One thing I have learned from observing the U.S media, during Black Friday, is that shoppers have no qualms about using force to take advantage of a good deal. The barbaric shopping habits that occur post Thanksgiving Day are however not limited to the States. In Ben-To (a twelve episode anime series based on Asaura’s light novels) viewers get to spectate the violent Bento Brawls, which occur in Japanese supermarkets when they discount their bento meals one hour before the store shuts. The sales attract ravenous fighters from around town who square off in mortal combat to determine who will nab one of the limited half price snacks on offer. Although I understand the allure of a cheap dinner, wouldn’t it just be easier to pop out for a takeaway?
Ben-To stars a skint high school student named Yo Sato, whose financial situation is so dire that in this age of PlayStation 4s he continues to game on an obsolete Sega Saturn. One evening, in search of inexpensive nourishment, Sato decides to visit a local store hoping to grab a reduced price bento. The shopping trip ends with him getting his face pounded, as the protagonist is painfully introduced to the world of Bento Brawls. Unperturbed by the ass kicking, Sato elects to compete in the nightly contests for bargain grub – I guess all those years of playing Virtua Fighter have conditioned him to enjoy a good bout of fisticuffs. Eventually he joins the ranks of the “Half Priced Food Lovers Club” who are led by a veteran Bento Brawler named Sen Yarizui (aka the Ice Witch.) She’s a no nonsense gal whose passion in life is filling up a scrap book with half price stickers acquired from the spoils of the supermarket based battle royales.
As you may have gathered from the show’s setup, Ben-To is a rather silly cartoon even if the bento competitors treat their sport extremely seriously. Joining Sato and Yarizui in their adventures is a bunch of oddball characters, which include Sato’s cousin Ayame Shaga (a flirtatious blonde who specializes in inflicting pain with chopsticks.) One of my favourite characters is Hana Oshiroi, a germaphobe author who likes to pen gay love stories loosely based on Sato’s exploits. Wherever Hana goes student council president Ume Shiraume follows. Ume is very possessive when it comes to the scribe of homosexual tales. One of Ben-To’s recurring gags has the jealous Shiraume slapping the bejesus out of Sato whenever she spots him hanging out with her beloved Hana.
My rating for Ben-To is a four out of five. Despite its goofy premise the anime is blessed with impressive gravity defying fights that put some traditional action shows to shame. Although the punch-ups are far from realistic the animators at David Production (Inu X Boku and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) make an effort to show the consequences of the onscreen violence. In the aftermath of a brawl poor Sato is regularly seen bandaged and covered in scrapes. On the comedy side of things the cast of characters, although nothing but clichés, play well off each other and deliver plenty of humorous banter that had be chuckling consistently.
Looking online I note that opinions on the series are divided, with the deciding factor being the show’s fan service. Although Ben-To never reaches the nudity levels of Sekirei it certainly isn’t shy about flaunting eye candy. Many shots linger on jiggly breasts and there’s even an episode set at a waterpark, just as an excuse to display the predominately female cast in swimsuits (they justify the change in setting by explaining that the establishment ridiculously places cut price bento in their pool atop floating containers.) In the interest of fairness there are a number of occasions were Sato is humiliated in his birthday suit, but I doubt that will appease those of a feminist persuasion. Thankfully I have no issues with innocent titillation so the show gets a thumbs up from me. If you hunger for wacky action and plenty of laughs Ben-To is worth checking out – it will satisfy your cravings just like the show’s titular meals.