Monday, January 21, 2013

Little Busters! - 15

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Don’t worry, Chairman-san – I don’t think I’d have noticed he was a guy either…

A lot of the time with Little Busters, my enjoyment comes down to the fact that it’s doing things I’ve seen done before, but in slightly different ways.  There’s much about this series that seems very familiar – for good reason – but closer investigation reveals that it’s less so than it first appears.  That’s a distinction that’s in the eye of the beholder, of course, but I consider my resistance to the sort of cute-for-its-own-sake anime LB is tweaking to be higher than most, so I’m no pushover.

Stepping back and taking a look at what we got in episode 15, it doesn’t seem like it would add up to much.  It’s another “slice of life” episode, one that isn’t part of anybody’s route but exists simply to entertain for its own sake and provide a little general character development.  We got some BL gags, some yuri gags, lots of shots of the girls in nightwear doing cute things (and not just the girls), even some dessert porn.  On paper I should be changing the channel right about now, but somehow – as is often the case with Little Busters! – the whole ended up being more than the sum of the parts.

In the first place, the episode was funny – and that has to be the first place when it comes to anime comedy, otherwise all is lost.  But what charms me more than anything into liking an episode that I normally wouldn’t is the fact that it’s consistent with the general LB approach.  As in, there’s not a mean bone in this show’s body – there’s a sense of good-natured joviality to what happens that undercuts the usually degrading nature of these sorts of scenes in anime.  Starting with Riki’s scenes with the guys in his dorm, yeah, these are yaoi jokes – but they’re not mean-spirited.  They work because the genuine friendship that exists between the four males (Kengo less than the others) has been well-established.  When Masato says he’s glad Riki isn’t in love with Kyousuke because it would cut down on their alone time, I laughed – maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did – because that’s perfectly innocent and in-character for Masato.  And I like the fact that when Kyousuke half-playfully fled the dorm after Riki “rejected” him, Riki shouted out “I love all the Little Busters!” unashamedly.  It’s a bit dorky, sure, but how often do we ever hear an anime character say they love someone using the actual words – much less to a friend?

The slumber party scenes in Rin’s dorm room seem like a minefield – this is not a good place for most anime to go – but again, they work because even the sort of teasing Riki endures here is undercut with affection.  He’s annoyed, but not really humiliated – especially when he figures out that Kuragaya has set the whole thing up for Rin’s benefit, as she wouldn’t have been able to tolerate the others’ presence for a sleepover had he not been present.  And the fact is, Riki is just as comfortable with the girls as he is with the guys (more on that shortly).  He’s just that sort of person – utterly without malice himself, not unaware of the opposite sex but neither obsessed with ecchi or stammeringly nervous when presented with their charms.  I found the humor itself a mixed bag in these scenes – I’m not that crazy about seeing Kud and Komari become a kind of moe Greek chorus (I like Kud better on her own).  But the swordfighting scenes – with their endless “I am in your debt.  How vexing!” interplay were the sort of dumb joke that LB can make work by its sheer shamelessness and lack of pretense. Plus, seeing Mio in lighter moments – especially turned-on by trap Riki – is pretty darn enjoyable.

There’s another subtly clever part of this episode that fits into the LB pattern, too, and that’s the way it tweaks the conventions of the VN structure.  It isn’t too often we get the lead asked straight out “Who do you love?” as Kyousuke asked Riki here, even though that question is basically at the heart of every romance VN.  The show is also having fun with Riki’s obviously somewhat delicate physicality without being too mean about it – yeah, he really does look cute in a girl’s uniform and he’s just as much at home hanging out with either group of friends.  I like the fact that the stuff that’s always the unspoken elephant in the room is just brought out into the open in LB like it’s no big deal.  It’s tough to pull off stuff like putting Riki in drag without it seeming cheap or cruel, but I think LB pulls it off by making it just part of the fun.  It’s all between friends here – that’s the theme that underlies everything in Little Busters, and provides insulation against the pitfalls that derail so many other anime that look superficially similar.

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24 comments:

  1. THis was a funny scene in the VN, but the Anime managed to make it even more enjoyable (I especially like how guys played random games just to determine who gets to save Riki XD )

    Anyway, HAruka's route start next week. I suggest getting something you can squeeze multiple times: some may need it to save their monitors from their own punches.
    And judging by the OP, after Haruka comes Kud's route. So that leaves Kurugaya's and Rin's route for Season 2, along with Refrain and likely the ME/EX routes.

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    1. I still regret though that Mio's blade didn't go *swoosh(critical whip hit)* like in the VN, damaging Saigusa.

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  2. I was curious (and waiting rather impatiently) on your thoughts for this week, I myself am pretty used and cool with these sort of episodes so long as they entertain me (which this week it did)but from what I know of you and how much or a guilty pleasure or sorts this is for you I was wondering if this ep may have been the boy shaking the tightrope you've been walking so well balanced on...

    In anycase it seems I was wrong, as I said I was fine with this week and even had some fun with it and can for the most part agree some of the jokes here I wouldn't laugh at if it weren't between established friend characters such as Little Busters.


    On a side note, you gotta admit admire Rikki's stealth skills...

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  3. Wow. This episode was entertaining. Riki x Kurugaya all the way!

    I don't know about you guys though, but I found Yui Horie and Hikaru Midorikawa shouting "Little Busters, saiko!" repeatedly to be very infectious.

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    1. Agreed on the infectious yelling. XD

      Amazing -- truly amazing -- what this show can pull off and gain a nod of approval from me.

      Everyone just seems so connected, so SWEET to one another. Even in jest. It's really something when a show can bring out that kind of sparkle in its characters, though I'll be damned if I knew what tricks it used to actually get there. Kud-os to them, indeed!

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  4. This episode really did nothing for me I'm afraid. We're on episode 15 of a Key series, it's time to start kicking the drama into high gear IMO.

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    1. Apparently Haruka's arc is very good with this, so it looks like you'll get your wish.

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    2. Last episode already gave a pretty high gear drama for Key's "heroine routes" standard, I guess. We may got some more high gears for Haruka and Key (although I'm not really a fan of their routes), but as usually said, the real meat would be in another season (Refrain), just like Clannad was with After Story.

      If you're not patient, just drop it temporarily, wait until Refrain aired and then marathon it. I think it would works better for some people.

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    3. Nah I'm patient, I can wait it out. My only real gripe here is that this show seems slower paced than other Key shows and these are shows that are already not known for their blinding speed. I'm ready for the high drama. Sounds like Haruka's arc will deliver so that's fine even though I don't care much about her character.

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  5. One word comes to mind when I see Enzo coming up with all sort of excuses to defend all the trends he bashes any other shows with for LB, is defiance. I see all the haters pointing out his gigantically forgiving, uncharacteristic bias on this show has only emboldened his defiance in this regard. Yes, I know Enzo has admitted a few times early on that he liked this despite of all the trends/flaws that would've annoyed him and that it could all be forgiven since it's about "friendship", okay then. I'd think of it as someone secretly liking Cher's music. No harm done on liking it. But your tone is getting more defiant and preachy when he's defending the same thing he's bashing other shows with -no, I don't buy that LB has executed well others didn't and all can be forgiven since it's about "friendship". I don't care, there is no amount of justification to defend this sort of blatant commercialization of everything there is wrong about Japanese animation. Is LB the worst there is? No. But it sure represents the worst among many other shows. Sorry in case anybody noticed, I hate this show; it demeans everything I like about Japanese anime. It's a garbage as far as I'm concerned.

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    1. Rather than defiance, I got an impression that he likes the fact that it is opposite of what he likes. Granted, I am also someone who usually doesn't like this kind of shows yet I love LB! (granted, I played the VN first due to loving Clannad, Key's older work).
      And no, it is no commercialization or any other justification you want to make. It is a regular Key work, this time primarily focused on friendship themes. Key won't change their style just because few unimportant potential haters may dislike it. It is a Key work for Key fans, not a mainstream work to satisfy the masses as you seemingly want to make it look like.

      And in case you didn't notice, Enzou LOVES friendship themes. And I mean LOVES!

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    2. I agree with Nayrael. If you don't like Key, then you don't like Key. (Of course if you like another Key work, then you are being a hypocrite for bashing something similar. Which is worse then being defiant). I don't usually like this, but I like Little Busters (Saikou!) Trust me. This show isn't that bad. Now shows like Ikki Tousen and KissxSis, those are shows that still air episodes since five years ago and should be bashed with a fiery intensity.

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    3. Also what about Japanese anime apeals to you. I'm curious.

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    4. @Nayreal

      Loves friendship themes huh.... well don't I feel a tinge of Iorny but thats for another series...

      As far as I'm concerned, its his Guilty Pleasure, and really in these sorts of situations you have to let it be knwon what you like, wether others agree or not, I myself didn't really find it being 'defiant' as you're putting it, but I seriouly doubt nagging on him more about it after...how many weeks...will solve much.

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    5. Two thoughts: first, I must have mentioned 1K times that Kanon is among my favorite series, so I don't know how anyone might still think I'm anti-Key.

      Second, the sheer arrogance of all the people like this Anon defiantly refusing to believe someone likes LB continues to amaze me. People like what they like - get over yourself. Neither I nor anyone who likes the show owes anyone an explanation or an apology - whether it be whining KyoAni fanboys or people offended by the fact that I'm not one. I like sincerity - LB has sincerity. If you can't see the difference between LB and the completely calculated moe pandering that's designed to sell BDs and nothing else, that's your problem, not mine.

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    6. Well, who doesn't love friendship. It's one of the most important things in our social life. This show is blunt in what it wants to be. It makes no pretense in what it wants to be and how many shows in any language can you say are like that. An while I can see where you might come up with the word defiant, preachy is pretty lowbrow. Preachy would be like saying "Here it is and I like it and now I am going to spend the rest of the post praising it" Blogs (Well any form of writing or speaking) are like critical essays. You have to form an opinion and use logic that both supports and denies that opinion which I have seen done here and in other blogs too. You are right though. Being about friendship is no excuse, but if every single frame reeks of friendship and does nothing that suggests otherwise then there is a job well done. One more thing though. If you can say that Enzo is being too nice to this series, then others can just as easily say you are being too hateful to this series. There is a wrongness to both sides of the story. Also technically Little Busters can't be significant to everything that is bad in anime, since it technically was a game, both an all ages one and an eroge, before it was an anime.

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    7. And now that Enzo mentions it I thought the defiant and preachy was directed at him, but it is directed at commenters. I should have read into that more. That's just insulting, first anon. And ignorant too.

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  6. Enzo, if no explanation is necessary for liking a show, one can also insist the same for hating a show, wouldn't you say? Or does it only work for liking a show? Perhaps you've already explained why you liked this show many times and the issue is that people who don't like this show just don't buy any of them or convince them to reconsider.

    I'll also add you shouldn't surprised at the hate LB generates; just think of "Sasami-san@Ganbaranai" and you will understand how one can hate a show -although I'll say you don't seem to give a damn on the opinion of people who hate LB at this point. But it seems like the hatred displayed here is similar to the palpable hatred on your "Sasami-san" post (it was awesome expression of hatred, btw). To each his own, as always.

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    1. hatred on LB that is when I said "the hatred displayed here"

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    2. But Johnny, I`m not the one attacking other people for their opinions and questioning their motives. And it would be pretty pointless to blog a show if you didn`t list your reasons for liking - or disliking - it.

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    3. Fair point. And I apologize Enzo as I didn't mean to, but I might've come as chastising you there (reading back, not sure why I sounded harsher than I thought when I wrote it, LOL). I only intended to mildly rebuke one tiny point (something about not owing anyone an explanation or an apology for liking a show, that is). And at this point, I am not surprised of hatred on anyone and anything. Internet+24hr cable TV have done a wonderful, fine job building up our collective mindsets in the last 10-15 years. ha.

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  7. I crack up again just looking at your screen shots!! What a great episode for all the reasons you mentioned above Enzo! ヾ(@⌒ー⌒@)ノ

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  8. I'm with you, Enzo: I enjoyed this episode, and, at least on paper, it's hard for me to figure out why. In fact, I'd go as far as to say this was the best episode since the first one. Unlike you, I haven't been enjoying the show since then; I've just been sticking it out because the VN readers keep saying it gets better. Well, I think what happened here is that all the little things that have been established about Riki and his relationship with his friends were able to come together in a rather compelling comedy episode.

    I still hate the moe pandering, though. Ugh, what I wouldn't give to have Komari and Kud (sorry) put on a bus.

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    1. Might as well warn you. Kud's route won't make you like her more. In fact, it might make you hate her.

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