Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ben-To Review

You know, I like food just as much as the next person but fighting for discounted bentos? NO THANK YOU!!

Ben-To is a 12 episode Action/Comedy series based on the ongoing Light Novel written by Asaura and published by Shueisha. Four manga adaptations all from the same writer and publisher range in release from April 2011 to June 2013. The anime from David Production is directed by Shin Itagaki for the Fall 2011 season. As of this review, it was recently licensed by FUNimation Entertainment for streaming. As for a home video release that is currently unknown.

Yō Satō is a new high school student living in the dorms. While seeking cheap eats at the local market he finds himself beat up and semi-conscious with fleeting glimpses of a girl during the moments of his collapse. As his memories recover the next day, he discovers that trying to purchase half priced lunchboxes can be hazardous to his health as free-for-all fights with local students for the discounted food is the nightly routine. The girl from the night before, Sen Yarizui, is an upper classmate known as the Ice Cold Witch and is one of the local Wolves who dominates the area. She educates him on the rules of the game where Wolves eat well while Dogs settle for cup ramen. With fellow first year student Hana Oshiroi, a fetishistic germaphobe, Yō Satō sets out to discover if he too has what it takes to be a Wolf and taste the sweet victory of half priced boxed banquets or wallow in the bitter defeat of reconstituted noodles and salty broth in a styrofoam bowl.

Yup. The important things...
The last time I saw something that David Production was attached too was when I looked at Hyperdimension Neptunia for my Impressions series last year and the new JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure the year prior to that. So I know they are capable of pulling off some variety. However, Ben-To is older then both series and you can tell a little bit that David was still rather fresh since they gained their first series in 2009. But for animation quality Ben-To is pretty good. They used their budget on the... Uhmm... Important parts of the series and you can certainly tell. The soundtrack is actually rather varied as well from typical battle music to a little more cultural for certain characters. All in all, the technical side of Ben-To is pretty up there in quality for a series that, personally, fits with the material.

Ben-To isn’t all that complex in story. It’s just a group of high schoolers fighting for half priced bentos. That’s really all there is to it. There are points in the series where they try to put a story in but they only really last three episodes max, one about halfway through and the second towards the end of the series. Otherwise, we have a bunch of filler episodes that are there to show how insane and twisted their world is. And when I say twisted, I mean it in a perverted kind of way. There’s just so many sexual jokes that it can take you out of the series. Hell, Sato gains the alias Pervert part way through the series for pete’s sake! I can understand if you bring in some sexual humor every once in a while or as a trait for one single character, but when it’s pretty constant or it’s a trait in more than one character, the story kind of suffers because of the many gags they try using to satisfy those with a similar sense of humor.

Yeah... Personality is small compared to appearance....
I suppose this is a decent segway to the characters. I’m not really a big fan of the characters of this series. All of them are rather stereotypical and that makes me lose a bit of the humor the show has. Coupled with the amount of sexual humor and personality traits you get, this just isn’t a good combination for me. You have the strong willed Sato, who is kinda a closet pervert (I say kinda cause it’s more of him misunderstanding what people say rather than him going full fledge creeper pervert), Yarizui the rather stoic character with pride, Oshiroi who is a bit more of a pervert and writes a novel series throughout the course of the anime, Shaga who is similar to Sato (they are cousins after all) but is more open about being a pervert sometimes, Ume who is in love with Oshiroi but it’s more like she wants to protect her to the point where Sato becomes the brunt of her abuse. There’s just nothing really new or fun going on with these characters and it’s really saddening. However, I can also understand that with a series that isn’t too complex in story, it doesn’t have to have complex characters so I can at least give it that much. The characters match the kind of story Ben-To is going for and that’s fine. It’s better than a complex story with surface level characters or a simple story with really developed characters. Sometimes, it’s about the balance.

As previously mentioned, Ben-To does not have an english dub as of writing this review so it’s not going to be covered. In regards to the Japanese language track, for what the series is, it’s pretty solid. Hiro Shimono, Mariya Ise, and Emiri Kato as the three major leads Sato, Yarizui, and Shaga are fun to listen to and do well with the material that they were given. Then there’s Aoi Yuki as Oshiroi and Ai Kayano as Shiraume and they were probably my favorite performances of the bunch due to their little quirks. A few other mentions I want to give, performance wise, are Ayana Taketatsu as Asebi, Kazuyuki Okitsu as Nikaido, and Yui Horie and Yukari Tamura as the Sawagi twins. Even though this series, to me, is full of problems it at least has a decent language track.

By the end of the fight, Ben-To is a fun show only if you turn your brain completely off to it. The fight scenes are fun and there were moments where I enjoyed the humor, but those moments were very few. This one was one of the more difficult ones for me to get into even with my brain turned off. For me, there was just sexual humor overload and a cast of characters that weren’t all that interesting to me by the end of the series. Sadly, this isn’t one I can give a good recommendation to, but I can say that if fighting and large amounts of sexual humor interest you then go ahead and give it go! Ben-To isn’t right for everyone, and that is certainly the case for me.

Next time, another reader request with mechs and boobs. Until then, otaku on my friends!

Final Rating - 4/10 A half priced bento best served without thinking to much.

Special thanks to Bukkiteer RareFindIt for the request!

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