A bit delayed from my goal of finishing this route alongside the original schedule but I guess that matters less and less now. But hey, it is time to once again revisit what used to be my favorite character route in Little Busters! (though if you ask me again what my favorite would be I would no longer have an answer).
Before I continue, I’d like to make a disclaimer. No matter how much shit I fling at Kud for being overhyped and whatnot, I have to get this across. I like Kud. I joke around about how, compared to all the other girls, she is the most normal (despite her obvious quirks) but I really do mean it. I think she is a fun character and out of all of them, I think she would be the one I would have the least qualms about hanging out with. So yeah, Kud is a great character despite all the shit the community gives her and I wish I could say the same for another overhyped white-haired Key character
Which now leads me to my second disclaimer: objectively, I don’t think this was a very well-written route. It takes multiple directions without enough foreshadowing, as well as not explaining things well enough for the readers, only making sense in hindsight. Where it does excel, however, is in the emotional investment it brings to the readers. Of course, since emotional investment is a very subjective thing, I can’t expect everyone to agree with me, but the ending of this route never fails to make me shed a tear as I read it.
Now then onto my actual analysis of Kud’s route and character. Her main conflict spurs from one teensy thing: Kud sure does have some self-esteem issues. Her whole life she has longed to be a “gear” that would help the world and be useful. And hey, with a mom like that, I’m not even surprised. They never showed it, but I can imagine her whole life she has been compared to her mother, thus adding in to her self-esteem issues.
I feel like this point explains eeeeverything about the route. The first half of her route focuses on her dysphoria between being an “exotic foreigner” and being, well, herself (who is unabashedly Japanese). Because of her desire to fit in, and also because of Japanese society being very adamant about labeling any person who looks foreign as someone incapable of being Japanese (horrible horrible aspect of their society, mind you), she takes on this role of an “exotic mascot,” greeting everybody with a “guddo mo-ningu” in her horrible broken English. And she does that simply because she wants to fit in. She knows they’ll never accept her for who she is, so instead of paying no mind to them, she chooses to live up to their expectations and play the part, regardless of the disconnect it brings her. Seems she’d rather change herself over changing the world
But as she gets closer to Riki, we see more and more of her real personality, and this is were she truly shines. During their time in the clubroom, gone is her facade of the exotic mascot and we get to see her cheerfulness, her sadness, and her problems. And of course her clinginess to riki in their relationship but that’s beside the point (she really is like a dog, isn’t she?)
(I hope this clears up any misunderstanding I had with @Naoki_Saten on the #lbspoilers channel on discord; I was busy so I couldn’t clear up my point back then)
The only time this facade bothers her is when she sees that Riki is being affected by it. And her response? She tries to disconnect from Riki, because she blames herself for Riki being put under fire (as opposed to blaming the heathens who push their pre-conceived notions of society on everyone else). But Riki finds out, thanks to Masato surprisingly, and reassures her that all is well, and he doesn’t give a damn as long as he is with her. Aww, how sweet~
And then we move to the second half of the route where the writer pulls the rug out from under our feet. Well, I can’t say it was totally unexpected, what with the news segments being broadcast earlier, but it would have been nice to hear it from Kud’s mouth. Well that’s an aside, but the important takeaway here is that, once again, Kud blames herself. She blames herself for not being able to help, and blames herself for not being there to see the launch. So once confronted with the opportunity to go back, what would be the right thing to do?
Naturally, the sane thing to do would be to stay fucking put. As we have seen, her going back to Tevua was a situation that not only put her life in jeopardy but her grandfather’s as well. But what would that have done for her self-esteem? If she stayed (as we saw in the bad end), she would become a wreck after seeing her mom’s execution. She would continually blame herself, and no amount of words would be able to get her self-esteem to a point where she can continue to live life normally. And thus, the right decision, at that point, was to tell her to go. Tell her to become a useful gear.
Fast-forward to the metaphorical rape dungeon, as @Kanon calls it. We see her suffering but we also see her repentance. Despite being in this situation, she has no regrets because it made her feel like a useful gear. Well, not if Riki has anything to say about that! Stepping in with his majestic voice out of nowhere and telling her that her place is to continue staying with Riki. And that is what really breaks her chains of self-esteem: realizing that you can be useful to the world even by being useful to just one other person.
This is the point where most naysayers would shout Deus Ex Machina or something along those lines. And to them I say, they have missed the whole problem. The definition of such is “any artificial or improbable device resolving the difficulties of a plot” but I will argue that escaping the dungeon was, in no way, the difficulty of the plot. The sole difficulty of the plot was helping Kud get over her self-esteem issues. And Riki did that. Everything else was just an instrument that played a part in helping her realize that, including the whole metaphorical dungeon. She had to suffer to realize her suffering was pointless, and she had to be bullied to realize there is something more important to her than herself.
I have to thank the new, post-credits scene for helping me realize this. This was a really really great scene! I’m glad they added that in. But the important note here was her mother’s message to her: “find something more important to you than yourself, and be a gear for that”. For her mom, it was space exploration. And for Kud, it was finding someone to cherish for her life.
So let’s leave this route with this message in mind: stop trying to live up to people’s expectations! In life, the only way to find meaning is to be useful to what we find important in this world. So find your important thing in life, and be a wonderful little gear for that