Kaede has never really been a gamer but when her friend Risa begs her to join her in the new VRMMO, “NewWorld Online,” Kaede gives in and dives into the game — only, Risa can’t join her in the game at first. Studying and good grades takes precedent for these teens of course, and without the advice of her veteran friend, Kaede, now Maple, makes some unusual choices in her character creation and NWO will never be the same!
This isn’t a “trapped/isekai’d into a video game” story, a “die in the game and you die in real life” story, or even one where people take role-playing too overly seriously (I’m looking at you, Infinite Dendrogram), this is just a fun story about people genuinely enjoying a game in their free time. A bit of a buggy game admittedly, it’s implied that NWO isn’t the only full VR game out there and that even the players think that the developers didn’t completely consider how some skills could unbalance the game (Maple’s crazy skills that she started obtaining on day one are living proof!), but that this adds to the charm of the game and it’s partially what keeps the players coming back to it. I remember some people describing the anime adaptation as a sports show and thematically I think that’s a closer fit than calling it a slow-life series. Part of that is because Bofuri is more goal-focused than something like A Late-Start Tamer’s Laid-Back Life and partially since it’s hard to call it a slow-life story when Maple is so ridiculously OP (just like how I wouldn’t call Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear a slow-life story despite also having some elements of it).
But most of all, the way that Bofuri is semi-centered around the in-game events of NWO is what really feels sports anime-like; a good chunk of the story involves Maple (and later members of her guild) preparing for events, in the events, and then testing out their spoils from the event, while preparing for the next one. Unfortunately for me, these events are one aspect of this series that I did find a bit dull in novel form. I found myself far more easily bored by them than I remember being when watching the anime. Which is a shame for me since volume 2 was all about the game’s second event (where Maple and Sally team up for an in-game week to collect medals from exploration, monster drops, and PvP) and it looks like volume 4 will be structured similarly around the game’s next big event. I much preferred the first and third volumes which were more focused around Maple and other members of her guild exploring the game, finding strange skills/strange uses for their skills (like Maple the poison sheep), and just generally engaging in silly but charming mini-adventures. In sports anime terms, these moments definitely feel like “training” episodes but that doesn’t make these connective moments between larger events any less important.
After these three volumes I feel a bit ambivalent about continuing on with the light novels; Bofuri is certainly a fun (and funny) story but since I’m already familiar with this part of the series (and I suspect that by the time I get around to reading “new” material that the second season will already be out) I simply didn’t feel like I got anything new out of reading them. Plus, I’d much rather watch a flashy, animated fight than read about one and so far that’s 50% of the series! But regardless, the adventures of the Maple Tree guild are silly, sweet, and always over the top, a good title for veteran fans and newcomers alike.