It's back! Best prepare the tissues and grab your pillows, you're gonna need some comfort.
Bringing back a familiar show is like welcoming an old friend, but one you haven't seen in some time. There are visible differences, you've noticed your friend looks a little older, maybe a little darker, though not necessarily something they never hinted at becoming before. It feels nostalgic to see them again, and as nostalgia goes, there's that sad tinge of, "my, how you've changed" in the air, but you realize you still love your friend just the same, because despite the differences, they are still the friend you cared about before. That's what it feels like when I watch Refrain this season, but more than anything, I'm ecstatic to see this series return, and more than ready to sob my heart out at what I'm told is one crazily emotional ride.
Right from episode one, you can tell this isn't quite the same series as the first half; it starts out lighthearted, yes, but while the first series starts out happy and care free for quite some time, the darkness is clearly in view this season, even if it's not come quite completely. Kurugaya, who was the only girl besides Rin not to have her arc covered last time, seems to be the focus, and she comes into her own narrative as powerful as a storm. When Kudryavka and Komari are targets for bullying by some classmates who want to get back at Kurugaya, she snaps; all her silent anger and fury breaks loose in a terrifying display of unrestrained loyalty, and she successfully horrifies the offenders into mushy puddles of fear (figuratively, of course). It feels almost odd to see such a dark moment happen in contrast with the much lighter and friendlier first half of the episode (a hotcake party, mmm), but it's not really out of odds with the series' tone, per say. It just seems that the storm has arrived quickly, and I think it signals just how much less unrestrained the next two cours plan to be.
As to the ever present conspiracy, it exists in every shadow, every smiling face, every cute moe laugh outside of Riki's own. The closer Riki seems to get to the bottom of the "secret of the world", the more it seems like everything threatens to break. His narcolepsy, his sense of deja vu (but is it really deja vu?), Kyousuke's definite involvement, and the impending sense of "everyone knows something" only seem to add to the sense of edginess in all the proceedings, light or dark in nature. Do all the Little Busters but Rin and Riki know something? Are they in on the conspiracy, and if so, to what degree? Are they leading the two leading players to their proper part in the play? Or are they merely reliving their worst nightmares without a choice? We'll know soon enough, because that's what Refrain is for.
Note: I'm going to ask that no one post VN spoilers, since I have not played the game and am enjoying the ride anime-only, and I'm sure there are many readers who are in the same boat. Please have consideration for those of us experiencing this story for the first time, and avoid posting anything that could spoil the experience. That includes witty hints, knowing questions, outright plot points, etc. You may still discuss, but please think about whether or not that would affect an anime-only viewer. If I do find comments that hint at spoilers, I'll be forced to close commenting on all LB posts, which is something I desperately don't want to do. That being said, thank you so much for your cooperation!
OP "Boys Be Smile" by Suzuyu