The second season of Little Busters! picks up where the first season left off, right after the team lost their first baseball game. However, it soon becomes a very different series indeed to the first. If you came here to watch the group of friends having fun and playing baseball together, it’s not that kind of a series any more.
Before long, Riki starts feeling a sense of deja vu, and there is a growing feeling that something is wrong with the world he inhabits. The question of which girl he will end up with, if any, is resolved fairly quickly, which is refreshingly unusual for any anime series, but this is from the same company that made Clannad, so they know how to resolve a love triangle and then move on. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to know what to do with the other characters afterwards, as this shares the same problem with Clannad. In the previous season, a few episodes were dedicated to each new girl as she was introduced, but Komari, Haruka, Kud and Mio might as well not be in the second season at all, as they are pretty much relegated to background characters. In the case of Kud, the most interesting character with the best backstory from the first season, this is especially disappointing.
The same is almost true of Yuiko, although she does get an important story early in the season, as the loser in love, involved in a sort of Groundhog Day scenario with Riki. It’s an emotional couple of episodes and probably the best part of the season.
The majority of the second season concerns Kyousuke trying to help Rin become more confident and independent. To do so, he is incredibly manipulative, engineering her separation from all her friends so she can stand on her own two feet. It’s another emotional storyline, and quite hard to watch because Rin goes through so much suffering. There are some blistering confrontations as a result of what happens, but the writers seem to be interested in arguing the philosophy of which boy is right about the way Rin’s life should be heading, rather than actually pointing out that these two boys deciding who gets to determine her future is fundamentally wrong in the first place. It’s just about justified when the truth is revealed about the world they all inhabit, but Rin remains frustratingly a typically male-dominated anime girl.
If you wanted answers about all the mysterious tasks and the odd world the Little Busters are living in, absolutely everything is explained by the end of this season, another refreshingly unusual achievement for an anime. The series certainly takes its time in thoroughly exploring exactly what is happening and why, and there are whole episodes with some of the characters suffering emotional torment. Their emotions are fully explored, making liberal use of clips and stills with narration, which drags things out rather more than was necessary, and it felt like the writers were milking every moment for all it was worth, to tug on our heartstrings as much as possible. It all becomes a little wearing, but there is a strong theme about finding the inner strength to conquer fear and do what must be done. These two seasons have woven an intricate web, and it all makes perfect sense in the end.
The final episode is very dramatic, but also an annoyingly drawn-out affair, with people having long conversations in a deadly dangerous situation, instead of getting on with the business of saving others and themselves. Only in the realm of drama would people stop to have a chat about the danger they and their friends are in, rather than just shutting up and getting themselves out of danger.
In an attempt to get every drop of emotion out of the story, I felt the writers dragged out maybe two episodes of drama to about five to end the season, and that resulted in this one feeling like a bit of a slog in the end, despite being half the running time of the first season. Some of that time could have been better spent actually doing something with all the extra characters who were introduced as part of the team, rather than basically writing them out of the season, after a few episodes with most of them standing around in the background and saying the occasional line of dialogue. The romance storyline, although resolved, never progresses much beyond an acknowledgement of boyfriend/girlfriend status, and soon becomes an irrelevance to the rest of the season. If you were hoping for a repeat of the amazing emotional journey that Clannad gave us, you’ll probably be disappointed with Little Busters!, which tries to pack the same punch, while keeping so many of the characters metaphorically running on the spot. The series has one last chance to redeem itself, with an OVA season. I will look a that for a future article, in the hope that the story moves forward and the fun returns to the Little Busters. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… Little Busters! EX