BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.
Episode 9

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 9 of
BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. ?

Can you believe there was a point a few weeks back where I accused BOFURI of being an uneventful show? Sure it's since already proven that it can absolutely be entertaining in the slice-of-fantasy-life mold, carried by cute characters and their cuddly chemistry. But as last week's episode took the framework of participating in an event and endeared Maple to us by having her just go off and do her own thing, this one aims to begin to upset that level of intensity, and show it can still make it work. Sure, it lulls you into a false sense of security at the beginning, that we're in for another Wednesday full of Team Maple Tree hanging around and getting ready for the upcoming guild-on-guild event, but by the end of it we're really engaged, as it becomes apparent that we've got a real story arc kicking off here.

The way this one hits different isn't so much a matter of stakes being raised as it is scope and breadth being increased. It wasn't just a tease last week, the big guilds that are the Order of the Holy Sword and the Flame Emperors actually have parts of the story we're seeing them engage in now. It actually helps to bring the benign character-interaction world-building from the beginning of the show full-circle, as just as Kuromu is a full-time cast member in Maple's guild now, her other early-game advisor, Frederica, is shown to be a member of those Holy Sword folks, and she obviously can't disregard Maple as a mere newbie anymore. It's an interesting exercising of BOFURI's setting which it's utilized before, that as a game characters like these are naturally in competition with each other, sans any major maliciousness. But it still intersects with the idea that the more ‘hardcore’ among the competitive crowd here might put a damper on the ‘just for fun’ philosophy of Maple and some others like Yui and Mai, a contrasting incompatability that was already shown off last week.

It's here that this episode of BOFURI sees fit to deploy the more pragmatic ‘full gamers’ like Sally to deal with elements like Frederica's electronic espionage. Maple, being the PVP-averse type she is, isn't even familiar with NWO's ‘Duel’ function, while Sally is all too ready to use it to put vital information on the line in a space enclosed from her impossibly-powerful innocent girlfriend. The series nearly regards Maple's overpowered monster comp-stomping and competitive player combat as different worlds, exemplified by the sheer tonal shift when we see Sally and Frederica fighting here. Sally's fight scenes have always tended towards a more serious edge, but it's especially apparent coming off the wooly puff-ball and ridiculous robot antics of last episode, with this section featuring nary a cute reaction face or clumsy stumble into success. It's all serious strategy and metagames, and while that might reflexively make some tune out since that's not the kind of content that's traditionally made BOFURI its most enjoyable, it's still worth sticking with since they know how to dress it up in the same kind of outside-the-box approach Maple and her friends have lent to the show as a key charm.

The underlying way this fight ends up working turns it into the major highlight of this week's episode. It's all in the name of that information we saw the Holy Sword so hot to get last week, and Sally's a step ahead of Frederica in that regard. It's been an interesting dichotomy that Sally is the more technically capable of the pair her and Maple make up, but that always manifested more in her intentional gaming skills than outright plotting or intelligence. But here we see her concoct a scheme to show off fake skills and abilities to mask her true power to her opponent, effectively a kind of smurfing in full-dive VRMMO mode. It's fascinating to watch because it makes use of astounding attention to detail that it wants the audience to notice: We catch from comparisons to other call-outs that Sally's made-up skills don't have the same official echo effect real ones do, and the framing makes us immediately guess at what she's doing. She confirms it for us in the very next scene, so it's not a drawn out technical surprise, but a compelling setup for how this seeded information may pay off later in the storyline. Plus it's just a sharp little fight scene made cooler with the context that Sally's doing all this with her mere base stats and in-game controls.

That's a micro-level element of the big picture BOFURI is covering to get this event storyline going this week. The technical explanations of how the capture-the-flagorb game is going to work are a bit more involved than we expect from the series, but that just precludes how big a deal this storyline will apparently be. That expanse gives the guild reason to acknowledge that Maple is their biggest weapon in this, but also that her abilities aren't infinite or unstoppable, and obfuscating that information from their opponents while also conserving her powers will be a major factor. That level of planning brings everyone in the team in on the action, yet they also continue that tonal split I remarked on, as the free-form fun-loving characters like Maple and the twins are set back at the base on guard duty, while others like Sally and Kasumi go out on offense. The other guilds get exposure, but still aren't quite taken as seriously as all their Full Gamer business might expect, from Marcus's dejection over his role as trap-master to Mii's revelation of some super-relatable imposter syndrome beneath her uber-powerful facade. It's the tone that BOFURI is still striving to present, that at the end of the day this is a game that can't be taken that seriously.

I feel like I could talk forever about this episode and just how much stuff is in it, while still feeling totally sorted in entertainment value. A lot of it, like those touches with the fake attack vocalizations, is rooted in little details that appeal with the care the team clearly put into them, like a short-yet-smooth overhead shot showing Sally's movement through a field, or niceties like the cute little assassin cloaks Iz made for the team just for this event. And spreading out like that plays off of last week's Maple showcase, proving that as fun as that was, we don't have to worry about the narrative or action centralizing on her too much. This was an episode of BOFURI that did a great job of having a little bit of everything, which just makes it better that it also feels like this story just getting warmed up.

Rating:

BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. is currently streaming on FUNimation.


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