Well now, that was certainly an eye-opening ending.
Forgive me if I work backwards a bit when looking at this episode of Little Busters. It was an interesting ep generally, but it’s hard not to start with the finish, because it makes me call into question so much of what I’ve been watching for 17 weeks (including the OP). Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself a little, but Kanata’s little trick at least opens the door to the possibility that not everything we’ve been watching with Haruka so far is exactly what it seems.
Of course there’s plenty going on with Haruka anyway, without even needing to extrapolate too much from the ending. I could criticize Haruka’s story for being a bit broad emotionally, but let’s be blunt – since Hisaya Naoki’s departure, if you’re looking for emotional subtlety from Key you’re looking in the wrong place. They’re all about delivering emotion in primary colors with broad strokes, and if the ultimate test of whether a character drama is successful is whether or not you care about the characters, this one works for me. The themes of friendship have been effective for the entire series, and while Haruka’s plaintive need for acceptance is a bit emotionally manipulative, it’s hard for me not to connect with it because it’s so elementally human. If there’s a magic to the success of Key as drama, that’s probably it.
As it happens – and not all that surprisingly – it’s looking as if Kanata’s story might just be the more interesting of the two sisters’, and certainly the more nuanced. I think the events of this week confirm what I thought – the notion of Heteropaternal Superfecundation (twins by different fathers) was never directly addressed in episode 16, no matter what the LN veterans might have argued. It was only with Haruka’s speech at the start of #17 that we were told that she and Kanata have different fathers. I’m actually a bit skeptical on this, not because it’s not possible (it is, but it’s very rare) but because it makes far too convenient a scenario for the Saigusa/Futaki family to rid themselves of the stain of a “bad seed”. It might very well be true, but I’ll need some convincing – and the behavior of Haruka’s “father”, just released from prison, isn’t it. His reluctance to tell Haruka the truth leads me to believe the truth is different from what everyone believes it is.
I never really believed Kanata had distributed the flyers linking Haruka to her father, so confirmation of that was no surprise. But the moment it happened was still an important and interesting one for many reasons, starting with the vicious slap the woman in the car delivered as punishment for suggesting that distributing the flyers (done by their “spy” no doubt) had “gone too far”. That and her conversation with Riki afterwards were quite pivotal, I think – and Kud’s reaction to seeing Kanata leave the shower could be coupled with that slap to infer that Kanata is dealing with much worse. Her words to Riki are rank with bitterness – the notion of happiness being a “zero-sum game”. In effect it’s a fancy way of re-stating the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” idea, but thinking about it from Kanata’s perspective it fits like a glove. Just listen to Haruka’s words earlier in the episode – it’s clear she feels that the more unhappy she is, the happier Kanata is – and until she met the Little Busters the only happiness she got was in torturing her sister.
It’s not hard to see Kanata as the more tragic figure than Haruka. Maybe getting kicked out of the family was the best thing for Haruka – this way, she’s free of their daily supervision, which Kanata still has to endure. It seems that Kanata is just as jealous of Haruka’s freedom as Haruka is of Kanata’s status, and this drives each of them to try and make the other miserable. The difference is that Kanata seems to be self-aware, and knows this process is happening even as she’s helpless to break free of the cycle. Kanata seems quite incapable of grasping the simplicity of Riki’s feelings in their conversation – all he wants is to be a friend to someone the way Kyousuke was to him. Simple, yes, but genuine and honest – the very antithesis of everything about Kanata’s family relationships.
I found one moment especially striking, looking back – the one where Riki said “We hate you” to Kanata. It seems especially out of character for him, and it must have cut Kanata to the bone – not that she’d let that show after a lifetime’s practice of hiding pain. Much more in character was when Riki said “You should be thanking us” to Haruka – that was honest and direct, but not something you hear characters say too often. Having seen what he’s seen, Riki surely can no longer hate Kanata (though I’m skeptical he ever really did, apart from a moment of weakness). He’s incapable if seeing another person in pain without wanting to do something to help them, and now that he knows that applies to Kanata, she’s gone from being the enemy to just another lonely soul who’s life would be a little better with one more person who accepted her for who she is. I started out thinking this was the Haruka Arc, but more and more it seems to be the Kanata Arc, and I’m thinking that might be a more interesting path to tread.