BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. ?
I've talked at length before about the effective dissonance BOFURI mines from typical video-game-action anime setups executed with atypical tones and character types. It's a clever cross-pollination that has characters like Maple come into their story-dominating power levels because of their cutesy personalities, the genre mash-ups feeding into each other. And after building up those powers and how the members of her guild interact in gaining and using them, this blowout of a tournament arc is all about firmly showing off the apex of those efforts. The dynamic spread of this event storyline is just another notch in that winning formula, a big brawl that plays like if Dragon Ball Super's Tournament of Power was fought by the cast of YuruYuri. It's wild, and though this episode is the most standard example yet of a string of big fights, still carries that winning BOFURI charm.
Escalating on from last week, one of the big selling points here is seeing what crazy crap characters other than Maple can get up to. It actually made me grateful that we'd had that scene a few weeks back of Kanade dutifully testing out his new powers. It turns out that beyond setting up his own superpowered showcase, the idea was to also communicate to the audience that all the other main characters were working at tuning themselves, to show us how far they'd come. Some are more understated, like getting to see how Iz really fights (using explosives, somewhat surprisingly) to shocking revelations like Kuromu's demonic ‘Dead or Alive’ power, which underscores one of several moments of real tension this episode. Even with the boon of Maple, BOFURI has made clear that the others in her Tree aren't consistently-protected by powered-up plot armor, as May and Yui's showcase wraps with them each losing a life anyway. Virtual Reality though it is, that loss still provoked an anguished 'No!' from me as I was watching.
Most of the episode being just showing off, some of the tidier writing elements don't carry through as well as they were previously. Enthralled as I was with the setup, I was quite looking forward to the payoff on Sally's fake skills she used against Frederica last week. And BOFURI gets ready to deploy that about halfway through, pitting Sally against an actual army led by Frederica. And the moment of Frederica's realization of what Sally did plays out with satisfying impact, but that turns out to be all it is, a moment. My issue is that there's little in the way of paying off why Sally had to use fake skills to hold out the way she ends up doing. All she ends up really affecting is Frederica thinking she doesn't have any cooldown left before revealing that she, in fact, does. Things might have worked out tighter had there been more indication from the storytelling that Frederica's command of the soldiers had her mistakenly order some sort of all-out attack at what turns out to be an inopportune time. As-is, Sally just ends up surprising Frederica a bit before she runs out of gas and has to have Maple rush in to save her anyway.
Maple's deployment in the back half of this episode is another point that doesn't mesh well with what I like about the previous episode, mainly in terms of thematics. Yes it's great to see Maple run to the lines just in time to rescue her ladyfriend, and it sets up the dramatic portion where May and Yui are left alone to guard Maple Tree's orbs. But then it ends up setting the stage to show off Sally's next plan of attack: Sending Maple, May, and Yui on the offensive to gather orbs from multiple other guilds in one fell swoop. As I described last week, I was fond of the setup of leaving that trio back at base, as it fit their style being less predisposed to going after fellow game-players. Utilizing Maple as their own MMO WMD does make sense as an escalated strategy for the guild to pivot to, and also ensures that this whole arc won't be structured exactly the same, but also sidesteps those characteristic concepts with little more dramatic reasons. I know BOFURI is less concerned with thematic consistency than it is explosively adorable game antics, but I was still into what attempts it was making.
But even with that kind of gloss-over it's extremely difficult not to enjoy BOFURI on its own terms here. Turning Maple loose this way lets us revel in one of the best elements it's been building up all series, as we see other random players react in dread and horror as this superpowered shield shimbo approaches like some ominous, turtle-riding harbinger of doom. It really sells the slow-burn legend of Maple those chat sections at the end of every episode have been working on, as we've actually gotten to see her evolution from being able to merely shrug off attacks and win a war of attrition with opponents, to laying waste to an entire army with a wall of mecha lasers or walking straight through trap-filled enemy territory without getting a scratch on her.
That's setup for the big Maple versus Mii fight I'm looking forward to next week, and another reason I'm more okay with BOFURI's structural left-turns this go-around (as well as not looking quite as nice as usual). This is clearly a big arc with more to it coming, and for as frivolous as the show has intentionally seemed at times, it's working hard to lay groundwork through all of this one. Allusions are made to Sally's underlying emotional reasons for pushing herself through this fight, or foreshadowing that Maple's fabled armor may have an Achilles heel to it. There's a lot going on, but it all feels like it's going somewhere, even if it's not where I expected or even originally wanted. But I think what I like about BOFURI right now is that even as it spreads out its focus and escalates in outrageously exciting ways, it still feels like good old lovable BOFURI. Not many other shows can make a video-game battle royale feel like comfort food, but here we are.
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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