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Little Busters!: Refrain – Review

Little-Busters-Refrain-Complete-Collection-Cover-Image-01The thing about an Anime based on a series of visual novels is that there’s a pretty good chance the story featured won’t be a shallow or simple one. That’s the charm of a visual novel; they’re games that focus only on story rather than that of combat like other genres so you should be able to put your faith in the tale told throughout.

A great deal of these visual novels revolve around strengthening bonds with other characters and moving forward in all different types of relationships. Now, of course, there are a whole bunch of visual novels that DON’T necessarily feature this but let’s not focus on them for this review.

The “Little Busters!” line of VNs have been around since early 2007 and has only continued to expand. The latest Anime adaptation to be released is this one right here; “Little Busters!: Refrain” and thanks to Hanabee Entertainment I’ve been given the chance to experience the end of a series that began with the coming together of friends and finished with a twist that, well…we’ll get to that soon enough.

What has stopped must start moving…

On the back of their first baseball game, the Little Busters team is closer than ever. But amongst the celebration, Riki can’t help but notice a strong sense of déjà vu over everything that has happened. As the oddities of the world continue to unfold, the answers to Riki’s questions appear to lie in the hands of a cat.

Can Riki and Rin muster enough courage to fulfill the mission given to them and confront the truth of their reality that has been in front of them all along? – Hanabee Entertainment

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As I’ve mentioned above; the story of “Little Busters!: Refrain” starts off in a pretty simple manner; it’s about a group of baseball-loving friends that have, over time, come to develop real feelings for each other that delve deeper than simple “friendship”. As the second season of the same Anime series, it was a little hard to watch “Refrain” without having watched the previous season but it does a good job at summarising the events of what came before so that, by the end of the first episode, you know exactly what it is you are watching…it doesn’t stay that way for too long though.

As the season goes on the story gets more and more convoluted. An ill-fitting storyline begins to develop early on in the thirteen episodes that only worked to confuse and frustrate me. At the risk of ruining the story for anyone here who’s reading but has not yet watched the series; I’ll not detail any of the “twisted” plotline. I suppose you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that it ends in one of the more stranger ways I’ve seen in an Anime series of this kind. I can’t necessarily say I even enjoyed the plotline prior to the huge “twist”.

Most, if not all, of the characters featured blatant two-dimensional personalities. Now my assumption is that the first season did indeed show some sort of character development…but I’m not reviewing the first season, and what the audience is delivered in “Refrain” are some of the more standard Anime character types that tend to have a couple obvious lines of dialogue each episode and that’s about it. Even when the twist begins to develop…the bulk of the character cast doesn’t.

A lot of what these characters do, main or otherwise, is nothing more than…”moronic”, for lack of a better word. Realistic problems like the breaking up of a friendship group are dealt with in such ridiculous ways, it’s almost TOO unbelievable even for an Anime series. I don’t know much about rekindling a friendship but what I DO know is that it’s not done through a two-on-two baseball game in the pouring rain and it’s not done through a brutal fistfight. That I’m very much confident in.

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Like many Anime adaptations of Visual Novels, “Little Busters!: Refrain” plays host to a mostly lacklustre quality of animation. Seeing as though it’s mostly talking, there’s no real action throughout the story and there are no real dynamic scenes so it tends to get a little boring visually. There are a handful of scenes where the animation quality is kicked up but these particular scenes are a LOT shorter than you would think.

Sometimes they’re not even complete scenes, they’re just pieces of animation that are repeated time and time again. Each of the characters are designed in quite a “cutesy” manner. Most characters ARE indeed cute girls and their designs perfectly depict that…naturally. Even some of the men are quite feminine and even the more “manly” ones have an air of “sensitivity”, so to speak.

I’m not that big a fan of this type of animation style simply because Anime series’ that feature this type of style are a dime a dozen and I feel as though they don’t necessarily bring life to a production. I can see, though, why the target audience of these types of shows would enjoy it. It’s soft and it’s cute, it also happens to blend in well with the overall theme of “friendship” that “Refrain” is based around.

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A great deal of what I’ve said about the visuals can also be said about the audio aspect of “Refrain”. While the light and mostly kind-hearted soundtrack is somewhat memorable, it is very much eclipsed by the very standard level of voice acting. Some of the songs, I must admit, WILL stay with me for quite some time but it seems that every time I think about the music, I also think about the voice cast.

I never feel right saying that the voice artists present in an Anime like this are terrible at their craft because, as far as I know, it is more the fault of a terrible script than a testament to their possibly terrible acting. I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt seeing as I know these men and women are good at their jobs, it’s just that they weren’t necessarily given the chance to shine…especially with the dialogue present in “Little Busters!: Refrain”.

Most of what was said was utterly terrible. Most character not only featured annoyingly high-pitched voices but they spouted some of the most simple-minded and unnecessary pieces of dialogue I’ve ever heard. Harking back to the story portion of this review; what they said just didn’t seem realistic in any way, even during the more realistic parts of this ultimately crazy story. It was far too much for me to immerse myself in and it was thanks to the terrible dialogue.

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“Little Busters!: Refrain” is quite a hard series to get into. Not only is it the second season of an already established Anime and the adaptation of a long-running series of Visual Novels, it’s also fundamentally strange. “Refrain” basically takes the entire series and throws it on it’s head. Surely there could have been a way to better right the ending of this series.

Instead, what audiences are delivered is a twist that rocks the boat in such an aggressive way that it’s comparable to the sinking of the Titanic. Without giving too much away; it basically makes the rest of the season, and possibly the series itself, totally irrelevant. Backing up the story is simple animation, silly dialogue and some standard animation. “Little Busters!: Refrain” is, while not excruciatingly terrible, a pretty bad series that I can only imagine a certain, small audience are into.

Though from what I’ve seen in “Refrain”…I really can’t imagine long-time fans being too happy. After saying all this I do like to end in somewhat of a positive way: If what I’ve been describing has made you even a little bit excited; this may actually be a good series for you! While there’s a lot I didn’t like, I can absolutely see how people would be attracted to it’s mostly light-hearted vibe and even though it’s not for me, I’m sure there are many of you out there who’d love it. So to you all, I say; “Enjoy!”.

Interested in “Little Busters!: Refrain”? Get it from the Hanabee Entertainment store now: Click Here

Grade: D

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