ajthefourth: A sneaking suspicion has been building for some time that not all is right with the Little Busters! universe. Well beyond the fact that Komari was allowed to grow up without understanding death – something that anyone who could pass for a parent would explain to their child at a very young age – it wafts through every interaction like a bad stench. Something stinks in Little Busters!.
Previously, Myst and I spoke of how Little Busters! was splitting the duties of the visual novel protagonist between Kyousuke and Riki, with the former taking the role of the catalyst for events and the latter responsible for narration as well as being the one that the girls naturally flock to. One playing the game wouldn’t want to be like Riki in personality, although they would strongly identify with him, but the added benefits of having not only a potential harem but a powerful group of male friends would make him a desirable player character.
The wisdom that Kyousuke espouses to Riki above isn’t wrong, however, it rings not only false but forced. Riki must learn this lesson or else, and Kyousuke is once again the catalyst for lessons learned. Komari becomes a vessel for Kyousuke’s education of Riki and by extension, the rest of the Little Busters. What matters is not that Komari was “fixed” by Riki, although that’s a lovely side effect and self-esteem boost for him as the player character, but that Riki was taught a lesson about facing realities that one does not like. As an aside, this makes Komari even less important than one would initially assume.
This brings one full circle to the stench that permeates the Little Busters! universe: nothing seems real. It’s as if this entire world has been created for Riki, similar to how Angel Beats! was created to help teenagers pass on, with Kyousuke as the man behind the curtain. Where Clannad‘s character arcs all focused on family, with Tomoya eventually creating his own figurative family (and later, a more literal one), Little Busters! seems content to teach Riki these after-school special lessons with the overall goal still shrouded in mystery. Without any meaningful character interaction, these lessons are just grandiose speeches from Kyousuke’s mouth.
otou-san: I think she’s right. Something’s rotten in Keytown, and it’s not the dead cats.
Let’s talk about “realism.” Realism, the way I’m using it, doesn’t mean that this is a thing that can happen in the real world. It doesn’t mean that the kids have to stop fighting in the school cafeteria because that’s stupid and makes no sense. It means that the world has to adhere to a certain sense of consistency, and just as importantly, that it doesn’t half-ass any of its justifications. Komari’s repression of memories is not unrealistic per se, in that people do often repress trauma, but the cyclical repression and uncovering through a series of dead goldfish was too much for me to bite down on. I’d actually accept a fantastical justification more readily than something that wouldn’t even pass Wikipedia Psychology 101. Add to this a potentially dangerous “fix” perpetrated by unsure high school kids rather than a responsible adult — there are none here, only a single bedridden old man with a typically vague disorder and a complete lack of agency — and the notion of realism goes out the window in favor of the world that, as Aj4 points out, is set up just for Riki to grow. Same goes for the lack of causality I talked about last episode. Just as I’d feel closer to characters who appear and interact in more natural ways, I’d feel stronger about Riki’s life lessons if they came from life.
Both of those are inextricably tied to suspension of disbelief. I’ve been hammered before for calling Key works on their lack of the kind of realism to which I’m referring. I felt I explained myself pretty decently but maybe my words were blurred by rage-spittle on the screen, so let me be as clear as possible: I understand that magical, fantastical elements are a part of Key stories pretty often. Put someone’s soul in a shitty old robot if you want, I don’t care. That doesn’t mean I can’t ask for realism; in fact, fantasy demands characters who adhere to a sense of reality precisely because the physics don’t. That’s what enables our suspension of disbelief. Too often our hobby asks us to suspend disbelief simply because we’re watching anime or playing a visual novel, and I find Maeda and Co. to be some of the worst offenders.
So ultimately, what we’re left with is a series of events that feel tentatively related, a neatly packaged solution, and a well-worn tableau of a cute girl crying in the rain (while wearing a ridiculous fetishistic getup). If Key has evolved to the point where they want to show us scenes of beautiful sadness without a connection to traditional plot, that’d be one thing — I’d be willing to bet Kawamori created Do You Remember Love? mostly to animate the climactic music-video battle — but this half-assed, not-quite-story is leaving me picking apart the plot but unaffected by the intended emotional component.