Itai no wa Iya nana de Bougyoryu ni Kyokufuri Shitai no Omoimasu Review

Title: IItai no wa Iya nano de Bougyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu / I Hate Being In Pain So I Think I’ll Make A Full Defensive Build / BOFURI
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Comedy, action
Year of release: 2020

There’s two reasons that you might think this monstrously titled anime will give you fatigue from the onset. Video game anime are, typically, a low bar, and there’s a low correlation between a show’s success rate and the length of its name. Thankfully we can quite simply call this one ‘BOFURI’, and go on to find it escapes cliches in ways other than choosing a defence-focused protagonist.

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To recap, Kaede (or Maple) isn’t video game savvy. Coming into this virtual reality MMO from the recommendation from her BFF, she gets panicked about being hurt so decides to max the defence/vitality stat, crippling her offence and movement (though the show isn’t particularly consistent with the whole ‘slow walking’ gag past the first episode). Setting up this gag of her bizarre play style takes a large portion of the episode, which is a merrily and animated affair about seeing games from a different perspective – where it’s nice to take a nap and enjoy the taking the game one step at a time, rather than grind it. And she just so happens upon some bizarre power-ups, which she combines in creative ways to take down opponents, such as ‘Hydra’, a poison-gas based attack. A continuing gag is that Maple is surprisingly successful at this, but it’s her exploration that is being rewarded, not her cuteness.

The series goes insofar to show that this is still compatible with more hardcore gameplay. Sally is the schoolmate of Maple who got her into the game, and thus has a much more classically game-oriented approach and opts for a fast, agility based build. Sally receives a considerable amount of development throughout the first few episodes, as she enlists Maple to tag along with her, and we get to even see Sally take down bosses on her own. Sally is smart when it comes to games, and has natural talent, but more than this she is cunning, and the screentime she was given legitimised much of the narrative that BOFURI builds, demonstrating that there’s lots of ways to play New World Online and that all of them are right.

BOFURI is a delight to watch when Sally and Maple hang out, and go questing or participate in events. The pair have a really solid buddy chemistry, chatting about things with a genuine care for each other and going out of each other’s way to help and understand one another, and more technically, the pair utilise their skills with precise synergy. Sally even carries Maple around on her back! It’s no surprise that the two ship together so readily, and they have many, many sweet moments together.

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It’s almost sad that, in the mid-series, the ‘party forming’ begins to happen, because the joy of two girls playing video games for fun is somewhat lessened. The few new faces who join the guild, Maple Tree, are equally as colourful, but perhaps slightly less characterised. Kuromu, a fellow Shield user (albeit more balanced with some offence) who once offered help to Maple before she became famous in her event domination, is surprisingly given some time as a ‘straight man’ to counter all the quirks, before he too is swallowed up into the madness and gains a chance to cheat death. Kanade is shown to play the game with more exploration and Iz is focused more on crafting, but sadly neither is given much screentime outside of the many montages of battle and levelling. Mai and Yui are twins who Maple takes a likening too since they maxed attack and are lowly levelled (and are thus her equal-and-opposite), but they are barely distinguishable from one-another. Where BOFURI got characterisation right in its first half, it sadly let slip in the second.

Though, the exchange is some very strong content in the second half. Maple leaves Mai and Yui in Sally’s capable hands to help level up fast (which rings like a parent leaving the kids with the other parent, but I digress), and Maple goes off on some solo adventuring. Likewise, in an event that favours agility, Maple goes off to find a cave with a rare boss. Maple’s adventures in NWO are brief, but exciting, as she solves quests in amusing ways that the developers really did not anticipate. Game balance is utterly off, but it’s always fun seeing Maple’s reactions to the programming unable to contemplate her actions – extremely relatable.

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The big finale is a clan battle, which puts Maple Tree at a disadvantage since they are only a small guild. The constant battling manages to be consistently above-average animation with few falters, and shows Sally strategising to keep the guild in the game with Maple doing her same old brilliant quirky plays. There’s multiple showdowns with top rated players, and the tension is nail-biting as the group are on the verge of defeat, both from the rules and epic fights. This cutesy comedy does battle fiesta in equal measure, and while the characterisation is perhaps not consistent, BOFURI is a charming video game anime that reminds us that video games are, fundamentally, played to have fun – and that fun comes in lots of different shapes and sizes.

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