Anime Review: Ben-To

anime review ben-to

Natural Selection. Survival of the fittest. I don’t think Darwin or Spencer had nightly battles for half-priced bento in mind when they thought of their theories. Nevertheless, that’s what Ben-To is all about. That may not sound like an ideal fit for yuri shenanigans, but this is a reminder that looks can be deceiving.

Ben-To has a very simple premise: As the day slowly winds to a close, hungry throngs of people gather at their local supermarket to await an event like no other… bare-knuckle brawling over discounted food. It’s an absurd idea to base a story around, but it somehow turns out to be not terrible. After getting caught in the middle of a throwdown, Satou loses his memory and finds himself right back in harm’s way the following night. It’s here where he crosses paths once again with Yazirui, the president of the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club, and his assailant. After running into Yazirui at school and later regaining his memory, he (and his newfound companion, Oshiroi) join Yazirui’s club. It’s here where Satou learns the ways of the ninja wolf.

The story isn’t great by any stretch, yet taking such a odd premise and making it tolerable can be viewed as an accomplishment. It may sound like the show is nothing other than nonstop fighting, but that’s not the case at all. It’s definitely the basis, don’t get me wrong, but there’s about as much comedy as there is brawling. Where Ben-To fares much better is as a straightforward comedy. Even though it’s unlikely to be the funniest show you’ve seen, there are still plenty of moments where the comedy acquitted itself very well. While the story is definitely lacking, it had all the makings to be much worse. As it stands, meeting the minimum requirements and letting their fists do the rest looks like it was a wise choice in the grand scheme of things.

Okay, so the story wasn’t great, but what about the characters? Well, that’s a very different story. For a series with a plot as basic as this, you’re going to need quality characters, and there are plenty of them to be found in this anime. Shiraume was definitely my favorite, but she’ll be discussed a little later, so let me just quickly mention that she’s yet another Yuri Anime Legend. Yarizui is the President of the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club and a powerful wolf known as “The Ice Witch”. She has a philosophical approach to the bento battles that sets her apart from the other fighters. Her stoicism can make her seem a bit dull at times, but her naiveté, as well as her fighting skills, immediately make her more interesting, come fight time. Next up is Oshiroi. She’s both a member of the Light Novel Society and the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club. Her hobby as an erotic BL novelist is a steady source of comedy gold that helps her become instant entertainment.

Satou is the protagonist of the show, and he’s not that different from your typical male anime protagonist. On his own, he’s not that great, but he’s surrounded by good characters that bring out the best in him and make him more interesting than he would be otherwise. Satou’s cousin Shaga is a bespectacled blond beauty who’s the series’ resident temptress. She’s the only character to have a separate OP, so she’s kind of a big deal. If you look up unlucky in the dictionary, you’ll probably find a picture of Asebi there. She’s a happy-go-lucky girl who’s unaware of all the bad karma she brings with her. Asebi doesn’t get too much screen time, but it’s always a treat to see her. Lastly, the Kyou twins are also fine characters, largely in part to how easy it is to sense the yuri vibes emanating from them. Their contrasting personalities also contribute to their appeal, but it’s the hints of twincest that are the main attraction. Overall, there’s no shortage of interesting characters that help breathe some more life into this series and make up for the basic story.

Ben-To certainly isn’t the best-looking anime out there, as some of the background characters can look a bit wonky at times, and combat that occurs in the background between ancillary characters is uninspired. However, the visuals substantially improve during the main fighting scenes, and Ben-To very much looks the part of a good-looking fighting anime as we’ve come to know them. There are a few unsightly moments, but largely thanks to some nice battle scenes, it’s an above average-looking anime.

If you could think up the perfect soundtrack for the high-energy action that accompanies Ben-To, it would probably sound pretty similar to the one you hear in the anime. In keeping with the overall tone of the show, the music also remains fun and frenetic, without being too heavy and serious. Apart from the fight music, there isn’t much that comes across as being particularly noteworthy. The audio is above-average fare that peaks at the most crucial times, yet also suits the more easygoing scenes nicely.

Kyou and Kyou Oshiroi and Shiraume

Even though Shaga does join the yuri party by getting all touchy-feely with Oshiroi—and the Kyou twins’ closeness should definitely set off the yuri alarm—Shiraume is undoubtedly the epicenter of the yuri discussion in this anime. She’s been Oshiroi’s only friend since grade school, and she’s extremely protective of her. In fact, overprotective would be a much more fitting term. She regularly kidnaps Oshiroi, administers beatdowns to Satou, and generally intimidates all who come in contact with her. Yes, she has a few screws loose, but that’s what makes her such a great character. The yuri hits overdrive in a titillating bath scene that was on the verge of entering R18 territory, but sadly, that didn’t happen. The only knock I can level at this show in this regard is how much better it could have been if Shiraume had been given a larger role. Nevertheless, the amount of yuri in this series was a very pleasant surprise and far more than I expected.

Ben-To doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking of yuri-ish anime, but it’s a good example of yuri spreading out and having some success in an unexpected genre. There isn’t much of what I would call romance, but just the fact that yuri is present can already be considered a win. Lost in all this yuri talk is a wild and fun action/comedy that’s pretty enjoyable on its own.

Year: 2011 — Length: 12 Episodes — Genre: Action, Comedy, Martial Arts

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14 thoughts on “Anime Review: Ben-To

  1. Ben-to is one of my favorite anime. Over the top dumb action with great animation and badass music to go with it, and Shaga is one of my favorite characters ever.
    The only thing I didn't like about it was Shiraume. She really pissed me off when ever she beat up Satou.

    Also you couldn't have picked a better cover even if you tried. 😉

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  2. What?!?!?! You didn't like Shiraume? I was wanting more, but I'm probably an M like that one guy in the show with glasses, so that might be it.

    But nice call on Shaga. I couldn't agree more. Gotta love those megane blondes.

    The last time I chose an ecchi pic for the header, the post did a lot better than I thought it would, so it's pretty clear what you folks like. 😛

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  3. Great review, Rock! I think I laughed more than i should have while watching this. I agree that Asebi should have gotten more screen time, not only because she's fun but because she's voiced by Taketatsu Ayana. Shiraume is awesome, especially when she was alone with Shaga. =D

    Also, I go to the local FamilyMart to get food on occasion and I've never gotten punched in the face when buying bento. Talk about a let down! =P

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  4. Thanks! 😀

    Oh, her. She also voices one of the main characters in Okusama ga Seitokaichou!. And if you liked that scene, there's plenty more ecchiness in that show, albeit more of the hetero variety.

    There must've been a crackdown of shopper-on-shopper violence as a result of this anime. 😦

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  5. She is adorable and hilarious. I was hoping she'd join the battles herself, but she probably would've just caused a salmonella outbreak that would've led to everyone dying, so it's probably for the best that she didn't.

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  6. I really liked the first six episodes ALOT, they were heading somewhere wonderful. The seventh was some nice fan service. But then it just kind of tapered off into meh. But like you said, not so big on story but big on characters.

    I really wanted to like the yuri in this, but had some difficulty with it. The bath scene for example was looking steamy(!), but by the end it just felt…well kind of forced. Oshiroi I'm pretty sure is het, and I think we know who she really likes. I was hoping the twincest might go somewhere too, but…

    Overall it was exciting and made me laugh, so thanks for the recommendation!

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  7. There was definitely a drop-off in the second half of the series of what made the show unique in the first place (the in-store fighting), so I kind of agree with that.

    'Bath scene' and 'forced' in the same sentence. Cannot compute. 😛

    It's nice that you liked it!

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  8. Ume is goddess tier, the babes are all wonderful, the fights also and the concept also. Basically this show has a lot of what I look for in ecchi combat anime and I'm sad it didn't get enough recognition to warrant a second season…perhaps because it didn't need one. Anyway the show remains one of the best “shows I love but hardcore prunes hate” I have seen.

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  9. There are 15 volumes for the light novel and another 3 one-off mangas, so they probably could've produced enough content for another season. The sales were poor, so I guess it wasn't worth it to them. Either way, it was fun while it lasted.

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  10. Long time since I watched this one and it came up at a funny time. Shortly before the show released I met a BL fanatic who I always pushed into sexual situations (not really forced on her part as much as embarassed.) So of course after seeing the show I had her watch it too because we were featured in it =p

    Asebi deserves to continue on with how entertaining she is, really enjoyed the dispenser scene. Yeah the show trails off midway and I wasn’t the biggest fan of opparaisu.

    And you forgot the most important song for your discussion of the music? The first thing I think of when I think Ben-To
    Fish FIsh Fish Let’s eat fish
    Fish Fish Fish They’ll make you smart
    A real highlight for a supermarket show =p

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