Mar 25, 2020
AstralBread (All reviews)
Finally, a VRMMO series written by an author that actually played MMOs before. Even more shockingly, it’s written by an author that can actually write.

You see, because the author actually played MMOs before, he understands that in reality all of them suck major balls, so instead of portraying his fictional game as “realistic,” he portrays it as fun. In a sense, the game is portrayed the way an unspoiled newcomer sees MMOs: as a new world of adventure and endless possibility, one you explore with genuine curiosity and sense of wonder. Not a repetitive grind-fest, fantasy accountant simulator regarding stats and gear, and disappointing technological limitations.
Not that this fictional game being fun actually matters. Because this series isn’t a VRMMO. It is an anime show about people playing VRMMO (a concerningly high number of people seems to be unable to comprehend the distinction). And because the author can write, this ends up being a fun anime show. What it does right:

The VRMMO premise done right. I’ll repeat it again, this is a show about people playing a VRMMO - exploring a fictional world, socializing with their friends, making new friends, having fun. There is an online community of people talking about the game they play - sharing news, bitching about the OP things, bitching about the developers nerfing the OP things, etc. There are, of course, the developers, monitoring the state of the game, rolling out new content and thinking hard about what else to nerf. No one is trapped in an MMO. There are no contrived idiotic stakes like “if you die here, you die in real life.” Instead, there are real stakes in that the characters’ behaviour in the game affects their relationships with other people. There is real meaningful progress of meeting people and building friendships.

The MMO fanservice done right. There is a certain famous VRMMO series with a reputation of catering to the core MMO audience. That show spends half an episode explaining the idea that different classes can party up together to be more effective in combat, and does that with a comically pompous attitude of revealing some grand 4D chess strategy. That series is low-IQ garbage. In contrast, the MMO fanservice in Bofuri is clever, subtle, doesn’t waste your time, and happens when it makes sense in context. There are things like using combat moves for mobility (like a vertically-propelling attack for double-jumping), accidentally stumbling on hidden content by doing random stupid shit, wasting hours just fishing, sequence-breaking a quest line, and, the core foundation of the story, breaking the game by combining various mechanics in a way that was not forseen by the devs.

Narrative depth. As mentioned above, this is a story about people socializing, and the way this happens is organic and believable. Sally is the protagonist Maple's close friend who went to a great length of getting her into this MMO in the first place, which is why it makes sense how much effort she pours into keeping Maple entertained. Hell, the show could’ve been a good romance story if it wanted to, this is how well the aspect of their “dating” is executed. Meanwhile, Maple herself is a cheerful outgoing extrovert who effortlessly makes new friends, so she ends up with a guild. Sally isn’t an extrovert, so she isn’t friends with their guild. She tolerates them because they’re Maple’s friends. The guild members all have their own circumstances which boil down to that being in the Maple’s guild is just a good time in one way or another. Chrome is the most notable case - he is the generic audience surrogate dude who would be perfectly fine just reading about Maple (who’s a mascot of the game for all intents) on the forum, but somehow ended up as her companion, so now he’s self-conscious about being worthy of the main character position, especially considering he plays the same class as Maple but isn’t as good at it. Even the aforementioned forum messages look like real conversations that could be held by real people.
I could easily write paragraphs upon paragraphs breaking down such stuff - simply because there IS stuff to break down. There is depth. Best of all, it’s subtle and unobtrusive, the audience isn’t being beaten over the head with who thinks what about whom, it’s just there between the lines, not taking away the screen-time from the show’s main substance, but present to be seen by anyone who has the eyes and the brain to see it. Maybe not everyone does, which is why this aspect of the show goes underappreciated.

High production values. The series is supposedly a comedy/SoL, and yet its action scenes blow 90% of action anime out of the water with the level of their choreography, animation and hype. I, for once, particularly enjoyed the scene where a caster doing a long-ass chant was actually a thing happening in real time, with interference from their opponents and covering fire from their allies. The art, the music, the character design, etc. are all on point.

It’s fun. This is what MMOs are supposed to be about. Finishing your day, logging in, getting away from the real life problems for a moment, and having fun. Bofuri manages to capture that sense of having fun.

9/10 for “what every VRMMO series should aspire to be.”