By Yuumikan and KOIN. Released in Japan as “Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.
It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve read a light novel that’s come out long AFTER the anime adaptation, as opposed to before. Unlike other licenses where the Japanese publisher is clearly pushing it because they know they’ve got a surprise coming in the next year or so, the Bofuri light novels remained untouched until well after the series had already finished. And so we’re left with a flipped sort of question, as instead of being grumpy about whatever vital scenes the anime cut from the book, we can read the book and see what extra content we get. The answer, honestly, is “not much”: this book is covered by the first three anime episodes, and that seems about right. You will notice where the anime added or changed things (Frederica does not show up early to direct Maple in the book), but you won’t be getting details about Kaede’s home life or things like that. Which is fine, we’re here for the game.
For those unfamiliar with the premise, Kaede is a teenage girl who’s not all that into gaming, but her gamer friend Risa has convinced her to try the hot new virtual reality game, New World Online. Sadly, Risa can’t game right away as she got a bad test score, so Kaede starts the game on her own. It’s a VR game, so Kaede (who calls herself “Maple” in game, a pun on her name and probably a reference to Maple Story) thinks that if she’s attacked she’ll feel actual pain. As such, she chooses the strongest shield, and sinks all her points into Vitality. ALL of them. As Maple slowly (very slowly… she can’t walk fast as she only has points in defense) starts to play the game, her offbeat way of thinking leads her to make choices that, almost by accident, cause her to level up and gain cool powers. Indeed, she is rapidly becoming a bit of a monster…
While reading this, I’d mentioned on Twitter it felt a bit different from the anime in terms of mood. Don’t get me wrong, Maple is still absolutely OP and broken as a character, but the anime really wants to show that off, while the book is more about Maple’s experiences and interaction with New World Online than its reaction to her. The anime seems like it takes place over only a couple of days in these first three episodes, while the book makes it clear that weeks and months are passing. There’s also more gamer chatter – Maple is “not a gamer” the way that I am “not a gamer”, which is to say she knows the lingo simply by being around Risa. Overall, I’d say the book feels relaxed – the author states they wrote it as a downtime change of pace sort of story, and it feels that way. Some story bits are seemingly dropped halfway, like the chat group full of players talking about Maple, which disappears around when Sally and Maple team up, though if the anime is accurate it will be back. Oh yes, most importantly, this is, so far, a game free of all the Gamergate nonsense you would likely find in real life – the players all seem nice and helpful.
I will note that if you’re on the fence about picking this up because you’ve seen the anime… it’s not essential? It doesn’t add anything major to what you already know. But if you loved the anime and want to read the original’s slightly more relaxed, meandering take, then Maple is here for you.