Reviews: Little Busters

A Standard Setting Made Excellent Through Its Characters

This is one of my favorite visual novels, and one of my favorite works of fiction in general. The setting is a school and the plot starts as a slice-of-life comedy. Even when the story gets more serious, it's still more character driven than plot driven, so I wouldn't suggest this visual novel to someone wanting an elaborate, complex plot.

The characters, however, are not as simplistic as the plot. It's easy to label each character as some stereotypical archetype, but each character gets enough limelight to go beyond the stereotypes people will associate them with at the beginning. The protagonist Riki is a Nice Guy, but we also learn he has dependency issues that stem from his parents' deaths. Rin is a quick-tempered Tsundere, but is also very shy around strangers, and her behavior is not treated as though it would be acceptable in the outside world. Everyone's behavior has some justification, like the two examples I mentioned, which makes them all feel very human despite being fictional.

Whenever a character received focus, either through their route or Refrain episode, that's usually when they broke free of their stereotypes, and although some characters left bad first impressions at the start, they all eventually ended up being Rescued from the Scrappy Heap. That being said, there are some pet peeves with some of the girls' routes that bugged me. One example that comes to mind would be Kurugaya's route, where they treat her like an Emotionless Girl. The problem here is that she's established as a perverted tease in the common route, so it felt inconsistent with her previous characterization and that the writers just added on this aspect to her character at the last second because otherwise, there wouldn't be any drama to her character.

The humor usually managed to get me laughing. In fact, I feel Little Busters! had the best sense of humor of any Key work I've seen so far. The dramatic moments worked because you got to know the characters in the common route before their tragedies were revealed. If the story started out by force-feeding the player everyone's issues, then it would succumb to Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. The only character whose past we learn about at the start is Riki's, which makes sense because he's the main character.

If there's one thing I have to call out on the story structure, it's how the ending invalidates a huge part of the story, similar to CLANNAD's ending. However, unlike CLANNAD, I felt Little Busters! was open to Alternate Aesop Interpretation. I had two different possibilities for aesops, one which fits the ending, and another which feels like a Broken Aesop because of the ending, which I'll refrain from spoiling. I suggest checking out the Perfect Edition once it hits Steam.