Little Busters! reaches a conclusion with this eight episode OVA season. With the main story resolved in the previous season, this is not essential viewing, but does provide a very watchable coda to the series, and introduces a new character who swiftly became my favourite.
The first four episodes focus on Saya Tokido, a mysterious blonde who crashes into Riki’s life with a hail of bullets. I ended my review of the second season by saying I wanted Little Busters! to bring back the fun, and Saya definitely does that. She is a really cool, exciting character, who soon has Riki involved in a dangerous situation. She takes him through a secret entrance into basements and dungeons underneath the school, full of booby traps. It’s all quite Indiana Jones, but this being anime there is time for Saya to have a break from adventuring and get naked in a bath. The action adventure soon becomes complex sci-fi, with a technological “treasure” as their end goal, and this being Little Busters the nature of existence is questioned and nothing is quite what it seems. A lovely romance develops, founded in a forgotten friendship linked to Saya’s tragic past. This is a series that makes you care deeply about the plight of the characters, and everyone has some kind of a cross to bear.
The remaining four episodes feature girls with whom we are already familiar from the first two seasons, but they were both secondary characters, who finally get their chance to be the ones in the spotlight. Episodes 5 and 6 are about Sasami Sasasegawa, who in many ways has been the opposite of main girl Rin. The origins of her apparent dislike of cats are explored here, when she turns into a cat herself, and only Riki can communicate with her. This is somehow linked to Sasami’s childhood, when she had to move house and accidentally left her cat behind. It’s another tear-jerker of a story.
The final two episodes focus on another secondary character: Haruka’s twin sister Kanata. You may recall their harrowing backstory in the first season, with both sisters horribly treated by their family but in very different ways. This arc wraps up that story, giving us more information about how the two girls suffered physically and mentally, and Riki helping Kanata to find the strength to finally stand up to her horrible family, with the help of the Little Busters. It brings the whole team, largely absent from this OVA series, together at the end to carry out a plan, and it’s a fitting way to end the show.
These were three very compelling stories packed into just eight episodes. The strongest by far is the Saya arc, which more than merits the higher episode count it is allocated. Apart from the question of the nature of existence, which is always at play in Little Busters!, there is a very strong linking theme of childhood trauma and how that affects people as they get older. Sasami’s past haunts her because she feels like she failed her pet cat and she assumes that led to a tragedy, and Riki has to help her realise that it was beyond her control. That’s an important message, because a lot of people carry around some kind of guilt that they can’t do anything about, and probably couldn’t have at the time. Saya suffered a cruel twist of fate, and was cheated out of normal childhood experiences. Her unresolved regret is being unable to experience love for the first time. Similarly helpless is Kanata, who carries around a lot of guilt that was not really her fault. Sometimes I think we expect perfection from ourselves when we look at our own past and see mistakes that make us cringe in hindsight, but maybe we need to afford ourselves the kind of understanding we normally reserve for the imperfections of others. Kanata was a child in an impossible situation, doing her best, and one decision that was not entirely selfless haunts her. That decision was wrapped up in fear of a horrendous situation, and now she feels shame at something that was actually inflicted upon her. Riki helps her to heal and move on, and that’s what Riki does, of course. He’s a problem solver and an all-round nice guy, and he has been a very watchable hero of this complex and thought-provoking show. The final message this series offers us is an important one that anyone can relate to: face up to your demons from the past, find a way to heal, and move on. But Little Busters! doesn’t just show us what to do, it also shows us how: with the help of good friends. RP