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Writers Note: What you are about to read is merely a chronological compilation of ordered thoughts on the conclusion I've come to draw regarding the Universe of the Little Busters!. You may find that it will be mixed with events that happened only in the anime. That is because not every piece of work is done right to perfection, and sometimes, even if it is once in a blue moon, an adaptation does produce something better than the original.


Let's dive into something that's very dear to my heart. If someone were to ask me what my favorite anime would be, the first image to jump to mind would be Little Busters!. But then I would hold my tongue and take a moment to rethink. It is actually the visual novel that I am in love with, but I have found this story so endearing that I can't help but wish they would rephrase their question. It must have been three years since I've read this story, and it still resonates with me today.



I have written a chronological-half-analysis-not-a-review essay of a sort.


Little Busters! Origins


The origins of Little Busters began when Natsume Kyousuke wanted to help his younger sister, Natsume Rin, make friends. The first member to join was Inohara Masato.


In his youth, Masato felt belittled and isolated by his classmates and eventually started picking fights to stop the snickering behind his back. It worked for a time. No one laughed at him anymore, but everyone stayed away from him. His community dubbed him a monster and he felt more alone than ever.
Kyousuke learned of the boy and together with Rin had set out to defeat him. The tough fight was won by the Natsume siblings and ended with Kyousuke extending Masato a hand of friendship.





The next to join was Miyazawa Kengo, a young kendo prodigy. It was never explained why Kyousuke wanted to defeat him. I speculate that he thought Kengo was spending his entire childhood practicing at his father’s behest and wanted to free him.


Kyousuke challenged the elder Miyazawa, defeated him, and secured Kengo's freedom.




The four members eventually discovered Naoe Riki, a boy who was hospitalized after a car accident took the lives of his parents and left him with narcolepsy.




Around this pre-adolescent age the heroines we know and love also go through some things of their own that develops into regrets. Kamikita Komari loses her older brother which causes her to develop regressive tendencies and psychogenic amnesia. Kurugaya Yuiko grows to become a prodigal student and shuts herself from the rest of the world. Saegusa Haruka and Futaki Kanata are pitted against each other to determine who the criminal child of Saegusa Shou was. Noumi Kudryavka was in Tebua struggling in her studies to become like her mother. Nishizono Mio develops the imaginary friend and persona of Midori.





The history between here and the beginning of the Little Buster's visual novel is left to the imagination. Each heroine's route gives a rather sufficient glimpse into their past such that most of their history can be inferred. In the opening of the anime adaptation of Little Busters: Refrain each member of the main gang can be seen tending to Riki, who had succumbed to narcolepsy.



High school & Adolescence


Let's start where they are in high school in the real world.





I postulate that the gang did not form a baseball team in the real world, and instead went about their typical antics much like they did in the VN's common route during the slice of life portions of their days.


It is also likely, and supported by individual characters' accounts that the main Little Busters members and the girls that would later form the other half knew little of each other. This is backed up by Kyousuke's account during his route in Refrain where he states that he looked for others who held some sort of regret in their lives. In other words, it could have been anyone! However, our Key girls likely held regrets that resonated with Kyousuke, such that he found them useful for strengthening Rin and Riki. That would imply everyone became friends over the course of the events in the artificial world(s).


There are several moments of significance worth noting before the trip happens. Haruka and Riki's first meeting at her beloved bench. She laters alludes in her route that this chance meeting made the bench that much more important to her. Kud loses her mother to the chaos happening back in Tebua after the failed launch, and declined to travel to her home country to find her. Koshiki Miyuki is forced to quit archery after losing sight in one eye and commits suicide.


Time goes on and the class trip arrives. Kyousuke sneaks into the bus so that he could be with the rest of his friends on his last year.





Now to the juice of it. Their happy little days would come to an abrupt stop, and a new beginning would come forth. On their way, the bus suffers an accident and goes crashing down the side of a mountain. Thus begins the Little Busters story as we know from the visual novel.


Kyousuke's plan has been ruined. He had created such a great place for the shy Rin and his friends. All gone because of an unforeseeable, freak accident.


So he wouldn't have it. It would not be the end of it. At best he wanted to save the lives of his precious sister and dear friend Riki who had known nothing but misery for a good part of his life. It was going to be tough, because the very two he wishes to save possess the weakest hearts. They would lose their will as soon as they learn of the tragedy, but even so, Kyousuke wants them to go on. So he devises a plan to make them stronger.


How? By creating an artificial world wherein they can replay the last month leading up to their accident. He would usher Riki and Rin into a series of trials to resolve each of the heroines' and Keybros' woes. Doing so, the two would undergo a forced maturation and mentally strengthen themselves in preparation for the tragedy that will ensue. The perk of this world? They can reset it almost as many times as they needed (To an extent).


BUT HOW???!!!






Key magic, of course.




The Clock has Stopped, The Artificial World


Kyousuke selected the heroines and through their cooperation, with a little help from Key magic, created an artificial world with their collective consciousness.


From here until Refrain is the bulk of the Little Busters visual novel. It isn't necessary for me to talk about every heroine's route as you are likely familiar with them already. Just keep in mind that RIki will go on to fail many times before he successfully resolves each of the girls' regrets.


An interesting note that there is about a month or so between Riki's awakening into the common route/artificial world and the day after the baseball game where the date cuts off. That is not counting the time between the baseball match to the class trip, and the time Riki spends with the each heroine, including the number of times he's failed. Which means that they had likely spent years within the artificial world. I wouldn't be surprised if Little Busters is Christopher Nolan's inspiration for Inception.


We will never know which heroine Riki was thrown into first or whose regret he solved first. However, it is my belief that it went a little like: Heroines+Rin1>Kurugaya>Rin2>Refrain. I don't think I need to order the "Heroines" route as doing so will only be redundant. I will explain why I believe Kurugaya likely occurred right before Rin2.


Let's not discuss the semantics good and bad regarding the Little Busters: Refrain adaptation. That being said, I did like some of what they did with the anime. Specifically with Kurugaya because things make sense to the story.


Kurugaya Yuiko


First, we can infer from her actions and manner of speaking to indicate that she is aware of the artificial world more so than the other heroines. Whether Kyousuke allows her to retain her memories or she can exert her own control like him is unclear. Though the latter makes more sense.


So, why do I believe Kurugaya's route occurs right before Rin2? Most people and walkthroughs will tell you to play her route last for the reason that it spoils the artificial world. But that's just a technical detail to suggest a pseudo-forced playing order.


In regards to character-motivation and chronology of the world, this is what I believe: The order in which Riki resolves each girl's regret, Kurugaya Yuiko's route directly precedes the Heroines'+Rin1 routes because she could not have developed an interest in love as she did in her route without seeing the profound effects it had on the other heroines in their respective routes.


She discovered love.


What does this feeling compel her to do? She creates her own world to explore this foreign emotion as many times as she wants, for as long as she wants so long as her world holds. A world that Riki will experience many times over.


A theory that I developed is that each person has a certain amount of energy in which they can shape their own world. This energy is expendable, and expends at a rate proportional to how much detail goes into their respective world. All of the Little Busters had been pooling in their energy to sustain many worlds/routes. Komari, Haruka, Kud, and Mio in particular expanded their world beyond the school and by the time Riki helped each them their energy had nearly depleted.


What I believe happened was that when Kurugaya finally wanted to explore the feeling of "love" none of the heroines had enough energy to support her world but herself. She didn't want to go to the Keybros for help because her wish deviates from Kyousuke's plan. So she created her world It is why she calls it, "selfish," because:

  • On a thematic note she would keep Riki from maturing.
  • She was sustaining her own world for her own sake.

The theory supports this because the extent of Kurugaya's world was within the school to mitigate energy loss, and most of it was spent in the broadcasting room. She then spent what energy she had left to repeatedly recreate the world, and to expend as little as possible rendered it less and less distinguishable from the previous until it became an exact repeat. It makes sense why, in the anime, right after her arc ends she is not seen disappearing with the other girls (Another thing the anime did well to portray).




In Rin2, we have the final mission. The secret of the world. Rin must survive on her own at their sister school, but all that becomes too much for her to bear. After everything that she had gone through the final task was insurmountable to her.


Riki confronts Kyousuke at the dead of night who affirms that he was the mastermind behind the "Secret of the World" missions. However, he after their conversation was interrupted, he was only left with more questions. Eventually he convinced Kyousuke to allow Rin to visit. Riki, having seen the strain this mission has been on her, brought Kengo to his side and challenged Kyousuke to a game of baseball with the hopes of bringing her back permanently. Riki and Kengo lost due to CHEAP TRICKS. Riki ran away with Rin but is later caught and taken back to school.




Little Busters!: Refrain


Kyousuke will ask Masato and Kengo to help him create the artificial world again. Despite the foul play Kyousuke pulled on Kengo the latter agrees to help one last time, but with his own condition: should Riki fail this time, he will no longer give his assistance and instead spend what remains of their time in the world playing.


The world resets once again and Riki enters Refrain. Everyone who has read or seen Refrain knows what happens here, and there should be no confusion as to the chronological order of the route. Riki goes on to recruiting Masato and then Kengo in a similar fashion to how Kyousuke did when they were younger. Together, the four will pull Kyousuke from despair just as he had done for Riki in the past. The original team plays baseball one last time, say their goodbyes, and the artificial ceases to exist.




The Clock Ticks Again


Or so they thought.


What happens next has been a matter of debate for some time now.


I have identified three possibilities.



Key Magic. This possibility is the least satisfactory because it is synonymous to an ass-pull. It is a trademark that Key likes to use in many of their works. Most recognizable is

Clannad where Key Magic takes the form of orbs of light. I'll use the anime for the example. The protagonist Okazaki Tomoya accrues orbs of light for the good deeds he commits, which gives him a world where Nagisa and Ushio survives and are free of their fatal illness.




In a similar, but unseen fashion, Riki and Rin acquires their world's form Key Magic from solving everyone's regret. Thus curing Riki from his narcolepsy and giving them a second chance at saving their friends and classmates.




Limbo/ TV Lost-factor/ Escapism. This is one of the two most probable outcomes that I have long debated since finishing the visual novel. It also makes sense in a real world point of view. Unfortunately, this outcome would condemn Little Busters as one of the most tragic and heartbreaking stories humanity has ever told.




In this possibility, the Little Busters and classmates are not saved. Riki and Rin's story ends when they escape and the former succumbs to narcolepsy. He wakes up in a hospital and finds Rin huddled up in the corner of the room. Unwilling to accept their condition, the two create a fantasy world within their consciousness to escape the horrible tragedy. An imaginary world where the Little Busters are alive and well, and they are still going about their youth.




The heroine's routes can be seen as Riki going through the Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the Five Stages of Grief, for Riki. The order goes as follows:
  • Komari represents denial. Seeing the dead cat evoked the repressed memories of her brother having died. She refused to accept this truth and in order to cope, while under the temporary influence of a regressed state, started believing Riki to be her brother.
  • Haruka represents anger. Recall that a good portion of her route involved trying to find the right person to direct her rage towards. At first it was Kanata, then Saegusa Shou, then her "parents," and at some point, herself.


  • Mio represents bargaining. Her route revolved around exchanging her life for Midori's. She truly believed that letting Midori take her place would grant her redemption for having forsaken her.
  • Kud represents depression. Bear with me. This one took some research.
    • Aaron Beck developed what is known in the field of psychology as the "Beck Depression Inventory." It is a test to measure an individual's level of depression. There are three negative cognitions that he developed from another theory. It is as follows.
      • The student has negative thoughts about the world
      • The student has negative thoughts about his future
      • The student has negative thoughts about his self

      [*]What does this have to do with Kud? Well, throughout the anime and visual novel she makes repeated remarks to demean herself. She is probably making fun of herself more than any bully ever did: she lacks confidence about her own image, concluded that she would fail the exam before it even began, and expected no one would ever want to be her roommate. There is more to list but the most damning is that she originally went back to Tebua to die. "Ни пу́ха, ни пера" "Ni puha, ni pera," "Neither fur, nor feather."

    [*]Kurugaya represents acceptance. This is a bit of a stretch, yeah? Her route makes her seem more like she was in denial. A different approach to seeing how her route went down is that she knew and accepted death, but before she dies she would use her remaining time to experience love. She lets go of her "selfish" wish in the end because she understood the inevitability of her situation, and her letting Riki go was the ultimate symbolism of accepting mortality.

Natsume Kyousuke. The second of the two most probable outcomes and the outcome I have come to accept. This possibility banks on the very man who was the origins of the Little Busters, and the one who orchestrated plan to save Riki and Rin. The man with the plan, the master schemer, the Darkness Executives, Mask the Saitou, CHEAP TRICKS. It is not so outrageous to believe Kyousuke had a backup plan.



In this outcome, Kyousuke creates one final world to test Riki and Rin's resolve to save everyone. Beginning when the duo supposedly first exits the artificial and ending where Riki and Rin wakes up in front of the bus crash for the second time.



Wait a minute. Doesn't Rin and Komari meet one final time in the artificial world? Precisely. Which is why Kyousuke's backup world theory makes sense, and why the anime did a very good job in writing a scene that does not exist visual novel. The scene being where the girls except Komari disappears. Even after the boys disappear and the world collapses, Komari should still be there somewhere, right? That's because Komari did not leave yet, and she didn't leave because she found her way into the last world Kyousuke had created for Riki and Rin.



There, Komari was able to meet Rin one last time to give her the courage she needed. Riki (though still an inexplicable miracle) overcame his narcolepsy, and together with Rin were successful in saving everyone who was on the bus, including the Little Busters.



Thank you for taking the time to read this. I am sure there are countless other conclusions people have reached on their own, and this is just one of them. At first I only wanted to compile my thoughts and give it a rest. Then I ended up typing a small essay and thought sharing it would be nice, too.


It is always important to keep an open mind, but never let someone give you all the answers without first taking the time to sort out your own.


I hope my version of the Little Busters! conclusion gave you just an inkling of clarity to their story. I enjoyed writing this and I hope you did, too!


I am always open to discussing stories so feel free to drop a message or comment!

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