First Impressions: Little Busters!: Refrain


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 conclusion of its crazy school-time story. 

I quite enjoyed my time with the first season, but many of the folks that have played the Little Busters! visual novel weren't all that pleased with the anime. Will this installment win them over? Well, Komari still has an annoying voice and Kud is still the most adorable girl on the planet, so no big changes yet.

Indeed, this is more of the same, so you'll likely already know what your thoughts on this show are. However, I think Refrain seems extremely promising from the start; read on to see why.

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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Chris Walden
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