This is my thoughts on the character and route before reading Refrain. My opinion is subject to change.
When I first saw Haruka, I thought I could never get to like her. She was strange, annoying and irresponsible. As I kept playing through the common route, however, she began to grow on me. Yeah, she was still the strangest girl I’ve ever seen, but she became something more than that. She became a rather entertaining character, and I became rather excited to play her route.
Haruka’s route is both indescribably sad and long at the same time. At least three times while reading the darn thing I kept wanting to know when it was going to end. At the same time, I was incredibly surprised how this story was able to make me empathize with Haruka. The character of Kanata Futaki is the main driving point of conflict here, and if there’s anything Shirokiri managed to do extremely well in this story, it’s making me really hate Kanata.
Haruka herself grows immensely in this story, from being an irresponsible, playful delinquent to a bitter, misunderstood student to a mature, independent woman. The romance in this story is much less forced than in Kud’s route, but I’m still not a fan of the random kissing scenes.
The bad ending has got to be one of the most emotional bad endings I have ever experienced. Not only did it cement my hatred for Kanata, but it made me feel shocked and betrayed that Haruka’s dreams had been shattered. I almost felt like not going after the good ending…
But it was worth it. The good ending had me see a matured Haruka, and almost completely flipped around my opinion of Kanata. For the longest time, this route felt like any positivity was far out of my reach, until I fought my way to this ending. Shirokiri really pulled out all the stops in writing this, but it’s still a route that I think needed work, both in balancing the emotions and pacing.
As for Haruka herself…I think it’s no question that she is my favorite character in Little Busters! at the time of this writing. But I’ve still got four more routes to go through, so who knows what might happen?