The Little Busters anime has been a long time coming. It seems inevitable that every visual novel Key makes will eventually turn into anime, and it’s no wonder as they have all garnered a devoted group of fans. Having personally played through all of the Little Busters game I might have a slightly different perspective on the show than those who go into it not knowing what’s going to happen.
This article, and any future ones I write, will focus on comparing the anime to the visual novel. I had some serious issues with the game itself, so the anime has the potential to actually tell the story of Little Busters better than the original did. It all depends on how much JC Staff dares to deviate from the original source in the parts that I thought didn’t work. This article will be spoiler free.
Little Busters is the story of a group of childhood friends nearing the end of high school, and their time together. In order to make some something memorable with their time at school before they have to go out and become boring adults, the “leader” of the group, Kyousuke, decides that they should play baseball. None of them really have any experience or interest with it, but they tend to go along with anything Kyousuke thinks up, so they decide to do it. In order to have a full team and maybe even play a match against someone they have to find more people willing to play with them among the students. This presents quite a challenge as they’re making the team with poor timing as everyone who wants to have already joined clubs at this point in the year. It doesn’t help that none of the members of the Little Busters are good at speaking normally to anyone outside their group. Luckily for them the school still has a few other equally odd characters who might be convinced to join, if they can find them. It might sound like this is a sports show, but it only is to some extent. I guess this is also true for actual sports anime, but the sport itself isn’t the focus, it’s the characters and their individual stories.
If you’ve seen any Key anime adaption before you have a good idea of what to expect. For the first time KyoAni isn’t making the show, but JC Staff who picked up the banner in their stead seem to know what they’re doing, to some extent. Expect plenty of comedy and characters with more than a few screws loose. But know that the comedy is something of a smoke screen as it will eventually try to make you cry. Whether it’s successful at that remains to be seen, but it is a story structure Key have stuck to ever since Kanon and it seems to work out for them every time. Make the audience care about the characters, see them when they’re happy, and then the effect of tragedy will be maximized, and tears will be shed by everyone.
Comparing it to the Visual Novel
The anime sticks very close to the visual novel story, going so far as to borrow visual elements and sound effects for certain gags. It works alright, as it isn’t pushed too far as to make it an annoying gimmick. The timing of the jokes and their style are delivered well enough that I expect some will enjoy them, even if I mostly shrugged at them. Jokes that are wildly off in delivery will make me angry and/or sad, and those weren’t. I found them inoffensive, which I guess is faint praise for whoever made them. Compared to the game they’re essentially the same, but with a different pace. I found the jokes to be more effective in their original form, but they weren’t botched as badly in the anime as they were in Fate/Stay Night for example where every joke from the visual novel ported over to the anime turned into a complete dud.
There are changes and small bits cut all over the place, but this has to be done with a game as large as Little Busters, which can easily take 40+ hours to finish. The most notable changes in the first episode were how the main character Riki wasn’t introduced properly. Instead everyone else in the cast got most of the focus, while I guess details about Riki will be doled out in bits over time in the anime, such as the fact that he has narcolepsy. In the game we learn that right after the opening, while the anime instead decided to jump forward to a different part later on. Visual novels and anime are different mediums, and having played the game to remind myself of what it was like after seeing the first anime episode reminded me of how differently they’re paced. In visual novels there is an expectation from both the audience and writers side that the story doesn’t have to be rushed. With a story like Little Busters that has multiple story arcs that have to be worked through before the end there’s just no time for a similarly relaxed pace, even if it might end up ruining some of the comedy scenes which were paced with the visual novel medium in mind.
Where I feel the show fails most is with the use of music. It is taken straight from the game without being modified in any way. I expected them to use the same melodies, but in new renditions that fit better with the animated medium. Instead the music sticks out as being slightly inappropriate, and if you’ve played the games it also feels cheap. The animation also feels cheap compared to KyoAni productions, but looks fine compared to your average show. When you pair the lazy soundtrack with the animation however it creates a combination that makes the entire show feel somewhat halfhearted on the part of JC Staff. It’s so very close to being greater than the sum of its parts, and with just a bit more effort it could’ve been good, instead of just adequate.
With only the first episode out we haven’t gotten to the bits of the game that I thought were the weakest, but I’d say so far so good. It definitely should have been a bit better than it is on some areas, like the music. But overall it’s doing fine so far. By this point it’s faithful enough that nothing has been lost, and nothing gained either compared to the game. They’re roughly on par. We’ll see if that changes in any of the others favor in the next few episodes.