Posted on 25 December 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Ben-To



To say that the moe genre nowadays is overcrowded is an understatement. I’m sure my bias against this genre wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t just so bloody everywhere, and I don’t even like most of them, and the comedies in this genre are no different. The exceptions for me are the ones who really put in effort. Not the ones who get lucky on one episode and then keep screwing up afterwards. No, the ones who try to be genuinely entertaining, week after week. Ben-To understood this.

This show just pushes the boundaries in the genre of the fanservice comedy. Gone is the copy and paste formula: this show just takes a crazy formula and goes to town with it: people fighting over half-priced lunches. There is a lot of neat stuff you can do with that, and this show realized that.

And the setting isn’t the only thing that the creators spent attention at. The animation and action are really meant to be as fun as possible. The soundtrack is actually the single best soundtrack of the past season in how over the top it is. The action scenes are excellent because of this. Every single one of them is really fun to watch.

And on top of that, this also is a very well told series. The build-up in this series is actually very good: it knows exactly how to lead its atmosphere into the food battles with a slow and subtle parts to increase the tension. The acting also is far from the usual you see in moe shows. Sure, it’s incredibly over the top like it should be, but at the same time the actors also know when to show restraint. The characters in this series are because of this much more colourful than usual.

Overall the story in this series also keeps it nice and tight, and both major arcs in this show are interesting enough to keep up with this series. It’s unfortunately not the most consistent series, and there are a few parts here and there that go off track. Especially in the second half the fanservice suddenly goes out of control at times, which leads to shows that are just too forced because of this. Thankfully this doesn’t involve the final episodes, so this show can still close off with a bang, but still. The fanservice in this series usually is subtle (especially for Yarizui), however at others the creators go completely overboard on the penis jokes. Thankfully these scenes are a minority, rather than the majority.

Ben-To and Dororon Enma-Kun. If you want to watch fanservice series that are actually entertaining, rather than completely lazy in terms of storytelling, these are the two shows I recommend above all others with on a third place Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. Especially the first two though: these two realize that pushing boundaries doesn’t mean trying to out-gross each other, but to try out new things in terms of storytelling and scenarios.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Really knows how to be entertaining. Great build-up, really fun food battles.
Characters: 8/10 – Nothing amazing, but this show still has some really solid characters that are surprisingly well acted at times.
Production-Values: 9/10 – This has the best soundtrack of the season, and while the visuals are inconsistent, they do know how to animate a good action scene with restrictions.
Setting: 8/10 – Thank you for being a moe show with an actual inspired premise.

Suggestions:
Dororon Enma-Kun Meerameera
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt
Hyakko

Posted on with categories: Ben-To

Okay, so I had an entire post written up, only to accidentally delete it. *headdesk*

In any case, this was a wonderful way to end this series. This really was entertainment. The ultimate bad guy turned out to be much better than I expected. He’s not just this guy who is ridiculously strong and beat Orthros three years ago. With daily fights over food, that would be a bit against the point of this series. Instead, his psychological attacks were wonderful. Especially with his own theme song, the way he stepped on their pride was a very nice idea here. Sato also proved that he’s worth it as a main character when he actually used the same tactic as the villain of the first arc. Everything came together really well. It’s unfortunate that Yarizui wasn’t involved, but heck; she was sick. Finally someone’s being responsible here.

Overall, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka nearly killed my faith in an entire genre last winter. At that point, I was really consented with the idea that unfortunately, for a few great episode, we’d have to sit through hours of the creators not even trying to be entertaining. Thankfully, the rest of the year proved me wrong though.

I’ll just say it: Ben-To and Dororon Enma-kun were the best fanservice comedies I have ever seen. Ben-To may not have been the best show this season, but it did push the boundaries within its own overcrowded genre, and set the standards of it higher. I count that as a job well done for David Production. Let’s hope that they can do the same for Inu X Boku.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 18 December 2011 with categories: Ben-To

This episode ha lot of very good parts, and a few parts I didn’t like about it. As for the good parts though: finally Orthros are getting some good characterization, which is really great to see. With this, they actually pose much more of a threat than what they were when we first saw them. Especially the way in which they were inspired to become wolves was just completely hilarious. That actually was a very clever parody to the usual motivation tropes.

Also, Yarizui was really good here. First of all: so far this was the most realistic depiction of a cold I’ve seen in a long while: the creators actually remembered that heavy breathing are completely different symptoms, and finally someone doesn’t just realize they have a cold when they collapse. On top of that, her characterization was just damn awesome. And while this show is completely over the top in terms of fanservice at times, the creators have been very consistent with Yarizui’s fanservice: here it actually feels very natural. She’s not parading naked all over the place, but instead you can see why Sato is getting attracted to her through the camera angles. Which for one don’t just focus on her boobs or ass.

The part that I didn’t like is the classic example of fleshing out the main villain… by inserting an even bigger villain. Of course, this makes sure that the villains are fleshed out. That’s not the problem. The problem is that this bigger villain is very often a complete stereotype and powerhouse that can only go down in the usual ways. The characterization of these guys is very often below average because they’re all introduced so damn late.

Also, again there were no food battles here. I think that this has to do with expectation management, though this is very difficult to do. The creators are definitely going for the “climax”-climax, in which they carefully build up tension, only to release all of that at the same time for the final episode. This can become awesome, if they actually manage to pull it off. I remember last year, with Sengoku Basara Two as an example of how this can backfire on a series. There too the creators put everything on the final battle, and actually had a ton of different animation directors working on the final episode. And yet, the production took shortcuts, fights were skipped, the action didn’t really come together, and things ended with a bit of a downer. Episodes like these really need someone who knows how to make these over the top battles work. This needs to be the crowning moment of awesome for this series.

Also, the joke after the credits. How wrong can you get?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 11 December 2011 with categories: Ben-To

After two weeks of no food battles, getting to see another one does make it extra sweet. Especially when the creators still haven’t lost it at all, and the battle in this episode was excellent as usual with very creative fights that had some really terrific direction, including a camera that just wouldn’t sit still and a good use of the supermarket as a setting.

I think I get what the creators were trying to build up on here: the two twins are supposed to be the main villains of this series, and instead of immediately showing their strength they just built up their characters through different ways, before heading to this episode. The big problem with this is that they were really annoying characters before the fight happened. The good thing is that this fight indeed served its purpose, and I like them a lot more now.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 4 December 2011 with categories: Ben-To



You know, I really want to hate this episode for having so much episode and main character abuse. But it was done so well. It’s been a while since I laughed at an episode as much as with this one. laughed, and the direction was amongst the best of the series so far.

And don’t get me wrong: if the creators would have just regularly animated this episode like how most moe shows do it, it would have been absolutely horrible. The direction really made this episode. This ranges from interesting camera angles, the way in which the first half show the same events at different angles, and the incredible force with which they showed Ume here. Both as this obsessive stalker as tour de force.

The part before the OP was also utterly hilarious. Finally! A version of the “terrible cook”-trope that isn’t derived! Instead of just having a character screw up majorly when scrambling an egg, or just throwing in random stuff that makes no sense, this dish here was so bizarre with its flavors that it finally brought some new life in a horse that I once thought was dead.

Seriously though, with Basquash, I already noticed that Shin Itagaki was a special kind of director, who really had a knack for making things unbelievably fun, despite seeming juvenile at first. With Basquash, he lost his touch after about 6 episodes, until being fired from the show completely, but here we’re at episode 9 and you can still see his influence on making the scenes have impact and doing the manga source material really justice. He’s still rather inconsistent, as evidenced by last week, but still: I notice a definite improvement and maturation in his style, and I look forward to seeing more of him.

My one complaint is that we haven’t seen food battles in two episodes now. What the hell?
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 27 November 2011 with categories: Ben-To



The golden rule of comedy: if you’re going to make sex jokes, then make sure that they are good ones.

I’m not sure what happened here, but this was without a doubt the worst episode of Ben-To so far. I’m not sure what happened. Did the light novels have this exact same chapter? Did the animators not have enough budget to animate any more fights? Did they pull in a bad episode director? In either way, this episode was the typical bad episode that bad harem shows use to fill their time.

This episode was meant to introduce the two major characters of the final arc. And they’re incredibly stupid. That’s what I really dislike about most moe fanservice shows: they reduce their characters to idiots, just for the sake of fanservice. This is something I thought Ben-To avoided, but this episode made this show a whole lot more generic.

It’s a good thing that the creators still know how to tell jokes, because things like Saito’s dive were absolutely hilarious. At the same time though: this also was the point where the Saito Pervert joke passed their shelf date. For one they were repeated way too much in this episode, and for two this episode tried way too hard. The jokes were fun when they were subtle, like for example in episode one. This was once again “let’s strip Saito and laugh, and have him generate inspiration for Hana. I knw that there are people in this world who no matter what automatically laugh whenever a penis is involved, but at least try to also cater to the ones who don’t…
Rating: – (Disappointing)

Posted on 20 November 2011 with categories: Ben-To



Well, it’s ndeed been a while since I saw a pool episode that was this crazy. Pool episodes are a trend that along with hot spring and beach episodes should really die off, but thankfully the creators realized that, and didn’t make this yet another copy of those, but instead used it to set the stage of another entertaining battle for half-priced food. This entire episode was delightfully silly.

This episode had some parts that were just wrong, and there perhaps were a few too many pervert jokes made at Sato’s expense, but it also had parts that were completely hilarious, like the guy in the penguin-suit, the way in which everyone’s leg cramped up in the water or the completely inexplicable way in which half the cast ended up at the pool. That takes you two full hours to reach by train. Neat way to poke fun at how everyone always seems to run into each other in these kinds of episodes.

But this episode again had the thing that sets this show apart from the other fanservice shows: it knows exactly when to be quiet. The build-up before each battle, was again wonderfully used, and the aftermath was the same: wonderfully down to earth compared to the chaos of the rest of the episode.

Also, this episode drew and described its food with such detail that it actually made me hungry….
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 13 November 2011 with categories: Ben-To



I must say I love the camera work in this show. It doesn’t have the largest budget, but the clever use of camera angles, along with the soundtrack, has actually made up for this lack pretty well. And then there is the introduction of this episode which wonderfully played with that.

In any case, this was the midway climax for this series. The Monarch really looked like he was going to be the end boss… only he already got beaten. Looking back, he fits much more as a mid-boss like this. Have something more creative for the final fight.

Having said that, I’m impressed with how this show handled this climax. After the introduction, the comedy was completely gone, and it went for action and drama. And I have to say that it worked really well. Liking the Monarch together with the pasts of some of the other characters did a great job of putting some drama under the fights, even though it turned the side-characters into the interesting ones, and not Monarch himself.

And beyond that there still is the rock-solid characterization of this show. I especially like the part in each episode in which the characters just sit and eat what they conquered.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 6 November 2011 with categories: Ben-To



Okay, this was just hilarious. This was meant to be the episode to set up the main conflict of this series: a huge battle between the people from the east and west side of town, but in the meantime the creators inserted a ton of comedy around Sato cross-dressing. The creators still manage to create fresh ways to do it. The best part is how they used the serious Kaneshiro in order to make him even more embarrassed. This really shows that with good direction, even overused jokes can be get new life.

The best part about this series for me is how it balances its serious and silly side, and how it does both parts well. Because of that it’s ridiculously fun to watch, while at the same time it has a story and characters that can be taken seriously. The main storyline is quite silly when you think about it, but because everyone takes it serious without being parody-like, it somehow ends up working.

My only gripe is the new girl: she feels out of place, because she is exactly the kind of one-sided character and moe stereotype that this show has averted so well. Thankfully she played a small role here and there was plenty of fun stuff about this episode as well. But at the very least, I can appreciate her place in the story as a random friend that Shaga hangs out at school with.

It’s something subtle, but again: this show really hints that the characters have lives and do stuff whenever they’re not on the screen. Or at least the good guys. I still can’t imagine the main villain that was introduced in this episode doing something other than looking scary, sitting in his chair and starve himself….
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 31 October 2011 with categories: Ben-To



Okay. So this episode had fanservice. Heck, there was more fanservice than compared to most moe shows.

Thank god this show knows what it’s doing, though. The fanservice in this episode thankfully 1) was creative and 2) didn’t reduce its female characters to morons. There were times when it went a bit too far like with the incest jokes, but this episode made me laugh quite a few times thanks to the great characterization of this show.

There are also these weird characters like that girl whose eyes we never see, and who looks like an important character, yet has nothing to do with the story. Or take Ume Shiraume, who has absolutely nothing to do with fighting over lunches, but makes the rest of this show hilarious with her antics. With the way that Shaga was introduced in this episode I expected this stereotypical love interest who walks over everyone, and yet she was actually no match for both Shiraume and Yarizui. Combined with good acting around this parts lead to a well fleshed out character within the episode she was introduced in, even though she started as a big stereotype. It really is the big difference between this show and just about all other moe shows for me: the acting nearly always seems either too bland or too forced to me. Here, the characters have their over the top concepts, like obsessive stalker, deadpan and tomboy, and yet manage to give enough sides to them to have them move away from these stereotypes.

And on top of that I have to praise David Production for animating great fight scenes over and over. It’s not like they have a lot of budget, but the sense of timing in these battles is just impeccable. The rituals before and after each battle (quietly waiting for the discounts to be handed out, and collecting the spoils of war) also work really well with it.

I have been criticized of treating some of the moe shows like Mayo Chiki, Utapri, Sofuteni and Idolmaster too harsh, when they’re supposed to be light entertainment. but the thing is, for entertainment, I sure as heck wasn’t getting entertained by these series that all just look like each other and feel half-hearted in their execution. These criteria are of course different for everyone, and if you enjoy them: good for you. But when I watch a show that focuses on entertainment, I really want to watch something that actively tries to be as entertaining as possible (not just in the way of Majikoi of having one entertaining episode… only to be followed by a ton of boring stuff where you feel like hardly any effort was spent on it). I found these series earlier this year with shows as Level E and Dororon Enma-kun, and now I’ve found another with Ben-To. It’s only got 12 episodes, so let’s see if it can keep this pacing up all the way.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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