Ben-To Episode 1
What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don’t have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.
Series Premise: Ben-To is a weekly anime television series based on a light novel series, started in October 2011. Yoh Satou has recently started attending a private high school, and heads out in search for a cheap meal for dinner. But little does he know that he gets sucked into an all-out battle royale for half-priced bento lunch boxes at the local supermarket.
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Spoiler-free set-up: Yoh Satou wakes up and finds himself beaten to a bloody pulp on the floor of the supermarket, unable to remember what just happened. The next day at school, he meets a bespectacled girl, Hana, who seems to know him, as well as a quiet silver-haired upperclasswoman, Sen, who warns him to stay away from the store. But hunger begets necessity, and he finds himself at the supermarket that night in search of half-priced bento lunch boxes, the only meal he can find within his budget. But as soon as the pre-packaged meals are marked down, all hell breaks loose as various supermarket patrons fight tooth and nail for their nightly meal. Who are the people fighting over this discounted food, and who is the “Ice Witch” that seems to dominate them all?
My Impressions: The first rule of Fight Club: Don’t talk about Fight Club.
Yeah, I knew this was going to be an incredibly stupid and unrealistic show going into it. The set-up is inanely insane…which is what drew me to the show in the first place. Of *course* it’s beyond the pale, silly! That’s kind of the whole point of this absurdist theater.
Of *course* all of these people gathering every night could find somewhere else to get their meal. Of *course* there’s easier ways to go about their daily sustenance that an all-out no-holds-barred battle each night. But the point of the Bento Battle is not so much for the food, but for the pride in the fight. It has become somewhat of an event, a tradition, much like the aforementioned Fight Club, or any other ridiculously contrived activity that leaves you scratching your head how it ever began. For an anime or manga analogy, I might point to some of the long-running cooking battle shows where the cooking “battles” become so insanely over-the-top that it bears little resemblance to cooking in the end, and the fun is in the crazy situations themselves.
Now turning to the story itself…it has the potential to be fun. It also has the potential to go too far and become stupid, too — way too early to tell at this point, since we were only introduced to the main characters and the concept of the story itself. As for the characters, well, I’m a bit troubled by how blatantly stereotypical they are. Yoh himself is your same-old-same-old weakling loser-boy high school everyman, perhaps one of the most overplayed main character archetypes in anime fandom in the past decade (at least for guys). Sen is a textbook example of a kuudere: cold, unemotional, and fierce on the outside, yet strangely tender on the inside. Hana is a classic meganekko glasses girl…*sigh*. Should I even bring up Ume, the bitch-slapping lesbian student president? No, I shan’t.
But character stereotypes aside, it’s only one episode and I would hope they would grow beyond their stock character traits. (I wouldn’t bet on it, though.) And do I expect anything amazing to emerge out of Ben-To? Nah, not really. But it could be some silly-stupid, mindless fun. We’ll see what happens.
Even after the first episode, I suppose the most interesting thing about the show is the very concept itself. I’m not particularly in love with the characters (in fact, quite the opposite), I’m not wowed by the animation or production values, and I’ll reserve my opinions on the progression on the story until it actually…progresses. Can the concept carry an entire season’s worth of episodes? Only time will tell.
- Preview trailer on Youtube.
- Info resources:
- If you like this, you might also like: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu or Toriko.
Sampling of Online Reviews:
- “Maybe there’s some other show that I’m unaware of, but Ben-To has, without a doubt, one of the most ridiculous premises for comedy series that I’ve ever seen. For all intents and purposes, a story this bizarre should be comedy gold, and with all logic immediately thrown out the window, the writers can do pretty much whatever they want with the plot and no one would bat an eyelid. I must confess, I was very excited for Ben-To for those very reasons, and while it isn’t exactly incredible or as good as I’d hoped it would be, it’s certainly a worthwhile comedy series.” – Bokutachi no Blog
- “Yeah, what did I just watch? This was just…bizarre on so many levels, but I oddly didn’t hate it. In fact, I have to commend this show for recognizing how absurd it’s premise is and just going crazy with it instead of trying to take itself seriously.” – Sekijitsu
- “I did not expect much from a show about fighting over bento when I first saw what the show was about. This show has surprised me though…The show doesn’t take itself too seriously like a lot of the ridiculous competition shows seem to. There is also a little bit of ecchi in it which sweetens the deal for me.” – Nerd Age
- “While some of the abuse was pretty clichéd and a bit over the top for my tastes and I’m getting pretty sick of Hiro-Hiro in these kinds of roles, the good far outweighed the bad there.” – Lost in America
- “There is first of all the premise of this series, but on top of that it also had by far the best direction of the bunch. This first episode was well told, had some great ideas into it, and especially the way in which the creators used amnesia in this episode in order to introduce everyone worked well, but also the use of camera angles was quite inspired. Potential: 80%.” – Star Crossed Anime Blog
- “This was dumb. But it was also pretty funny, in a ridiculous way.” – Draggle’s Anime Blog
- “The only thing that stands out in this show is the concept. Having to fight over getting half-priced Bento and it being loosely organized by the participants is a fantastic basis for a show. Unfortunately everything around the show is average. The animation is average, all the character designs are typical generic Moe, and the music is forgettable.” – Otaku in Review
- “Fighting for your food is as basic a plot as you can get, but just because it’s basic doesn’t mean it’s bad, and in fact it’s quite the opposite. The show compliments this by never taking itself too seriously, so we’re left (at least judging on the first two episodes) with a ridiculous yet genuinely funny series.” – Japanator
- “It is stupid, but it is fun stupid. This is leave your brain at the door entertainment at its finest. Really, you should not even try to think why a battle royale breaks out when a bento box goes half price. Grade: 3/5.” – Janai Blog
- “So far I’m surprisingly in love with the whole battle royale bento concept. What should be stupid is actually quite cool, as the fights over the bentos are of epic proportions. As a battle/gag anime, it would be great. The only thing is…the show isn’t really funny.” – Metanorn
ROUND ONE RESULTS FOR THE FALL 2011 SHOWS:
Thumbs-up for Round One: Un-Go, Chibi Devi, Working Season 2, Bakuman Season 2, Mirai Nikki, Shinryaku Ika Musume Season 2, Ben-To
Thumbs-down for Round One: Morita-san wa Mukuchi Season 2, Kimi to Boku, C3: CubexCursedxCurious, Mobile Suit Gundam AGE
Coming up next: Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, Chihayafuru, Guilty Crown, Phi-Brain, Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing, Fate Zero, Majikoi Oh! Samurai Girls, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Shakugan no Shana III, Hunter x Hunter, Mashiro-iro Symphony, Tamayura Hitotose, Persona 4, Maken-ki, Cross Fight Bedaman, Digimon Xros Wars II