I have recently finished this route and basically came here to see if there are people who figured out just what the fuck exactly happened in the epilogue. But I guess there’s none, so I’ll say what I’ve got on my mind.
First of all, the character herself. I caught quite a few spoilers long before reading the route (because I, well, don’t know Japanese), including the fact that Saya kinda steals Riki from the rest of the Little Busters and that definitely took a toll on my opinion of her. By the time I started reading the route, though, I was cool enough with that all to at least think somewhat straight about the character and the route (but most likely, I’m still subject to prejudice).
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find Saya funny. I couldn’t get 100% invested in her state of mind and her troubles, because she didn’t kinda click with me even regardless of that tiny bit of initial aversion I had towards her, but I still enjoyed most of the scenes with her I was meant to enjoy (excluding the repetitive stuff) and understood the gravity of her story. I didn’t like her much from a personality standpoint, but I liked the way she gradually came to being okay with being herself around Riki. Other than that, there wasn’t much character development, but hey, it’s the shounen manga inspired route we’re talking about, isn’t it?
It is, and there lies one of the biggest screw-ups of the route. Action. I was meant to enjoy the shooting game, but I was actually thankful that it can be turned off. The dungeon crawler was no good either, I quickly got tired of it during the Replay. Key could’ve left all this out, and I wouldn’t enjoy the route less, yet it’d take me less time to do so. Efficiency.
So I’ve implied that I was going to read this route, not play it. And what matters most when it comes to written pieces? That’s right, you smart ass sons of guns, it’s the plot.
I already mentioned that since this is a shounen manga inspired route, action scenes and whatnot should’ve been this route’s one of the pivotal selling points. The action in this route was a big failure for the most part in my opinion, so what’s left is romantic component and/or the actual event line that is the plot’s backbone.
Romance in this route is something along the lines of a Colossus on clay feet. While it was quite good and believable for the most part thanks to the chemistry between Riki and Saya and the way they opened up to each other, it all began with a failure so major that I can’t put it into words. So you’re telling me Riki becomes obsessed over a girl he met 4 days ago, yet it takes him 2 to 4 weeks to fall in love with one of the girls he already knows? Stop giving me that bullshit. And there was no build to that sudden obsession whatsoever, all I got was a single crane game scene that, while having nothing wrong with itself, was so far from enough to properly build the romance I really can’t find the right words to describe it. It’s like this scene was put there simply to tick a box, but to build right romance, you’ve got to do so much more than that. It’s like Riki’s obsession was based purely on how “beautiful” Saya was (and it’s not my opinion, it’s what Maeda tried to make me think by repeatedly shoving that down my throat, which makes matters all the worse, every mention of Saya’s supposed beauty made me want to vomit rainbows, not in a good sense), how nice she smelled (problem described above) and the rope bridge effect (the thrill that people experience when put together in a dangerous situation gets confused with love). Like in Kud’s route, this failed start made it impossible to buy into the much more proper romance later on. I don’t have anything against Riki falling in love with Saya as a concept, but damn it, in almost every other case Riki falls in love with a girl when he realizes that she’s not just what it seems from the outside, but that she can become a lot more, and he wants to kinda go there with her. In Saya’s case, though, Riki becomes obsessed over a funny and interesting, but still static image. That’s not how you do romance in fiction. That’s not what I came here for.
Inb4 “justified by backstory tho!” yeah, I know Riki has met Aya before. But did Maeda really think that throwing in a simple “childhood friends” flag would do the job? Lol, no. Like, NO. To justify as much of an obsession as such that breaks even Kyousuke’s rules and makes Riki fall for Saya over and over and over again you’ve gotta spend a hell of a lot of screentime on building both the relationship as as organic as you possibly can and a character as a great a personality as it’s physically possible. But all I’ve got was something along the lines of “they met back in childhood, now shut up and eat my ‘Saya is the best’ rainbows”. Really, the fact that Saya is Maeda’s favorite character doesn’t help matters: it looks like to Maeda she was already the best there could be, so he forgot to build her for me as a reader. It actually felt that way from the way Saya was portrayed.
And yeah, all of that isn’t said to put any blame on the character. She didn’t write the route, after all.
Now the plot itself. Damn, I want to hug @Aspirety for voicing all that rage that welled up inside me because of how fucked up was the event line of the route and especially the ending. It took me quite a bit of discussing with my net buddies, googling and reading forums like this to finally figure out at least some kind of a solid understanding of what exactly happened.
Now, I understood the event line by myself as follows: Aya grows up never knowing real adolescence, gets killed in a landslide and either barely alive (if she is younger than Riki and the rest in reality) or already long dead and cold enters Kyousuke’s world as she too has a very strong unfulfilled wish: to have lived her youth like everyone else, and so on and so on.
She basically gets what she wanted in her route, or at least, the last Replay of it. After she shoots herself in the head, the epilogue is shown, where she, still a kid, tells her father about her experiences in Kyousuke’s world and goes to play with Riki. That ending is what I’ve been unable to understand: is Aya alive? Is she dead? Was the timeline split on that moment, or was it all a dream or a hallucination?
What really hit me after that was the fact that Saya’s light goes away from Kyousuke’s world after the epilogue. I never gave that enough attention at first, but after rewatching my livestream I facepalmed at the futility of whatever thought I put into the matter before. The epilogue happening before Aya’s light went out means it only happened in the illusional world, but never did so in reality. So as of now, the most plausible hypothesis for me is that after having her dreams fulfilled and regrets washed away, Aya was given the memories that we see as an epilogue and was finally able to peacefully pass away. I’m sorry to all who want to believe otherwise, but I try to base what I think on what I see and read, and if you point at a cause-and-effect chain that leads to a conclusion that Aya is somehow alive, I’ll gladly consider that and maybe agree with that.
So, all in all, I did enjoy Saya’s route to some extent, it was fun, but if you ask me, it’s oh so far from best, only Rin’s routes are below hers in my opinion, because Kud’s route was kind of saved by it’s fourth bad ending, which gives a lot of insight on Kud’s real wish and suffering.