From all the fan-service shows I’ve watched as a reviewer, I’m considering Ben-To as one of the best ones I’ve seen and there are several reasons why. It might not be an instant classic, but there are many factors why you should check out this fun show.
Ben-To was animated by Studio David Production, a relatively new studio who have made some good shows like Inu x Boku SS and most recently the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure anime series. The director Shin Itagaki has worked on shows like Devil May Cry and Black Cat.
Satou You is an impecunious 1st Year freshman who decides to go to the supermarket to get some food. He finds that a market worker has marked various bento boxes at half price and decides to get one when he is suddenly set upon and beaten up for some unknown reason and ends up in hospital. After discharging himself and going on to school, he is confused as to why this happened to him and ends up heading back to the store – not only to attempt to get some discounted food but also to find out what happened to him the previous day.
However once again he is attacked and is knocked out. He wakes up in the supermarket office, where it’s explained to him that various people fight to get the discounted bento boxes and they never back down until all of them are gone. After discovering this, he meets Sen Yarizui, nicknamed ‘The Ice Witch’, a veteran of bento fights and leader of the Half-Price Bento school club. It is there that Satou learns the rules of the supermarket bento fights.
Ben-To is spilt into two parts. The first half introduces the main and side characters, while also developing a plot towards the end. The way Satou learns about the rules of ‘Bento’ is very natural, and the way he’s depicted as a useless dog that has no chance against an aggressive wolf is very entertaining. I also like the way the show avoids simple battle brawls and introduces new aspects to them, such as how a fat lady nicknamed ‘The Boar’ takes all the bento boxes and asks the worker to mark them half price, or the group that has a cynical plan to block off other fighters to get to the food. The show does well to keep these aspects fresh.
After a generic but fun water park episode, the second half focuses on the arrival of the Orthros twins, who start to get back into fighting for bento and target the Ice Witch due to her being one of the best fighters in town. This bit ends up being more serious when it comes to the final episodes but there are some really funny moments in it.
What makes Ben-To very enjoyable is the cast of characters; since it’s a 12 episode series, the show can’t develop all of them but at least they’re fun. Shaga Ayame is Satou’s half-Italian cousin, a very energetic character who uses chopsticks in the battles. Oshiroi Hana is a hardcore fujoshi and uses Satou getting beaten up as inspiration to write her yaoi novels. Then there’s Shiraume Ume, a lesbian that almost everyone is afraid of and is obsessed with Hana and, due to Hana hanging around with Satou, she beats him up a a lot due to jealousy. As for Satou himself, he is an alright protagonist; when he gets beaten up, he always shows evidence of being injured, such as bandages or plasters, so it’s refreshing to see that he’s not invincible. There are plenty of other characters and I liked them all.
As mentioned, I really like the bento battles; all of them are well animated and show a lot of energy.There is even one in the water park episode which surprisingly ends up being one of the funniest episodes. The soundtrack is also brilliant with a weird mix of African tribal, Smooth and Noise Jazz that fits the show very well, thanks to composer Taku Iwasaki’s score.
If I were to criticize Ben-To, it does rely on random fan-service shots a bit too much; while I like most of the Shiraume Ume scenes and find them funny, there are moments where the fan-service is a bit too much, and there are other moments scattered around the series that might annoy some viewers.
Extras include Commentaries on Episodes 3 and 7, a fun Ben-To Brawl short with Justin Rojas and Joel McDonald, Textless OPs and EDs and the US trailer.
Overall, I like this series. It’s a really fun show that I will come back to in the years to come, it has so much energy that I never got bored watching it. If that is what you’re looking for, then I definitely recommend this.