“*cues in final fantasy victory music*
Item obtained: Bento”
The strong survive and the weak perish. Witness the epic battles between these fighters as they struggle for life, death and… bento.
Satou You’s high school is a place where it only provides breakfast. He could only get his lunches and dinners somewhere else. One day, when he entered a grocery store and tried to take a bento box, he got pounded up and was literally within the boundary of life and death. After managing to wake up, he found out that an all-out brawl always occurs in these grocery stores, where fighters, aka “wolves” fight with each other just to get their bento. He later joined the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club, invited by one of the famed fighters, Yarizui Sen, so that he can learn the arts of bento wars.
The premise is funny and ridiculous, and the show pulls through, showing us just how ridiculous and reckless a student can be, getting beat-up only to buy a half-priced bento. Being a harem show, there are fanservice scenes from time to time, yet they are not overdone. I rather liked the fanservices in this anime, probably because more than half of them involves yuri and shoujo-ai. Oh joy~
The humors are another point to note about the anime. Although a lot of perverted jokes are used, they are actually funny. This is probably because they used the main character as a comic relief, not on the heroines themselves. This is another reason why I liked Zero no Tsukaima so much. Ben-To is an anime which really show us an example of how to make a proper harem anime and how to deliver a perverted joke properly without sounding cliche.
Characters are important as they are the ones who drive the anime forward. Having bad characters who don’t even make such an impact would be an anime’s downfall, and I’m glad Ben-To didn’t make such an impact. The characters are fun and aforementioned, the creators made a good choice in making Satou the main comic relief character. He’s funny and perverted and ironically, it’s usually these characters who are the more superior ones in harem anime then the “try-to-be-innocent” types of male protagonist. Of cause, even though he’s a pervert, he doesn’t forget to deal some damage with his badassery when the time is right. Blending in both of these features is what make a harem male lead so great, and is one reason why I liked Saito from Zero no Tsukaima, plainly because he have almost the same traits as Satou.
Yarizui Sen and Shaga Ayame are rather fun characters as well. Ayame’s interactions with Satou are mostly ones which reinforces the comedy levels of the show. Yarizui Sen is a lovely character too. Although she doesn’t show it in her face, she is always concerned about the well-being of her club members, always taking care of them and even waits for them to return like the loving senpai she is. Hana Oshiroi doesn’t bring much to the overall plot, but she is a fun character at base. As a yuri fan, Shiraume Ume also deserves a honorouable mention too, who even pwns Ayame in the arts of yuri!
The main flaw about the characters would be that they lacked character developments. That’s the problem with anime airing at around 10 episodes sadly since they lack the time schedule for developments. Since Ben-To had such a wacky atmosphere, this is easily overlooked but 10 episodes are definitely not a good choice for anime with deep plots though.
While the art and animations aren’t top-notch, there are certainly satisfactory. The battle scenes are quite smooth though the characters sometimes moved in awkwardly unrealistic and almost impossible movements. Some character models look reused, especially Satou You and a certain hat-wearing final boss. I also awaits eagerly the day when Brunette reveals her face, though that seems unlikely.
I would say the sound department of the anime is really satisfying. It’s so good that I’m starting to regret my decision in my Best of 2011 for the best soundtrack category. The soundtracks boast a variety of genre, tribal, pop jazzy, rock, electro house and so on. There are even hints of classical Japanese instruments mixed in it. I also like when the bento battles are about to start, the music playing in the grocery stores would get higher in volumes, brilliantly increasing the build-up atmosphere of the battles.
Shimono Hiro, who did Katsuragi Keima’s voice in The World God Only Knows, did a fine job with his role in Ben-To too. His rendition of Satou You left quite an impression. The way he delivered those punchlines are second to none as he made good use of his unusually high-pitched voice. Ise Mariya’s cool voice for Yarizui Sen is pretty nice too. Needless to say, there are even seiyuus like Tamura Yukari who voiced some famous roles like Nanoha from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and Yui Horie, who voiced other major roles like Ayu from Kanon. All in all, Ben-To had a cast of really experienced voice actors.
Ironically, the openings don’t strike me as anything special. The first main OP is a typical pop-rock song though the melodies and the beat are somewhat good. The insert opening, “Treasure” which is only shown on episode 4 is an even bigger disappointment. The vocals sound unprofessional as well. Ultimately, it’s still the main ending which grasps my attention more. “Egao no Housoku” by Mariya Ise is a bittersweet song, with Mariya Ise using her soft vocals to her advantage, bringing out the quality of the song. Mariya Ise is a very good singer in my opinion, probably even more so then her voice acting, but that’s just me. The scenes used in the ending is sweet too, showing the empty bentos and our loving senpai sleeping and cleaning the clubroom, while waiting for and ultimately showing a big smile at the end when her club members finally returned. I couldn’t help it since I haven’t watch this show at that time.
Ben-To is a well done anime in my books. Wacky humors, fun characters and epic soundtracks. Although this anime may be easily overlooked by other more mainstream titles in Fall’s list of anime, this is an anime you certainly shouldn’t missed out.