So my predictions have been a bit off, but there’s still plenty of time for Little Busters to get a KyoAni anime on that timeline! What I think is more surprising (other than Haruhi getting more anime before LB) is that the translation for the visual novel is finished and I’ve played through it, long before a Little Busters anime has even been announced.
Little Busters is an interesting experience for me, because it’s the first “real” Key visual novel I’ve played without knowing much going into it. Sure, there’s Planetarian, but that’s relatively short, so I don’t count it. Sure, there’s Angel Beats, but that’s not a visual novel. And sure, I’ve played Clannad, but it’s Clannad and I know everything about Clannad.
I mentioned before that Angel Beats made me wonder whether I really like Key or if I just really liked Clannad. Even better than an anime, I think the Little Busters visual novel is a perfect opportunity to see where my tastes lie.
Like any good Key work, Little Busters has to have a theme. That theme happens to be adolescence or childhood. Alright, then. From this, there are a bunch of things that are pretty similar to Angel Beats. We’ve got the setting down and there’s a good chunk of the game that’s spent on trying to put together a baseball team. At a glance it seems like it’s all about living out your youth and all that. The common route mostly just made me wonder why they bothered to create Angel Beats when they had this lying around.
You’ve got your usual suspects in the cast: socially awkward childhood friend who likes cats, disgustingly cheerful nice girl, shit-stirring genki girl, suspiciously combat-hardened and cool onee-sama, quiet book girl, and dojikko with verbal tic. But, the main character isn’t the usual Key template blank but mildly snarky dude. Instead, you’re a Hayate (from Hayate the Combat Butler) except you’re kind of weak instead of absurdly competent. You’ve also got a bunch of childhood friend bros, the Little Busters, who watch your back and are actually pretty important to the main story. Obviously, every important character ends up on the Little Busters baseball team.
Structurally, the whole thing is pretty similar to Clannad. You’ve got all of your routes that you have to do before you get a swing at the route that ties everything together. What’s different is the common route, where you’re building up stats and rounding up people and comedy happens. I actually like the common route, if I ignore being put through it about six times.
Where I’m pretty dissatisfied is with the side routes. I went in expecting the usual Key stuff with fatal sickness and astral projections. I think the main problem with this stuff in Little Busters is that the writers realized that they couldn’t fall back on the same old stuff again, so they tried to spin up some new awful tragedy for each character.
Before, the tragedies were pretty grounded. Someone lost a family member or someone is terminally ill. That stuff is easy to empathize with. The most outlandish stuff is the astral projection or animal spirit stuff, but even then, that stuff is sort of left to mystery.
In Little Busters, they take something simple and try to add another layer to it to try to make it new. So someone loses a family member, but they also regress into a catatonic state whenever they remember. Or someone is feeling out of place because they’re half-Japanese and struggling with their cultural identity, which is a real thing and you can empathize with that. But then they add this crazy backstory about their homeland under civil unrest and it’s like what.
And it’s not like they succeeded in making these developments new. I’ve watched and played almost all of the Key anime and visual novels and that basically let me SEE THE ENDING, so to speak (not that they weren’t making it extremely obvious). When I didn’t predict how a route would go when I got halfway through it, it was because there was the aforementioned ridiculous thing that was bolted on.
The “real” story, as in the right girl’s path together with the final route, is better in that the twists were actually kind of interesting instead of dumb and it’s where it differentiates itself from Angel Beats. How the story unfolds is a bit more clever than Clannad’s handling of the After Story route.
It’s definitely not as great as Clannad and I don’t think even the main route came together all that well. Even though it was better and actually interesting, a lot of it was still kind of ridiculous. I’ll let light orbs go, but this was kind of pushing it.
This all makes me kind of worried about Rewrite, but that has a trailer where a guy fights a dinosaur, so who knows?