Playtime’s over. Again. For now.
One thing that’s interesting about Little Busters (and something I don’t always love about it) is that it tends to be very much all-or-nothing in terms of drama. It’s either full-on serious mode or full-on silliness, and there isn’t a whole lot of in-between. Apart from the episode where Kud was looking for a roommate – certainly the most balanced ep so far – the series has been a study in contrasts. This is true of all Key works to a certain extent, and on balance LB is less focused on the drama than any of the eithers I’ve seen, but I think the clear-cut separation between the two modes might just be more pronounced than in any other Key work.
If anyone was wondering whether the premise of this episode came as a surprise to this anime-only viewer, this is what I had to say when Futaki was introduced back in episode 7:
I strongly suspect there’s more to it than meets the eye – or rather it’s the eye that suggests there’s more to it, as the two girls look strikingly alike. In fact Suzuki-san is playing both roles, which lends even more credence to the notion that there’s some connection between the two. If that’s the case I’m sure there’s going to be an arc centered around it sooner or later.
I take no credit as it was hardly subtle, but I’ll confess that LB had more or less lulled me into a false sense of security on this, as I’d forgotten all about the connection between Futaki and Haruka. But boy, did that seed bear fruit this week – it was one of the darkest eps of the series so far. It’s striking that when LB does go dark, it really packs a punch – perhaps it’s because the series is so light-hearted and lacking in villainy generally, but when the uglier side of human nature does show itself it really stands out. Futaki hasn’t exactly been a lovable figure so far, but she hasn’t shown anything like what we saw this week. And she has the added mitigating factor of having taken Kud in when no one else would (which seems to place Kud in a somewhat awkward position at the moment).
If I had to pick a word that captures the essence of what Futaki did to Haruka in this episode, it would be “personal”. That’s what really separates it from her earlier appearances as head of the Disciplinary Committee, when she was a hard-ass but at least somewhat professional about it. Here everything we saw screamed “vendetta” – while there was never any doubt Futaki was especially strict with Haruka, there was equally no doubt that Haruka went out of her way to cause (mostly harmless, it’s true) trouble – one might even say to cause trouble specifically for Haruka. There was a definite cat-and-mouse effect here – Haruka testing Futaki’s authority at every turn, provoking her,and Futaki harassing Haruka over seemingly minor violations. But the bench scene showed real venom – it seems a bit overwrought to get that emotionally attached to a bench (even the one where Haruka first met Riki) but Futaki’s destruction of it was blatantly mean-spirited. When those two said “I hate you” to each other, it was easy to see they meant it.
As much as I’d figured the two girls were likely sisters, some elements of this still surprised me. The fact that they’re twins, for starters, and even more so Haruka’s revelation that in her old, traditional family every wife has two husbands. Presumably the girls were split up after their birth and put under the charge of a different father, and Haruka seems to have drawn the short straw – her father seems not just to have been a bad seed, but in fact a murderer. There’s ample fuel here for the burning enmity between the two – status within the family, for starters – and it seems that Haruka’s over-the-top happy go lucky act was just that, an act. She was hiding a lot more than the truth about her past, although it’s obvious that the revealing of that was already highly traumatic for her – the sight (and sound) of her completely losing it at the Disciplinary Committee’s kangaroo court was a pretty ugly spectacle.
For all the bad blood and Futaki’s cruelty this week, I can’t imagine she’s the one who plastered flyers all over the school revealing Haruka’s family history. It’s her family too, for starters, and then there’s the matter that she’s a cute girl and thus, by anime rules, must eventually be forgiven. I just don’t see the girl who’s so kind and protective of Kud doing that, no matter how much she professes hatred of her sister – but of course, that begs the questions: if Futaki didn’t spread those posters, who did? And why? In any event it’s clear that this has happened to Haruka before, no doubt causing her to transfer schools, and the memory traumatizes her. A social outcast on the verge of mental breakdown? Sounds like a job for the Little Busters, friends of the friendless – and Riki will no doubt be the point man in reconnecting Haruka to the world she feels totally cut off from now.