This is my thoughts on the character and route before reading Refrain. My opinion is subject to change.
Mio starts out as a typical kuudere, soft-spoken, polite, and bookish. She sounds a lot like Kotomi at first, but the truth is that her personality and motivations are far from the beloved(?) CLANNAD character. She is capable of emotion, although it is rare enough that it feels so rewarding when she smiles. Despite her uninviting, anti-social demeanor, she does have her good points, as she is intelligent, helpful on occasion and does take consideration of her peers at times. She is not completely introverted, but not completely social either. She’s like a flower you want to reach out and touch, but cannot because you are afraid it might have thorns.
Before I talk about the route, I would like to talk briefly about Mio’s theme, ‘Approaching the Light’. This was my first exposure to the Little Busters! soundtrack, and even now, it is still my favorite character theme in the entire game. It fits Mio very well, but it also stands on its own as a theme of serenity and peace, a kind of peace that can only be found away from the liveliness of social gatherings. It is a song of finding beauty in solitude, and I enjoy both very much.
Her route is one of the more intelligently-written ones, and by intelligent, I mean two things:
It is not only a retrospective on the previous Little Busters routes and characters, but it also dives into the psychological aspects of introversion and the mental processes behind Mio’s decision to ‘disappear out of existence’, which is something I enjoy immensely, because of my own introverted nature.
There are way too many long-winded speeches and lectures in this route. It’s like Leo Kashida is the Christopher Nolan of visual novels. Every prominent character in this route, even Masato, who should not be able to even have the brainpower come up with thoughtful conversations, goes on at least one long-winded speech that, while not very interesting to listen to, does at least have something to do with the plot.
The character of Midori in this story has a similar role to Kanata in Haruka’s route. She is there to discourage the main character from completing his goal, so the player has to feel some sort of hatred for her in order to empathize with the main character. The main problem with this, however, is that while Kanata was clearly adamant in standing against Riki in order to not get anyone involved in her or her sister’s affairs and was stubborn enough to not be easily swayed by either him or her sister, Midori acts more as a temptress to test if Riki is strong and capable enough to help Mio return to reality. As a result, she comes off as a somewhat weaker conflicting character than Kanata, because it was never her intention to bar Riki from what he wanted. It could also be the fact that she is really nothing more than a figment of Mio’s imagination, and her thoughts and actions are influenced by Mio’s. That is not to say that she is a bad character, however. On the contrary, I almost expected the route to end the same way as Haruka’s, which I would have been completely happy with, but since it is apparent that Midori and Mio cannot exist together, it seems like that would not be possible.
Still, I am very happy with how the route ended: with the confession. Most of the routes have the confession as the midpoint of the story, but Kashida decided to make it part of the resolution, which is a welcome change to the usual formula. I have my qualms about this route, as with all the other routes, but I can safely say this one is one of my favorites, possibly even top-three material.