Series: BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense
Studio/years aired: Silver Link, 2020- (a season 2 is confirmed and pending)
AniB’s thoughts: Piggybacking off the recent fun piece about naming series after absurd naming conventions in light novels as well as the winter anime season wrapping up, the first review of 2020 (and of a show from this year as well) is none other than BOFURI! After hearing some compelling feedback from some longtime readers, the simple concept of a girl who doesn’t play games stumbling into an overpowered MMO build was too hilariously intriguing to not check out. From my experience, the MMO, fantasy-esque genre does not usually produce compelling shows on a consistent basis, but BOFURI proves to be irresistible fun and a very pleasant surprise. For 12 episodes it kept up a good pace backed by a lead character who was compelling to watch her every move, and a universe, while simple and standard on some level, that offered the same excitement of exploring the unknown with these characters and all that came with it.
In a word, “fun” is the biggest selling point here, which the show gets amazing mileage from. The characters in this show are not very deep outside of Maple and her best friend Sally, but in many ways it matters little to the plot and pacing, which while simple, prove intoxicating in the ability to make a viewer want to see what happens next. Maple’s unpredictability becomes a focal point not just for the audience, but the in-show watchers and even the game developers themselves, amazed and frustrated in equal measure at how a genuinely sweet and naive girl is breaking the game they built so thoroughly.
It’s a breath of fresh air to have a show is both genre-savvy and doesn’t take itself too seriously at the same time. And while it’s still fine to have and acknowledge the the types of shows that either have higher stakes, more graphic action or darker premises, it’s surprisingly rare to just get something where the goal is nothing more than “the players have some fun, for themselves and each other” as a basic premise. BOFURI is a reminder in that way that simple ideas can still lead to amazingly enjoyable shows- and well executed ones at that. To grading!
Animation: Modern 2-D animation. In a breath of fresh air, a lot of action scenes and sequences that may had been recast in clunky CGI from shows in recent years are done in 2-D here- and it really pops. The fights in this show are satisfyingly flashy and fulfilling, but also fun- which happens when a show doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s almost intoxicating to get such a cheerful show within this genre given the push towards dark fantasy over the last several years- and that fun shines through. This aspect continues to the brightened colors and attractive character designs the show uses, and all of it is visually impactful.
Characters: As the extended title of BOFURI suggests, the main character is the one who decided to “max out her defense”- Maple. In real life, she’s known as Kaede Honjou, a girl who appears to be in junior high school and has never been a gamer in her life prior to attempting New World Online (a virtual reality MMO, the main setting of the show), at the request of her friend Risa. A sweet, kind girl but naive and slightly airheaded, she dons the name “Maple” in-game and starts playing her way-not knowing the first thing about the game, or standard conventions!
Risa, her friend from real life, joins Maple a few days later in the game under the name Sally. A cool note here, which is lost in translation is that “Sally” is an anagram of “Risa” in Japanese lettering, which unfortunately didn’t come through in English. An experienced gamer compared to her friend (who she teams up with), Sally possesses smarts, savvy and some excellent reflexes as she pursues an entirely different character build from Maple’s.
The main concern here is the lack of depth and basic nature among the cast’s overall development, but with such a strong and quirky lead in Maple/Kaede, it proves to be no detriment to the overall enjoyability of the show. Sally/Risa also receives some characterization, and as the gamer who convinced her best friend to get into the game, she’s a force to be reckoned with all her own. The other top players in the game prove to be more friendly than appearances or reputations initially let on, and while fierce competition, are gracious in defeat. A number of other players have interactions with either of the girls that also prove important as the show moves along (the outcomes of which might constitute spoilers, so watch the show!)
While it would be nice to see further development in the majority of the cast for season 2, simplicity can be a good aspect, and one could argue that the shallow nature of most characters is like that of a real MMO, as opposed to how Maple and Sally know each other in real life. BOFURI in turn isn’t trying to be a hardcore character drama or something that it’s not, instead playing to its strengths. The end result is refreshing.
Story: A rather straightforward by easy to follow tale where a non-gamer girl enters a new MMO game and proceeds to discover and progress through it in her own way, having fun. That really is the basic premise Bofuri operates on, but this scope gets expanded as the world gets bigger and Maple progresses eventually from being a virtual nobody. It’s not going to fool anyone in terms of complexity, but it does exhibit once again the ability for simple premises to be upgraded by good to great writing and a lead character who is strong.
Themes: The overarching drive of many categorical points in this review has been at the simplicity of the show- and in that sense, the themes are fine, but they aren’t going to blow your mind either. It’s not that kind of show, but the basics are there and executed adequately: strong friendship, camaraderie, good sportsmanship, and as mentioned several times, fun. How often can we forget that enjoyment itself can be a goal of a pastime- especially in games and competition? It’s true that we “play to win the game,” but something so fundamental is a reminder here.
Don’t Insult The Viewer: This show oozed intangibles, largely stemming from the general sense of “fun” it projects through every episode, and stellar fight sequences that tapped into the genre tropes and the animation style very well. One may also find that Maple is irresistible to watch- a unique blend of inexplicable moments and cuteness.
Total: 20/25 (80%): A great way to open the new decade of animated fare, BOFURI was a fun romp. A show like this one is a welcome breath of fresh air when it comes, and the second season will be awaited with good expectations. This is a show worth watching.
Like what you see? Watched BOFURI or plan to? Leave a comment!