April 6th, 2011—that was the day that 15-year-old You Satou was knocked unconscious while reaching for a half-priced bento, a prepackaged meal sold at the supermarket. By the time he woke up on the ground, all the bento boxes were gone. He left the supermarket hungry and in pain, only for the same thing to happen the next day.
You soon learn that, in the world of Ben-To, discounted bentos are sacred and highly-sought after, and in order to get one, you needed to fight your way to the top. These bento brawls are fought by experienced fighters known as “Wolves”, who leave the inexperienced and weak “Dogs” like him lying on the ground in defeat. In a world where the weak are left hungry and only the strong can dine, You must train under the guidance of the silver-haired “Ice Queen”, Sen Yarizui, to become a bento-eating wolf himself.
Times are hard, and in these days of global economic crisis and recession more and more people have joined the hunt to find the best bargains. As with anything in life though, experience is what counts, and veterans in the ways of saving money will usually have the upper hand in the war of the aisles. While there are a few young hotshots who have a natural talent for finding a store's bargain products, the truth is that wherever there are discounted groceries, there will undoubtedly be kings and queens who rule over them.
Now it may sound as though that whole paragraph is nothing more
than a flowery representation of Ben-Tou, Asuara's light novel series (and its anime and manga adaptations), about Satou You, a highschool student who unwittingly becomes embroiled in an all-out brawl between people wanting half-price ready meals, but that's actually incorrect. Surprisingly, it's more akin to the reality of discount shopping than most people think, but while there's generally a lot of shoving, actual combat is ... uncommon.
Ben-Tou has a relatively simple storyline that isn't encumbered with complex philosophical questions or existential uncertainties. The plot is straightforward, but very typically shounen in its repetitiveness and predictability, which may explain why there are attempts towards the end of the series to add a layer of depth to the narrative. Unfortunately it doesn't really work as the show spends too much time trying to be funny, justifying all out brawls in grocery stores (which never seem to attract the attention of the police), and servicing hormone crazed teenagers.
The sad thing is that Ben-Tou has potential as a concept, but when it comes to execution the author, and then everyone else, seem to have left their artistic sensibilities by the wayside. There are some genuinely good flashes of inspiration in the narrative that come about because of the fact that each territory is "ruled" by the strongest fighter (or "wolf"), in that area. Sadly these sparks of inspiration never really amount to anything, and the anime becomes little more than a parade of characters, brawls, inane comedy and pointless fanservice.
Given that this is supposed to be an action anime, one would assume that the emphasis would be on making the combat scenes look good, but unfortunately that isn't the case. The characters are decent enough, but the reliance on stereotypes can make some viewers think that the designers lacked imagination. In addition to that, the settings for many of the show's fight scenes are grocery stores, so it's remarkable that the post-battle shop floors remain unscathed. The animation quality is fairly reasonable, but it's not up to the standard that David Production are capable of (they made Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra), and the series can sometimes look like a rush job (which may explain the unusual postures and the odd jumps and glitches).
The opening sequence features the song "Live for Life: Ōkamitachi no Yoru" by Manami, an upbeat rock song set against a backdrop of character introductions, action and fanservice that make a surprisingly accurate presentation of the show's content. There's also an additional introduction for episode four that focuses on Shaga Ayame while "Treasure" by Kato Emiri plays out in the background. The melodic ballad used for the ending theme, "Egao no Housoku" by Ise Mariya, serves as a nice counterpoint to each episode, and the rather placid sequence fits well with the idea that it's a post-battle scene.
As for the rest of the music, although the series is well served in the variety of pieces on offer, the usage of particular tracks can seem a little repetitive.
Ben-Tou likes to wear its shounen heart on its sleeve, so the dialogue is filled with juvenile sentiment and lots of shouting. Like almost every other action/harem/comedy/fanservice anime out there, the script is a little too reliant on familiarity with the genre, but within that there are a few decent little deviations from the norm (mainly about fighting for discounted food). Unfortunately the acting is pretty much what one would expect from this type of show - lots of effort and not much actual skill, but maybe that's to be expected. The four leads have little experience with serious roles, which isn't an indictment of their abilities, but rather an observation about the anime industry's propensity for churning out mediocre titles that cater to the minority of fans.
Seriously, stop wasting talent. It's too hard to come by.
In true shounen fashion the characters are about as one-dimensional as they come, and there's very little in the way of refinement throughout the series. That said, the main focus of the story isn't to develop each person, but rather to put them in situations where the warrior mentality can be prominently displayed. Unfortunately it doesn't work out that way as Ben-Tou is a veritable who's who of stereotypes, and pretty much every trait and personality associated with genre are on display, especially the wishy-washy lead male - Satou You. The problem is that viewers may become too familiar with a character's behaviour outside of combat, so watching them fight can often raise several questions, the main one being why does someone who is supposedly capable keep getting slapped around by Shiraume Ume.
Like many harem lead males, Satou You seems to be a bit of a masochist.
As a concept, Ben-Tou has some merit, but somewhere along the way a decision was made to try and appeal to a specific fanbase, and that's what ultimately lets the show down. The addition of multiple love-interests, inane comedy, innuendo and fanservice seem tacky at best, and can often feel more like hasty additions to the plot. Although there is some entertainment value in the series, this is mainly due to the fact that audiences can watch this as though it was a half-decent action movie.
The truth is that Ben-Tou could have held up a mirror to the real-life tribulations of discount shopping, but sadly the show fails to realise its potential because it tries too hard to jump on the harem/comedy bandwagon, and this gets in the way of it being a true parody.
Ben-To is philosophy. Ben-To is art. Ben-To is everything, but bad for your health.
How does a show deliver such greatness that cannot be matched by other action shows? The answer is simple: Ben-To knows its place as an over-the-top parody work. Most shows suffer from being blatant copies of each other and turn bland by the time the second episode pops up. However, every single episode of Ben-To is simmered, well-roasted, and served with refreshments.
The show’s main appeal is its dramatic fighting sequences and Production David does well. Do not fear the “absurd” premise. In shopping malls, it is a well-known fact that discounted goods
are pretty much fought over; Ben-To just takes it into account and increases the fighting factor. The ridiculous over-the-top action scenes are rendered and always intense; not even a typical pool episode can hinder the awesomeness of punching people’s stomachs for the sake of an unagi don bento. Speed lines are used graciously and the action can be seen easily due to the presentation it is drawn, the OP being a great example.
Do not also be let down by the huge amount of cliches and archetypes; this is a parody of action shows. You have the Rei Ayanami clone, the perverted ordinary high school student, a perverted girl, and more. However, what Ben-To does is something spectacular: it plays with the tropes and archetypes and puts it into the most awesome setting of all, a supermarket. There is a lot of interesting twists into an archetype, trope, and setting that is admirable in creative standards; it is very rare to see a work so understanding and playful of its tropes and Ben-To does it well.
Yet, this work is tainted by the huge amount of fanservice. Most of the characters are females with noticeable cleavage and this can be distracting and sexist to many. I have trouble liking Oshiroi’s character sometimes as all she does is make sexual innuendos. It is problematic that the action clashes with the fanservice in many times.
The OPs are beautifully animated and highlight the show’s distinctive features. "Live for Life" is a catchy, irresistible theme song that I hum every time I remember Ben-To. The background music is pretty wacky and cool at times, showing the effort done in the sound department. All of the seiyuus sound about right, though there isn’t anyone who did a spectacular job.
The reasons that you may not watch this show become the reason you will watch the show. Its ingredient list can be skeptical at first, but it is godly. The show is more addictive than Dr. Pepper and tastier than Kettle potato chips.
Why are you waiting in line at the restaurant? Go to your nearest supermarket today and grab a bento.
But there isn't a whole lot to spoil here. When I first saw this series on the coming-season chart, I laughed at the ridiculous premise. Just read the description! Teams of high school students fighting over discounted groceries, all while following some sort of highly regarded honor code? "This show has to be absolutely mindless," I thought. It is. But that's okay, because Ben-To is completely self-aware. It knows you didn't come here for the plot. You came to be entertained. And you shall be
Story - 5/10
As you would expect, the story is an absolute trainwreck. To put it briefly, at certain time in a certain convenience store, a special sticker is placed on food to mark it as discounted. Logically, there are dozens of people, waiting like vultures, to swoop in and beat each other senseless to save a few yen (sounds a bit like Black Friday, but I digress). There are leaders in these battles, such as Sen "Ice Witch" Yarizui, the president of the "Half-Price Food Lover's Club" that You Satou, the MC, happens to join. These leaders battle it out, claiming the sticker as a trophy of their victory. Those who fight with honor and abide by the rules of bento brawling are given the title of "Wolves."
This is about as bad as a story can get. The reason it gets an "average" 5 is because it is able to build a complex system around this idiotic premise, a system which happens to be interesting and funny at the same time. The customs, titles, everything about it has been thought out to an unnecessary level of detail. Really, this is as much a comedy as it is an action series.
Animation - 7/10
Ben-to is surprisingly well animated. The fight scenes are choreographed well, and there is a large variety of character models which each get their own style. There is a significant amount of blatant fanservice, if you're into that kind of thing.
Sound - 4/10
It has a pretty bad sound track consisting of several background convenience store songs and corny action music. I have no complaints about the voice cast. I don't put much weight into this category anyway.
Characters - 6/10
If you like cheeesy, over the top characters, you came to the right place. While the main character resembles Harem Protagonist #652, nearly every other character is highly entertaining (if shallow). You have the cold, calculating Ice Queen, the formidable "Kyou" sisters, the incredibly violent lesbian Ume who is constantly after Hana, who only joined the Half-Price Food Lover's Club because she wanted material for her yaoi muscleman fanfics. Lastly we have Shaga, who is one of the main fanservice magnets, and while the other girls were by no means left constantly covered, I felt she was the main source of the series' tissue material.
Enjoyment - 8/10
Let me compare Ben-to to junk food. It's bad for you, has no real value, and you know deep down you shouldn't like it. However, that never stopped me from loving every bite of this anime. If you can sit down and turn off your brain for a bit, I promise it will leave a smile on your drooling, vegetative face.
My brain is too numb for thoughts, but I will leave you with a quote. "To the winners go glory and half-priced bento! — Ayame Shaga"
Ben-to was a big surprise for me, when i saw it i didn't have high expectations for the anime to be good, man i was wrong and i ended up loving Ben-to and wanting for more.
The story is not complex but honestly, is good and refreshing to see a different anime with a good concept that they show well by having factions and everyone having their own territory. The story follows a monetary poor You Satou, who one day was discovered beaten inside a supermarket and sees a mysterious girl outside the supermarket this is where you say, i want to know what happened, he
is followed in the morning by a girl called Hana who encourage him to go to the supermarket again, and he is beaten again by The Ice Witch, she invites them to join the Half Priced Food Lovers Club (where she is the only member and president) to teach them how to get Half Priced Ben-to by fighting their way against other fighters.
Art & Animation
This was well animated and even good in the fight scenes, and the different compelling characters were well detailed and the background art of everything was very good.
The soundtrack on this was outstanding, i personally love it and the background music on the fight scenes was great, i wanted to hear it everytime; The VA is great, i really enjoyed the music presented in the anime.
There is a variety of Characters that were great and they all have a back story but i don't have a favorite, if i have to choose, it would be Sen Yarizui the ''Ice Witch'', but the 4 Main Characters were amazing they were unique and really hilarious even the support characters were unique and rememberable and the twins were great.
Ben-to is enjoyable for the comedy, the sound, the characters, and the action, i really love Ben-to and i wanted to see more and more, and i wanted to see more about Sen.
Martial arts are an expression of power, showcasing the potential of the human body when pushed to its physical limit. It also makes for exciting anime, and allows animators and directors to showcase their prowess as things get heated.
Some anime are awesome because they're based on awesome ideas. Others are awesome… even though they have really stupid premises. Have you ever stopped to consider the premise of your favorite anime? We have.