how this anime could have been directed better, and probably feel pretty justified in it, but this episode was still fun so I won’t do that. The voice acting at the very least is pretty solid, and does a good amount to make up for the lackluster animation.

This reminds me of how I used to throw explosives at my teammates in Unreal to get large kill scores all at once.

This reminds me of how I used to throw explosives at my teammates in Unreal to get large kill scores all at once.

On the positive side of things some of the humour was particularly funny. Watching as one character questions how he can use a cat in a fight had me hysterical, and while frankly an incredible dumb, and dangerous thing to be doing, the raid on the bees was amazing. Then we have the reference to the Perry Expedition makes me think of the Samurai Champloo baseball episode where Perry, and his crew face off against a rag tag group of Samurai birthing baseball in the Samurai Champloo universe. Basically it’s one on of the best baseball in anime scenes I’ve ever seen, and so this homage was a pretty neat Easter egg.

I am okay with what Little Busters is. It may not be Kanon, or even Angel Beats, but Jun Maeda’s magic is still alive and kicking here. Sure the animation is a bit stiff at times, but it is at least consistent, and no this director/studio combo does not have the finesse of KyoAni, or PA Works; however, the charming characters, and nonsensical fun that mark the start of all Jun Maeda stories is still here! I can clearly see how room for this to move in a good direction, and as a long time Jun Maeda fan I am pretty excited for this anime.

Best hit by a baseball scene since Samurai Champloo.

Best hit by a baseball scene since Samurai Champloo.

Iro’s Verdict: I’d rather listen to the Pillows song

This was apparently one of, if not the, most anticipated anime this season. I assume this is on Key Visual Arts brand name alone, since the first episode didn’t do much to impress me. Half the jokes fell flat, and more damning is that the show seems to lack any point to anything – the group’s leader decides for no reason he wants to play baseball, so that’s what they all decide to do, and then supposedly wacky hijinks ensue. Okay then. Is that all? Where’s the conflict?

I’d probably enjoy this a lot more if I liked anything Key produced, or if I had played the game beforehand, but as it stands Little Busters! has left me a little wanting.

Remote control imouto.

Remote control imouto.

Jel’s Verdict: Busted Beginning

Knowing that this is a Jun Maeda tale and it will no doubt have plenty of twists and turns ahead, I am not going to write off Little Busters after one episode. I will say however, this was not the best made introduction. It does accomplish it’s purpose of introducing our main characters and how they are connected but it does so with little sense of purpose or direction. There’s almost no transition from scene to scene, we’re just bounced around and left to figure out on our own what is happening. Hopefully they get that under control as we move along, because I did enjoy the humor and the sense of camaraderie amongst the cast and there is tons of potential for drama down the line. So while I hate to be that guy…. WHERE ARE YOU KYOANI??? Come fix this.

Dragonzigg’s Verdict: Strikeout

Although I’ve not got a history of liking Key adaptations (I’m ambivalent on Clannad, which apparently makes me some sort of stone-hearted monster) but I went into this very excited, buoyed by great word of mouth. What a chump I was. This episode was a sad parade bereft of everything it strives for –  empathy, pathos, or anything beyond a sort of half-hearted stab at slice of life, with none of the skill or pacing the best of the genre can bring. The cast are a piled up collection of clichés, the angry violent girl, the dumb muscle et al showing no charm, depth or variation from a well worn template, and no reason to be interested in their lives or root for them.

If you can't picture this laugh perfectly you probably have never watched a visual novel adaptation before.

If you can’t picture this laugh perfectly you probably have never watched a visual novel adaptation before.

The visual novel origins of the story, meanwhile, are apparent in the disjointed plot structure, which segues from scene to scene with little finesse and does a poor job introducing us to our major players.  There’s not really much substance to this episode – the script doesn’t really spend any time on character development and the dialogue is poor and clunky. The best bit here is the humour – there’s some genuine chuckles to be had at some points, such as the ‘weapons’ distribution or the bee attack, although it also stretches itself thin at some points. Did we really need to have the proverb joke three times in a row?

The episode isn’t helped by some dubious technical merits either. JC Staff do a competent job, but the direction is uninspired and there’s none of the beautiful artistic details or touches that the best studios add to their works. Voice acting is also merely acceptable, with Yui Horie not even trying to sound like anybody but a grown woman as Rikki, while Tomoe Tamiyasu sleepwalks through her angry tsundere act as Rin. The show never dips into being incompetent, but there’s also no flash of inspiration to make this rise above the pack. Heck, even the OP and ED seem run of the mill.

We can be bros even if you are a trap! We already have one girls; what's another going to hurt?

We can be bros even if you are a trap! We already have one girls; what’s another going to hurt?

It’s a poor start, but there’s still hope it’ll pick up. What worries me most though is how predictable this has the potential to turn out. The credits reveal more people will join the club, all girls, who you presumably wooed in the original game. Chances are several people in the club will have tragic backstories. There will probably be at least one death or painful separation. And there’ll probably be sad girls in snow. That’s my biggest concern here. There’s no imagination in this story so far, just a well worn furrow ploughed a thousand times before and since.

Marlin’s Verdict: My God, it’s full of Waifs!

I haven’t had the greatest track record of liking VN adaptations. Amagami SS really only succeeded for me due to its quick plots inherent in the idea of giving each heroine a storyline. It would seem my dislike may continue with Little Busters. I’m having a huge problem with these character designs, off the bat. I’m not into frail girls and the sheer volume of waifs that seems to be on display is really offputting. What’s especially strange is that this is a group even including our main character, who is honestly more girly looking than some of the girls, which as I noted is seriously saying something.

This is the part where they remind of this is a Key anime just in case anyone missed it.

This is the part where they remind of this is a Key anime just in case anyone missed it.

While on the topic of our protag, why does everyone need to have dead or absent parents? Honestly, I know plenty of shows that get by with having parents, and some that even can benefit from having well written parents, whether as role models or as comic reliefs. I also really have been given little to find endearing about the other members of the Little Busters, two are morons, one is lazy, and the girl is some generic imouto-ish thing. Every part of this show has failed to engage me with it, and unless some drastic changes are coming, I can’t see that happening any time soon.

2 thoughts on “First Impressions: Little Busters

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