Review: Little Busters Refrain [DVD]

Release Date
Blu-ray, DVD
Studio / Publisher
J.C Staff / MVM
Language / Subtitles
English, Japanese / English
Run Time
325 Minutes

Every time I read the title of this season 2, I keep wanting to make a joke involving the word refrain, it’s just too easy. Little Busters Refrain is the third and final cour of the anime adaptation of Key’s visual novel of the same title. If you’ve already watched the first two cours and want to see the continuation, then why are you reading this? Go and buy it. For everyone else, including those who read my first review and waited for this one to make their judgement, this is Little Busters Refrain.

Continuing on from last season, the Little Busters baseball team has finally had its first match and they all decide to celebrate it with a party. This is intertwined with all the characters hoping these days will go on forever, which sadly does not happen as the main plot of the show finally starts.

We finally get the romance arc for best girl, Yuiko Kurugaya, which was strangely absent from the first season, but ends up being the linchpin to the constantly mentioned ‘secret of the world’. As I was watching this arc, I felt like the show had run head first into the pacing a show would normally have by the middle of its run. This wouldn’t be bad in and of itself, but I just couldn’t find myself caring about Yuiko’s character development until the final episode of it. If this was just a regular third cour, which I wasn’t watching it for review purposes, instead of it being split from the other two, this wouldn’t be a problem, but having any sort of prolonged break between these two seasons is detrimental to the viewing experience.

Another problem with this show is that the most interesting characters have barely any screen time throughout the run. The first season didn’t make me care about any of the original 5 members of the Little Busters, but I enjoyed the interactions with of all the other heroines besides Komari, who still gets a lot of screen time but her voice still makes we want to die every time I hear it. Removing them from the interactions to focus on mainly Rin and Riki works in theory, it allows the writers to have a more focused through line of plot. The problem occurs when you remove all the elements of a show that I enjoy to explore the characters that are so generic that I think their names are reversed for half the run. Adding the asanine decision to ignore the most interesting character until the show is almost over, I cannot help but think that half of this cour was pure filler, to fit into the standardised 12-13 episode cycle.

Without giving away the ‘secret of the world’, the final arc of Refrain is competently handled, and even brought me to tears a few times, but it felt so manufactured and drip fed at points. An entire episode is a recap of the show from another character’s perspective that could’ve easily been accomplished in a single sentence to get the same point across. It reminds me of a similar episode in another anime Key have worked on, Charlotte. They both have this dragged out, and dark, colour palette, to show the distress the character is going through. This allows the show to highlight the drawn out struggle the character is dealing with, and their eventual salvation. The big difference is that the Little Busters’ episode is mostly filled with flashbacks highlighting things I had already noticed the first time I watched the show. I could tell the character was dealing with this immense pain from the start, making the episode feel like it’s covering ground that had already been explored. Comparitivley, Charlotte’s Arc was completely in the present, with no reused animation, and was a unique character arc in and of itself, justifying the length.

Everything else about the show, from character design to the soundtrack is fairly generic. The opening song and visuals are also nothing to write home about. Everything else I can say about this release was covered in my review of the first season. Included as special features are ‘Clean’ opening and ending animations, and trailers for other Sentai Filmworks titles.

Overall, Little Busters Refrain is definitely a continuation of the first season, and the long drawn out middle isn’t made up for by the competent final arc. If you are going to buy this, make sure to do so at the same time as the first season, as they really only work together as a whole package, instead of being split up over two.