Saturday, March 13, 2021

REVIEW: Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, So I'll Max Out My Defense, Season 1 (anime TV series)

Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, So I'll Max Out My Defense is technically a sci-fi series, since it's focused on a pair of teen girls who play a highly advanced VRMMORPG. However, since it mostly takes place in the RPG world, it feels like fantasy. I watched it on Funimation's streaming service.

Some aspects of this review may count as slight spoilers.


Kaede's never been much of a gamer, but she gives NewWorld Online, a VRMMORPG, a try on the recommendation of Risa, her best friend. Risa can't start yet due to needing to concentrate on her schoolwork, so Kaede does her best to figure things out on her own. She names her avatar Maple and, because she doesn't want to get hurt, puts all of her skill points on defense. Initially, this looks like a bad move - because she has no points on Agility, she can't move fast, and her attacks are weak and limited to trying to hit enemies with her shield or just plain falling on them.

However, with a bit of luck and a tendency to try out wacky things like eating her enemies to death, Maple manages to acquire some amazing skills. Eventually, Risa (called "Sally" in the game) joins her and chooses to play the swashbuckler class. They gradually grow stronger, make friends, and participate in in-game events.

This is based on a light novel series I'd considered buying and reading. Once upon a time, I had this goal of reading at least a little of every light novel series I could get my hands on. However, there are now a lot more English translated light novel series than there used to be, and a large percentage of them aren't very good. Also, I'm pretty much out of storage space. Since this series was part of Funimation's streaming catalog, I figured I'd watch it and then decide whether the light novels might be worth trying.

The verdict: I doubt I'll be reading this series. The anime was more fun than I expected, but it had some issues that I imagine would be excruciating in the original light novels.

I didn't know much about this beyond what its title said. I figured it might be another "stuck in a VRMMORPG game" series, like Sword Art Online or Log Horizon, but it turned out to just be about people playing a game and having fun with it. It was surprisingly low stakes - sure, they all wanted to defeat enemies and win in-game events so that they could get better skills and items, but there were no real drawbacks if they lost. Risa warned Kaede a couple times about remembering to keep up with her studies so that her parents wouldn't ground her from gaming, but that was handled in a pretty chill way too. The one thing I thought had potential to turn into something bigger was a brief period in which Kaede's body had trouble remembering that she wasn't in the game anymore - someone would bump into her and she'd react like she would in the game, like she was about to be attacked. But all she did was take a break from the game for a few days and this issue was never brought up again.

Everyone was extremely nice. When Maple was a newbie asking for help, no one tried to mess with her. There were no griefers, no spammers, no cheaters, no creeps, and no thieves. When Maple eventually formed a guild, she added several people she barely knew and immediately treated them like friends. Although one of them was briefly surprised at the level of trust she displayed (Maple let him borrow her in-game pet, which he then could have stolen if he'd wanted to), everyone was on their best gaming behavior. It was nice, if not particularly believable.

The series followed a definite pattern - Maple would go out, alone or with friends, and find a strong enemy, which she'd then somehow defeat with her increasingly game-breakingly powerful skills, at which time she'd acquire new game-breaking skills. Since Maple wasn't naturally inclined towards PvP combat, there were occasional in-game events that made PvP a strong likelihood. Occasionally viewers would get peeks at characters I assume were the developers, debating how and whether to put limitations on Maple so that she wouldn't become too powerful and ruin the game.

I know some people found the series to be too repetitive, and I totally understand that viewpoint - it's one of the reasons why I've decided I won't be touching the light novels. But in the anime, at least, the humor, finding out what new skills Maple would acquire, and the overall niceness of Maple's gaming experience helped keep things from becoming too boring for me. My favorite moments were the quest in which Maple realized that her skills made some of the NPC dialogue nonsensical since she skipped the experiences that normal players would have had, and pretty much any time Maple used Atrocity (even though her last use of it seemed unfairly powerful). 

The one skill I wish Maple hadn't gained: Machine God. It didn't fit the overall look and feel of the series. It was like someone let a Gurren Lagann fan run amok for a bit.

I really liked the series' focus on friendship and having fun (zero romance so far, FYI), and I'm hoping that Season 2 digs into the real-world lives of characters besides Kaede and Risa. We don't know enough about most of them to even know how much of the way their characters act is role playing and how much is who they really are. The most interesting one of the bunch is Mii, the charismatic guild master of the Flame Emperors. Although she acts confident in public, she cries and beats herself up every time she fails at anything. For a while, Payne looked like he might be another interesting character - for some reason, for most of the series his face was hidden - but then he turned out to be just another skilled gamer, with little else that made him stand out.

This series has no depth and not much in the way of originality, but it's nice, cozy, and has a few amusing and/or surprising moments. It's not something I feel like I need to own, but I enjoyed watching it and plan to watch Season 2 when it's available.

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