The aquatope on white sand – 02 – Idol into water

Kukuru accepts Fuuka’s sudden offer to work, but since shes only the summer director of the aquarium, she gives Fuuka a ride to her house on her scooter (not a Super Cub, mind you!) to ask her gramps, who is director the rest of the year.

Kukuru’s gramps not only agrees to take Fuuka on at the aquarium, but will let her stay at their super cozy and comfy house. Kukuru isnt surprised by either, or by her gran accepting Fuuka’s offer to help her make Okinawan doughnuts. These are just really kind, laid back people.

The next morning starts out a little rough when Kukuru notices Fuuka’s painted nails for the first time, and perhaps too harshly demands that she remove it for the sake of the plants and animals there. Then our fish-out-of-water idol ends up in the water when she’s assigned the task of feeding some hungry penguins and makes a total cock-up of it.

While initially played for laughs (the little kids watching were certainly entertained), in the back room Kukuru chews Fuuka out for not considering the safety of the people and animals at all times. She tells Fuuka in no uncertain terms that if any creature is harmed as a result of Fuuka’s lack of care, she’ll never forgive her.

Karin, the tour guide who brought Fuuka to the aquarium in the first place, asks that she cut her friend Kukuru a little slack. The previous night, we saw Kukuru presenting a list of new equipment to Karin and their mutual friend Tsukimi (or “Udon-chan” since her fam runs a noodle diner and tsukimiudon is a thing) totalling over three million yen.

The bottom line is that Kukuru’s gramps intends to shut the long-struggling aquarium down to complete his retirement. But Kukuru is determined to stake her entire summer on breathing life into the flat-lining business. She knows that if such a special place were to close down, it would probably never come back.

When two unsavory loan sharks (heh heh) roll in and try to swindle Kukuru into debt she cant repay (or worse) and carelessly knock over the cute wooden sign welcoming guests with letters made from shells, Fuuka, having heard Kukuru’s struggle, finally shows some fire, chewing out the sharks and spraying them with the hose. As her employer, Kukuru is appalled; but as a person, seeing Fuuka go to the plate cheered her up big-time.

Karin arranges a impromptu welcoming party for Fuuka that night, with Udon-chan serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and the two boys in the show, Kuuya and Kai, also making an appearance. While Kuuya isn’t so good around girls, Kai seems to have a think for Kukuru, and the feeling isn’t necessarily not mutual. When he hears Kukuru could use another strong back, he’s not about to hide in the corner.

These scenes of people just kicking back and relaxing after a stressful day and welcoming their new gorgeous, mysterious friend, are just so lovely to behold. They emanate comfort warmth in smooth waves, like the gentle breakers on the beach. Ditto when Kukuru and Fuuka walk home in the serene darkness. You can really feel the quietude of the sleepy countryside they inhabit.

After hearing from Karin about Kukuru’s predicament with the aquarium, a fire was lit under Fuuka, resulting in her going off on those goofy loan sharks. Hearing Kukuru’s story also inspires her to open up to Kukuru about how she ended up there, living and working with her. If Kukuru’s dream is to protect her “home”—the aquarium—then Fuuka’s dream was to become a successful and beloved idol, making people happy with her singing…like Diva!

But then, quite suddenly, without warning, and without any fanfare or rancor…her dream simply ended. She heard a younger member wanted to be center for her ailing gran’s sake. She was a true idol, honorable and kind, but it was career suicide, and she was eventually cashiered out of the industry altogether.

But even if her dream ended, she still has what it takes to help support someone else’s dream; in this case Kukuru’s. At first she would have been fine ending up anywhere but back home where she’d have to face something worse than the scorn of her family and friends for her failure—but their love and understanding. Fuuka may be ready for that some day, but for now she’s fine being in a new place with new people.

And she definitely considers Kukuru a kindred spirit. The two even sigh at the same time, and the episode ends with them staring longingly into their big shimmering eyes. While their friendship has been steadily building up since the low of the penguin incident and the high of the shark-soaking, it is well and truly made official on that beach.

Fuuka is committed to helping Kukuru keep her dream alive, and her arrival has put a fresh, optimistic wind in Kukuru’s sails. I’m sure there will be more bumps (icebergs) down the road (sea?)—after all, this is a twenty-four episode series—but I’m looking forward to it more than anything else this summer.

Horimiya – 10 – Pure White Snow

First of all, I’d like to simply make the observation that for a show called Horimiya, which is short for Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, there sure hasn’t been a lot of the title characters! They show up in the beginning for a brief comedy bit in which Hori is more worried about Miyamura being stolen from her not by girls, but guys like Tanihara and Shindo.

Miyamura’s growing discomfort with Hori’s kink isn’t addressed, and so simply continues to hang there in the background without a satisfying resolution. Hori simply hasn’t been a very likable character lately, and doesn’t help her case with her biphobia this week. Instead, the episode is dominated by Yoshikawa Yuki, who for me was always a character best enjoyed in small portions.

To be frank, Yuki’s crisis isn’t compelling enough to me to carry a whole episode, and starts to grow repetitive as she continues her M.O. of running away from her problems. Unlike her sister, I don’t mind her turning down Yanagi, as she barely knows the guy, and likes Tooru. What I do mind is just about everything else she does and says.

While we don’t hear her say the actual words, it’s later clear Yoshikawa comes clean to Remi about her feelings for Tooru at least to some degree, and in exchange Remi agrees not to correct Kouno’s misunderstanding about Tooru and Yuki dating. Yuki doesn’t like lying or pretending, and wants the lie to be real. She’s just too scared to put herself on the line.

As such, she runs away from the problem, staying home from school for four whole days and stewing in her present state of frustration simply because she fears feeling something far worse if she were to take action: the sting of knowing for sure that Tooru doesn’t like her “that way”, shattering the limbo in which she resided all this time.

Yuki’s sister points out something it’s logical for a big sister to know, but which we already knew from watching Yuki: she never tells anyone what she wants, and almost always regrets it. Yuki is also hung up symbolism surrounding her name, which means “snow”, while “sakura” means the beautiful things that bloom after the snow melts.

Still, when her sister requests she make more of the “snow white” cookies she baked, Yuki at least finds the courage to turn her phone back on. As she suspected, she’s confronted with hard truths, as one of the dozen texts she got is from Tooru telling her that Sakura told him she likes him.

Yuki returns to school but pretends like nothing is wrong, but Tooru wants to talk about it. Yuki assumes he said yes, and that this is the end of their game of pretend, but Tooru surprises her when he says Sakura didn’t ask for a response; she just wanted to get it off her chest. More to the point, Tooru considers Sakura way out of his league, and is certain she’ll find someone better than him.

Yuki ponders the effort Sakura must’ve mustered to bake cookies for Tooru everyday, and the courage she amassed to tell him how she felt. Meanwhile, she just runs, at all times terrified of rejection. Sakura is warm cherry blossoms in the spring while she’s “gross, muddy, freezing” snow, like her name.

Then Yuki exhales, and Tooru notes he can see her breath, and says if it’s going to be this cold it could at least snow, as he was bummed it didn’t snow as much as usual this year. Yuki lists all of the negative aspects of snow and why no one wants it, particularly the part where it ends up melting in the spring.

Tooru surprises her again, saying the snow doesn’t melt because it’s spring, but because it decides to melt…to recede…to run, even when there are some (cough) who want it to stick around. It doesn’t melt because the cherry blossoms ask it to. Hearing all this from Tooru makes Yuki happy, as does when he gently takes her index finger in his hand and leads her back inside where it’s warmer.

For the first time, Yuki hopes it will snow…the pure-white kind. And then it does. Sengoku doesn’t make the symbolic connection, instead asking Remi what’s up with Sakura, as she seems to be acting especially happy. All Remi says is that it’s “the exact opposite” and heads out for tutoring. Sakura arrives in the office, notices Remi didn’t open the window.

She walks over to open it and spots Yuki and Tooru together outside, clearly enjoying each other’s company. Suddenly Sakura has to go, but Sengoku stops her to ask what’s wrong. Going by what Remi agreed to do for Yuki, we can assume Sakura believes Yuki and Tooru are dating, which means she was rejected before she had a chance to ask the guy out.

Sengoku calls this guy a complete idiot and moron who should be expelled—who wouldn’t want to be with her? I’m sure he considers this the right thing to say, and Sakura is grateful for his compliments, but there’s really nothing he can say to stop her from dropping to the ground and sobbing, because her heart was just recently broken. She’ll get over it, but right now it sucks.

That said, if Yuki and Tooru have come to an understanding, they never did come right out and say it. Does Tooru know how Yuki feels about him? Does she know he feels the same way? The next time we see them will they be the way they always are, with neither having explicitly confessed to the other? Can they graduate from pretend dating to the real thing? I hope so, considering all the time we’ve spent on this triangle—and not spent on Hori and Miyamura!

Horimiya – 09 – Taming a Fierce Golem

Miyamura has the kind of day where Hori puts his hair in pigtails, and then slaps him when he attracts the attention of three other girls, then gets disapprovingly glared at by a random classmate.

On the walk home, Miyamura asks if Hori is angry, and while she wants to rant about how it’s very convenient that the same girls who treated him like he was invisible are suddenly all over him when she’s standing right beside him, instead she says betsuni—not really.

That would have probably been the end of it, but then Miyamura is approached by Tanihara and his friend, two of the boys who excluded and haranged him in middle school. At first Tanihara seems to be polite and genuine, but when Miyamura says his name he says he’s “skeeved out”. Tanihara mocks him for making his girlfriend carry his bag, and mockingly congratulate him for “scoring”.

Hori, already in a crappy mood, asks if they’re done talking, then beats the crap out of them (off-camera). While grabbing a burger, Tanihara tells Shougo about the encounter. Shougo warns him not to mess with Miyamura what with his “leveled up DEF stats”; Tanihara goes on to describe Hori as Miyamura’s “summon”.

Shougo, who was the one who reached out to Miyamura and has been established as having the highest emotional intelligence in the show, can see right through Tanihara’s claims he doesn’t care about Miyamura. To paraphrase Kylie Minogue, Tanihara can’t get [him] out of [his] head.

While washing dishes like the adorable couple they are, Miyamura notices Hori’s bruised knuckles from punching the jerks, and also notices Hori not noticing the bruises, and would say they were nothing if asked about them. He revels in having someone who’ll get mad on his behalf; who will always have his back.

He’s also learned that this is a two-way street. “Having Hori’s back” means indulging her when she asks him to yell at her and hit her. When he demurs because he genuinely doesn’t like doing those things, she insists with the sweetest, least punchable face. When he still won’t do it, she looks like she’s about to cry!

Shougo asks Miyamura if it’s not something he can discuss because it’s “something sexual”. But when Miyamura asks Hori to come along and she says “louder”, and he finally relents, yells, grabs, and drags her along to her delight, Shougo sees it as exactly that, or at least something close.

Hori ends up meeting Tanihara and the other kid she beat with a third friend of theirs loitering outside the konbini and tells them to buzz off. The third kid, having not experienced her violence, acts all too disrespectfully, incurring the ire of his two friends. Then the three witness Hori walking up to Miyamura, who then slaps her and drags her roughly away, shocking the guys and Tanihara in particular.

As usual, Hori is over the moon about being treated like this, and again, Miyamura is right on the cusp of bringing it up when he sees her joyful face and decides to let her be. My stance on this? People are going to have their kinks, and for Hori, it’s being treated like this by and only by Miyamura.

Miyamura has indulged her thus far to the point it’s so normalized she expects to be “rewarded” with such treatment semi-regularly. He’s clearly conflicted about this, so discusses it with her dad, while sitting in a tub for some reason. He reckons she likes it because it’s the exact opposite of how he normally acts, and tells him to think of it like “taming a fierce golem.”

Back at school, Tooru tries to say high to the kid who was eye-stabbing Miyamura earlier—named Mizouchi—but gets ignored. Miyamura thinks he knows why: the guy has a crush on Hori. When he goes to the science lab to look for his phone Miyamura finds Mizouchi there. Mizouhi is disgusted by what a airhead and lame-o Miyamura appears to be, wondering out loud why Hori chose him.

Miyamura’s response to Mizouchi’s query ties nicely into his present crisis, as he asks him “If you had to, would you punch Hori?” Mizouchi says of course not, he could never hit her…and Miyamura says that right there is why Hori would never choose him. When Miyamura and Mizouchi run into Hori in the hall and Hori starts babbling, Miyamura gives her the treatment she wants, then tells a gobsmacked Mizouchi to leave her be as she smiles and blushes to herself.

Mizouchi’s opinion of Miyamura changes immediately, and becomes even more confused when he sees Miyamura’s eyes are raw with tears. Clearly, he and Hori need to have a sober talk about this. If it bothers him, maybe having hearing her express why it’s so important to her will help make it bother him less?

* * * * *

Shougo was right about one thing: Miyamura is in Tanihara’s head. He’s in his very dreams, weird ones in which the two of them are cooped up in a locker while Miyamura talks about the “inside” and “outside”, and a moment from middle school when Tanihara saw Miyamura crying by the rabbit cage. After waking up in a cold sweat, Tanihara asks Shougo for Miyamura’s number.

When Miyamura doesn’t answer his phone, Tanihara goes to his family’s bakery just as it’s closing. What ensues is an exchange that alternates between awkward, fraught, and warm, as the two lads once on opposite sides of an imaginary border make plans to hang out and talk about things that need talking about, or about nothing at all.

In the former category, Tanihara is struggling with the guilt of not only failing to feed the rabbits when it was his turn, leading to their deaths, but pinning the blame on Miyamura, whom he knew liked the rabbits (and they liked him) more than anyone.

It hurts his heart to think about how he never apologized…but it’s not too late. You could say Tanihara deserves to feel shitty about what he did.  But knowing Miyamura, if he knew what Tanihara did—and maybe he always did—he’s already forgiven him. He can, because Tanihara feels remorse about it, and while he’s trying to exorcise his own demons, he also sees the strange new creature Miyamura has become, and would like to know him better.

It makes me wonder even more whether Miyamura knows Tanihara framed him when he finds Hori’s yearbook (and his promptly warned not to peek if he doesn’t want to be punched). Miyamura admits to also saving the big, heavy, unwieldy books (from a heavy unwieldy past) simply because he couldn’t be bothered to ever toss them out.

Now that he’s growing closer to others, including Mizouchi and Tanihara, he’s glad he didn’t. Right now he feels like there’s not a person in the world he can’t become friends with. As for whether he can raise that much-needed talk to gain clarity over Hori’s being-mistreated-by-him kink, well…we’ll see.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 05 – The Comfort(er) of a Friend

This week made it suddenly occur to me that there are no women among the Demon Castle court and staff (at least not in humanoid form), but that changes when the “female unit” of the Demon King’s army returns to the castle for the first time since the capture of the princess.

The first girl we meet is Harpy, who is a harpy, but an extremely friendly one. Specifically, she wants to make her first human friend and engage in girl talk during a pajama party. She quickly learns that Syalis is primarily concerned with none of those things, and finds her mostly annoying and—worse—detrimental to her sleep!

Indeed, Syalis rejects all of Harpy’s attempts to befriend her until the harpy spreads her wings and the princess gets a good long look and feel at those silky feathers. Without the slightest regard for Harpy’s welfare, she deems the wings too “impractical” to remove (i.e. tear off) and simply uses the soft wings as her new comforter. Harpy is forced to sleep in an awkward position beside her.

The dimensional limits of Syalis’ modest bed soon rear their head when Syalis’ sleep posture results in them sliding off the bed, so the princess begins a quest for a bigger bed. Despite her shabby treatment thus far Harpy is so intent on being friends with the princess she lets slip a castle secret: those gigantic horns that top the tallest tower are really as light and fluffy as a cloud!

With no regard for Harpy’s quads, Syalis attaches a cloth harness to her legs and has her fly her up to the horns. At first it seems Syalis is content to nap on them, but before Harpy knows it she’s carving her new bigger bed directly out of the horns, like memory foam! Due to a big chunk being taken out, one of the two horns flops over impotently—it’s truly a matter of the princess “making her mark” on the castle!

Harpy’s quads are tortured further by the additional mass of the bed, but the result is a much more comfortable sleeping situation for both of them. I’ve heard of royalty using people as welcome mats, but not a combination flying apparatus and comforter! We can only quietly lament poor Harpy’s entirely unbalanced “friendship” with the princess.

The return of the women means the return of the only female member of the Big 10 Council: the beautiful Neo Alraune. When Red Siberian shouts at Syalis to get out when she constantly interrupts their meeting with her vuvuzela (where the heck’d she get that?!), Alraune feels bad for the captive princess, who after all must be terribly lonely.

The Demon King, Siberian, and other council members scoff heartily, then switch on the reconnaissance drone presently following Syalis, to demonstrate what a goddamn terror she’s been. Sure enough, in her quest to build a log bed she is furiously hacking away at Alraune’s big brother (who happens to be a greaser tree—a term I never thought I’d type!).

In the midst of witnessing the systematic destruction and hollowing-out of her kin, Alraune seems ever torn between continuing to sympathize with the princess and acknowledging that her fellow council members might have a point. Even when she makes the excuse that her brother feels no pain, and that the princess is being eco-friendly by using all of the wood, right on cue Syalis discards most of the wood she cut as too rough.

The ordeal compels Alraune to visit Syalis in her cell, to ask if she really is human. After all, who among the human race could cause so much chaos in the domain of demons? Why, Her Royal Highness Aurora Suya Rhys Kaymin, that’s who!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bofuri – 12 (Fin) – Oh, the Atrocity!

When Payne exacts [Sword of Judgment] on Maple, it looks like the end of her fun has come at last, but she survives with 1 HP thanks to [Stout Guardian]. When her mech’s [Counter] connects, Payne reveals he also has [Stout Guardian]. Maple breaks the stalemate with [Atrocity], transforming herself into an eldritch beast and simply eating all of the Holy Sword members in the cave. When they re-spawn, they accept their loss at Maple’s fairly-acquired mega-skill, especially since they still have their orbs and remain in the lead.

Now that all of Maple’s secret skills have been revealed, there’s no reason to hold back anymore. All of Maple Tree rides Atrocity!Maple as they mop up the remaining guilds. But when they spot the Flame Emperors being attacked from all sides, they don’t add to the piling-on. Instead, they defeat all of the Emperors’ attacking enemies, preserving the big guild to assist in whittling down the smaller guilds (and earning a bit of goodwill).

The third day of the event has barely begun when the admins decide to call it with only six guilds remaining, all receiving the same reward. After debating whether to re-nerf Maple, one of them is consigned to the fact that whether they like it or not she is the face of the game, and an inspiration to other adventurers who hope to one day face her. So they let her be, checking in to see what weirdness she’s up to: being a woolly mech volleyball for May and Yui!

Maple Tree, meanwhile, claimed the third spot, just below the Emperors and Holy Sword. Maple graciously invites both guilds to Maple Tree’s hall in order to share in an end-of-event party. While everyone was all-business during the event, it’s good to see there are no sore losers or grudges, just pleasant conviviality and mutual pride in battles well-fought.

It’s a good way as any to end a show that, for its protagonist, was first and foremost about having as much fun as possible, and sharing that fun with as many friends as possible. Its upbeat outlook is most welcome in these trying times.

 

MAPLE WILL RETURN IN BOFURI II

Bofuri – 11 – Maple’s Inferno

BOFURI shifts seemlessly to Shounen Battle Mode as Maple sends May and Yui off on MegaSyrup and fights Mii, Misery and Markus. At first it’s largely a stalemate, with the Emperors’ attacks unable to do much damage and Maple unable to go on offense. Mii forces the issue with her Noble Phantasm ultimate attack [Prison of Flame], forcing Maple to bust out [Machine God] earlier than she wanted.

Overmatched by Maple’s firepower and with her support KO’d, Mii uses [Self-Destruct] while riding Maple’s back, only to learn upon re-spawning that Maple wasn’t harmed by her suicide attack, leading to another patented Mii-Tantrum. Both the tough and crybaby sides of Mii were well-performed by Satou Rina. As for the Emperors’ orb, it was snatched away by a grunt in the midst of the chaos, so Maple Tree comes away empty-handed.

That proves strategically costly, as Maple Tree couldn’t afford to spend that much effort on one foe with no payoff. Both small and medium guilds are dwindling as Maple Tree barely hangs on to the bottom of the Top 10. While that feat is impressive, it only intensifies the target on their back as one of the last remaining small guilds. Subsequent raids prove fruitless, and Sally senses an attack from one of the big guilds coming, so prepares to move their orb off-base.

Those plans come too late, as Sally miscalculates that a big guild like Holy Sword would take forever to mobilize. Instead Holy Sword only sends four, led by Payne, perhaps the game’s most powerful player. Maple stands ready to test that title as the other three Holy Swords battle the rest of Maple Tree.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Payne, ultra-buffed by his comrades, does critical HP damage to Maple. If she’s KO’d it’s probably all over. Can Maple recover and can her guild snatch some kind of consolatory victory from the jaws of certain defeat? We’ll find out in the finale.

Bofuri – 10 – The Little Guild that Could

Maple Tree’s haul totals ten orbs, but that’s only good enough for 17th place. To reach the Top 10 they’ll need more, and the easy pickens from smaller guilds like theirs will be gobbled up quick. That means an already tired Sally must sally forth into the night, where her style of attacking is most effective. Kasumi, Kuromu, Iz and Kanade also strike out to gather more orbs, confident Maple can hold the fort with May and Yui.

But the pitfalls of a tiny guild like theirs trying to compete with the big dogs becomes clear when a nearly gassed Sally bites off more than she can chew and is surrounded by Frederica’s Holy Sword soldiers. She messages Maple that she “might die, sorry”, and Maple rushes to her rescue in Angel Mode and mows the Holy Sword columns away with her Hydras and mech beams.

Maple saves Sally (and her haul of orbs), but leaves the base defense to just May and Yui, who are ambushed by Shin of the Flame Emperors Dread of the Holy Sword, who was watching the guild’s movements. Though he picked the perfect time to strike, the twins manage to avoid KO just long enough for Maple to return with Sally.

Maple KOs Dread, who promises he’ll be back with friends. Frankly, Kanade leaving the base for a mere handful of orbs wasn’t worth it. Had the twins died just a few minutes sooner, Dread would have made off like…well, like a bandit! Kanade, with her insta-spells, would have been ideal backup.

Still, everything turns out fine this time. Sally unveils Maple Tree’s “Plan B”, which essentially swaps who’s on offense and defense. Maple, May and Yui are a three-boss demolition team that mercilessly carves through the guilds Sally mapped out, while the rest of the guild stands by at the base. I doubt I’ll ever tire of the interplay of their cute appearance and mild manners with the utter ruin they dole out.

It’s not long until the next victim on Maple’s list are the vaunted Flame Emperors, led by the legendary Mii. Neither Markus nor Misery—neither of them exactly pushovers—can do much more than slow her down a little. Anything that traps Maple in her tracks is quickly reduced to rubble by the twin hammer girls.

In fact, once they’ve thrown everything they can at Maple to no avail, Misery and Markus resign themselves to death and defeat…until their commander Mii arrives in a streak of flames, just as Maple came to Sally’s aid. Thus the stage is set for the biggest showdown of NWO so far, something everyone watching on the sidelines has been waiting for.

Will Mii’s presence enable Markus and Misery to regroup and keep the twins busy, leaving Maple more vulnerable? Or will Mii fall to Mega-Maple’s might just as so many others before her, and have a big ol’ whiny tantrum about it? We shall see!

Bofuri – 09 – Capture the Orb

On the eve of the fourth event, a guild competition, the members of Maple Tree train, level up, and in the case of Maple, the twins, and Sally, relax a bit on the water. The competition is essentially a five-day capture-the-flag battle, which means small guilds like theirs will have little time to rest.

Just before the event begins, Sally catches Fredrica of the Order of the Holy Sword scouting them, and challenges her to a duel. Freddie yields before the battle gets too serious, but both she and Sally gain valuable information about each others’ skills, or Freddie would, if Sally wasn’t using her “coax” ability to send inaccurate information.

Once the event starts, 5/8ths of the guild remains in their base to defend the orb, while Kasumi, Kuromu, and Sally go on the offense. Sally in particular proves adept at both obvious frontal attacks and sneaky stealth attacks in capturing multiple enemy orbs. She also faces off with a Holy Sword member who, like her, is essentially a super-ninja.

At least this week, Sally is the busiest member of Maple Tree, as she darts from one base to another snatching orbs, including right out from under the Flame Emperor’s leader, Mii (voiced by Satou Rina, AKA Railgun’s Misaka Mikoto!). Mii is able to catch up, but Sally uses Vanish to escape. Mii spams Flame and Flame Lance to no avail, and with no one around to see, she drops the facade of steely confidence and sobs about not wanting to be leader anymore—immediately rendering her more interesting!

When a guild attempts to get their stolen orb back from Maple Tree, everyone is under Angel Maple’s ultimate defense, so the poor intruders can do nothing but get slaughtered by the might of Maple’s comrades. Maple doesn’t have to lift a finger, and the direct strike of a sword bounces right off her cloak.

In all, it’s a good start for Maple Tree, but as the small fry are weeded out the tougher players will turn their focus on her. There’s a well-struck balance between total ownage and the challenge of making the top ten with such a tiny guild.

Bofuri – 04 – Bird (Ice)Box

Maple and Sally’s foray into the sprawling second level is uneventful until the former falls through a hidden trap into a large cavern containing a club-wielding jester boss. The girls work together to defeat it relatively easily. Maple exhibits her new skill “Cover Move”, which enables her to finally keep up with Sally by mimicking her movements in exchange for double damage. Since zero doubled is still zero, it’s another NWO hack for Maple.

After one day they only have two medals, but when they encounter Kuromu and his party on the snowy but notably not cold mountain (a nod to RPG characters rarely bundling up in cold locations), he reports they’ve got zilch. Feeling indebted to him for his earlier assistance, Maple lets his party go through a one-time use teleport gate, only for the gate to almost immediately reappear, suggesting the boss made quick work of the Kuromu crew.

Maple and Sally use the gate, which takes them to the lair of Silverwing, their toughest boss challenge yet, featuring multiple attack vectors. For once, the usually OP Maple is pushed back by attacks, her HP is depleted, and even the outer layers of her armor is destroyed. Thankfully, ten Devours are enough in concert with Sally’s quick harassing attacks and Mirage skill, which enables Maple to slip in under the big icy bird and deliver a Hydra coup-de-grace.

For their trouble, the duo gains give medals for a total of seven, as well as two mysterious monster eggs. They head to warmer climes and warm them until they hatch, revealing a turtle familiar Maple names Syrup and a white fox familiar Sally names Oboro. Like their masters, Syrup and Oboro feature high defense and agility, respectively, and level up and gain skills as they’re used. They both make adorable additions to the party.

The familiars can also be stashed away when not needed, or in the case of Maple and Sally trudging through a desert inhospitable for either animal. Upon reaching an oasis, the two meet their first PvP opponent: a raven-haired maiden in pink samurai garb, brandishing a katana. She placed sixth in the previous event, and looks to rise in the player rankings and is perhaps thinking of adding Maple and Sally’s seven medals to her own collection.

Bofuri – 03 – No More Maples!

As expected, the admins at NWO reign in Maple’s invincibility somewhat, as she’s now only able to use her Devour skill ten times a day and can now take a degree of damage. Maple isn’t happy, but Sally reminds her of all the damage based effects now available to her.

Before heading to the dungeon that leads to the second level, the pair do some sightseeing. They spot a pair of newbie sisters just starting out, visit a cafe where they meet others who ranked high in the first event, and get a lead on a sidequest in the North Forest.

We learn Sally is super afraid of any kind of ghosts, making Maple the steady party member for this particular quest. They locate a cabin with a hatch that leads an underground passage. There, a man in apparent constant pain is tied to a chair.

Maple’s potion has no effect, but Sally casts a string healing spells, exhausting her MP, and he’s finally healed. Their prize for completing the quest is a Super Speed Skill. Sally celebrates by showing Maple a “never-ending sunset area” where they can just relax and soak in the gorgeous view.

The next day they tackle the dungeon to the second level, which contains a formidable boss: a humongous stag that forms from a tangle of huge vines. Maple’s Hydra attacks have no effect, and the stag launches an earth-shattering counterattack. With no agility, Maple has to be yanked to safety by Sally, and she lands awkwardly, resulting in a brief K.O.

Sally, on the other hand, sticks her superhero landing perfectly and presses her attack on the stag, using her high speed and evasion traits to deliver a death by a hundred slashes followed by an authoritative coup-de-grace. It’s the second straight episode with an exciting, kinetic Sally battle.

With the boss defeated, a disappointed Maple comes to, and the pair continue to the second level’s gathering area, where Iz presents Maple her new white shield, which Maple calls Shirayuki (nice name). The chibi dragon MC then appears to announce the start of the second event: this time, it’s a treasure hunt, and Maple and Sally are able to form a party together.

Since players are allowed to kill other players for their medals, and Maple not only already has a gold medal but has only ten Devours per day, she’ll be even more of a target for opportunistic opponents, so both she and Sally will need to be on their guard. It’s the end of Easy Street…so much the better!

Bofuri – 02 – The No-Damage Duo

Bofuri’s second episode is split between Maple’s first NWO battle royale and when Risa finally joins her. The battle is a cakewalk for Maple, whose ultra-defensive specialization ensures she takes no damage in the process of bagging more than two thousand kills, most of them absorbed as MP by her Great Shield.

Maple actually gets pretty fierce once various parties start ganging up on her, even paralyzing and poisoning those who flee to up her kill count. Compare that to when she’s waiting for enemies, killing time by innocently drawing intricate Yakuza dragon and Nazca lines. I really dig Maple’s low-key drawing talent, which comes through in the game!

Leading up to Risa’s arrival, I was starting to think it would be a running joke for Maple to bring up the fact Risa hasn’t joined her in the game yet, and that she might never join her due to various circumstances IRL. However, once she finally enters (as “Sally”, her real name in reverse), it’s as a “Swashbuckler” class, high on agility and evasion.

This complements Maple’s tank class perfectly, especially when they have to get somewhere far away fast. Sally simply carries the ridiculously slow Maple on her back as she races across the overworld, while Maple dispatches incoming enemies with ease.

Their destination is an underground lake where they can find a particular kind of fish, the scales of which Maple needs for the white shield she’s having Iz forge once she has enough cash. The duo spends a lot of time fishing, while Sally maxes out her swimming and diving skills and finds a cool underwater dungeon.

Tanks like Maple can’t swim, so it’s all up to Sally to take out the beastly aquatic boss at the end of this dungeon. It’s a cool design with lots of pyrotechnic attacks. While both the boss and Sally are CG, and the frame rate screeches to a near-halt, that’s somewhat mitigated by the blur used to indicate they’re underwater. It’s also an exciting, fast-paced, and well-directed battle.

When it’s over, Sally returns to a worried Maple with a new awesome-looking outfit. That’s when the game’s dragon mascot informs them that the second level of the game will soon be opened for those who meet the conditions. In need of a new pair of boots to complete her Swashbuckling look, Sally tosses Maple on her back and races back to town.

The news of multiple levels to the game satisfactorily explains why Maple was able to become so powerful in so short a time: she’s still only on the first of those levels. This fact, and the tough fish boss fight, bode well for their future adventures and battles posing a greater challenge.

One of many details I’m liking about Bofuri is the restrained use of cutaways to online chatting, between the A- and B-parts and before the end credits. The chatting chronicles Maple and Risa’s progress and rise in notoriety. Like similar cutaways in Durarara!! it adds depth, texture and a sense of community to the show.

Bofuri – 01 (First Impressions) – I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense

Kaede‘s friend Risa recommends that she start playing a fun new VRMMO called New World Online…so she does. That’s pretty much it! Oh, and because she doesn’t want to get hurt, virtually or otherwise, she uses her entire allotment of status points on Vitality, or defense, thus becoming a slow but stalwart Tank-class character named Maple.

When Maple finally encounters low-level monsters, they can’t hurt her, and to her dismay, the first of them (a cute bunny) disintegrates before her eyes. However, the violence remains PG-rated throughout, and she continues to gain levels, skills, resistances, and status points—all the latter of which she puts into ever greater defense. Maple’s single-mindedness and bemused commentary keep things lively.

Eventually she heads to a dungeon and buffs her way to the boss, a 3-headed dragon with poison breath that destroys her shield and shortsword. Still, once she gains a poison immunity, she nibbles the dragon to death, and earns some cool armor, among other treasures and abilities, as a reward. Bofuri is not on my list, but it’s competently generic and harmlessly pleasant.

Chihayafuru 3 – 06 – Just Taichi, and Yet Not

Jeez Louise, I thought the last couple episodes were tense. Put Chihaya and Taichi in their first official match together—a finals match, no less—and everything is upped to Eleven. No one dare leave, even Arata, lest he miss watching something he knows deep down he needs to see.

The elders are astonished that not only is the final two high schoolers, but of the same society. They may not be aware of just how close these two are, but it becomes plain once their match shifts into gear.

You can expect the finer points of karuta in Chihayafuru, but don’t sleep on Kana’s mom’s encyclopedic knowledge of traditional Japanese dress, how it makes those who wear it carry themselves differently, and even the symbolic and spiritual significance of the obi.

Very cool stuff…this show is like a cultural bath bomb. I also liked how the nerves of both Chihaya and Taichi were exposed not necessarily in their game, but in the fact they both forgot to gather up their sleeves with the strap thingies called tasuki.

As for the match itself, Chihaya and Taichi demonstrate they’re both at the top of their respective games. Chihaya has more rest…and speed, and is starting to hear words better, but Taichi has a number of strategies to turn her offensive game in on itself, like a placement that seems needlessly reckless and whack-a-doo…until it actually starts working, frustrating Chihaya.

Once she remembers Sakurazawa’s tip about maintaining posture, Chihaya sits up straight and looks at her opponent, who may feel like a stranger in the match, but is still, at the end of the day, Taichi. Neither of them would be there without the other, and here and now, there’s no one either of them want to beat more. It’s a dense, weighty atmosphere, moving some to tears, and it’s absolutely must-watch Chihayafuru.