This article contains spoilers & adult language &/or themes
There is a quaint but lovely term in the English language that has become useful in modern parlance & that terms is “hate-fuck”.
That feeling of intense angry that you get when dealing with another person that seems to boil over into sexual tension & then into intense, wrathful fornication where you try to drive all of your negative emotions into your object of lust & rage, resulting in possibly one of the most epic fucks you’ve ever experienced. Afterward, you are filled with dejection & self-loathing for allowing things to reach that far and, yet, you go crawling back, despite how angry they make you & how bad you feel afterwards.
To me the Visual Novel turned anime series Little Busters! (& it’s direct continuation Little Busters! Refrain) is one of the perfect media personifications of that term.
It angers me with a dark fury but I cannot help but watch it because I want to know where it all goes (despite looking up the endings from the original Visual Novels). Every time I watch it I feel terrible for wasting 24 minutes of my life but every week (or whenever it was available on the torrents) I’d download it. Seeing it in my watchlist would make me feel as though I was sitting in front of one of those greasy, disgusting roadstop hamburgers: I know that I won’t enjoy, that I’ll regret it but I have to get through it because it’s there.
Well, enough torturing of simile & allegory, I should probably get on with why I consider this anime an utter hate-fuck.
Primary to my reasoning is that it suffers from what I call “Visual Novel Syndrome”.
That is trying to condense something with a choice based, multi-narrative story into a lineal arc progression. Not trying to enrage the fans of the original but adding as many narrative threads as possible, which bogs down the story &, on occasion, makes you want to stab your eyes out. Mashiro Iro Symphony ~The Colour of Lovers~ & Shuffle! also did similar whilst, in my opinion, Higurashi & Umineko but having alternative time streams/worlds & Question/Answer arcs to allow for fans to see all the possibility of the material. Little Busters! just seem to take all the character/development arcs of the original Visual Novels & cram them into a single narrative. This honestly wouldn’t be so bad if the characters & their stories were original & interesting.
There are 9 central characters who belong to the Little Busters (4 originals & 5 additions), running the range of the usual anime/Visual Novel tropes but cranked well passed 11 (if you do not know this David St. Hubbins reference, you are obviously very young). To begin with you have the 4 original Little Busters members: sweet, stoic, reliable every-boy in Riki who has a persistent (& very annoying trait) that will be discussed later; Rin, the socially awkward violent tsundere type who portrays animal traits when emotional; Misato: stupid musclehead with heart of gold; Kengo being the uber stern & dedicated one who secretly wishes that he had the freedom that the others share; & Kyousuke, the mastermind behind the group’s activities who is hiding something monumental. Joining them over the course of the first series are 5 female characters. Haruka: the kindhearted trouble maker with a dark past; Yukio: the overprotective Überfrau who yearns for love & other girlish emotions & is addicted to cute things; Kudryavka AKA Kud who is the typical loli fused with being the mixed blood obsessed about everything Japanese because it is somehow “inherently superior”; Mio who is the shy quiet loner who holds part of the secret of the world within the series; and Komari, the cute, clumsy ditz who is hiding huge trauma and has THE MOST IRRITATING VOICE IN ANY ANIME EVER!!!
Gods!!! Everytime she fucking speaks I want to jam knitting needles covered in acid into my fucking eardrums!
It is the most horrible bit of vocal characterisation I have ever heard done by a saiyu (being Yanase Natsumi, who’s appeared in many games & anime)! It’s both nasally whining & huskily grating! Hearing the performance is like having a man with a spiked covered scrotum slap his sack against the back of your head: confusing, painful & exceptionally frustrating (unless you are into that sort of things; each to their own really).
The voice performance probably wouldn’t be so bad if the character herself was interesting but she’s not & I’ll explain for a moment as to why that is the case.
To begin with Komari’s characterisation is of the clumsy, snack obsessed ditz who has hidden academic & sporting talents but her own physical ineptitude gets in the way of her using these skills to gain friends. Add to this a “dark & painful trauma from her past” & whaaaaaaaaaatdaya get: A FUCKING CLICHE!
Now, cliches are the bread & butter for pretty much all media productions because people, in general, would rather watch what they know & understand then go outside of their personal comfort zones. Sometimes cliches can be used to give brilliant twists to something we’ve seen before, subverting & satirising both character & genre -such as Gurren Lagann taking the piss on macho mecha series or Mahou Madoka completely traumatising the entire Mahou Shojo genre- but the big twist with Komari is that she goes, to put it most succinctly, batshit fucking insane whenever she’s exposed to the concept of death.
She goes fucking bonkers if she sees a dead thing -such as a dead cat in the gutter- & reverts to a demented childhood state. Clinging to Riki because she thinks that he’s her dead older brother -which was the cause of this trauma in her childhood.
Again: That’s it.
Now, I’m all for sudden dark twists in otherwise light hearted & colourful series but this isn’t so much dark as it is, well, ‘muddied’.
There is no subtlety involved in it’s revelation, which is marred further that fucking woeful voice. There are hints & build up but they’re all rushed because they have 8 other characters to explore but, despite being rushed, it still feels as though it drags out. It has the whole pulling teeth situation at the dentist: it’s painful & made all the more worse by you wanting it over quickly. But it’s that wanting, that anticipation of a speedy, definite resolution, that brings even more pain.
That’s basically a summary of the whole series really.
Originally I was expecting it to only be 12-13 episodes like every other production that series & was honestly dismayed when I found out it was 26 episode for the first series (thank fuck Refrain is only 13 but there’s an 8 ep OVA due out in 2014) because it meant that I had to put up with it all to see a resolution that never came. It just repeats the same cycle with each of the character: Riki address their trauma & helps them heal.
Haruka’s arc is the most annoying for that because it is so nonsensical.
Basically Haruka is a goodhearted trouble maker who bullied & ostracised by the rest of the school because of her rebellious behaviour. This stems from her twin sister (to a different father, which is not the weirdest part) Kanata, who is the head of the school’s disciplinary committee, because the rest of the family (not their direct parents though) want to see Haruka humiliated because of what her parents did to the rest of the family by trying to escape them. This is a fairly common theme in Japanese media (although am not sure how real to life it is) but it’s handled so badly in this, culminating in Kanata ordering the destruction of a bench that Haruka had been repairing, saying that it was, like her sister, completely unneeded. When Haruka’s warped background of belonging to a family obsessed with their own bloodline & fucked up traditions (similar to the family in Kure-nai) is revealed, it is also revealed that her sister was only doing what she was told in order to protect her & because she’d suffer beating every time Haruka succeeded at something.
All that in & of themselves could make up an entire manga or anime series but here it’s more rushed through to get to the next character arc. & it’s basically the same for every character, except for our central protagonist, Riki, who has the opposite thing going on.
You spend way too much time with him & his grating narrations & have one fact forced home more than any other about him (other than his utter co-dependence on Kyousuke) & that is his narcolepsy (which is made tragically hilarious by his voice actress’ awkward way of using English terms).
You are constantly told that he has it & it functions as a deus ex machina to get through action & explain strange occurrences that happen to Riki but are, in fact (MASSIVE SPOILERS RIGHT HERE!) a discontinuity that strikes him whenever changes are made in the virtual/artificial world that he is trapped within & one that is constantly repeating until he gets things right. So, it’s basically a moé fucking Groundhog’s Day but without you ever being told directly throughout the first series that was ever the case.
Riki is one of those grating everyman characters that has to be as bland as possible so male viewers project themselves onto him (another issue with coming from a Visual Novel) & female viewers can find this alluring for some reason. But he also has the have the traits of being loyal, clever in a pinch & never gives up no matter how bad the situation gets, sticking by his friends until the end.
An end which never really fucking comes! Which is the real problem as to why this is a ‘hate fuck’ series.
Up until the 11th episode of the second series, there is no real ‘pay-off’ for having watched the first series. The whole ‘secret of this world’ plot is largely ignored for the most part as they focus on the individual characters & their dramas/backgrounds & those events themselves seem to drag endless on.
So, why have I watched it all so far?
Well, for one, I am one of those kind of people who tend to stick to a series, despite its flaws, to find some redemption & resolution in story. Plus I am also a tad obsessive on things; even armed with spoilers & endings, I still want to see how a story progresses to its logical (or completely illogical in this case) conclusion.
& might also be a mild masochist, so have that going for me in being able to endure watching certain things.
Despite the complete lack of resolution at the end of the first series, Little Busters! isn’t without merit for those who are fans of this kind of series. Basically if you could endure & enjoy the 1st series of Clannad you’ll be fine with this but it’s honestly not something that you’ll return to.
Plus there are more things to dislike about it: such as the poor running gags (Misato always losing a fight because he gets give a silly item, won’t bother to explain that one; it’s just too stupid); the boring music that basically uses the liet motifs from the Visual Novels (which is common in such adaptations because saves money); not to mention the insistence on using poor visual metaphors, such as shots of sky, rain & other things that symbolise a longing for freedom.
As I said in the intro: Little Busters! is a ‘hate-fuck’ series. One that you watch, feel bad about doing so but return to in order to see if things will get better & to see if there is anything worthy within the conclusion. The drama is so overwrought that it loses all effect; the voice acting isn’t bad but the characterisation is terrible, being pushed beyond any sane level to heighten the drama; & the eventual pay-off for the series is such a let down when it’s revealed that it makes you wonder why you should bother with the final 2 episodes.
But I shall & I shall hate myself for doing so.
Because that’s what a hate-fuck is all about.