“Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” –Albert Einstein
When New World Online‘s developers release an update that allows players to begin taming monsters as companions ahead of a major in-game event, Maple Tree’s members set off with the goal of finding monsters. Since Maple and Sally already have companions, they help Iz to find ingredients for potion-making, and Maple winds up earning yet another skill after defeating a sea monster. Prior to the event, Maple and Sally encounter crystals, and after finding all of them, they discover a portal that takes them to a special area that allows Syrup and Oboro to evolve, and after a preliminary event, Maple Tree is finally ready – the event entails defeating powerful foes to earn medals that can be exchanged for in-game skills and items. Maple Tree, Order of the Holy Sword and Flame Emperor all perform well, but when the administrators modify the event parameters, the three guilds decide to band together and cooperate to survive to the end of the event, where they take down a leviathan of a monster through their combined efforts. Back at Maple Tree, Maple and Sally decide they’ll save their medals for use once the new content is released, and while enjoying a quieter time together in New World Online, some players express curiosity in seeing whether or not they’ve got what it takes to challenge Maple and her allies. Thus ends Bofuri 2, the second season of Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu (I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense); this anime gained a reputation as being a fun-filled series following Maple’s outlandish adventures, and upon the conclusion of the first season back during the winter of 2020, viewers were informed that a second season would be in the works. Three years later, this second season has materialised. Offering a significantly more team-based experience for Maple and her friends, Bofuri 2 also gives viewers a subtle sign that Bofuri won’t be ending just yet – with a mysterious new group of players seeking to disrupt the status quo and dislodge Maple Tree from their throne, the cliffhanger ending of Bofuri 2 is hinting at a new continuation that will continue to show Maple’s outlandish adventures, and if the existing storyline is anything to go by, any third season of Bofuri is sure to continue on in the manner of its predecessors and offer viewers with a highly engaging, fun experience where the only thing at stake is a good time and a chance to make new friends through their shared love of a game.
Bofuri 2 does not have any overarching themes, in the sense that Maple and her friends do not experience any lessons within New World Online, that substantially alter their world-views or beliefs. Maple and Sally were already well-adjusted individuals who play New World Online purely for fun, and their experience in the game reflects this. Between Maple’s unorthodox means of having fun (such as using her “Wooly” skill to goof off and completely ruin the tenour during a duel between Mii and Payne) and Sally’s generally relaxed manner even when she’s engaging others in PvP, there are no stakes in Bofuri, and this allows the series to simply show the spectacle of battle whenever the game’s top players set off to participate in an event, as well as how Maple’s open-mindedness and creativity allows her to play the game in ways that are unorthodox. In most modern games, players often strive for what’s known as a “meta” setup, the most optimal way of playing given the game’s parameters and properties. While this way of play optimises efficiency, it also locks players towards certain loadouts and play-styles, discouraging players from exploring all that a game has to offer, when in reality, exploring alternate loadouts and setups might confer a unique or notable experience. New World Online does not appear to have this constraint, and this is how Maple is able to perform outrageous feats during her time spent in game. In this way, Bofuri acts as a celebration of creativity: since Maple doesn’t appear to be someone who reads strats ahead of time, she adapts and improvises depending on the situation, using whatever tools she has available to her, and in the process, ends up having a fun time of things. Since the whole point of a video game is to give players a chance to have fun, New World Online has completely succeeded in its function, and Bofuri 2 wholly captures this. Further to this, New World Online‘s developers are quite aware that, despite the fact that more players are catching on and adapting Maple’s approach, of using skills in a creative way to defeat even the toughest foes, they’re having a wonderful time. Bofuri 2 thus suggests that what makes a game fun isn’t necessarily the difficulty level, but rather, giving players the freedom to play in their own manner of choosing. Because Japanese games have traditionally counted on difficulty to compel players to invest time into improving and feeling a sense of accomplishment, Bofuri does appear to be prompting an alternate way to play games, one that still challenges players, but without constraining them to the meta loadouts and setups.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Originally, Bofuri 2 was scheduled to finish back in mid-March, but production delays resulted in the seventh episode airing a week later than expected, and subsequently, the final two episodes were pushed into April. While this has meant a slightly longer wait to see where Bofuri 2 would end up, the episodes still aired in a reasonable timeframe, and without any compromise to quality: New World Online‘s game world still looks incredible, battle sequences remain superbly animated, and the adventures Maple partakes in are just as enjoyable as they’d been previously.
- Much of Bofuri 2 follows the characters as they gear up and delve into New World Online further: PvE is the focus of this second season, and at least a handful of readers have expressed disappointment that there hadn’t been more PvP engagements for Maple Tree. This is a non-issue for me – I generally prefer PvE over PvP because the former provides a much more relaxed environment for exploration, and the competitive sweat-fests that is PvP makes it a decidedly unenjoyable mode of experiencing a game. In the former, I’ve found that being able to play at my own pace is what makes things fun, and more so than the first season, Bofuri 2 conveys this through a host of PvE events.
- From what is seen in Bofuri 2, the PvE modes are about as challenging as Modern Warfare II‘s DMZ mode: this addition to Modern Warfare II has entertained players who were feeling disappointed by the poor support for Warzone 2, but one of the primary frustrations about DMZ was the fact that the AI is obscenely overpowered. The mode is balanced for pairs, trios and quads, but for solo players, it is very demanding. I imagine that as a solo player, New World Online would be remarkably unfriendly, but fortunately for Maple Tree’s members, there’s always someone on hand to help out.
- In this way, when Yui and Mai set off to try and earn their companions, they receive some initial help from Maple and Iz (the latter provides a speed-boosting potion that gives the girls bunny ears), but otherwise, resolve to continue trying until they succeed. There’ve been moments in games where I’ve felt overwhelmed and wondered if that was as far as my journey went, and my solution’s always been the same as when I’m stalled by a roadblock at work – take a step back, regroup by doing something else and then reattempt the problem afterwards.
- Kasumi experiences the same challenges in finding her companion, and so, when she meets up with Yui and Mai later, the three encourage one another to keep at things until they succeed. Having a companion in an MMORPG can be quite helpful, and in World of Warcraft, all players had access to mounts that made moving around a map significantly easier. Some classes also gain pets and summonable entities that can draw aggro or otherwise fulfil an offensive role. However, unlike Bofuri, where summonable companions fulfil multiple role and can greatly augment one’s combat performance, pets in most games are actually balanced well: a lone player and their companion will have no chance of soloing a raid meant for 40 players in World of Warcraft, for instance.
- I therefore gain the sense that Bofuri‘s author, Yūmikan, believes that games should be fun, first and foremost. New World Online‘s dynamic skill system is, to any seasoned RPG player, fundamentally broken and impossible to balance because skills have no restrictions and appear to be fully effective from the moment they are earned. In most games, skills are limited to certain classes and players must rank them up to fully realise their potential. Skyrim was unique in that it does allow players to level up any skill, allowing them to play the game to their liking and rewarding them for emphasising certain skills. For me, I ended up running a ranged character with access to a range of spells and archery. In this way, Skyrim is an example of what New World Online would probably look like if developed by a competent studio – the game offers the same level of openness as New World Online without creating a scenario where characters can become as broken as Maple.
- Yui and Mai are given a bit more of a presence in Bofuri 2 and despite their adorable appearance, their emphasis on strength means they become the damage-dealers for Maple Tree. I am rather fond of the pair: their mannerisms mean they evoke the same aesthetic as the pair of stuffed bears I have. Befitting Yui and Mai, their efforts to win over a pair of bears are successful, and in this moment, I am reminded greatly of Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear‘s Kumakyū and Kumayuru. It suddenly hits me that this marks the first time that Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear and Bofuri had aired in the same month, and while both stories share in common a fantasy RPG world, the two series are completely different in their focus. Bofuri is explicitly a game, and this allows the story to be a little more laid-back than if things had been an isekai.
- By the end of their companion hunt, Kanade gains access to a slime that can shapeshift, Kuromu secures a haunted, sentient suit of armour, Iz finds a færie, and Kasumi gets a snake. Everyone’s excited to try their new companions out in a live combat scenario, and I recall the same excitement that accompanies unlocking something new in a game, or buying a new piece of hardware in reality. What makes an item worthwhile is the utility it can provide, and with everyone receiving something suited for their playstyle, Maple Tree is able to keep up with things: other guilds have similarly earned companions that bolster their capabilities further.
- It suddenly hits me that, aside from Maple and Sally, who know one another in reality, none of the members in Maple Tree know one another in person, and further to this, New World Online looks like it gives players some options for customisation – Mii looks quite different in her guild master appearance. As a result, it’s safe to suppose that, save Maple and Sally, who look like their real-world selves, the other members of Maple Tree could be rocking modified appearances.
- Sally’s fear of ghosts is adorable, and she shrinks away in horror when Frederica offers to show Maple and Sally her companion, fearing it’s a ghost of some sort. It turns out Frederica’s companion is a bird. I had been hoping that New World Online might’ve had a positive impact on some of the characters, but because Bofuri is largely set in the game world and deals in the game experience, versus the social implications of games, this aspect remains unexplored and likely will remain the topic for other series. This isn’t necessarily a strike against Bofuri, since the series excels at what it does cover.
- In my original discussion of Bofuri, which I’d written three years earlier amidst the early stages of the global health crisis, I drew upon my experiences with max-min optimisations and machine learning to discuss how seemingly unorthodox systems might result in the best results for a given problem. In the case of some agent-based systems, application of machine learning and evolutionary algorithms may find that sometimes, it makes sense to go all-in on a solution. In other cases, however, algorithms may end up settling on a more balanced solution. Whether a balanced or max-min solution works is dependent on the situation, and my talk of the first season was more of a discussion of how Bofuri acted as a rather visceral show of one of the concepts I learnt in graduate school.
- By focusing on max-min optimisations, my first talk on Bofuri ended up being a rather unorthodox commentary on Bofuri. Compared to that post, this whole-series discussion of Bofuri 2 is rather more conventional – I imagine most readers aren’t interested in principles of multi-agent systems. Bofuri never really had a central theme resulting from the characters’ growth as they played the game, and instead, the series sought to convey the worth of creative problem solving and adaptivity. In this way, Bofuri 2 and Bofuri‘s themes are identical, and since I didn’t cover these elements three years earlier, now was a good time as any to take a look at the series through my usual perspectives.
- Because Bofuri is significantly more relaxed than other anime of its setting, I imagine that writing for this series in an episodic fashion would’ve been quite difficult – it takes several episodes to showcase an event, and even smaller activities, like finding companions, take a few episodes. Coupled with the absence of events that drive character growth in individual episodes, I ultimately found it easier to write about Bofuri from a big-picture perspective. To the best of my knowledge, there are no substantial episodic reviews on Bofuri 2 – reaction posts cheering the characters on do not qualify.
- For me, “wooly” is my favorite skill to see in use, as it perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Bofuri. With a bit of creativity, Maple uses it in unusual ways, and the results are always hilarious, standing in stark contrast with how her fellow players wield their skills. Moments like these allow Bofuri to give viewers a chance to check out more of New World Online‘s environment, and after the visually distinct levels Bofuri 2 had opened with, later levels are a bit more familiar in design. Here, Maple and Sally pursue a side quest after coming upon crystals, and for kicks, Maple calls in “wooly” to help her and Sally get around more quickly.
- I have heard that for many viewers, Bofuri 2 was a disappointment compared to its predecessor on the grounds that this second season focuses on PvE over PvP, arguing that fighting other players is what had made the first season enjoyable. A lot of gamers out there believe that PvP is a true test of skill; their rationale is that, since human opponents can think, form strategies and act in an unpredictable manner, victory is all the more rewarding. However, I’ve found that PvP modes are a chore because more often than not, rather than using legitimate methods, most players will adopt a “win at all costs” mentality and resort to everything from poor teamwork tactics (like camping), to outright using cheats to preserve their all-important KDR.
- Conversely, when it comes to PvE, any sort of game where there’s also cooperation among multiple players means that game developers are able to create scenarios where working together to overcome a given challenge creates a truly rewarding outcome. Because the need to compete is removed, and everyone shares a common goal, this sort of environment is more conducive towards understanding and teamwork. This is precisely why extraction modes are starting to become popular: they emphasise squads of players working together to complete tasks and escape. While games like Modern Warfare II‘s DMZ still allow for PvP, players did initially observe a gentlemen’s agreement not to go after other players unless they came under fire first.
- The extreme aggression and competitiveness that comes with PvP is why even well-known streamers are known to use cheats of some sort. For instance, despite countless claims otherwise, the streamer “nadia” is certainly known to be using cheats in order to keep their viewers. Conversely, in PvE modes, players have no incentive to cheat because the goal is to cooperate and complete goals together. Players, whether or not they stream, simply need to have fun in order to create an engaging session with their viewers. As a result, I find the arguments favouring Maple and her friends going up against different guilds unconvincing – if anything, Bofuri 2 shows that the concepts in this series are viable regardless of whether the objectives are PvE or PvP driven.
- Further to this, PvP players aren’t necessarily more skillful than PvE players. While PvP can be a show of skill and game knowledge, PvE demands similar knowledge and adaptability, since some foes can be significantly tougher than any human opponent. I do not doubt that Bofuri is an anime that can successfully do this for viewers, I find that the gripes about a lack of PvP in Bofuri 2 to be unconvincing. The series’ biggest strengths lie with how it shows the formation of friendships, how cooperation can create novel experiences and how the thrill of a game lies in working together, rather than rubbing one’s skins the the faces of everyone that one meets.
- Whether it be PvP or PvE, Bofuri manages to highlight how New World Online accommodates for both, and this strengthens my enjoyment of the series. Maple and Sally’s pursuit of crystals for a side-quest end up taking them to a hidden sanctuary of sorts, and here, Syrup and Oboro immediately display restlessness. As it turns out, this area is a special place that levels up one’s companions. The splendour of settings in New World Online is most apparent in Bofuri 2, and when there is no need to worry about other players, Bofuri‘s second season is able to give viewers a chance to really appreciate just how intricate and majestic the scenery of this game world is.
- Silver Link has done a fantastic job of bringing New World Online to life, and this has meant that, outside of a single scene earlier in the season, Bofuri 2 is consistently solid from an animation and artwork perspective. Following their latest adventure, Syrup and Oboro are more powerful than before, and this leaves Maple Tree ready to handle whatever follows in the season’s capstone, the eighth event. The fact that Maple and Sally could upgrade their companions through a quest, and gain access to cosmetics on top of upgrades suggests that New World Online lacks any sort of pay-to-win or loot box elements: everything worth earning can be done purely through in-game means.
- Loot boxes containing abilities impacting gameplay have always been controversial, and following the debacle that Star Wars: Battlefront II created with its Star Card system, all gaming studios of note have universally agreed to ensure that only cosmetics should be unlocked via micro-transactions, lest they run afoul of legislation that categorises loot boxes as being equivalent to gambling. Here, Maple leads her guild into the event’s first day: the object of this event is simply to hunt monsters, and defeating tougher foes will earn medals that can be exchanged for skills and cosmetics. I wish The Division 2 would implement such a system: when I stopped playing, I had found all of the exotics that could be found without playing raids.
- To this day, I still don’t have the Eagle Bearer, Bighorn and The Ravenous, and with Ubisoft planning on releasing The Division: Heartland at some point in the future, The Division 2 will likely be sunsetted. I am hoping that they add these three exotic weapons to the pool so that all players have a chance at unlocking them. Back in Bofuri 2, after Maple and her friends hit their quota, Maple decides to go exploring, winds up inside an alligator and uses her wooly skill to explore. She interrupts Payne and Mii, who decide to engage in some PvP just for fun, but Maple’s appearance completely spoils the mood, causing them to suspend their duel.
- As the first day draws to a close, Maple’s guildmates whip up a comfortable base so the team can rest and await events of the next day. In trying to ramp up difficulty, the developers end up introducing several twists into the game, including separating the guild members and shrinking the map in a similar manner that battle royales might, but Maple and the others end up working around this to continue earning medals. PvE really allows Maple to cooperate with others, and this is where Bofuri 2 excels: I find that those who were lamenting the lack of PvP may have fundamentally missed the season’s goals. The first season had shown what an unorthodox play-style and creativity could do, so here, the second season acts as more of a breather that lets Maple and the others interact in an environment that isn’t quite so competitive.
- Seeing different combinations of characters working together was fun; ordinarily, everyone operates together in their own guilds, and separating the characters gave the series a chance to mix things up. The cast is quite large in Bofuri, which allows for all sorts of combinations, and most viewers report that this was an enjoyable watch, some fans of the light novels were quite vociferous in voicing their disapproval of how separating the characters, was suppose to be a very severe moment in the light novels that forces character growth. However, Silver Link’s handling of things is in keeping with presenting Bofuri as a light-hearted and fluffy series – people take games too seriously as it is, and it is refreshing to see a series step away from this mindset.
- Unlike the smaller variants that were encountered earlier, the final boss is comparable in size to the Zillo Monster, and it was only through a protracted battle, with the combined might of Maple Tree, Order of the Holy Sword and Flame Emperor that everyone is able to prevail. The final battle is titanic, worthy of a season finisher, and Maple ends up using her signature “devour” skill to carve a hole through the leviathan after the others have whittled its health pool down. Once this monster is downed, the skies suddenly clear, and New World Online announces that this latest event has drawn to a close.
- Triumph in a particularly difficult PvE event is significantly more rewarding than coming out on top in a PvP, and this trend is slowly starting to make its way through the games industry as extraction royale games (such as DMZ and Escape From Tarkov) become increasingly popular because they allow players to do more than hunting foes: the thrill of finding in-game items and evading both AI and other human players to get one’s stuff out gives it an additional thrill, and moreover, because the aim is more than just eliminating enemies, players have even more freedom to play in their own manner of choosing. New World Online‘s eighth event does have extraction royale elements, and the idea that guilds must survive in order to collect their rewards created an emergent behaviour in which guild would actually work with one another to ensure everyone succeeded.
- This aspect is ultimately what makes Bofuri 2 so enjoyable, as it also shows how versatile New World Online is. While Maple and the other guilds celebrate their triumph, earlier today, I stepped out to help adjudicate the city-wide science fair. Owing to a minor hiccough with the registration system, I wasn’t receiving updates, but a few nights earlier, I was able to get in touch with the organisers and get things sorted out. Earlier today, I stepped out to the event venue and participated in my first in-person judging since 2019. It was a joy to be able to speak with the students and do a face-to-face conversation with participants, both students and fellow judges. The projects I were assigned this year were at the primary level, but I found myself thoroughly impressed with how detailed and thoughtful the projects were. Similarly, it was clear that the students did know their stuff, and I had no qualms issuing high scores for the teams I evaluated (of note was a very well-done project on leaves and their properties).
- After the judging ended, I headed to the local poutinerie and ordered their “Notorious P.I.G.”, a behemoth of a poutine with Carolina-style pulled pork, double-smoked bacon and Italian Sausage on a generous bed of fries, squeaky cheese curds and gravy. I’ve not had this poutine since 2017, when I was still working with my first start-up, which was located within walking distance of this poutinerie. On my first bite, I immediately recalled why I enjoyed this poutine to the extent that I do: the sweetness of the pulled pork complements the salty bacon and herbs in the sausage to create a very hearty lunch, and when my order arrived, I thought for the briefest of moments that there was a very real possibility that I might not finish. Fortunately, the cold, blustery weather and snowy skies meant a hearty meal was exactly what I needed. In previous years, I’ve taken half-days to judge science fairs, but in the present, I’ve enough vacation days available to me so I can take full days off. Science fair events only take a half day, but the extra time allows me to break things up and relax a little more.
- I’m glad that Bofuri ended up with a continuation, and admittedly, I was quite surprised to see time pass by so quickly: Bofuri originally began running three years earlier, and one of my readers had recommended the series to me on the basis that I was a bit of a gamer, myself. When my schedule opened up after the global health crisis shut things down, I sat down to watch the series, and I was left with a decidedly positive experience. The lack of drama, and emphasis on fun meant that Bofuri is ultimately an ode to what gaming should be: bringing people together through fun experiences. Bofuri 2 continues on in the same manner as its predecessor and gives different characters a chance to shine, expanding out Maple and her guildmates’ friendships, both with one another, and members of other guilds.
- Towards the end of Bofuri 2, as Maple and Sally explore the starting regions of New World Online for old time’s sake, several other players express an interest in squaring off against Maple Tree and demonstrate the confidence that they’ll prevail. Some folks speculate that they’ll employ psychological warfare to achieve this aim, but I disagree, as this contradicts the themes of Bofuri. Rather, I imagine these other players will do as I do: Maple’s tough, but she isn’t invincible, and Bofuri 2 makes it clear she’s weak against attacks with armour piercing properties. On top of Maple’s low mobility, a skilled player similar to Sally would be able to contend with Maple. Maple Tree’s a competent guild, but they are not unbeatable, and as such, I expect that, should there be a continuation of Bofuri, viewers will be treated to other guilds and players employing creative strats to give Maple Tree a hard time. Such an outcome will likely be superbly fun to watch, and as such, I would certainly like to see a continuation of Bofuri.
Despite being remarkably entertaining, bombastic and fully capturing the fun that Maple and her friends experience, Bofuri 2 raises a curious issue that arises whenever a story features overpowered characters and over-the-top antics: throughout Bofuri 2, the developers are shown as being engaged in an arms race with Maple. As Maple levels up further and burns through boss fights, the developers must continue to alter the game and prevent Maple from using similar tricks to beat future bosses. This creates a situation where bosses become increasingly powerful, in turn forcing Maple to resort to increasingly wild techniques to eke out a win. The difficulty scaling, from a gaming perspective, results in situations where casual players wouldn’t stand a chance, and from a storytelling perspective, it causes the need to constantly write increasingly exciting scenarios. The constant arms race is not especially sustainable, as there is a limit to how far things can be taken. In reality, this is why there are level caps and limits (in The Division 2, for instance, I cannot just stack explosive damage bonuses to the point where I can one-shot everything on any difficulty), but as this does not appear to be a part of New World Online, there is no real cap on what’s possible. Fortunately, it does look like Bofuri‘s author has accounted for this – a hitherto unseen group making a declaration to beat down Maple Tree, and if they’re confident they have what it takes, this suggests they’re not worried about Maple’s power. This is likely the case because these unknown players likely have strats on their side. Girls und Panzer had taken a similar route: after the fight against the University All-Stars Team and their overwhelming firepower in Der Film, Das Finale sent the story in a different direction as teams employ improved strategy to pull off unorthodox wins. This could be the case in Bofuri, and it could be the case that ordinary skills, when applied in clever and novel combinations, might be enough to give even Maple trouble. A third season of Bofuri could therefore be entertaining to watch, and regardless of how this confrontation actually turns out, one thing is inevitable: Maple will likely exit any encounter with a bunch of new friends in tow, much as how she had befriended Mii and Payne, and gained the respect of the members in Order of the Holy Sword and Flame Emperor.