Q. I heard Little Busters ~Refrain~ is a really good anime, but I do not have the time nor the patience to watch the first season or play the visual novel. Can I still watch Refrain?
A. No. But if you read this guide, I will tell you which episodes of the first season are skippable, so you can get to the good stuff with minimum frustration.
My Reasons For Making This Guide
Even though I only watch the anime, I am a big Little Busters! fan and I really encourage people to watch this series.
Unfortunately, the first season of LB! is a rather mediocre adaptation and while I had the patience to sit through it and appreciate it for what it was, I can understand why many would be put off by it.
Ideally, you should read the visual novel for the full experience. However, if you are like me and are a) a lazy ass and b) not into visual novels, you can still get your quick fix of anime in time to watch Refrain. Instead of watching 26 episodes of inconsistent drama and comedy, I’ve cherry-picked what I consider are the best 13 episodes of the first season. These episodes establish the broad themes required to appreciate the sequel, so while the experience is incomplete, you’ll still take away the intended message and buildup.
I’ll walk you through my logic concerning which episodes to skip, but if you don’t care about that stuff, you can skip the next section.
The Best Parts of Little Busters! are the Comedy and Friendship Scenes
In the anime, the Little Busters have a very endearing and heartfelt friendship that is developed over the course of the 26-episode series. Since the story is adapted from a visual novel, it follows a main “common route” while also incorporating individual routes focusing on each one of the series’ heroines. While they are connected loosely to the overall storyline, the heroine routes are widely considered to be overly melodramatic and poorly adapted into anime form. I lean towards keeping the comedy in and cutting the heroine routes out, for a number of reasons:
- The comedy is actually funny.
- The lighthearted moments set up a more deliberate contrast for the second season to exploit.
- The heroine routes don’t mesh well the story’s overarching storyline. (More on this below.)
See, the thing with the heroine routes is that, in the visual novel, they are written as romance plots and don’t take place in the one continuum. When you finish all the girls’ routes, only then is the Refrain route unlocked. Refrain is not a story about Riki’s love affair with his harem. While the anime downplays the romance, it still emphasises that it is Riki doing pretty much all the saving, rather than the Little Busters working together as a friendship circle.
Now while I understand that some individual ideas in the heroine arcs are linked to Refrain, such as the magical realism and the power of yearning and loneliness, I also think that these stories function more as “what-ifs” than as strictly linear stories. In the bigger picture, I don’t think this works in an adaptation. The comedy episodes work better because they show the group dynamic and highlight the same themes in a more consistent way.
Besides that, I will be honest and tell you that the drama sucks donkey balls. Komari’s arc is the worst offender, but pretty much all the arcs are incompetently put together. Stay far away.
What To Watch And What To Skip
1 – 3
8 – 11
19 – 20
24 – 26
4 – 7
16 – 18
21 – 23
Note: If you skip these episodes, you will miss out on some important information
Fortunately, this information can be easily found by looking at a wiki summary. Alternatively, you have this guide.
Since you are skipping episode 4, you will miss Kud’s introduction. Kud is this girl:
She’s a doofus and also very moe. That’s all you need to know, really.
The purpose of each more serious arc is to get the girls to join the Little Busters baseball team. This is the only permanent plot development that happens in each arc. The girls’ general personalities and place within the Little Busters can be inferred just from watching how they interact, so learning their sad backstories isn’t that necessary. Still, if you really like the girls, here are their arcs so you can watch them if you want:
4 – 6: Komari
12 – 14: Mio
16 – 18: Haruka
21 – 23: Kud
Miscellaneous Semi-Important Spoiler
Haruka and Kanata are twin sisters who were previously estranged but make up in Haruka’s arc. This is pretty important to know since they do act chummy in the second half of the anime.
To Readers Who Have Already Watched/Played Little Busters!:
Do let me know if there is any other actually important information that is left out by skipping the heroine arcs in the anime. I will update this guide accordingly.
You’re also free to dispute anything I’ve written here, including which episodes you think are the best the anime has to offer or whether skipping episodes is a good idea in the first place. That’s what the comments section on blogs are for.
Final Note To Those Who Have Not Watched Little Busters!:
If time is really the issue at stake here you could probably read up to the baseball game in the visual novel faster than you could watch the first season of the anime, since it covers the same material as the 13 episodes in this guide. (Thanks to lifesongsoa for pointing this out!)
Again, I should stress you will get the most complete experience of this series by playing the visual novel or watching the entire anime. If you enjoy the first three episodes a lot, just watch the entire thing. If you find the beginning slow or frustrating, then follow the guide. Only the first and final three episodes are strictly necessary in understanding the overall plot, but I do recommend you watch the funnier standalone episodes. It is in these episodes where the core heart of Little Busters! lies.
In any case, I hope you have as much fun with this series as I am currently. So what are you waiting for? Get going and watch the anime! Mission start!