BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. ?
I'm starting to have concerns that BOFURI may be running out of gas. After the previous episode capped off an in-game event without feeling terribly eventful, this week's opts for more of the procedural kinds of ordered actions I'd expect from lesser fantasy-life series. There's an odd distinction in this episode's cold-open featuring Kaede deciding she needs to take a break from New World Online because all the intense gameplay is affecting her real-world behavior, only to see her log back in after three days and just go back to faffing about anyway. For the past six weeks now, it was mostly easy to let BOFURI coast on this kind of low-impact time-killing in the game because the work between the characters propped it up: Maple and Sally were fun with strong chemistry, and they made inhabiting the game world with them seem like an entertaining prospect regardless of what they were doing in it. But that appeal has its limits, and while this episode tries to boost that in the natural way via a whole story about bringing new characters into the fold, it doesn't come off nearly as flavorful yet as those establishing episodes.
The impetus for the sudden ballooning of the central cast is a new feature in the game for our girls to try out: Maple and Sally already have a pair of matching rings and cute pets adopted, so the obvious next step is to move into a house together. It's also the first tip-off that this show I was once so delighted to check out week after week may be running out of steam, as not a few minutes in we're treated to them house-hunting via yet another montage to that same montage song they always use. Everything that follows proceeds just as by-the-numbers, the sword-and-board duo successfully recruiting characters we met in earlier episodes into the guild they'll be running out of this tree-house. It's all very procedural and distinctly lacking in even a whiff of conflict or questioned motives. I found myself genuinely wondering if we'd get a look into the decision-making process of all these people as they joined up; I was curious as to if they considered it specifically because of how powerful they knew Maple and Sally were, or how their reputations were growing in the game-world.
Unfortunately, there's not much doing on that front. The closest we get is the revelation that one of the folks in the Maple-sighting chat-room that's been glimpsed at the end of some episodes is one of the people now in her guild (implied to be Kuromu). Blink-and-you'll-miss-it as this text is, it offers little insight into how knowing of Maple's prowess influenced the party member's choice, mostly just expositing his respect for her and concerns about being left behind, power-level-wise. I'm not expecting a decidedly optimistic show like BOFURI to reveal any new friends our heroines make as cynically mercenary, but some sort of analysis would be preferable to time in the episode just being killed by people somewhat vapidly going along with whatever Maple and Sally ask of them. With the event passed, we don't even have the underlying threat of Sally's PVP skills hanging over these sorts of interactions!
This episode is less concerned with building up character dynamics between these new teammates than it is feeding us snippets of world details. After my questions about it in the previous arc, they clarify here that the ridiculously-accelerated in-game time is an event-specific thing. Kanade returning also lets him exposit about his item, which grants him a different random skill per day. While not as broken as some of the abilities Sally and Maple have come up with, it does highlight the unconventionality the main characters have inspired in those playing around them. Along with the way Maple's powered-up pragmatism also feeds into pushing her party members, this demonstrates how she's becoming more of an influence on the game's world, reflected as well in her growing fame that, at this point, it seems only she is unaware of. It just would be nice to see some real interactive dynamics between all these new party members while we're showing off these bigger-picture influences.
For all my issues, this episode picks up a bit in its second half as Maple finds herself with an actual goal: Actively recruit more members for the guild outside the circle of friends she's already made. It's funny to see Maple's somewhat blase reaction to being tasked with the responsibilities of a guild leader, as well as a tacit acknowledgement that, their own notoriety aside, Maple and Sally's highly unconventional builds might not be what other players are looking to party up with. It gets tied up in Maple seeking to recruit the twins May and Yui, themselves having maxed out their points in attacking, but seemingly not yet duplicated Maple's freak-of-nature statistical success. The main takeaway in Maple's push to recruit them seems to double back to her ideal of playing the game for fun first and everything else second. The initial idea might have been to recruit enough guild-members to participate in an event, but Maple mostly just wants to give these two kids a place they'll be able to enjoy themselves playing with others. It highlights an eventual dynamic the Maple Tree guild might come to: A place for unusually-built players to come together and support each other.
To that point, the episode wraps on a time-tested tradition of online-gaming: Having your friends power-level you through the earlier parts of the game. This at last gets to the ‘fun’ element the show's always been trying to drive at, production values noticeably rising to show off, what else, Sally going to town in a fight. Interestingly, it's the same deer monster from a few episodes ago, and the show also uses this opportunity to make clear how far our heroes have come since then: Maple doesn't get knocked out this time! So as leisurely as this episode got, it at least finishes with something of a climax to its little arc. And hey, the very ending actually shows off the kinds of silly interactions new characters like May and Yui might be bringing to the table (which they inadvertently destroy with their maxed-out attack). So there's still hope for BOFURI to really get back into its groove, but I'm watching it with keen concern at this stage.
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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