Alright so I have decided to release this review on Black Friday, I hope everybody enjoyed the feasting. I know I did, with my nice and wonderful family. Anyway, Thanksgiving is more just than food feasting-it is about thankfulness. And while I am thankful for family and the usual stuff that life brings me, I include anime in that list. And so, without further ado…..
Ben-To (Fall 2011 TV Series)
Director: Shin Itagaki
Studio: David Production
Writers: Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, Shin Itagaki, Miyuki Kishimoto, Yuka Yamada and Shogo Yasukawa
Yo Sato is an ordinary high school student, leading a rather mundane life. Until one day, while at the local discount grocery store (I call that Food Depot where I’m from lol), he stumbles into a bento brawl where fighters take part in fights in order to get discounted bento meals. He ends up under the wing of one such fighter, Sen Yarizui aka the Ice Witch, who takes it upon herself to train Yo in the art of the bento brawl. Together, along with others like Shaga and Hana, Yo Sato learns about adding fun and excitement into his dull life, and in the process, figure out that life can be made a lot more entertaining when you are actively participating instead of being a mere spectator.
Yeah, Ben-To functions excellently as an action comedy series first and foremost. It flips through the two modes effortlessly. It contains some of the most genuinely funny anime that I have seen in a while. The best example is episode 7 which takes in an indoor pool where of course a bento brawl takes place in and I got to say that is never a flat joke there. Ben-to brawls are like survival games where people beat the shit out of each other for ½ priced bento. The brawl fights are nicely done in terms of choreography and staging, being fast, fierce and ruthless.
But there is more to Ben-To, as the economic underpinning lies in competition and that leads to some fascinating insights into human nature and society. Though at first, it may seem a bit superficial as the show has an initial ‘survival of the fittest’ as the underlying rule of the supermarket brawls. But as the show goes on, it becomes apparent that the show has something more substantive to say. It turns the brawling into some of a more honorable sport, with its own rules and guidelines that one must follow or you risk going down a dark path. Always have respect and never lose your pride, as Sen puts in episode 2, seems to be the driving moral of the Ben-To. That extends further into some further morals, like taking the easy way out is no fun (episode 3) and no one should be excluded just because they happen to be better than you are (Kawagi twins arc, episodes 8-12). Ultimately it’s the spirit of competition and teamwork that work together in such a way to benefit all as much as possible.
In a cast of characters that are quite fun and entertaining, there is one personal favorite Character: Ume Shiraume. She is the student council representative in Yo Sato’s class and a traditional Japanese beauty with quite a frank quirk, in that she’s a lesbian. She has a clear thing for Hana the Meganee girl of the show (and some of the other ladies as well heh) but is especially obsessive when it comes to Hana Oshiroi, akin to an obsessive spouse but its done in rather sly funny manner. There is also some other yuri subtext, like with the Kawagi twins have something for the Ice Witch Sen but its more female adoration then outright affection of Ume’s.
The English Dub is certainly one of Funimation’s better recent efforts. Joel McDonald directed it alongside a dub script written mainly by Monica Rial, it really works in conjunction to the humorous material this show provides. Now, Austin Tindle at first doesn’t seem quite the fit for Yo Sato but his performance grew on me. Trina Nishimura and Morgan Garrett are well-acquitted as Sen and Shaga respectively and Tia Ballard provides a nice performance as Ume. What got my attention was the apt use of voice talent in brief character parts, like Josh Grelle, Chris Sabat, Clifford Chapin, etc. The Funimation release has some ‘commentary’ tracks but they aren’t really worth it as it just voice actors chatting about fights they got into. There is a Bento Brawl video, featuring Justin Rojas and director Joel McDonald, which is quite silly but ultimately just a bit of fluff they added in as an extra selling point, nothing more and nothing less.
Ben-To is just great fun time to be held. To me, it embraces it totally ridiculous premise/idea of bento brawling and runs with it, but then at the same time comments on human nature and society with regards to economic competition. That for me are the best anime if I must be honest. You won’t be disappointed with this funny but slyly insightful anime series.
Anyway, next month I will do a movie review as I got seasonal work to do. It should be out around December 11 or 18. Here’s a hint:
Til next time dear readers.