Alright, I’m gonna make one of my infamous theory posts. I don’t think I have the energy to go through the route step-by-step like I did with the common route, but I will be talking about my thoughts and feelings for the future, and address a common complaint about this route from some of the newbies: how it feels incomplete, like one half of a story. I don’t disagree, but I think that out of the routes we have so far witnessed (maybe out of all the route pre-Rin2) Kurugaya’s contains the most pieces of the larger puzzle. With that, I’m going to put everything into a details box here, so that those of you who are not interested in being potentially spoiled can cruise on safely by, and I will also avoid a longer scroll for those of you searching for a specific post. I’m also going to be linking plot points and scenes from Rin1, Mio and Komari in my search for the Secret of the World. Are you ready for Refrain speculation? I’m ready.
The White (spoilers for Rin1, Mio and Komari)
Alright so, Kurugaya has a lot of problems with emotional expression, I’ve talked a little bit earlier about how she puts on a bit of a mask in order to protect herself, I still genuinely believe that she has felt emotions before but is afraid to now because it would make her vulnerable. Why am I obsessing over this? Why does it matter to the overarching story? because of this:
Kurugaya tells us a story, and considering that the Tanka poems in Mio’s book and Komari’s picture book were both incredibly relevant to understanding and communicating with their related characters, I think that any story Kurugaya tells is also going to be incredibly relevant to communicating with her.
Let’s unpack this a little bit:
“One day, I picked up some flowers
They were beautiful flowers growing by the side of the road
And I took them back with me
…But before long they withered away.”
There is deep deep regret in Kurugaya’s words, and in the context of the route this sets up the tragic love story between Riki and Kurugaya, who, by the nature of a route Visual Novel, cannot stay together forever. As I’m sure we’re all aware by now there are elements of continuity to the routes, with different characters interacting and helping Riki depending on completion of other routes. I’m not going to spend lot of time outlining the differences it should be self-evident by this point. Riki also comments as such in the Bad End of Komari’s route:
He’s semi-aware of the structure of his own story. In the same way that he talked earlier in Rin1 about the Little Busters team being only as strong as the individuals making it up, Riki by the time we get to Refrain will be strengthened by the contributions of all of the Busters. Riki rejected the lesson of Rin1 (by not letting Rin go to the other school) learned about acknowledging others and how identities are sustained through interaction with others. In Komari’s route the spiral of happiness taught us how we should reinforce others and they in turn will support us. Kurugaya’s route teaches us about loss in the most direct way Obviously I’m reducing the route’s meaning a bit, but for Riki all of the routes so far have been teaching Riki (and by extension us, the players) how to value others, value friendships, and to value love.
Kurugaya’s route is a little different, something that even Kyousuke points out:
In previous theories I had identified Kyousuke as a sort of subconscious part of Riki’s mind pushing him towards Refrain. Now, I still would be very excited if that were the case, but given a lot of the symbolism I am lead to believe that not only is Kyousuke responsible for the messages in Rin1 about the Secret World (we’ve basically had confirmation that Kengo isn’t super involved with that, he’s too busy taking care of sweet Koshiki like a gentlemen) but that he in some ways has influence over the space Riki is in, and he knows what’s going to happen in each of the routes as Riki advances down them. Once again, I could explain this as Riki’s subconscious, but there’s a large amount of symbolism pointing me towards a more ‘spiritual’ answer, which I will get into later. For now let’s focus on Kyousuke’s intent, which brings me to @Pepe’s key point:
I believe Kyousuke knows exactly what’s going on, as evidenced by his pushing of Riki in previous routes towards the heroines Riki shows interest in, and in particular ships Riki hard with Rin with his Lennon-based messages. Kyousuke wants Riki not just to find love with these girls, but also to learn a lesson from each of them in his buildup to become stronger and more open for Refrain. Kyousuke knows that the lesson Riki must learn in this chapter is a) to embrace relationships that may not last forever and b) to get a taste of what it’s like to lose that relationship. The second part is especially important to me because Kyousuke knows once we get to Refrain Riki won’t be able to just rely on his friends to make it through his hardship. He will have to be able to cope with loss on his own. Kyousuke is ‘putting Riki down’ partly because he doesn’t want to see him hurt, but more importantly because Riki has to understand the importance of ‘moving forward’ on his own. Kyousuke is effectively gaining informed consent before he puts Riki through the grinder.
So, obviously Riki becoming more independent is a big theme of the common route, but this is the first romantic relationship we’ve seen that Riki had to take initiative on because his prospective partner wasn’t able to work up the courage to pursue him herself. What possible application could this have for the future? Well…
This is the big theory I’m certain of. Read ahead at your own risk.
Alright, it’s time for the Maguharutrice conspiracy theory for Rin2 and possibly Refrain.
I believe that most if not all of the Busters we interact with in this novel have died before the events of the game.
deep breath Hooooooo boooooooiiiiii
I really wish this was a baseless accusation, but after reading through three routes and seeing as what I can only describe as a buttload of death foreshadowing (such as the white bird of Mio’s route, the abandoned desks and chairs in Komari’s, some of the Battle Ranking titles are things like ‘Black Reaper of Doom’ and the way that a lot of the Bad Ends seem to go… I have strong reason to believe that the setup of the novel occurs after a traumatic event involving a lot of death, and I think it’s the deaths of the Little Busters. We already know that there was a traffic accident with only two survivors, Rin and Riki are the only two characters with stats that actually carry from one save to the next (implying they can learn and change from their experiences in each route) and there are eight lights in the idle screen.
…Yes, that’s what I said. Or at least, there were eight lights. There are currently five remaining, having lost one after each route with a credits scene.
Taken from the ‘Ripples’ Youtube video on the Kazamatsuri channel. We can clearly see eight lights dancing around and creating ripples, interacting with each other a bit before finally colliding together and splitting again.
And here we have a screenshot after completing Kurugaya. Five lights left.
I believe these lights represent the routes as we complete them, and more importantly represent the ‘wishes’ of each of the characters.
She’s not just talking about Refrain, she’s literally talking about all the other Busters. Komari’s ‘Spiral of Happiness’ is straight up referring to how Riki will be able to change and grow by helping the other girls to grant their own wishes. Kurugaya even talks about her own ‘wish’ being granted in her route. The entire point of this VN is that Riki is giving the girls their last wish before their souls are laid to rest.
Komari Kamikita plays a big role in this, and I think helps tie the story further towards a spiritual angle, based on her family name. ‘Kami’ are a concept of the Shinto religion and are essentially helpful spirits of humanity. I think Komari fits the bill as a ‘helpful spirit’ quite nicely, and the other characters I believe share her situation. I believe that the white bird, the lights, the death symbolism, everything ties into these characters having passed long ago, and Riki is being given a chance by ‘Kyousuke’ to see them on their way, and grant both them and himself peace. I should also mention the final change made by Komari to the Little Match Girl story, which Riki put together:
After burning the matches, the grandmother disappears, and the girl passes away after having many great memories. I believe this to be symbolic of Komari having been granted peace by Riki and finally being able to rest. I think that this is an incredibly poignant way to leave the route because well, Komari says it’s okay for people to pass on. The important thing is to remember them for what they were and remember the happy influence they left on your life. The most important detail for the theory of course, is that the ending was painted over by Riki first, to be a happy one. But then, after ‘many great memories’ Komari painted over his ending with a slightly more realistic ending. This is almost certainly what we’ll be getting with Refrain. This novel and the relationships we’re experiencing are Riki’s ‘happy ending’ but one that doesn’t feel realistic, and Komari leads him forwards, towards a place where he can ‘see a little better, if only a little’. Riki isn’t ready to deal with his grief yet, but Komari can help with what little Riki is willing to accept.
Okay, that was a detour, back to reality. What happened to the other Busters? I think there are enough clues so far that I can pinpoint the event that started all of this. A traffic accident. Specifically with one of those small school busses, the grey ones that you’d take on a school trip.
There are a number of scenes in this route that relate to this, let’s tackle another Key point from @Naoki_Saten
The piano melody that plays is described by Riki as such:
We get a number of scenes in which this melody plays over strange non-chronological scenes, as well as the regular scenes involving Kurugaya. In some of them there are large black words that appear over a white background like so:
The colours are flipped during the credits, the colour scheme looking to me in the context of the route to look distinctly like piano keys
It almost seems to imply that Kurugaya is ‘speaking’ through the melody she’s playing, and when the melody plays Riki is conjured an image, that of a riverside in snow, and looking out of a glass window. I believe that he is remembering the moments before his life turned upside down, when his whole World was shattered by the reality of death and tragedy. The message that the route tells, of the tragedy of a relationship that must end one day, is calling to him and making him remember the event that started all of this off. This also ties in with the scene from Mio’s route where Riki and Mio discuss getting away from here, which they do by the riverside. It’s also the same location that the Busters take their picture at after Kengo joins up with them. I think that either they hit a snowdrift (the month before the game took place is towards the end of the snowy season, it lines up) or the bus took a wrong turn into the river, something like that. Somehow Rin and Riki survived on their own and now Riki is being given a chance to cope with it all.
So, we’re given a nice hint towards the end of the route about Kurugaya’s broadcasts. Something I couldn’t help but chuckle at:
The damn thing isn’t plugged in. As covered in Komari’s route ‘dreams’ (and this is all a dream, supernatural or coma) are based off of memories, and by Mio’s route, memory can be unreliable. It is not even a slight stretch of the laws of this World to say that the music is playing in Riki’s head without Kurugaya actually having to play it through the speaker system. The song is his connection to her, and a connection to the tragic day where everything went wrong.
As has been covered by Riki himself, in his narcoleptic state there is no ‘light’ or dark’ HOWEVER there is blackness, representative of nothing. If we spin the proverbial chessboard then ‘White’ is everything. Riki himself is represented by the colour ‘White’ in the Batting Levelup Screen. We see Riki numerous times in this route sees rain as snow, and I also am very aware that rain is associated with many bad things happening (lots of that in Komari, starting with the death of the kitten in the gutter) and snow seems to share a similar purpose. Riki cannot venture out into the rain because it would overwhelm him, and he would remember the ‘whiteness’ (the accident in the snow).
So, to me… the tragedy of this route is compounded because the entire dialogue that Kurugaya and Riki have at the end of the route is about how they don’t want to be apart, but I believe that a) they already are apart and Riki doesn’t know it at this time, and b) he needs to understand the pain he’s feeling now for the ‘lesson’ of this arc to take effect. All of the hardship and pain that we’re watching Riki go through with his friends is nothing compared to the grief he will experience once his mind has gained enough strength to move out from his ‘sanctuary’ and confront the future. In order for Riki to complete this route he needs to move forward and accept the deaths of his friends. This ending really hurt to read after realizing that. The route teaches Riki that sadness is okay, and prepares him for the road ahead. A road that I can only hope the rest of the Busters are ready to support him on, whether or not they’re memories guiding him or spirits I don’t really mind at this point. The important thing is that Riki needs to change.
So, eight deaths, one traumatized Riki, a bunch of routes for him to try and piece things together… what am I missing?
Well, there’s this shot from the OP. Probably the only one that I have very little idea what it means. I’m having difficulty even identifying the characters and honestly I’m in a good place right now. I feel like I’m in a good place with the story and understanding the characters and themes is always my top priority. I’m not quite as interested in predicting events and story twists and such.
There is one more Key point I’d like to address before signing off, from @taka
I think she gets better at expressing her emotions as Riki grows closer to her. They support each other and the final scene of the route is all about showing how they’ve helped each other to share their emotions and not be so walled-off. I think that Kurugaya’s statement that she’s never felt an emotion in her life is untrue, I think that this is just the first time she’s felt truly at ease, being able to put her own soul in the hands of the one she loves, hoping that he will give her a chance at happiness.
Sweet mother, that was a doozy to write up. I could probably go on and on about certain details but honestly I’d rather not go into into much further in this post. If there’s anything at all you’re curious of my perspective or interpretation on, either message me here or on Discord, or leave a reply. Send me a tweet, email me, throw me a letter via carrier pigeon, whatever you like really. I have had a wonderful time sorting through all of this and there’s so much more I could talk about with you guys.