Ben-to presents a fairly unique concept in the realm of after-school clubs. The Half-Priced Food Lovers Club must do battle to secure the best supermarket deals, and only one can make it to the checkout!
Every day an epic struggle rages in grocery stores across Japan - the battle for half-priced bento boxes! Once the discount stickers go on, ravenous brawlers start throwing punches in a knockdown, drag-out war over who gets to take home the cheap eats. When a young, broke high school student named Sato joins the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club, he proves to be a rising talent in the world of insane food fights. But does he have what it takes to become the king of clearance cuisine? Welcome to the world of Ben-To, where chopsticks are lethal weapons, the supermarket is a battleground, and there's nothing more delicious than a deep-fried win
Have you ever spent a significant amount of time hanging around the discount counters in your local supermarket? I can assure you, if you spend enough time there, you'll begin to pick out familiar faces. The student looking desperately for an alternative to beans or instant noodles. The housewife looking for a bargain cut of meat to keep her family of five well fed. The salaryman looking for a quick, cheap meal for one after a busy day in the office. It's everyone for themselves, fighting to satisfy their hunger. Throw in some schoolgirl fan service and a little martial arts and you get Ben-To.
This is a fairly typical harem series, featuring your usual stereotypes, and the unusual concept of convenience store brawling.
Satou lives in student accommodation, and has a tightly controlled budget. Practically resigned to a diet of ramen, he yearns for something more, and venturing to his local convenience store, he makes his way towards the discounted bento boxes before passing out.
After regaining consciousness, he retraces his steps and discovers that the discount counter is in fact a battleground, where fighters known as "Wolves" scrap it out for discounted lunches. The most formidable amongst them, the "Ice Witch", happens to be a senior at his school, and also the president of the Half-Price Food Lovers Club.
He vows to represent the club, training under the Ice Witch, desperate to be in with a chance to purchase his much coveted discounted dinner.
Satou proves to be an underdog, quickly rising through the ranks of Wolves, becoming a formidable opponent; earning himself the rather appropriate title of "Pervert" and attracting the attention of all the wrong people.
The animation is incredibly well put together throughout, with particular attention to the detail of food items (seriously, watching this on an empty stomach is going to give you a serious case of the munchies). Fight sequences are a regular occurrence and are well choreographed. A lot of attention is paid to movement and whilst exaggerated beyond the limits of realism, it still feels natural within the setting.
The soundtrack is fairly unremarkable. Whilst it’s great within the setting and manages to convey the scene without distracting from the show, there’s nothing particularly catchy. Besides the vocal opening tracks, the rest is likely to be forgotten.
Despite the high points, there are some scenes which drag on. Noticeably, some of the fan service gags seem to detract from the plot - which, whilst expected when featuring a female heavy cast, doesn't really benefit this 13 episode series. There are also a few side characters which really don't add much to the series at all, despite regular appearances.
The series manages to entertain for the duration of its short run, but for the most part it feels like filler. I really wish there had been a lot more in terms of story, or scaling of the character’s situation. There are some great fight sequences and setups, but I didn’t feel that there were enough of them to make up for the less enjoyable scenes.
Check this out if you might enjoy situational comedy, harem situations, occasional (mild) fan-service and a few well choreographed supermarket-scuffles.
First published at Otaku News https://www.otakunews.com/Dvd/283/ben-to-complete-series-collection
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