BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense is a generic anime. It’s about a cute, ditzy girl who plays a virtual-reality MMORPG, runs an all-defense build, and goofs her way into becoming a ludicrously powerful god of destruction. There’s nothing in it that hasn’t been done in Sword Art Online, Konosuba, or any of the countless other game-based fantasy anime series out there. Even so, I had a blast watching Bofuri. It’s got a lot of charm, the main character is absolutely adorable, and its breezy vibes are the perfect antidote to our anxiety-inducing times.
Generic media gets a bad rap sometimes. People often think being “generic” means dull, predictable, or lacking creativity. And while some generic anime might fit those criteria, the terms are not synonymous. “Generic” can also mean competent, dependable, and satisfying – like the sweet, simple vanilla in an ice cream sundae that prevents the more flavorful chocolate and strawberry from being too overpowering.
So what makes something generic? Generally, it means that it has a lot of tropes that have been done before. Think of a shonen anime with an idealistic spiky-haired protagonist, or any high school anime that has a cute girl running with a piece of toast in her mouth. These tropes have been done so many times that they can feel tired and boring, especially for anime fans (who I think tend to be more genre-savvy than most) who may have seen them dozens of times before in other shows.
But it’s important to remember that these tropes are popular for a reason, and they aren’t bad by themselves. Idealistic spiky-haired shonen protagonists are popular because they are easy for young audiences to empathize with. And cute girls doing cute things are, well, cute! These “overdone” tropes can help a series reach a wider audience or resonate more with its target demographic. In more complex series, they keep the viewer grounded so they don’t get lost in all the plot twists and avant-garde directorial techniques.
Furthermore, this formula can actually help draw the viewer’s attention to the things that stand out. Bofuri borrows a lot from anime like SAO, but the vibe the two shows give off couldn’t be more different. While SAO is a death game, Bofuri is about a bunch of cute girls goofing around and playing video games. Its protagonist, Maple, isn’t a hardcore gamer – she’s just a cheerful, air-headed girl who picked an unbalanced build and became overpowered through dumb luck. If SAO‘s theme is that the relationships we have online are as important as the ones we make IRL, Bofuri‘s theme is that video games are for fun, and we shouldn’t take them too seriously or get worked up when things don’t go our way.
It also helps that Bofuri is a well-made series, regardless of whether it’s generic or not. The visuals are gorgeous, and the music is fun and catchy. Maple is cute as a button, and it’s hilarious to watch her pull comically overpowered special moves out of nowhere. Who would have thought this adorable little cinnamon bun could turn into a kaiju or a frickin’ Gundam and unleash Armageddon on her hapless foes?
When it comes to the media we consume, there is this pressure to always find something new or life-changing. But that’s unrealistic, and unfair to both audiences and content creators. A show doesn’t need to be a revolutionary masterpiece to be fun and enjoyable, and we shouldn’t expect it to be. As much as I love challenging and innovative anime series like Evangelion or Hunter x Hunter, those shows require a lot of mental and emotional investment to fully enjoy. Sometimes I just need to turn my brain off after a stressful day at work and watch cute girls doing gamer things, you know?
Bofuri isn’t going to blow your mind with deep storytelling, and its characters (besides Maple) are basically superfluous. But part of the series’ charm is that it never tries to be something it’s not. It never takes itself seriously, and there’s no out-of-place dramatic twists. And that’s fine! It’s a fun and lighthearted distraction, and one that couldn’t have come at a better time. Just because a show is generic doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot to offer. And Bofuri does have one essential life lesson: when in doubt, eat everything in sight! Oh, Maple, you adorable little psychopath.