Original Run: January 8, 2020 - March 25, 2020 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Isekai Based on the Series Created By: Yuumikan and Koin
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense. Reader discretion is advised.***
New World Online is the latest virtual reality MMORPG that is taking the globe by storm. Veteran gamer, nicknamed Sally (voiced by Ruriko Noguchi), convinces her best friend, nicknamed Maple (voiced by Kaede Hondo), to try the game out. Maple is not familiar with video games but is forced to start on her own since Sally has to study for upcoming tests.
However, in a very short amount of time, Maple manages to turn New World Online on its head.
Maple is worried about getting hurt while playing. Therefore, she decides to put all her skill points into defense. Although this action might seem insignificant and noob-ish, it puts Maple on the road to becoming an unstoppable tank. Soon most enemies, and even most players, are unable to deal any damage to her.
Without meaning to, Maple succeeded in breaking the game in such a fantastical way it made the entire experience much more fun.
Having two isekai anime with similar concepts come out in the same season is not new. For the 2020 winter season, we got Infinite Dendrogram and the focus of this review, BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense (BOFURI).
In both shows, the main character is playing a virtual reality video game. While inside, the protagonists level up their skills and interact with other players. In time, they become central figures in their respective game’s community.
Where these two series differed was with their atmospheres.
Infinite Dendrogram took a much more — I’m going to say — realistic approach. It tried to assert that its virtual reality was an authentic parallel-world. The show suggested that its NPCs (Non-Player Characters) had free will, emotions, destinies, and that there were actual consequences for failure, or as the series put it, permadeath.
BOFURI’s take was that video games, especially MMORPGs, are fun, silly experiences people use to relax and enjoy themselves. Players, typically, should not need to worry about the immense stress of saving an entire civilization.
One of these series was quite enjoyable, with well-crafted character interactions, an exciting story, and plenty of humor. The other was Infinite Dendrogram, which was a tedious slog-fest that crumbled under the weight of its complexity.
The two best aspects of BOFURI were Maple and Sally. Together, they made a remarkably effective team; and that is the point I want to make. Although the overpowered Maple served as the primary driving force behind this story, she was only one side of the coin. For her part, Sally could take on hoards of enemies alone, she was a master strategist, and she was every bit as frightening as Maple was. It was a combination of Maple’s raw power and Sally’s quick-thinking that allowed them to become two of the game’s most prominent players.
As this series progressed, the foundation of teamwork established by Maple and Sally continued when their duo grew to become the guild Maple Tree. Here again, Maple and Sally were easily the most powerful players of the group. Still, all the members had their roles to play, and each of them had skills that qualified them to do specific tasks better than the rest. This propelled the entire guild, not just its leaders, into becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Also, the central game of BOFURI, New World Online, was precisely that, a game. This wasn’t some fantasy world on the brink of destruction. No, this was a giant sandbox for players to do what they wanted to do.
When Maple and Sally were playing, they could be found exploring and enjoying the tiny nuances of the game. Along the way, they found special gear and earned unique skills that allowed them to increase their strength, but getting cool loot was never their drive. They never needed to fight an enemy that was preventing them from merely playing the game. Consequently, their actions would also not get in the way of what anyone else was doing.
The only obstacles in this show came during the New World Online special events. These were just challenges that tested the skills of the players. They were voluntary, and a person risked nothing to join them. Although people who ranked high in an event got decent rewards, there wasn’t anything that would require anyone to resort to devious schemes and diabolical intentions. These events were gamesmanship at its finest, and through them, healthy rivalries, not bitter enemies, were formed.
To put it another way: You do find yourself rooting for Maple and Maple Tree in a fight; you want to see them win. However, if they did lose, it was no big deal; better luck next time.
BOFURI was a relaxing series to sit through. It was also exciting and entertaining. And this show managed to do this with a concept no more complicated than turning on a video game.
As of this review going live, a second season is in the works. I’m not entirely sure where a continuation can go, but I am very much interested in finding out.
I’m a little torn to write anything here. Many of the issues I had with this series are rectifiable in a season two, which, as I said, is in the works.
For instance, it would have been nice to spend more time with the members of Maple Tree that were not Maple or Sally. The rest of the group had attributes about them that seemed like they could be fun if explored, such as the strength-focused sisters Yui and May (voiced respectively by Nanaka Suwa and Ai Kakuma). During the last event of the season, Maple made a comment that makes me think these two are hiding some of their abilities.
Along with that, we never got much exposure to Maple Tree’s two most prominent rival guilds, Order of the Holy Sword and the Flame Emperors. Again, since this show didn’t turn other players into enemies, we got glimpses of the inner workings of these two groups. And from what I could tell, there was plenty of personality to create fun side stories.
When you get down to it, BOFURI, although it did a lot, didn’t quite do enough. While I don’t know what direction a second season will go in, I do believe there is enough material to make something happen. I, for one, would like to see more attention given to secondary characters and have them play a much more substantial role.
Like I said, these issues might be addressed in the next season. For the time being, though, I think it is fair to say that BOFURI hasn’t yet been given the room to become something genuinely fantastic.
Oh, and one more thing. During an event, having an in-game week be only two real-world hours feels like a necessary stupidity to me. Naturally, a game can’t expect its players to play non-stop with no bathroom, meal, or sleep breaks for five days straight. These long battles were exciting, but the reasoning behind how they functioned was difficult for me to grasp.
I don’t mind calling this series the best isekai anime I’ve seen so far this year.
This show focused more on making its characters fun and engaging, and not trying to shove as much plot as possible into twelve episodes. As a result, we had a simple story that was immensely entertaining. Fights were exciting, the atmosphere was pleasant, and the whole thing was quite addicting.
I can’t wait for season two.
BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense has earned a recommendation
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.