Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Ben-to

Original Run: October 9, 2011 - December 25, 2011
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Action, Comedy
Based on the Series Created By: Asaura and
Kaito Shibano

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Ben-to. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Having just started high school, You Satou (voiced by Hiro Shimono) finds himself on a tight budget. One night, he goes to his local supermarket right when the bentos go on sale. Thinking he lucked out, You has no idea he has walked straight into a war zone.

Fighters from across the city battle to claim the tastiest meals at their lowest prices. The competition is fierce and only the strongest, the Wolves, will win their prize. And at the top of this world is the fabled Ice Witch, Sen Yarizui (voiced by Mariya Ise).

As fate would have it, Sen is an upperclassman at You’s school. Fascinated by the bento warriors’ pride and honor, You wishes to fight as well. Thus, Sen invites him to join the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club to become a Wolf like her.

Series Positives

Combatants, who possess a strict and proud warrior culture, face-off in nightly battle-royal matches to save money on food. I don’t think I say this often enough, but anime is weird.

Nevertheless, that weirdness and the determined dedication to it was what allowed Ben-to to be amazingly fun. Or, at least, amazingly fun when this show was at its peak – more on that later.

Despite the silliness of the setup, Ben-to managed to be an exciting action series. Although one would not expect it, the fight scenes were some of the best from any anime I have ever seen. Everything was fast, punches hit hard, there was an unrelenting no-holds-barred energy, and everyone was out to win.

And to those wondering, can store-bought Japanese bentos (pre-made boxed lunches/dinners) be the basis for a show?

Well, from my experience, bentos from a convenience store, let alone a supermarket, are impressively varied and immensely satisfying. Plus, with most typically ranging between five and seven dollars, being able to get a full – not to mention delicious – meal at half that price is quite the score. Throw in a bunch of hungry people living on a budget, and yeah, a scuffle might break out.

And for the one person lacking basic common sense: Please do not start beating fellow customers for a good deal; you will be arrested.

To be clear, contests in Ben-to weren’t rough and tumble street brawls. They were acrobatic spectacles filled with flips, twits, and aerial gymnastics. Think Dragon Ball, but without any of the energy blasts. I mean, this series was ridiculous, but it wasn’t THAT ridiculous.

Aside from its action, Ben-to was also an enjoyable comedy. It was hilarious, and its jokes nearly always landed. Much of this success was due to the fantastic voice cast, which included:

  • Mr. Hiro Shimono (You Sato) – Mitsudomoe, Nagasarete Airanto, Attack on Titan
  • Ms. Mariya Ise (Sen Yarizui) – Fairy Tale, Hunter x Hunter, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
  • Ms. Emiri Katou (Ayame Shaga) – Baka & Test – Summon the Beasts, Monogatari series, Lucky Star
  • Ms. Aoi Yuki (Hana Oshiroi) – A-Channel, Madoka Magica, Youjo Senki

Needless to say, there was talent in this series.

Aside from Ben-to having great performers give voices to its characters, and this show gave its performers plenty of stuff to work with. Even when this series was at its lowest, the cast were never the problem.

For the first half of Ben-to, the series seems poised to deliver a massive win. That’s why it was unfortunate when this show slammed on the f-ing breaks after episode six.

Series Negatives

I want to recommend this series; I really do. However, I can’t deny how suddenly I lost complete interest in this show.

Ben-to had my full attention for the first six episodes. It was fun, exciting, and always on point. The story was building to this epic showdown between the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club and their ultimate opponent.  

That storyline could have made up the entire run. Instead, it saw its conclusion half-way through the series (satisfyingly, I might add). After that, there was a whole lot of nothing.

Then again, when I say “nothing,” I mean Ben-to began to play up its fanservice. To be fair, this had been a common element throughout the show. Still, initially, it was of secondary importance. The priority was getting to know the characters and the bento-fights. And to be even more fair, this series did fanservice correctly.

Ben-to treated its more sexualized moments as extra.

Many shows do this thing where the main story’s finale takes place in the penultimate episode. The actual final episode then goes loose with all the anime boobies, swimsuits, innuendoes one could ask for. But to do this with still half a run to go, a series is banking on its audience’s investment towards the characters.

And the tragedy of it all is, Ben-to might have been able to pull this off. Too bad this hope was dashed when this show tried to throw in another plotline right at the end. Doing this might have been fine had the second story arc been given the necessary amount of room to grow and become meaningful. That did not happen, though.

The second half of Ben-to, when it did get back into story mode, was rushed and nowhere near as impressive as the first half.

Like I said, I want to recommend this series, but this was a blight that cannot be ignored.

Final Thoughts

This was not the first time I watched this series. You’d think I would have remembered how everything just stopped midway through. I didn’t, and I’m not sure what that says about this show.

When it was running on high, it was fantastic. The action, the comedy, the characters, it was all great and well worth watching. And if you stop once you reach the end of episode six, then I think you’ll have a wonderful time.

However, how does one only recommend half a show?

I suppose the question is, “Did the second half ruin anything?” In that respect, no. It was simply not as good.

Therefore, I think Ben-to does earn a mild recommendation.

But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Ben-to? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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