Key

Final Impressions: Little Busters! Refrain

Jan 06 // Chris Walden
If you're not used to Key and their style of story, you might assume from the first few episodes of the original series that this is just a run-of-the-mill school anime. We're introduced to Riki, the cheerful yet somewhat withdrawn protagonist of the show, as well as the other four members of the Little Busters, a group of kids whom he spent his childhood with. Riki also has narcolepsy, a condition caused by a great trauma in his childhood, which causes his to fall asleep suddenly and without warning. His friends are very protective of him because of this, but besides that, everything seems set for your usual school-based comedy.  Of course, it doesn't stay that way. While many new faces join the new Little Busters, an impromptu baseball club set up by the groups leader, it becomes apparent that each and every one of them has their own obstacle to overcome. This isn't quite as simple as Riki running around to find missing items and help out hopeless romantics, but rather deaths in the family, grievous bodily harm and even a civil war. It seems rather outlandish on paper, but Little Busters! does well to weave it into the narrative so that it doesn't ever feel too crazy.  Little Busters! Refrain completes the original story, tying up the loose ends and revealing what 'the secret of this world' is. This 'secret' was brought up several times during the original season, becoming the primary driver for Riki to confront and help solve different situations while he searches for the answer. It seems that the closer Riki gets to the nature of this secret, the darker this show becomes. The secret must be quite substantial to justify 39 total episodes of Little Busters!, mustn't it? Luckily, Refrain doesn't disappoint in this regard, as it's revealed that the world Riki and Rin are living in is a fake. There was mention of a coach accident in a neighboring school in which all but two students died, but it turns out that this was an accident that all Little Busters members were involved in. Kyousuke, knowing that Riki and Rin didn't have it in them to cope with the deaths of all their friends, created a fake world for them to live in whilst he attempted to make them 'grow up' enough to be able to survive in the real world. This is exactly why Kyousuke became such a nasty character towards the end, as he was struggling to help his younger sister grow in confidence to ultimately continue with her life in the real world, and not as a wreck of a human being.  The interesting part is that everyone else is in on the secret. Everyone who joins the Little Busters in the fake world was involved in the accident, knowing full well that they are on the brink of death in the real world. Still, having given up on their own lives, they strive to help Rin and Riki mature to the point where they can be returned to the real world, where they would experience the aftermath of the crash and the deaths of their friends. Credit where credit is due, Key has crafted one hell of a secret to reveal at this shows' climax. Looking back at past episodes, there are parts which hint quite heavily at what is going to happen, so there's some incentive to go back and check out all the foreshadowing.  But even with a killer plot twist, Little Busters! Refrain certainly isn't perfect. While it keeps the mystery surrounding the secret up until the very end, it means we have more than a few episodes stuck dragging their heels while you wish they would be move the story along instead. This is partly because, at this point, you're left wondering if all of the dallying around is pushing the conclusion into an OVA or a movie, but also because you're desperate for the pay-off.  It's also pretty strange how all of the new members of the Little Busters, with the exception of Komari, vanish before the secret is revealed. I can only assume this was done on Kyousuke's suggestion, to help push Rin over the final hurdle by removing most of her female friends and allowing her to become more independent. This isn't clarified, and it was frustrating to see them all missing at the end of the fake world until I thought about what the possible reason for doing this was. But therein lies the other problem; this show somewhat loses its way by becoming too complex in an attempt to hide the plot twist. It's a great pay-off, that much is certain, but I'm curious to know how many people the show lost along the way because of the cover-up.  I wouldn't say that Little Busters! overstays its welcome, but rather that the biggest let-down is in its pacing. While there are many weird and wonderful stories and adventures along the way, and some truly great characters that make many a filler scene more bearable, some may consider it a slog to get to the crux of the show. After all, 39 episodes isn't exactly something most people can get through that quickly. Still, if you're a fan of Key's works or just love a good story, then definitely give this a go, as there are some great character moments and many heartbreaking scenes that you won't want to pass up. 
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Ouch, my brain
I commented several times that I didn't think that Little Busters! Refrain would wrap up completely within thirteen episodes. In fact, the midpoint of the series was moving at such a sluggish pace that it seemed all would be ...

First Impressions: Little Busters!: Refrain

Oct 11 // Chris Walden
Naoe Riki, a typically depressing Key character, often reminisces about his unfortunate childhood. His parents were taken from him when he was quite young, and he remained in a state of depression until four other kids took him into their group. Now that they're all in high school and the group leader has returned, the quintet reunites as the Little Busters, albeit as a baseball club. When we left off at the conclusion of the first season, the club had grown by an impressive five members, many of whom joined after Riki helped them confront their own problems. Some of these were believable real-world issues, but a few of them had a supernatural focus.  This may seem odd to some, but those familiar with Key stories (Clannad, Kanon, Angel Beats) will already be familiar with the kinds of story they like to create. That's not to say that the conclusions to each arc are predictable, though. Rather, you could say that each arc is predictably odd.  Little Busters!: Refrain wastes no time in getting into the, ahem, gritty realism and tense drama--diving straight into a pancake-making episode. A word of warning, as younger viewers may want to look away for the first half of the show. Now, I'm no stranger to a good thriller, but even I was feeling sick to my stomach seeing eggs take such a beating [Editor's Note: Seriously?]There's even a torture scene (pictured below) where a prisoner is force-fed food items so awful that they had to censor it from the TV version. Definitely not a show you want to watch right after eating. In the second half of the episode, we enter the start of Kurugaya's arc. This normally calm, collected and intelligent character shows that even she has a breaking point when she screams and kicks a door off its hinges. That group of girls should have known better than to incur her wrath by shredding Komari's books and putting pins in Kud's shoes, but still, she completely lost it. This episode also raises some interesting questions. What was Kyousuke talking about at the beginning? Why does Riki know about the broadcasting room, and why was there an odd memory with him being close to Kurugaya? I have an idea about what the former is about, but I'll leave that for a subsequent recap. All I know is that for a strong girl like Kurugaya to lose it so easily, she has to be dealing with something upsetting in her past. That's not too much of a surprise considering other characters, but hey, I could be wrong! I was actually very impressed with how this first episode was handled. A lot of shows that return for a second cour will take most, if not all of the first episode to reintroduce characters and themes. Even Infinite Stratos 2, another sequel that began this season, did this by spending all of its time with old characters. Little Busters!: Refrain spends the right amount of time with the introductions, then promptly digs into the meat of the next arc. There's no wasted time or effort for either the animators or the viewers. If the rest of the series follows suit, we're going to be in for one hell of an anime. [Don't refrain from watching this show! Catch the latest episode on Crunchyroll.]
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The littlest busters.
We may be at the beginning of a brand new season, but it seems a few older shows have come back from for a second quarter in the limelight. Little Busters! is one such show, returning from a three-month break with the conclus...

Angel Beats! game photo
Angel Beats! game

Angel Beats! game officially announced


It only took four years
Sep 27
// Elliot Gay
When Angel Beats! was first revealed to the public back in 2009, it was billed as a cross media franchise. Given visual novel studio Key's involvement, it was generally assumed that there would be a game adaptation of some ki...
Little Busters! Extra photo
...if you have the cash
It's been quite some time since we last saw the colourful members of the Little Busters, but not to worry, as they'll be returning in a previously unaired bonus episode. There's a catch, however, as you're going to need to b...


Final Impressions: Little Busters!

Apr 14 // Chris Walden
When you're a kid, there's no real problem hanging around with children who are slightly older or younger than you. Without the burden of school and work, you can just do what you want, when you want. However, when the Little Busters made it to high school, ages and classes suddenly become a pretty major obstruction when you just want to hang out with your friends. The solution to this, as I'm sure you will have guessed, is to create a baseball team! Don't fret the details, you get a pretty sweet diamond and everything. Finding new club members is certainly not an original anime concept, but it's a fine way to push the story along. Do remember that this is a Key show, so even though it's set in a school and loaded with sweet girls and cool guys, people are going to die. Okay, that might be exaggerating a little, but there are certainly a lot of bad things that might make your eyes leak, so bear that in mind if you don't fancy crying over your keyboard a little. No, I'm being serious, there are a good number of occasions that'll strike you over the head with feels. Consider this your warning! The final episode seemed to be setting things up for the future second serving of this show, but fortunately in a not-so-clunky way. Also, we actually get to see the baseball club play some baseball! Hey, better late than never, right? In all seriousness this show is absolutely not about the baseball, but seeing the group battling against the makeshift all-star team was very nice to see in the end. It's a shame that the Little Busters lost, but I think I'd be a little annoyed if they'd managed to beat all of those athletes. Moving on to the series as a whole... I actually quite liked it? It wasn't without its issues, as a lot of the episodes suffered from the dragging of feet or straight up dallying around to focus on cute girls being cute. That's the problem with animating a visual novel, as these scenes that serve to add a little bit of personality to characters sometimes aren't all that suitable for a twenty minute anime episode. On the flip side, excluding those scenes is going to grind the gears of those that have played the visual novel already, and that's the position we find the Little Busters! anime.  It's a given that all of the material in a visual novel won't make it into an anime, at least not without a good number of episodes to do it with. We can assume that Refrain will add another 26 or so episodes to the series, but having not played the visual novel, I can't say with any certainty whether J.C.Staff have made a good adaptation. However, my experience going into this series ignorant has certainly been a positive one. In true visual novel style, each of the characters in the show gets their turn to have their terrible situations remedied by Riki. With the series being split into two parts, characters like Kurugaya, Masato and Kyousuke don't really get their time in the limelight. It'll come eventually, there's no doubt about that, but it left some of the characters just a little weaker than they could have been. Characters like Komari, Kud and the twins, who had the benefit of having their own arcs, seem considerably more colourful and lively than those who didn't. It's better than rushing through the content, but it's something to keep in mind. It's a little weird that Kyousuke doesn't really feature in a major role considering he's meant to be the leader of the Little Busters, but perhaps that's just a build up to the next season once again. The opening theme may have been pulled from the visual novel, but it does a great job in building up the mood to the episode. This is due in part to the accompanying animation giving a little insight into the awful problems that the members of the Little Busters have, as even I can't help but get a little emotional when you see Futaki's cut and bruised back in the second iteration. The tease is enough to help contribute to the tone without being on-screen long enough to spoil what's going to happen, so no need to worry about that. This may not be the best anime adaptation of a Key product on the market, but rest assured that if you're going in blind, you'll likely enjoy your time with it. If nothing else, watching this has certainly made me want to dive into the visual novel (as well as Kud Wafter) so there's that! Refrain and its darker tones is something I'm looking forward to, so here's hoping it doesn't all fall apart. I've heard rumblings online about how the ending isn't so great, so we at least have that to look forward to, right?
Final Imps: LB! photo
Wafu out of one hundred.
It's been a bumpy ride filled with mixed emotions, but the long sought after Little Busters! anime adaptation has finally come to a close. Well, the first part certainly has. As we already know, this show will be returning in...

Little Busters! Refrain photo
Little Busters! Refrain

Little Busters! due to return, second season teased


And thus the Refrain jokes begin
Apr 07
// Chris Walden
While it may not have as much hype as the third part of JoJo, I'm sure there are a few of us (myself included) that are quietly looking forward to the conclusion of Little Busters! The teaser at the end of the twenty-sixth ep...
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Surprise! Sentai acquires Little Busters


Their rampage continues.
Jan 10
// Elliot Gay
I'm seriously beginning to think it'd be better news to announce the anime that Sentai Filmworks hasn't licensed yet.  Next on their path of destruction is Little Busters, the anime adaptation of one of Key's popular vis...

First Impressions: Little Busters!

Oct 11 // Chris Walden
The story starts off in a typically Key fashion, where upon we are introduced to Naoe Riki, the protagonist of the story. He lost his parents at an early age and sunk into depression, but it was four kids that took him into their group and helped him through the tough period. The group called themselves the Little Busters, and pretty much got into all sorts of mischief together, as kids do.  However, this was in the past, as all of the Little Busters are now at high school. Natsume Kyousuke, the leader of the group, has just returned from a trip to Tokyo in search of work. It seems the high school days are nearing their end, as the whole group will soon be looking for jobs and getting on with their adult lives. In a dire bid to have a little more fun, they eventually come to the conclusion that they will start a baseball club. Of course, the team would be called the Little Busters.  The first episode was very much an expected introduction to the premise and gang, with the latter half of the episode dedicated to searching for new members. At first glance, the story could easily be forgotten because of the basic premise. 'Standard fare' is another term that comes to mind. Sure, I'd agree with that, for now anyway. Give the show some time to build up! I don't doubt that this show has some interesting tricks up it's sleeve, not just from watching it set up, but just by looking at the effort it has given to establishing characters. From the opening confrontation alone we were able to learn about the two feuding male members (who I'm just going to refer to as 'kendo guy' and 'Yukimura cosplayer'). We found out about Rin, who is the only current female member and the sister of gang leader Kyousuke. The leader himself is still a bit of a trouble maker, but it's clear that he is a lot more mature than he looks, and that he is adored by the other members. While we know about his parents, Riki is very much the enigma of the show right now. We don't know much about what he is like in the present, only his past. Deliberate, I'm sure. It's based on a visual novel, so this much is expected when it comes to protagonists.  I don't think anyone was surprised that the opening theme would be the same as the one from the visual novel. That song has done the rounds across the Internet for years now, so it would be silly to waste that familiarity by introducing another song. I might be a Key fan, but I'd never read up on Little Busters! prior to watching the first episode of the anime, nor have I played the visual novel. Still, I'd heard the opening theme, because the Internet is good at making terrible videos. The music is catchy and fits the opening animation, so it gets two thumbs up from me.  One of the largest concerns that people shared, besides those concerning the animation studio, was what the actual show would look like. Would it share the crisp visuals we're so used to seeing from KyoAni, or will it create a style similar to that of Kanon 2002 and only serve to terrify those that lay eyes upon it? I'm glad to say that they do themselves proud, as the animation is top notch. Of course, that's not to say that this isn't the single episode they put a lot of work into, but I'm quietly confident that the rest of the show can follow suit. Keep it up J.C. Staff! The first episode didn't do much besides setting up the story, but when there are 26 episodes to work with, this is to be expected. A short episode count was the primary reason why Angel Beats had so many complaints, so it's good to know this won't be an issue for Little Busters!. The effort that has been put into this show is obvious, and knowing what Key are like with their stories, I'd recommend trying it out. Some of you will want to let the anime finish before picking it up, and that's fine too. As for me, I see myself having to wait a week in agony, watching the Internet for the next episode to release. Keep up the good work Little Busters!, please don't let us down!
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Something tells me the man tears are coming.
I love Key. I love Air. I love Kanon. I love Clannad. Out of the 546 anime I've managed to watch (thanks MAL!), I consider Clannad: After Story to be my absolute favourite. No pressure then, Little Busters!. It...

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Watch the trailer for the Little Busters! anime


Jul 30
// Bob Muir
Here's the trailer for J.C. Staff's next anime, Little Busters! It's an adaptation of the romance visual novel by Key about high schoolers and some other weird stuff. The anime will start airing in October 2012 and feature m...
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Get ready! Little Busters! to be animated by J.C. Staff


Apr 08
// Salvador GRodiles
So Kyoto Animation or P.A. Works are not going to ride the waves on adapting the Little Busters! visual novel game by Key. Before you get upset about the news, J.C. Staff did do a fantastic job in animating Ano Natsu de Matte...
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It's time for Buster! Little Buster's anime PV is here


Mar 31
// Salvador GRodiles
Sorry again folks, I just can't help using that phrase whenever this comes up. I hope you Key fans had a great time celebrating and having a good number of drinks last time around, because now you will get to see if the wait ...
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Cheers Key fans! Little Busters! becomes an anime series


Mar 25
// Salvador GRodiles
It's time for Little Busters! Little Busters, ready go! Sorry, I just could not help it. Key fans can now celebrate and party on, because Little Busters! is finally getting an anime adaption.  I am sorry t...

Japanator Recommends: Clannad: Complete Collection

Dec 16 // Pedro Cortes
Clannad: Complete Collection [BD]Studio: Kyoto AnimationLicensed by: Sentai FilmworksRelease Date: November 8, 2011MSRP: $89.99 The main character of Clannad is Tomoya Okazaki, a high school senior whose future prospects are dim and ambitions are minimal. He wastes his last year in school by ditching class with his friend Youhei, all the while waiting for time to pass him by. One day, Tomoya sees a girl talking to herself while on his way to school. The girl, a senior named Nagisa Furukawa, is repeating a last year after being forced to miss nine months the previous year due to sickness. The two strike up an odd friendship centered around restarting the defunct theater club. Through their efforts at recreating the theater club, Tomoya helps several classmates with their problems and slowly works through his own problems. So wait, this show is essentially about a misfit guy who has some sort of relationship with a sickly girl and helps several other emotionally scarred chicks through their issues? Huh, that sounds just like the other Key shows that I mentioned earlier. Well, in a way you are right. In fact, some of the same issues that I mentioned in Air are still present in Clannad. There are quite a few emotionally torturous moments (Fuko's arc in particular comes to mind) that brought me to tears that probably wouldn't have the same kind of impact on repeat viewings. This is definitely stuff you've seen before. However, Clannad's overarching story are strong enough on their own and don't just rely on a maudlin focus on sorrow to make an impact on the viewer. The scenes of Tomoya and his father early on hit just as hard as the end of Fuko's arc, but in completely different and effective ways. It must also be mentioned that the comedy in Clannad serves as a good way to keep the show from being dragged down in depression. It acts as a good pallet cleanser between emotional dishes, so to speak. Part of what makes the story so strong are the characters that inhabit Clannad's world. Tomoya is a great lead man, in part thanks to Yuichi Nakamura's solid performance. It would've been easy to have Tomoya portrayed as a cynical and sarcastic jerk, but his pathos is balanced with the right amount of humor to keep him from falling into the traps of the past. You can kind of understand his blasé attitude toward the world when you see the kind of home life he has. Nagisa is well done, especially by Key sickly-girl standards. Once again, it would've been easy to make her into a weak and pitiable, but her ailments do not dominate her. You can believe that Tomoya and Nagisa could foster a friendship that leads to something more over time. The side characters are generally pretty solid. Youhei plays the hapless friend who is always in trouble, yet even he has his moments of lucidity. The requisite cadre of ladies appear, with mixed results. Their stories were pretty good overall, but I found that their personalities definitely were made to appeal to different fetishes. For instance, I dug the nerdy bookworm (Kotomi) and the blowsy older sister (Kyou), but I could care less for the younger classmate (Fuko.) None of them were offensive enough to irritate me, but you'll definitely find yourself drawn to some of the girls more than the others. In terms of how Clannad looked, it's definitely a step up from previous shows. The (in)famous Key art style is definitely here, but it isn't as exaggerated as it is in other titles. The only character that suffers from excessive Key is Fuko and it has more to do with her being smaller than the other characters. There is an overabundance of purple haired girls, but they look different enough that you won't be confusing them. The backgrounds tend to be bright and colorful, made better by the quality of Blu Ray. Make no mistake, this is a helluva pretty show that is definitely made better by high definition. Unfortunately, since I lack a way to capture screenshots on BD, the screencaps you see are from the the show proper. While they look alright, they're definitely much better looking on the BD, take my word for it! If you want a good show to introduce somebody to Key, I'd definitely suggest Clannad. It takes what they do best (emotionally moving stories) and makes it more accessible and downplays the weaknesses (an over reliance on tragic situations to get you attached to characters) that plague their other shows. Hell, I'd even recommend this to people that are looking for a good drama overall. It doesn't need the Key name to be good. Watching Clannad has even made me more receptive to Key franchises. Considering my previous distaste, that more than anything else should be endorsement enough!   8.0
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I'm not fond of Key properties. A couple years back, I watched all of Air in two sittings and was a blubbering mess by the end of it. The intense emotional trauma compacted into a short period of time combined with intense sl...

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Sentai set to release Clannad movie and dub After Story


Nov 14
// Bob Muir
Fans of sickeningly overbearing moe will be pleased to hear that more Clannad is coming their way. ANN reports that Sentai Filmworks' David Williams confirmed in the AnimeOnDVD forums that Key's Clannad mo...
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Japanator Recommends: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep


Sep 23
// Bob Muir
Kingdom Hearts fans are a long-suffering bunch. After feasting on the highly polished Kingdom Hearts II, they have had to make due with half-hearted gestures intended to tide them over until something significant could be pro...
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First Impressions: Angel Beats!


Apr 06
// Jon Snyder
Summary: An interesting concept dragged down by bland characters. Isn't it ironic that I'm writing a First Impressions about Angel Beats!, despite the fact that the show left very little impression on me whatsoever. I didn't ...
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Take a video tour of Key


Apr 22
// Dale North
Visual novel studio Key, who you know as the creators of Kanon, Air, Clannad and more, are based in Osaka, Japan. I've always kind of wondered what goes on in their offices, and now, thanks to this video tour, I've seen thei...

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