I don’t want to get hurt, so I’ll max out my defence – not just the title but the pretty much the whole plot.
Bofuri: I Don’t Want To Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense (or Itai no wa iya nano de bougyoryoku ni kyokufuri shitai to omoimasu) joins the list of anime that really just needed a much shorter title. No surprise the source of this one is also a light novel and so the ongoing trend of light novel authors cramming their entire premise into their title continues. And with that, I’m out of complaints about BOFURI.
It isn’t that BOFURI is genre defining, a marvel of animation, or even that the characters have a lot of depth. Realistically on almost any particular attribute that you could measure the quality of an anime, BOFURI would come up pretty much average.
What that doesn’t account for though is the fact that somehow when you mix all the ingredients together somehow they’ve managed to cobble together a combination that no matter how absurd they push the over-powered nature of the main character and no matter how low the stakes are and regardless of the fact that the cute and sweet main characters in this story decide in one of the final conflicts of the series that the best way to win is to just slaughter all the competitors (yeah, that happens).
Despite all of those things, BOFURI is one of those shows that episode after episode just leaves you smiling and feeling pretty happy about the world.
I started watching BOFURI as it was airing back in Winter 2020 but didn’t finish it due to my unscheduled break. So it made sense that I would pick it up and finish it off now that I’ve returned. As I watched I wondered just how it was I managed to take a break in the first place.
For those who don’t know, BOFURI uses the tired old characters playing a game setting that we’ve seen a million times. Naturally it is a virtual reality so complete it may as well just be its own fantasy world except for all the game gimmicks such as skills and levelling up. Where it is a little different from other similar anime is that the characters aren’t trapped here, they log in and out at will, there’s no evil conspiracy at play, and basically there’s no stakes at all.
Kaede (who will be called Maple in the game) tries out the game at the behest of her in-real-life friend and as the title suggests she decides that she doesn’t want to experience pain and so she puts all her skills into defense. It leads to an unorthodox playing style and she begins to acquire quite a collection of unusual and ultimately game breaking skills becoming increasingly over-powered and gathering an assortment of odd-ball players around her as she starts a guild and they take on various events.
Now even without any external pressures or villains, this set up could still allow for the guild to make enemies and be striving toward clearing the game or something however Maple and best friend Sally remain true to their absolute goal of having fun playing. Whether they are wiping out other players in an event, splashing around in water, clearing a dungeon, or just hanging out with their guild, they are all about enjoying themselves and the tone of the story reflects this.
Where other game based anime would look at the choices people make in games, such as the choices to kill other players, as some kind of moral guide for how people behave in reality, here they just let the players have fun and the final episode actually has several guilds coming together with Maple Tree (Maple’s guild) to celebrate the previous event even though they had been on the receiving end of Maple’s severe over the top skills.
However, it is because the characters are genuinely just having fun that the audience can too. It really is a joy watching them get increasingly more ridiculous skills and watching the interesting ways they utilise them in the various challenges. Even rival characters are actually pretty good people who just want to play the game their way and enjoy it.
The glimpses of the game chat show a genuinely positive gaming community who are fascinated by Maple’s journey and the game-masters themselves are frequently baffled by her actions but seem pretty curious about what she’ll do next. In other-words, incredibly fictional compared to most actual gaming communities where there is always a fair number of people who insist on being trolls despite the general community largely just wanting to play the game.
Now, I will admit, usually something where there is no particular end goal for the plot or characters and where there seem to be zero internal or external stakes I would get bored or start wondering what the point of all of it is. Realistically if there was a second season of this, I might even end up feeling that way about BOFURI. However, for 12 episodes they managed to be consistently entertaining and spread out the power-ups, skills and events nicely so there was always something new to enjoy just around the corner.
It also helps that the action in this game world is good. The way damage is shown through purple cubes, the movements of the characters, the way skills manifest… while it isn’t the most remarkable animation around it never gets dull to watch. There’s also some good pace to both the action and even the more slice of life moments as nothing really lingers too long or starts becoming dull.
Honestly, there’s not a lot more to say. It is a bright and happy anime about characters playing an RPG and enjoying it. The powers and skills they learn are quite ridiculous (ludicrous even by the end) but that just makes it more fun. I absolutely loved this and finished the series with a smile knowing that my initial worry that Maple would get dull mid-way through the series never came to fruition. Maple was highly entertaining from start to finish if for no other reason than I also wanted to know just what she would do next.
Images used for review from: Bofuri. Dir. S. Oonuma. Silver Link. 2020.
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