Though there’s still plenty of mystery, that was an episode that clarified an awful lot of things in my mind.
I made the mistake of applying Occam’s Razor to the riddle of Nishizono Mio last post, but I should have known better – Occam’s Razor simply doesn’t apply when it comes to Key. As far as magical realism goes, with Key if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and sounds like a duck (DUCK-U!) it’s probably a duck. Even if it sits under a tree with a parasol, reading poetry and feeding its feathered friends.
Perhaps because in this adapted form it took so much longer to get there than I’m used to with Key, I wasn’t quite ready to accept that element of Little Busters. But it’s clearly here – the series has certainly proven that it has no qualms about shifting tone completely from pure slice-of-life comedy to hardcore drama, but this arc has a much weightier feel to it than Komari’s, both because of the quality of the heroine and the timing of the story. In many ways it feels as if the series has really just gotten started, but I wouldn’t go that far – I think the first cour serves the function of establishing both the characters and the character of the story itself. It will pay dividends later, as the drama really buffets the characters’ lives, and I think a case could be made that a bit more of this kind of patience would have been a net positive for Key’s other works (most especially Clannad). But that’s a matter of personal taste.
That something supernatural is going on with Mio certainly can’t be denied now, so in that sense it does serve the define the field that LB is playing on. Just exactly what that is I can’t say yet, but someone not having a shadow pretty much rules out multiple personal disorder or Porphyria. I find Mio’s story curiously affecting – there’s something quite moving about the forever alone girl sitting under a tree with her poems and her birds, waiting to disappear forever. I’d thought that the “Shadowless” moniker was merely a case of adolescent cruelty but it was literally true in this case – though somehow I suspect she wasn’t born that way. There’s a strong implication that this is something Mio wished for, and Midori tells Riki he’s “80% correct” when he guesses she’s actually Mio’s missing shadow. The fact that Midori has no shadow herself could either be taken as corroboration or refutation of Riki’s guess, depending on how you look at it.
What’s certain is that Riki has a connection for lost little birds, feeling like one himself. He’s keenly aware of just how desperate and unhappy his childhood and adolescence might have been had the Little Busters not come into his life, and beyond his natural kindness (and maybe just a hint of attraction) I think he sees it as his duty to try and throw Mio the same sort of lifeline. That’s really what this show seems to be about more than anything, I think – the connections that keep us tied to the world, without which our lives would lose all meaning, and why he’s so desperate not to forget about her as everyone else seems to be doing. Mio’s story seems to have a metaphorical significance in addition to its literal one.
The irony of course is that if indeed this destiny of Mio’s is self-inflicted, it’s happening just at the moment Riki has given her a reason to want to stay connected to the world herself. I’m with Riki here, I certainly prefer Mio to the viscerally false Midori, and I also suspect that Riki too may have a connection to the “Place where the end begins”, and that his narcolepsy holds a deeper meaning than we know so far – perhaps he has one foot in another world himself. I’ve also harbored a nagging suspicion that there’s more to Kyousuke than the straightforward ultra-bro that we see, and the fact that he has a penchant for finding four-leaf clovers does nothing to dissuade me of that suspicion. What’s clear is that – in true Key fashion – this is a world full of secrets that aren’t visible unless you know where (and how) to look for them. It’s just taken a little longer for that to become clear than usual.