Time for one last diversion before we likely stick to “route” episodes until the end of the first season, but this stand-alone episode might just have been more relevant that it first appears.
These sidebar eps of Little Busters! have been a mixed bag in terms of quality, though I suspect I’ve appreciated them more than most viewers. This one fares pretty well in its own right, though it would be fair to at least ask why it was placed where it was – after one Kud episode and before what looks to be the full Kud arc. It seems like an odd choice, given that we would have had an interrupted arc focusing on Kud otherwise – I’ll trust that there’s a reason for this that will become apparent as we move through Kud’s arc. I suspect that it might have something to do with a major difference in tone between last week’s ep and what’s to come, but that’s strictly a guess.
It might also appear to be a strange choice to focus an episode around Sasasegama Sasami, who’s deep into the second tier of the character hierarchy. I’m personally OK with it as I found her earlier appearance (the cafeteria ep, which most viewers seemed to loathe but I liked in a big way) sparked some of the funniest material in the series. I think her silly feud with Rin is one of the more endearing distractions in LB – I like the dynamic between her obtuse self-obsession and Rin’s general not give a rat’s-ass tone towards her – and the antics of her Greek chorus and Rin’s constant mangling of her name (hey – it is hard to say) are the sort of innocent tomfoolery that’s right up this show’s comedic alley.
What strikes me, though, is that this was actually a Rin episode disguised as a sidebar episode about Sasasase and Aikawa, the hapless second-year crushing on her. Rin is obviously the main girl in Little Busters, but rather than the focus on her existing in bursts, she’s more of a general presence (I know her route is coming, don’t worry) that intersects with all the other threads. It’s ironic in a way that the most overtly romance-themed ep so far should focus on such minor characters, but the inside joke to me was that Rin was thinking about her own feelings for Riki even as she was focusing on the two mismatched lonely-hearts. She may not understand what it means to be lovesick on an intellectual or experiential level, but she definitely understands in her gut – when Aikawa described the pain in his chest when he sees Sasasase, you could see the recognition on her face.
The interesting contrast, of course, is that Riki seems to have been quite sincere when he gently chided Rin that perhaps they shouldn’t have interfered with poor Aikawa’s business because “neither of us have experienced love”. That gap in interest is sure to pose issues later, I would think. Meanwhile this episode was also as opportunity to get a look at just how much Rin has grown since the early arcs of the series in terms of conquering her phobias. She’s comfortable enough around the other she-Busters now to join them for a tea party, willing to accompany Riki to a strange guy’s dorm room, and even willing to humbly apologize to Sasasegawa to try and help the cause of romance along. Of course her actual schemes are disastrously stupid, especially the ones she hatches (“Meal A combo”?) after Sasasegawa admits she has a crush on Kengo (we sure haven’t seen much of him, have we?) but at least she’s come to the point where she’s able to make the effort.
While there were some nice comic moments here (Rin’s mangling of the word “hip hop” and Aikawa’s pathetic attempts to perform the same – “Spew!” – spring to mind) there’s another way these events tie into the main canon, and that’s with the note that was tied to the cat-tail, the third such one we’ve seen. I’d about forgotten about those notes, to be honest, it’s been so long since we’ve had one – but that makes two weeks in a row where we’ve had elements that point towards the mystery element of the story (Masato’s smirk being the other). I’d guess that suggests we’re inching closer to the point where that’s going to be a major plot component, though it would surprise me if we see anything definitive before the end of the season.