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Little Busters! (TV series) Review

Cover artwork at J.C. Staff

Promo video at Crunchyroll and at YouTube by NanaDollz

This first season of the Anime series by VisualArt's, Key, Team Little Busters! and J.C. Staff as a coming-of-age drama with supernatural, parody and slapstick comedy serves as an introduction to the characters in the Little Busters! series and visual novel. The series features a group of teenage students Riki Naoe, Kyousuke Natsume, Rin Natsume, Masato Inohara and Kengo Miyazawa who are very close childhood friends with Riki as the protagonist. Through periodic flashbacks, the anime series brings out more of the memories Riki has when he joined the Little Busters as a group of children who have fun playing together.

At an unnamed school in modern day Japan, Riki has a daily routine of attending school and eating at the school cafetaria together with Masato as his dormitory roommate and fellow classmate, Kengo as a close friend and confidant, fellow classmate and also occasional rival with Masato where both try to compete to see which of them are the strongest, Rin as Kyousuke's younger sister and Riki's classmate who lacks social skills and has little interest in anything around her except for her cats and Kyousuke as a senior year student who leads the posse, resolves conflicts among themselves and always tries to think up of interesting missions.

One day, Kyousuke brings up an important and unavoidable fact of life - that as a senior year student in his final year in the same school as Riki, Rin, Masato and Kengo, he may take a job offer at a publishing company in Tokyo and everyone would have to part and go separate ways eventually. Kyousuke decides to come up with a fun and interesting activity to get everyone to remember each other as close friends - to form an amateur baseball team Little Busters to replace the school's former baseball club which had disbanded and left behind an entire assortment of baseball equipment in the former club's activity room. Kyousuke entrusts Riki and Rin to recruit more members.

Riki will get to know several female classmates Komari Kamikita, Yuiko Kurugaya, Haruka Saigusa, Kudryavka Noumi(Kud) and Mio Nishizono where they will take an interest in Riki's kind and helpful nature as well as the friendship and team spirit exhibited by The Little Busters' regular baseball practice and join the Little Busters. Riki will also get to know additional characters Kanata Futaki as the school's head prefect, Sasami Sasasegawa as the captain of the girl's softball team, an unnamed female dorm head, Rin's multiple pet cats and Kud's pet friends and the school's guard dogs Strelka and Belka.

Having played the visual novel Little Busters! English Edition first before watching this anime series, this anime series serves to highlight and enhance the storyline in the common route and 4 girls' story arcs (Komari, Mio, Haruka and Kud) without any romance through animation and voiced dialogue. Due to the time constraints on each episode, some scenes and dialogue in the visual novel are not included in this anime series. This is understandable due to the higher costs involved in drawing and designing moving animation, having voiced dialogue and limited airtime for each episode in an anime series over a visual novel. Yet this does not reduce the overall quality of this anime series as most of the important scenes and dialogue in the featured routes are re-enacted in this anime series without leaving the viewer wondering if there was a plot hole somewhere.

The voice acting and animation in this anime series helps to bring out much of the humour and different emotional moments. From the multiple instances of Masato getting provoked easily and then losing in the battles devised by Kyousuke while also having a tendency to exercise, train and show off his muscles, the initially weak and disastrous baseball skills, experience, friendship, happy, sad and funny moments shared by the Little Busters, the different opening and ending themes after halfway through this season's series, these serve as a great introduction to the series and bring out the character personalities of the featured characters.

Video showing various moments in the series on YouTube by Hanabee Entertainment

Video showing Komari's baseball recruitment test on YouTube by jak domen

Various moments in the series on YouTube by LittleBustersFanpage

First opening theme on YouTube by AnimeNOWSongs

Second opening theme on YouTube by Ark Antron

Most of the background music is shortened in order to fit the time constraints allowed for a different scene in each episode with very few instances of full songs or background music being played for an entire duration of at least 3 minutes, although they are usually appropriate for the scene or featured character and are also played in the same part in the visual novel. The songs Alicemagic, Amenochi Hare and Little Busters! featured at the unique ending of each girl's story arc and at the final episode make this anime series special and memorable.

First ending theme on YouTube by Kyousuke Natsume

Overall, this anime series is highly recommended to watch as a coming-of-age drama with slapstick comedy, parody, supernatural and mystery that is suitable for teenage audiences and above. For those who have an existing subscription at Crunchyroll or a similar anime streaming website, own or plan to get this season's DVD or Blu-Ray set, this anime series is an excellent choice to introduce to anyone new to the series, looking to try out an anime series for the first time or would like to try one of VisualArt's and Key's anime series before trying out the visual novel.

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