Probably the best episode of Little Busters! so far, though that should hardly come as a surprise.
It would be easy to sum up the strength of this episode with “Duh – it’s Kud!” And while our little Euro-Asian hybrid is without question the most entertaining of all the girls we’ve seen so far (at least to me) this was a pretty strong ep on multiple levels. I think it played up the strengths that LB had displayed through the first eight eps, and managed to avoid most of the weaknesses.
What makes this series work for me, mostly, is the slightly off-center humor and relentlessly good-natured attitude that keeps it from becoming a cloying and insufferable mess. It’s just weird enough and plenty sincere enough to work, and for me is mostly does – like an overeager pug that’s too cute for its own good and way too eager to the point of annoyance, but that’s also impossible to stay mad at. And so far it’s mostly free of the overwrought melodrama that was a fixture of Clannad almost from the beginning, though I know we’re going to get our fair share of that before too long.
Kud is another one of those characters that at first glance seems like she’d be way too much for me to take, but much more so than Komari I find her to be thoroughly irresistible. “Wafu!” is pretty much a stock Key catch phrase – though it’s cute when she says it – but it’s when she lets loose with a “Coincidentally, I’m a girl too.” that I really fall for her. Especially when Riki delivers the perfect Manzai comeback, “I think we already knew that.” I also love her incredibly schlocky “Japanese” decor – courtesy of her Grandpa in Finland. LB is a shamelessly silly show, and Kud is the shameless-est and silliest of the bunch – a completely unrealistic character, but genuinely funny and hard not to love. I’m not putting her on the level of Kate (Sketch Book) but her mangled language skills (is the episode title an homage to that, or just Engrish?) and odd manner set her apart from the boatloads of generic harem girls that populate anime casts everywhere. Yes, she’s way too cute – but again, I think it works here because with Key this doesn’t feel manufactured and manipulative – it’s just what Key is.
Of course, it wasn’t all Kud this week – though her search for a roommate did dominate the episode. That quest brought us the introduction of Nishizono Mio (Tatsumi Yuiko, one of the few cast changes from the VN). One of many candidates “interviewed” to be the lonely Russo-Japanese charmer’s roommate, she’s deadpan, a serious reader and according to Riki, never speaks to anyone in class. I don’t know if she’s major enough to have her own route but she wasn’t introduced to be ignored, so we’ll see more of her I’m sure. It was also a big week for Kanata, who was her usual oni-like self as head of the Disciplinary Committee, but actually ended up volunteering to take in Kud when no one else stepped up (they do have the dogs in common, I suppose). You knew she was going to soften up sooner or later – there are certain rules for these things that simply can’t be ignored – but this is clearly the first step on her journey to character redemption. I especially liked the little pat on the head she gave Kud after effectively ordering her to move into her room.
I confess I thought for a moment that we might have a “Bosom Buddies” scenario where Riki goes into trap mode (he’d be a natural) to live with Kud, but this isn’t that kind of show (and poor Masato, think of him). What we did get this week was some of the nicest-looking animation JC Staff has delivered in the series (this scene especially was beautifully done). Rather than launch into Kud’s route, it looks as if we’re going to have a stand-alone type of episode next week, with the guys stepping back into the spotlight – another interesting choice by staff of the adaptation, though I confess a few more weeks of Kud would have been fine with me. But there’s something to be said for saving her for a bit as something to be looked forward to, and as an official member of the Little Busters (and quite an outfielder) we’re sure to see more of her.