Welp, I officially love Little Busters now.
When I went into Refrain, I was expecting something epic, something that would bring new meaning to friendship and make me enjoy the characters a lot more than I already have. Every expectation I had for Refrain was completely obliterated, both to the story's benefit and detriment.
I was, truthfully, not expecting Maeda to pull an Endless Eight and rehash parts of the common route to show how the world was restarting. In fact, it actually justifies the branching paths of the visual novel, as each end canonically resets at a certain point. Rin is supposed to be the 'canon girl' in this case, since Refrain has a huge focus on her. However, I can easily disprove that she is so, because they never do get together romantically, and their relationship is instead treated as 'sibling-like'.
Major themes found in Refrain is the need for identity, individuality and expression, as well as personal growth. For example, Riki believes that the only way for him to regroup the Little Busters is become like Kyousuke, but Kengo tells him that it would only lead to an undesired path. What I got out of it was that Riki does not need to become Kyousuke in order to regroup the team, or else he would not be Riki. Kyousuke even points out that the reason he formed the baseball team was to fulfill his own desire for identity and expression. Riki must instead become a stronger person by taking on the responsibility of the team's leader, and help each of the members grow and understand one another.
Now, as exceptionally meaningful and tightly-written as Refrain is, it is not flawless. Maeda did not stop at rehashing parts of the common route, he decided to unnecessarily repeat lines that I heard five minutes ago, just in case I did not get it the first time. These sections, particularly Kengo's, became rather boring as a result. Some parts benefit from alternate retellings of these repeated lines, such as Masato's and Kyousuke's (to an extent) backstories. However, they really just serve to bore me when it should be getting a move on.
Now, I know what a lot of you are asking: Did Refrain make me cry? Well, out of the many scenes where any emotional person would have cried, I can safely say that I did not cry at any of them. I came pretty close, though. Playing through the route all night long instead of sleeping like I should has probably affected that as well, since I was more bored than emotionally drained.
There's probably a lot about Refrain I still do not understand at the moment, but what can I say? I'm too tired to talk anymore about it, anyways. Maybe when I read this again, I will come up with a lot more to talk about, especially when the eventual Bookclub starts. In the meantime, I would like to close by saying that I am so glad I read Little Busters! when I did. It is an enjoyable read from start to finish, is incredibly satisfying to read, and, while it has its flaws, it is an amazing experience that every Key fan should read. I am thankful for the people who have recommended Little Busters! to me, and I am very grateful to be in such a joyous, passionate, and friendly community that supports visual novels like these. You guys are awesome. Also, a very special thanks to @yerian98 for advice on route order.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get some well-deserved sleep. :3