Little Busters EX OVA Collection (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD / 1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 201 minutes approx.
Release Date: June 19th
It would appear that Little Busters Refrain wasn’t the end of the saga as one would have hoped from its rather conclusive final episode, but since the show was revealed to be set in a supernatural world, a return to the fold is not so inexplicable after all. Not only that but also this otherworldly facet means that we jump right back into the thick of things at any point in time.
Aren’t we lucky eh? So, contained in this final (?) release from the anime side of the franchise which this time is based on the visual novel subtitled Ecstasy (as it’s a bit more adult than before – the game not the anime) are eight OVA episodes covering three new mini arcs set at different points in time. The first arc appears to be set somewhere during the first series while the second and third around time the second series.
This set kicks off with the longest arc of four episodes dedicated to a new character Saya Tokido, an “all sweetness and light” blonde hiding a darker side. The first appearance sees her shooting shadowy figures in the school hallway at night, before pointing the gun on series protagonist Riki Naoe as a warning to run for his life. But Saya dropped her student ID and nice guy Riki turns it to her eliciting a surprise reaction.
Saya, it transpires, is a secret agent tying to avoid having her true identity discovered by the mysterious Executives of Darkness so naturally she has to kill Riki to prevent that from happening. But, Riki manages to avoid Saya’s traps and survive her many attempts on his life which impresses Saya so much she recruits him to accompany her on a mission to find some treasure located underneath the school.
Had Saya been introduced during the preceding series this arc would have been shorter but unlike the other characters, she doesn’t end up a member of the Little Busters, making her story nothing more than a protracted distraction. There is plenty of action given the nature of the murder attempts and the mystery behind the Executives of Darkness but it also often rather dumb and introduces some fan service to the show.
The first two episodes are a blend of light and dark as per the overall series tone but the final two go for broke in switching to incongruent silliness, with Saya in particular regressing from a psychotic assassin to a simpering, vain tsundere in distress that Riki amazingly falls in love with. I may have either spoiled things a little there or saved you 90 minutes – you decide.
In my review for Refrain I likened the supernatural content as akin to that of the surreal and obtuse Monogatari series, and whilst I can’t claim any influence over this as these OVAs are three years old, it does appear that writer Michiru Shimada decided to explore this direction further with the second arc.
Sasami Sasasegawa, who appeared right back at the very beginning of this saga, is a dog lover with a hatred for cats. One day a black cat is seen around the school and follows Riki around eventually ending up in his dorm room, attacking his roommate Masato. But this is no ordinary cat – it is actually Sasami! It would appear the cat hater has been cursed to turn into a cat but fret not, only Riki can understand her when she “talks” in cat form, so he can help her.
Perhaps the Monogatari comparisons are more apparent to you now as shape shifting cast members was not previously part of the plot. The reasoning behind this particular phenomenon lies in Sasami’s past, which should surprise no-one as 99% of issues in anime are triggered by traumatic childhood experiences. But again, Sasami wasn’t a prominent player prior to this so the two episodes devoted to her story are woefully insufficient to endear her to the audience and garner anything but superficial concern.
Rounding off this set, and possibly the series, is another supporting player thrust into the spotlight, officious Public Morals Chairman Kanata Futaki, twin sister of Little Busters member Haruka Saigusa. This arc requires some knowledge of the initial feud between the sisters as relayed in the first series to understand the significance of the outcome.
When Kanata puts out an accidental fire during cooking class, hitherto hidden scars on her arm are revealed to everyone, causing concern among her friends. Riki (of course) and sister Haruka get the truth out of Kanata regarding the history of the scars but learn of another problem she faces. Calling on the rest of the Little Busters, a plan is put into action to save Kanata.
Of the three stories presented here this was the strongest one for this writer, possessing the more compelling story and for being rooted in a non-mystical premise which I actually recognised from before. Kanata has the advantage of being featured in a more prominent role in the parent series, needing less introduction and build up than Sasami and Saya. However with such a powerful story driving this arc, two episodes are once again sorely inadequate to draw maximum drama from it.
The potential for this arc to build to a crescendo like climax is wasted due to this imitation, resulting in a rushed effort in which Kanata’s plight is introduced and resolved inside ten minutes. If any of the three stories deserved four chapters it was this one but it seems that an irritating blonde pigtailed loli with a schizophrenic personality that nobody had ever heard of before was the more interesting prospect.
Should EX really be the end, it is a bathetic way to finish business. If you have been following and enjoyed Little Busters thus far than this release will be a welcomed adjunct to the existing releases and you’ll probably be more forgiving towards the shortcomings than the less enamoured viewers out there.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black