Anime Review: Little Busters! Season 1 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 15.04.2017

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Little Busters (UK Rating: 12)

Little Busters was originally a visual novel game from the renowned visual novel creators Key, who previously produced such iconic visual novels as Clannad and Kannon. The story follows a boy named Riki Naoe who lost his parents while very young, the crippling sadness and depression threatened to overwhelm him until a group of children who call themselves the Little Busters take him into their group and after playing with them day after day Riki is able to overcome it. Now years later in high school, the group expands again as it decides it needs enough members to play a baseball match. A simple slice-of-life story? No. There's much more than meets the eye here. This complete collection comes courtesy of MVM and is available from 17th April.

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All of Key's games have truly surprising aspects and Little Busters is no exception, for the majority of the show this is a comedic slice-of-life story following a group of friends growing larger. Being based on a romantic visual novel that has numerous routes for protagonist Riki to woo, the series dedicates an episode to each of these ladies stories. Plenty of these routes are happy and silly stories filled with laughter and humour, seeing the group volunteer in a nursing home, take over the school canteen and of course, learn to play baseball as the Little Busters gain more members.

These episodes are filled with genuine laugh-out-loud too, with plenty of slapstick and visual gags, for example, there's a repeated gag where characters battle in the school they do this by having the gathered students throw anything nearby at the two combatants and they're forced to attack each other with whatever they catch. A kitten vs. a Banana, a pop-up pirate game against a katana… The humour falls over when the jokes go to the Japanese language jokes, jokes that require knowledge or understanding of the language. Some series try to explain on screen but often this bombards the viewer, with Little Busters! The translation and localisation teams occasionally try to come up with a completely original joke instead of going with the translation, they try their best but much of the comedy ends up rather nonsensical. Speaking of the translation/localisation teams, this release comes with dual audio and the English cast has some fantastic names, including Brittney Karbowski, Greg Ayres, and Tia Ballard.

With all the comedy in the series, it can be a stark parallel to see the darker parts of the series suddenly crash into the story. The main themes of the series are certainly friendship and adolescence but there's a third, loss. The protagonist lost his parents and learned to deal with it by having his nakama, his friends, there are others in this story who have lost and their stories are surprisingly touching. They add an extra layer to the series that makes it even better.

On top of this, there is the hidden story beneath the surface, it's a good enough twist that it needs to be experienced in person. A secret message is passed to Riki, "There is a secret to this world, if you wish to learn it you must complete all the tasks you are about to receive." other messages appear too, with strange knowledge of what is yet to come and tasks to complete. As Riki tackles these challenges his narcolepsy flares up and he blacks out. At the midway point in the season at the thirteenth episode does the truth begin to come out of the shadows and breaks into the main story. Strangely though, after this sudden break into the supernatural, the story goes back to slice-of-life for many more episodes with little thought given to the drastic changes of a certain character. The final episodes and the sudden changes to the story are a real shock, full of surprises and have to be seen to be believed.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Little Busters] is such an original and individual story, it manages to pack in many different types of story and does each of them well. A charming slice of life that's filled with actually funny comedic moments, some touching scenes that evoke real emotion and then the twists… oh the twists. It's so easy to grow to like plenty of the cast and actually care about them too. A fantastic show and one that fans of Clannad and Key's other works should definitely check out!

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