Bonju's Secret Uncovered—The Hunters Who Found Him
Art by tashni
It has possibly been the greatest mystery of Neopia—unsolved for over three years despite the sleuthing of thousands of Neopians. Then, at 1:21pm NST on 28th of Hiding, two avatar hunters found him: the elusive Chef Bonju.
Special report by Niri Oshna, Neopia Central
Three years ago on Blumaroo Day, the Chef Bonju avatar was announced in the news. Little did anyone know what those little orange pixels would come to represent. Days, weeks, months passed, and not a single avatar collector managed to obtain it. A year passed. And another. Chef Bonju became notorious, recognizable even by non-collectors as the pinnacle of avatar collecting, a symbol of the unattainable.
Punkinunk of Faerieland considers herself only a casual avatar collector, and even she testifies to its status as “infamous; notoriously rare, a huge secret.” Rumors began circulating that the avatar had never been released at all. Then, on a banner celebrating Neopets’ 9th anniversary this past month of Storing, TNT taunted the avatar-collecting world with the tagline, “Also known as ‘831 days and still no sign of the Bonju avatar!’”
Then, only a few weeks ago, on the 28th of Hiding, three years and twenty days after the release of the avatar, the Neopian Times Editorial teased Bonju hunters with a riddle:
Better be quick, this avatar won't last,
If your Neopet doesn't know how to cook,
then they'd better learn fast!
Avatar collectors around Neopia jumped on the case, reading everything and anything into those twenty words. Obviously the riddle showed that time was an issue, but did that mean it was seasonal? That it had to be obtained at a certain hour of day? Theories both wild and bizarre circulated. Some even dug to uncover anagrams within the puzzle.
One pair of avatar collectors, Asra and Jess, worked among the throng trying to solve Bonju’s avatar. They had been working to find it since its release, and Asra even morphed her pet into a Blumaroo in a vain attempt to get the avatar.
“We’d been up to our ears in various Blumaroo and orange and chef items,” explains Jess, an Avatar Collecting Champion. “So when the editorial came out and dropped clues . . . it really narrowed it down for us.”
As they worked through various possibilities, Asra and Jess used hundreds of items in thousands of combinations in their attempts. Then, Asra relates, she “stared at the screen in complete shock; couldn’t really believe it to be honest!”
Asra and Jess unlocked the Bonju avatar. But what to do with the most sought-after information in the avatar community?
Fame certainly awaited them if they chose it, and they were certainly within their rights to run straight to the Neoboards to flaunt their find. “Nope!” declares Asra. “We wanted to make sure we approached this in the correct manner.” Jess explains that they discussed the situation before telling anyone—even their personal friends.
“We didn’t want to be seen as gloating or ‘rubbing it in people’s faces,’” Asra explains. “We strongly wanted to encourage people to try to get the avatar themselves . . . .”
Jess says, “It seemed a little too anticlimactic after years of waiting to just drop the answer right away. We thought users would appreciate the fun of having the chance to unlock it on their own before the secret was out.”
At 1:21pm NST, only a few hours after the editorial’s riddle was released, Jess and Asra posted their Bonju avatars on the neoboards. Chaos ensued. The entire Avatars/Neosignatures board jammed up with people trying to figure out how to get the avatar.
“There was a mixture of excitement . . . and racing off to puzzle it out, people fishing for hints, and congratulations,” recalls Jess.
For next three or so hours, only a handful managed to get the avatar. Despite the encouragement of Asra and Jess, a some hunters became frustrated and accused the two of being selfish attention-seekers for not sharing how to get the avatar. However, most users appreciated their silence. One of the first Neopians to obtain the avatar says, “We’ve all waited three years for Bonju, it was only fair to have three hours of excitement!”
And what a three hours they were. “I had never seen the boards so fast and crazy!” exclaims water_park1993. “Every post you posted showed up two pages later! It was a total madness!”
Some, like enchantmentunknown, tremendously enjoyed the clamor. “It is absolutely the funniest madness I have ever seen sweep the board,” she says.
Highly competitive and even aggressive collectors made the experience difficult for some, however. Yoyote of Neopia Central “was initially very excited, but quickly became frustrated” with the growing attitude of intolerance and negativity. “It took an enormous amount of self-restraint for me not to get mad on the Neoboards.”
Even Jess and Asra found that a few collectors were becoming aggressive towards them. However, by around 5:00pn NST, the answer to Chef Bonju’s avatar was spreading, and more and more players donned the orange Blumaroo.
The secret was out.
As Bonju’s rarity rapidly decreased, so did the excitement. Now that hundreds of Neopians have the avatar and many more know how to get it, the notoriety of Chef Bonju is changing—for better or for worse.
Punkinunk, earlier quoted regarding Chef Bonju’s infamy, feels that, “Now it's just . . . another avatar. It's lost its gleam.”
Yoyote and others, however, feel differently. She feels that, “Even though the Bonju avatar is really common now, I don't think that makes it any less special. It has an unusual history and it will always be remembered as one of the greatest commotions ever to arouse Neopia.”
Jess and Asra themselves don’t regret the outcome. “I’m happy that the word is out and that people can finally cross this one off their lists,” says Jess.
Asra agrees. “I am really glad that everyone knows now! It’s been fun watching everyone get the avatar. Does it make the avatar less special? No way! I’ll let you figure out why.”
Reflecting on those few hours of elation and desperation, Asra concludes, “While this experience had its ups and downs, I wouldn’t have changed it.”
It has truly been a momentous event in Neopian history—and something of a bittersweet one, as well. That glorious symbol of the unattainable has been obtained. What next shall we strive for?
This is Niri Oshna, reporting from Neopia Central, signing out.