Recap: Riki and the Little Busters have been practicing their baseball skills for the eventual match, but they are still lacking one member. Taking pity on Mio, Riki decides to invite her for the last position on the team.
Mio, after first giving off a mechanical set of responses slowly begins to open up to Riki. She shares a little bit with Riki about her world view while remaining impersonal at the same time. When Mio’s favorite poetry book goes missing Yuiko sets Riki up to help her find it. After an a small exchange of philosophy, the book shows up, and Mio decides to follow the Little Busters out to watch them play.
Lifesong’s Thoughts: I liked this episode quite a bit, and would go so far as to say I think it was the best yet. At the very least this is my personal favorite episode. As I have read through a decent amount of the visual novel’s common route I can also see how very different it was, but personally I think it was edited in a lovely way.
Key’s stories have a certain poetic formula to them that set them apart from other stories. This is just my own personal interpretation, but the reason why I have come to love the big eyes and goofy character quirks that Key so lovingly employ is because of the Key world view. Basically as I see it Key stories are essentially told from a point of view that skillfully disguises what is basically existentialism as a comedy, or rather uses comedy to seamlessly transition from one piece of existentialism to another until the plot matures enough to drop a sadness bomb on the audience. You can see this existentialism in the naivety of the cast. It is simplistic, and often missed by the people who hate these stories, but it is there.
Inside any given key story you have a protagonist who questions the values of the world around them, even in the early stages of a Key story this is true. They question it until in the end they are forced to realize their own inability and give up. Once the protagonist is broken a miracle will happen, what seems like a bleak state that could not possibly be recovered from is turned about by outside forces that have actually been there from the beginning, hidden out of view. Maybe the protagonist makes it happen, but he does so with outside help. In one case the protagonist even turns into a bird in order to give his life force to the heroine so that she can hold on just a little bit longer.
I imagine the way that Key stories give an answer to the values they question would make some philosophers turn over in their grave. Key always manages to give these questioned values meaning in a miraculous way that makes the audience believe something they may not be willing to accept in the real world. Misaka Shiori puts this philosophy into words in Kanon when she says this: “It would be enough for the depressing things in life to only exist in reality. It is because of that I think the birth of a story is from people dreaming of a happy ending.” And there you go, Key Philosophy 101.
What does all of that have to do with this last episode? A lot, for starters the poetry of Key is finally present inside Little Busters where it felt rushed and butchered before. This episode also managed to do something that until post Komari route Little Busters was unable to correctly portray. Poetry can’t be rushed, that was Little Busters first mistake at the start of this anime. Second, unlike a visual novel which can draw out any particular piece of it’s story to whatever length it desires, anime episodes have roughly 25 minutes before they hit a their time cap. Every episode needs to do something relevant to make good anime. The more an episode of anime is relevant unto itself the better off it is. The last few episodes of Little Busters have obeyed this principle.
Visual novels just don’t make a very good transition to anime. KyoAni managed it with an incredible attention to detail, and a fairly skilled director. Little Busters was given neither of those to start it off. The intro to Little Busters was true to the original in the sense that it followed the common route fairly closely, but in strictly following the visual novel it failed on a very basic, fundamental level. Little Busters strong story failed at being good anime because of a combination of what was cut, and what wasn’t cut. That is not to say it sux or was unwatchable, but it left the visual novel as a clearly superior thing.
Lately I feel like Little Busters has been turning around. I understand that quite a few fans are still skeptical, or even upset with the liberties being taken, but personally my doubts are slowly vanishing. I’m not completely sold yet, but I see Little Busters moving in a good direction. My guess would be that the Little Busters has pulled in some of the J.C. Staff A Team members to work on Little Busters, but honestly that is just conjecture on my part.
This episode was pretty different from the visual novel. Liberties were taken that vastly differ from how the first bit of this anime was handled. Bit’s of Mio’s story were condensed down into a bite sized piece that fit inside a single episode. That said, The mood that was established at the start of this episode served it’s purpose by the end of the same episode. The dialog managed to make Mio out to both the strangest, and the most interesting member of the Little Busterscast all in one episode.
Now I haven’t read Mio’s route in the visual novel, but a lot of the stuff in this episode came out of the common route which I have read large portions of. The dialog choices that were taken from the visual novel actually made sense for establishing the character. I am totally okay with the way it was condensed because the nuance was intact. Sometimes an anime needs to sacrifice a lot to tell the same story that was told in a visual novel. Cutting too much is a lesser crime than rushing when a story relies on a sense of poetry for it’s basic storytelling functionality like Key stories do. You cant rush Poetry, and in this episode of Little Busters I finally felt like that was acknowledged. I am not entirely convinced it was as intentional as I hope, but time will tell I suppose.
Also, I just really like Mio. Yuiko Tatsumi is no Ai Kayano, but I thought she did a good job at making Mio convincing. Mio’s almost robotic nature helps establish her character’s disconnect with the word around her. There is a fine line between the acting a quite girl and just being monotone, and I think that Yuiko Tatsumi did an at least acceptable job here. Is she is as good as the visual novel’s actor…? Maybe? I noticed that she had a different voice, but honestly didn’t notice much of a difference in the way of skilled acting.
In the end my biggest reason for liking this episode is that regardless of how true it may or may not be to the original, it stands on it’s own as a good anime episode. Maybe I am missing the bigger picture here, that is not impossible. I will admit I do not know Mio’s story in full so I can’t comment on the bigger picture here, but I like how the bits I read in the common route were handled in this adaptation. J.C. Staff still needs to prove that they can handle the end of one of these routes, but I am getting good vibes from both Mio and Haruka that Komari never established. At the very least I can finally say that I feel compelled to watch more in order to learn about the characters, that is something Komari never really managed.
On a related note, does anyone know where I can learn more about Wakayama Bokusui? My google searches have not been turning up very much on him, and I’m curious to read some of his stuff if possible.