Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Ben-to (review)

Final impression – quirky fun with a touch of gallantry (7/10)

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Boxed-Lunch)

When you’re going to high school and money is tight, you learn to shop for bargains on food.  Late in the day at the supermarkets, the boxed meals—Japanese bento—get marked down to half price.  This is when the bargain hunters come out to battle each other for the best deals on the day’s dinner.  Called “Wolves,” they go all out in a free-for-all battle royale of punches and kicks to claim their prize and newcomers like Satou are given no quarter—it’s sink or swim for anyone who steps into the ring.  But a cheap meal isn’t the only motivation for the newbie protagonist.  He admires the beautiful Sen Yarizui whose skill as a wolf has earned her the title of “Ice Witch.”  Upon further investigation he finds that Yarizui is a grade above him at his school and in order to get closer to her, he joins the “Half-Pricer’s Club,” which she is the president.  Little does he know he’s gotten involved in a warrior’s adventure that’s going to teach him the value of upholding chivalry even in the most adverse circumstances.

The flow of Ben-to feels pretty good for the most part.  But this anime’s main selling point is its freshness.  Fighting anime of all kinds come and go without any unique attributes to set them apart from the crowd.  Ben-to stands out by doing things its own way and not caving to established norms.  That’s not to say that this anime made very good choices in its effort to be itself—particularly in the pool episode—but the fact that it tried its best is something to take note of when you look at the big picture.  Another noteworthy facet of Ben-to and nearly all anime of the entire fall 2011 season is the depiction of Satou as a strong, but down-to-earth young man when it comes to his interactions with girls.  I’ve grown tired of the male protagonist who has absolutely no backbone when it comes to women.  All the same, I’m not sure if Satou qualifies as being a favorable exception to that overused male character attribute.  On one hand he’s usually just caught in compromising situations from which there is no favorable escape.  On the other hand, despite is more chivalrous side, he never has the presence of mind to find a way to simply avoid those dilemmas in the first place.  So aside from its slightly ecchi side, Ben-to was a lot of fun.

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