BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 8 of
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. ?
There's just something about Maple. It's an effective mantra I had to basically keep repeating to myself throughout this episode. That's not meant as an excuse for our high-hit-point heroine's ability to stumble into still more game-unblanacing power-ups as the writing demands (she gets two more huge ones just this week) but more an acknowledgement of how Maple as the main character constantly doing these things nets more success for her and her show than under more typical circumstances. It's been a recurrent base lying under my critical evaluations of BOFURI thus far, but it bears repeating, especially in the wake of the absurd additional heights Maple reaches in this episode: If an anime with more typical framework and characterizations did what BOFURI is doing, it would be a total slog. But BOFURI is anything but typical, and this is an episode that really lets us count the ways how.
Following up on the second half of the previous episode, this is another one almost entirely focused on solo action by Maple. Her carrying characterization really is key to everything, even if it's playing on Easy Mode as much as she's ended up doing: Sure, making the overpowered main character a cute girl with the total IQ of an unplugged toaster is an obvious anime subversion of the bland self-insert potato-guy placeholding so many other VRMMO and isekai shows, but that hardly detracts from the fact that Maple genuinely is more entertaining than all those other guys. Her personality carrying the action even when she's just steamrolling progressively bigger monsters is on display in the first of several big boss fights this episode, her hopping up and down as a big chibified ball of wool, squealing in delight as her massive pet turtle looses a gigantic laser beam on the enemy. It's charm like that you don't get from someone in a more serious show methodically detailing how they're breaking a system on purpose.
BOFURI is decidedly a low-stakes comedy, however, this is how it gets away with making this stuff fun to watch even lacking tension over whether Maple's going to win or not. Maple only stumbles into this fight because she finds herself struggling with the latest event of chasing down and killing cute cows. The high agility of these special target enemies means the players have finally hit a situation that Maple can't totally own at, so her friends' advice to just go off, do her own thing, and have fun leads her into this ridiculous counter-encounter. As I already said, the whole thing is a delight, especially cutting between the antics of everyone else cutting through swaths of the adorable cow enemies to Maple taking on this horrible vore-demon. We even get to see a repeat of her classic strategy of eating the enemy to death, this time from the inside!
That's the other kind of contrast anchoring the comedic architecture that keeps this episode up: Maple's powers have always been a touch on the oddly dark and demonic side, so they just go all the way with it now. She shows off in her second boss fight that she can turn into an actual giant demonic monster form, ending up nearly reenacting the scene of the berserk and hungry Unit-01 in Evangelion. Except it's still Maple, so it's all just an effectively cute antic. It's a knowing deployment of the in-game setting powering BOFURI. The playstyles and skills we take on compliment our goals, but might not perfectly line up with our actual aesthetic. Maple-zilla here stomps around and roars as it disembowels this thrashed Treebeard boss, but it's punctuated by Maple gleefully declaring from within how much better she can protect all her friends now. Those friends are here to watch and remark on how much fun Maple is to watch at this point.
It's not a total fourth-wall break, but the guildies' spoken awareness of the absurdity of Maple at this point is another acknowledgement that helps make this show work better than others might. Those other average isekai and VRMMO shows obviously don't shy away from supporting cast members gasping in awe at the cipher leads' overblown abilities, but here, in this game-specific comedic context, the rest of Maple Tree get to react with mild bemusement and agree with the idea that a main character probably shouldn't be this busted. The other characters otherwise have minimal roles this episode, which might normally be cause for detraction, though the snippets they do get are real entertaining this go-around. Criminally underused blacksmith Iz gets to show off the cute sheep-themed armor she made to help in the event, while Kasumi shows that Maple's distinct decision-making processes may be rubbing off on her in a hilarious snippet of struggling not to push a ‘do not touch’ button.
But the rest of this really is just Maple stumbling from quest to boss fight to power-up with little in the way of connecting threads or themes, and it still works great. In a different context, I could be pretty harsh on how contrived the Shield Heroine's acquiring of important items, legendary leading lore, and boss-breaking new abilities would be, but there's a generally pleasant tone about BOFURI's antics at this point, bolstered so much by Maple herself. The series is still having a great time drawing her incidental facial expressions and free-form handling of battle situations. And it's still innovating in style as well, as the team's ascent to Level 3 of New World Online takes them to a distinctly steampunk environment and some interesting vestiges of actual in-game plot. Maple's reward for this latest leap is a whole lavishly-rendered mecha suit after she's barely been here ten minutes. So there's my benchmark for this kind of quality: Maple soloed three bosses this episode and came away with two giant transformative power-ups, and I couldn't dismiss this as hackneyed or frustrating to watch at all. BOFURI was previously able to get me to care about the in-game actions and mechanics its players were partaking in, and now it's got me actively enjoying the antics of an overpowered main character. So whatever there must be about Maple, it's working.
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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