Little Busters! Refrain Review

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Little Busters! is an absolutely fantastic anime.  Gaining an easy 5/5 score from me.  So going into a conclusive second season seemed like a win in my mind right from the start.  However what I was met with was far from what I thought it would be.  Changing my entire perspective on its storytelling, pacing, and ultimately my score for the series.

Story
refrain1Continuing right where we left off from the first season, we are thrown right into a giant lunch party that the entire cast is partaking in.  Things seem extremely pleasant and the chemistry of the cast continues to shine as their friendships are as strong as ever.  However as time passes, Riki begins to realize that things are beginning to unravel.  The truth of his narcolepsy and the fate of the Little Busters is in question.

There’s not much plot points that can be hinted at here.  As the entire Refrain series is a gigantic spoiler for those of the first season.  However what I can point out is the flow of the season itself.  From the beginning we are pitched repeated jokes and cringe-worthy exchanges between characters.  After time characters are segregated and we’re left with an attempt at developing what are arguably the most boring and uninteresting characters in the series.

Don’t misunderstand, I love the Little Busters cast.  They are fantastic in design and play off each other so well with excellent chemistry.  However that’s the very problem.  By segregating the way they do, they force certain characters that are built on playing off others to stand on their own.  Understandably plot wise, but without the chemistry the show becomes boring.

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This failed attempt to develop these uninteresting characters is only made worst by a constantly echoed dialog points of “we can do this” and repeated flashbacks that we’ve seen hundreds of times before.  If someone by the end of Little Busters! and LB! Refrain has not gathered the fact that Riki was alone before the Little Busters came along and saved him, then they need to have their head checked.

This series is strong proof that some shows are ruined by the desire to fill out seasons.  Going by plot flow alone, this series felt like a strong 3 episode OVA turned into a 13 episode dragged out nightmare.  I can honestly say that if this were only episode 10-13, this would take its place as one of the best anime series of all time.

It doesn’t help that the entire show manages to 180 on itself towards the end.  Laying down a huge foundation of absolutes that manage to be broken in the end.  While its conclusion was heartwarming, its delivery completely contradicts itself and manages to make a great deal of the story useless.  Which once again enhances my dislike for the repetitive dialog.

This is not all to say Refrain is without any redeeming features.  I think the concept in which they created in the story as a whole is fantastic.  I absolutely love the world in which they created with the Little Busters franchise.  To be honest Refrain manages to answer many plot hints from the original series.  It’s just that execution and the journey is key, not the destination.

Animation:
refrain2Little Busters! Refrain still looks as good as the original LB!  While the characters are not detailed, they still look lively and well animated.  It also helps that most of the characters are adorable and lovable, making some of the plot execution all the more tragic and heartwarming.  The environments are also well done, giving a sense of depth that is being lost in the moment.

Conclusion:
If you’re a big fan of the Little Busters! series, then there are probably many plot elements you might want to obtain here. However I’d also say that Little Busters! original series is just fine as a stand-alone series. Refrain does it no justice.  While the overall story and plot elements are great in concept, due to poor execution, we’re left with a stain on the series.  Feel free to watch it, but don’t be afraid to skip forward to ease yourself through it.

VERDICT: 2 / 5

Pros:

  • Good animation
  • Cute characters
  • Good concept

Cons:

  • Repetitive flashbacks and dialog
  • Terrible plot delivery
  • Excessively drags out a simple concept
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Co-Founder of OtakuSpirit.com and Co-Host of the OtakuSpirit Animecast. A huge fan of anime since the early 1990s, consuming over 800 shows. While he's late to the collecting scene, he's found a lot of joy in filling his DVD/Blu-ray collection as well as collecting figures. Once a week, he posts unboxing and feature videos on anime goods to YouTube.

  • By Thai, February 1, 2014 @ 10:27 am

    Lol I completely agree withh the verdict but what I think is not that little busters refrain did not do justice on little busters season 1 but how the whole little busters anime did not do justice to the novel. refrain was completely hectic pace. You know clannad after story? Well refrain was as long as after story which took 16 episode but in the anime they did only 6 episode for refrain. If you really want to see little bustersbest franchise go read the visual novel, you will like it.

  • By Zeruel, February 1, 2014 @ 2:20 pm

    Thanks for the comment! I personally loved Clannad Afterstory just because it had meat to fill the episodes.

    I might take your advice though cause I’ve heard a lot of good things when it comes to the LB novel as well as the manga.

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