BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. ?
BOFURI is sure to keep us reminded that some big-deal in-game events are coming up, including that important-sounding guild-battle one. That's key to the pace it's keeping here, since right now it's firmly into recreating the way you and your friends just grind and kill time in an MMO between those more major occurrences. There's a knowing line from Maple at the beginning of this one that “it gets pretty boring doing the same thing every time", so just as her and her adorable adopted lower-level players May and Yui opt to try for a time-trial take on the dungeon they've been power-leveling through, so does BOFURI seek to tweak some of its formats just enough to be more interesting than it was last week, as well as coasting more comfortably on the charisma of its characters.
The scattered vignette structure is still around in spirit for the beginning of this one, but with the caveat that the characters are out on their own, specifically working on level-grinding in preparation for the upcoming events. It lends us a unique opportunity to see how some of them tackle NWO on their own terms, as was so endearing with just Maple in the first couple episodes. The results here are a bit mixed. Kanade, for instance, has a segment entirely made up of him chilling in a library methodically learning how new skills and items he gets work. It seems to be setting up for a flashier display of how he'll exploit his powers later, but for now has all the excitement of reading a Player's Guide. That said, it still ties into an overall arc we see to the members of the Maple Tree Guild here: As May and Yui work out new strength-multiplying skills from training with Maple and Sally, and Kuromu's longer road of training as a Great Shielder pays off with a new set of armor for him, that idea that this Guild houses and hones players with more unusual, possibly-exploited builds keeps taking hold.
Maple's style of thinking outside the traditional gaming box was her first step on this superpowered skill-tree, and having a team to herself means those boons can apply to them as well. Just as Sally was inspired to go for an atypical speed-based setup with little defense, the others find themselves getting less complacent with their playstyles in the name of higher rewards from those risks. Kuromu gets a line worrying that the new armor he finds might curse him, initially making me think he'd pass up using it, only to be shown to have donned it anyway the next scene. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it seems this guy who got here through a lot of trial and error learned that big lesson from the girl he saw in the forest bold enough to take a nap with a horde of monsters attacking her.
Their motivations towards playing this way are also touched on, exemplified best again by Kuromu. Apart from Maple's idealism towards becoming friends with all the players she meets, Kuromu muses on his understanding of the harsh truth that there are plenty of nasty people willing to ruin others' good times online. Thus, while he takes on Maple's unique philosophy in regards to skills, his renewed hard work is also borne out of wanting to protect the pleasantries of her and the other newer players in the Guild. It's a realization that rounds me back to Sally's split-off player-killing activities a couple episodes ago, making me consider that the idealized point of BOFURI is more centralized on Maple's point-of-view, and not shying away from the fact that regular combat and competition, and all the salt that comes with it, is a cornerstone of these kinds of games for most people.
It makes an amusing contrast in the other guild we see preparing for the big event towards the end of this episode: They're all shadowy schemes and gambits being set up as though they have some urgent need to take the Maple Tree gang down, though we know that those kids are really all just playing for fun. As I've described before, I really appreciate how BOFURI articulates that enjoying oneself playing the game they want to while still excelling at it can go hand-in-hand. There have been games where I found myself picking defensive classes like tanks just so I could last longer, and learning how to really fulfill that role while playing with my friends was an enriching experience. It's fun to see how Maple's quirks and attitude towards the game haven't really disappeared even as she's become more knowledgeable and skilled at it. She knows what she's doing shredding through dungeons for experience and time-based bonuses, sure, but she's still prone to entertaining us with ridiculous Sonic Spinball maneuvers or rolling around in a giant wad of poisoned wool she created, yelling for help while Kasumi looks on. The extra party members there still don't really have her level of cutesy charisma (the twins are close), but centralized as these antics are on Maple, they're still amusing just with the extra deadpan reactions from these formerly more ‘regular’ gamers.
It seems to be in the name of demonstrating Maple's growth that the latter portion of this episode comes along, and it kind of seals the deal in exemplifying why this episode and the series in general works as well as it does. It's a return to Maple's one-woman-show that was so endearing back in the first episode, but with her more knowledgeable bent I described. She still comes off as the more simplistic gamer-girl we've come to know and love, but she's just a bit more aware of how NWO works. It lets the humor evolve, with the jokes now less being about her fumbling around with no idea what she's doing, and more that her approach to the game and its quests is something this poor RPG still just isn't built for; It's funny to see she's become aware of how she's breaking the game in places. And it's relatable too, as I'm sure plenty of us have had a moment in a game where we completed a task or level not quite in the way the engine intended, with some odd dissonance from the narrative and NPCs as a result.
The ‘fun’ aspect of BOFURI works in its favor through a lot of this episode. Even the major power-up Maple scores I can buy easily: Boosts as rewards for quest lines are a standard part of these kinds of MMORPGs, apart from the contrivances such deliveries can feel like in more ‘typical’ fantasy shows. It's thematic too, as Maple's defensive spirit now encapsulates her guild-mates both figuratively and literally! In general, even as it accomplished only slightly more than last episode, the overall energy on this one just registered with me more strongly. That tangible charm I've appreciated so much about the show really seemed to be back, and I appreciated it all the more for it.
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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