Update: added a few bits and some cheesecake from episode 4.
Despite my saying that this show’s concept was too stupid to watch, I decided to give it a trial, and after three episodes, I’m still not certain what to make out of it. (I know episode 4 is out; I haven’t watched it yet). It occurred to me that, with such an absurd premise, there was every possibility that it was actually a parody of seinen fighting shows, which could be cute. I’m not ready to totally abandon that theory, but I’m not sure that’s what is going on here. If it is parody, it’s “parody done straight”, meaning it’s missing that wink-and-a-nod over-the-top element wherein the writers signal to the viewers, “yeah, we’re not taking this seriously either.” Whether or not it’s parody, it does have a few things going for it — cute girls,(ed.: not-so-)mild, but plentiful fanservice, a twisted sense of humor, and good supporting characters. Oh, and fourth-wall breaks.
So far, we’ve got the following girls (all nicknames are from the OP):
- The Ice Witch: Ayase is similar to Korone from Demon King DaiMaou — she seems more like a Rei, at first, but her other side is creeping through. Short skirts and stockings (pantyhose?) that go all the way up. Feared ben-to warrior; she takes a shine to Sato and Hana, and
accepts their applicationschokes them until they apply for her “Half-Price Bento club.” That was a bit out of character for her, I’m not sure what was up with that scene.
- Shiraume Ume — The Lesbian Stalker: similar to Sera from Kore wa Zombie — she’s got the same flat delivery, only a more abusive personality. Obsessed with her childhood friend, Hana. As of episode two, she’s apparently kidnapped Hana and/or taken her cell phone away to keep her out of contact with Sato, and is threatening to kill both Ayame and Sato. She settled for just abusing and sexually harassing him in episode 3.
- Hana Oshiori: shy and insecure, a bit obsessed with Sato, always gets his name wrong, has fantasies, always apologizing — but she jumps into the fighting as well, if not with the verve and gusto of Sato. Thinks Ume is just really, uh friendly. It’s not sexual at all!
- The Lady by the Lake: Introduced in the end of episode 3 (waking up in Sato’s bed); big-breasted blonde called Shaga. She apparently hangs out by a reflecting pool; hence her name, but she’s a major game nerd. Upon waking up in bed with Sato, she immediately challenges him to complete some game they’d been playing. This gal’s a keeper, all right. (Edit: Ep.4 — and how!)
- The Muscle Cop: Not introduced as of ep. 3; she’s the girl in the lower left.
- Brunette: A side character, whose shtick is that we never see her full face; the camera always focuses, ah, a bit lower. Sato gives her this nickname.
The whole setup is nothing more and nothing less than people fighting over cheap meals. Winners escape with tasty (at half price?) supermarket boxed lunches; losers settle for cup ramen. The supermarket owners don’t seem to mind that these students hold riots in their stores (there’s actually several battlegrounds) every night.
In fact there’s a series of rules that have grown up around the fights (take only one bento, can’t touch someone once they have one in hand, don’t involve the supermarket employees) — and then there’s those that don’t respect the rules, like The Boar. She’s fat, loud, rude, abusive, breaks the rules, abuses the supermarket owner–the kind of shopper we all love to hate when we run across her. Preferably in a Humvee. There’s the the Rugby Team — semi-organized mayhem — and the Kendo club, which engages in highly organized rules exploits and battle tactics. Those that fight are known as Wolves,and those that get trampled are just Dogs — the Kendo team thinks of themselves as Hunting Dogs. Then there’s minor characters like Monk, the Wizard, and Brunette. I suspect the Wizard is going to be a major character before it’s through, and that he’ll serve as, not a bad guy, but an antagonist for Sato to measure himself against.
Predictably, Sato decides membership in the Hunting Dogs (whose jerseys read “KKK”… uh, this may be problematic for U.S. import) isn’t for him; he prefers honorable single combat to tbe “unsporting” method of group strategy — and Hana follows him, of course.
This might raise the question — why do I like this? I actually do… it’s one of my top three series for the season, along with Fate/Zero in first, and Maken-ki in third.* Ironically, I think a lot of it has to do with the premise, but only because of the execution. Had it been an over the top seinen fighting show with called attacks and overly dramatic dialog, I think I’d have dropped it after one episode. Instead, it has successfully ridden the edge of “silly” without going overboard into “facepalm”. It reminds me a bit of another show from a couple of seasons ago. I never watched beyond the first episode, but the ben-to warriors, as a group, give me a vibe like Arakawa Under the Bridge . Except that’s not quite right, because in Arakawa, they’re all misfits, who have banded together more-or-less randomly, because the only thing they have in common is that their reality is different from society’s. But that’s not to say that their reality is common to each other, because it’s not. In Ben-to, all these people exist in a reality that’s just a few degrees off kilter from everyone else’s, but it’s a “natural” outgrowth of society, and they’re all in congruence with each other. And if you think I’m kidding about natural outgrowth, you never worked retail on Black Friday. When the new Cabbage Patch kids were released. (Ugh.)
And maybe that’s why I find it funny. Oh well, I’m off to watch episode 4. Laters!
*Majikoi has fallen into fourth, because they’ve abandoned the plot for nothing but harem hi-jinks.
Ep.4 Update: Shaga is Sato’s half-Italian cousin, and she is seriously hawt. She’s also interested in Sato, and of course he’s too dumb to figure it out, though she disguises it as half-serious harrassment. And WTF, this series is showing signs of a plot! That’s not the wizard in the OP, it’s a new guy introduced this episode, and he is but the agent of some sinister fellow. How do we know he’s sinister? He sits in a dark room, looking at monitors with Shaga’s pictures!
Update: and a final piece of cheesecake After Shaga sexually harasses Hana, Shiraume shows up to turn the tables, and then some. She declares Shaga to have messy hair, but drags her off for considerably more than a shampoo. NSFW!