August 14, 2012

Ben-To Ep01

I've discovered that there's always a certain excited anticipation in my thoughts when I start an episodic recap for a new series.  Like a runner in the blocks waiting for the gun, a parachutist standing in the door waiting for the signal to jump, a F1 driver waiting for the lights to go out, a fast-food employee waiting for the french fry machine to go "ding", I find myself wondering in what direction a show will take me.  Will it be serious, like the early Ga-Rei Zero reviews or snarky like... well, like everything else?  So, Ben-To, how will I be watching you?

This is Our Hero... and I think I know which way the writeups will be going.  It's nice when the show makes it easy for you, isn't it?  Y'know, in some ways, this series will be quite difficult to recap because I really liked it.  Heck, I'm on record as liking it before it even started airing, and it did nothing to change my opinion as I watched it.  It's not perfect, though... in fact, there's enough flaws that I should be able to do terrible, awful things to the poor thing.  Probably undeserved, but what the heck, it's what I do.

So enough talk... let's get ourselves into the underground world of martial arts combat for supermarket prepackaged dinners.  Ben-To begins now!



Having ingested both natto and okra in the past, this alleged "meal" sounds only slightly more palatable than starving to death.  Certainly nothing worth getting your head kicked in, like just happened to Our Hero.  As he's lying there dying, his life begins to flash before his eyes... like the time he was nearly killed at his father's workplace.

Note the tanks in the background.  Dad is in the Self-Defense Force... either that, or he's got a weird hobby of planting landmines in the back yard of his house.  Which, you've gotta admit, would be a GREAT way to rid yourself of vermin.  Got an Asian beetle infestation?  Plant a minefield!  Bunnyrabbits nibbling on your carrots (which totally isn't a metaphor for something)?  Landmines!  Don't like your kid?

LANDMINES!  Fun for the entire family.  Please note, I'm not yet prepared to rule out that dad is just a dumbass.  We'll see.  He did teach Our Hero that playing videogames (SEGA!) is a-okay at the age of one, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.  Through the magic of flashbacks, we discover that Our Hero is really more like Our Nebbish: nothing interesting has happened to him, save for the whole landmine thing... he's just a guy.  More specifically, a fifteen-year-old.  Therefore, we probably shouldn't be surprised at what happens next: he stands up.  Despite the whole "dying" thing, he stands up, and other than the blood trickling down his forehead, he seems more or less okay.  Once upon a time, I was having a conversation with a doctor about a local incident where a teenager had run over by a car going at an impressive rate of speed.  The lad was in a bad way, as one would expect, and from all the news reports, was not expected to recover.  The doctor, however, had a different opinion... in effect, he said "it's a kid.  As long as all the pieces are in the same room, he'll recover."  Which is my favorite quote from a Tom Clancy novel ever, by the way.  And so it came to pass that the lad did, in fact, recover quite well, to many proclamations of miracles.  Or medical science, which is basically the same thing.  So, anyway, Our Hero, who's name we've yet to get, gets to his feet... and feels eyes upon him.

She's totally not a stalker or anything, standing there outside the grocery store watching him.  Not at all.  And saying something to him through the glass totally isn't creepy or anything, either.  Just sayin'.  A few moments later, discovering that the entire bento and cup noodle sections have been cleaned out, he leaves the store and it finally strikes him that maybe what she was saying could possibly explain why he was lying on the floor bleeding.  But, of course, being a 15-year old male, he immediately assumes that she was just being mysterious in her declaration of love for him.

And then he passes out.  His head slams onto the sidewalk with a sound like a hollow pumpkin being hit with a whiffle bat, and he suffers traumatic brain injuries.  Or he's 15 years old.  One of the two.  Not taking any chances, a bystander calls for an ambulance... while a different mysterious girl watches from the sidelines.  The next morning, he's released from the hospital.  What did I tell you about all the pieces being in the same room?  Anyway, other than various bandages wrapped around his head, or big honkin' bandaids stuck to his face, or the colostomy bag, he's fine.  I may have made that last one up.  In fact he's so fine that the hospital actually lets him walk out on his own... which I'm pretty sure is impossible here in the States.  You WILL leave the hospital in a wheelchair, even if it kills you.

He begins walking to school, where Mystery Girl #2 and her tragic case of selective desaturation wait for him behind a random pole.  From her, we discover Our Hero's name: Sato Yo.  There are so many jokes I can (and will) make from that name... it's the gift that just keeps on giving, like a perpetual motion device or the clap.  It's also evidence that the production staff knew that I'd be doing a writeup of the show before I did.  Which is kinda spooky if you think about it, which I don't recommend doing because, really, what's it going to gain you?  Now, if the production staff really does know what I'm going to write before I write it, we'd have the Schoolgirl in Black facing off against Saeko Busujima while Rio Tachibana walks by in the background...

...gotta admit, I'm disappointed.  Even if it meant that a group of people in Japan could read my mind in the future, I'm disappointed that Epic Awesomeness didn't just result.  I call upon The Pond's 1st Battalion, Keyboard Rangers (Photoshop Company) to make it occur!  Mystery Girl #2 seems to be a little... out there, as she gets very excited about Our Nebbish's injuries, and laments how they weren't worse.  Uh... huh.  I think I prefer the whole Awesome Epicness fantasy over the actual show I'm watching so far.  As they walk to school, he casually mentions that he went to the supermarket to get a bento for dinner, and the next thing he knew he was waking up in the hospital.

Desaturation Lass (the newest member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes!) freaks out... seems the two of them met last night... then realizes that means that Our Hero has amnesia.  She then gets REALLY excited and walks off mumbling about how that'd make a great story and it works and... oh god, she writes fanfic.  It's too late for me, I've already committed to this, but you... you can still save yourselves.  I'll hold them off as long as I can, you get to da choppah!  It isn't until she's nearly out of earshot that Our Genius thinks to ask her what happened at the supermarket the prior evening.  She promptly says "nothing, bye!" and disappears.  Hoo boy, he's a winner, our lad. 

But wait!  At school, the two of them are walking together.  Continuity, thy name is Ben-To!  I'm feeling better about doing this show by the minute.  The look on his face is because he's just seen...

...Stalkergirl!  Who he thinks he's seen before, but can't remember when or where.  She, of course, knows exactly who he is, as those are bags of his garbage, ransacked from his apartment.  No, no, that's not right... it's garbage from the classrooms.  The two of them engage in an Epic Staredown Of Destiny©, which finally comes to an end when...

...he remembers her from just a few pictures ago the grocery store.  Bright spark that he is, Our Hero doesn't even notice Desaturation Lass being kidnapped right behind him by an girl with a very intense air about her.  Once he does notice that she's missing, there's actually nobody else around at all... like class has started or something.  As he completes his visual search...

...pow, right upside de haid!  Either she's a half-cat, half-ninja hybrid or he's the most unperceptive individual of all time.  Since he didn't notice someone he'd been having a conversation with being kidnapped right behind him?  I'm going with the latter.  She's tells him to help carry the bags since it's his used kleenex and all, and like a spineless wimp lovesick puppy he complies.  Turns out the bags are filled with plastic bento boxes, and they've been sitting around since before spring break.  Oh god the smell...  As it turns out, she's the only member of her club who deals with the trash.  Not well, apparently, but she deals with it. 

Our Hero finally gets around to asking about last night.  Her response is to say "don't come to the supermarket any more" and walk away.  What, ever?  Aren't groceries kinda important?  It's not like Yo Yo Man up there is going to be able to grow his own bentos or anything.  Bentii?  Fade to... LUNCHTIME!, and Yo is eating fishcakes purchased the previous evening in the classroom... wow, that was a clumsy sentence.  Anyway, eating fishcakes, when a a girl with a very intense air about her walks up to him.

Her name is Shiraume Ume, and she's the class rep, elected by acclimation.  Of course, that's because nobody else wanted the job, so there you are.  He remembers her, kinda, and...

.HAIKEEBA!  She slaps him hard enough to spin his head around so it's facing backwards.  Of course, this breaks his neck, severing his spinal cord.  He drops like a yo-yo with its string cut and dies within moments.  Shiraume is arrested and led out of the room in cuffs while the rest of the class is traumatized for life by the sight of Yo, a person they barely knew, dead in front of them.  Thus ends Ben-To, Our Hero brought low by a schoolgirl with a temper and Class "A" zettai ryouiki. 

Wait, no, that's not what happens at all.  She tells him to leave Oshiroi Hana alone or she'll get mad.  He rightfully points out that she's already mad, and who's this Oshiroi Hana person anyw... oh!  Desaturation Lass!  This revelation earns him another planet-splitting slap, one that would give Ric Flair (Woooooooooo!) pause.  Jump to the end of the school day, where we discover that Our Hero lives in the school dorms.  That's swell, but we also learn that the dorms only serve breakfast; the students are on their own for lunch and dinner.  Not to state the obvious or anything, but that's a LOUSY meal plan.  It also means that Satoyo needs to go... to the supermarket.  Dun-duh-duhhhhhhhhhhh!

As he's standing in front of the place where he suffered critical injuries the previous night, look who "just appears" next to him... and by "just appears," I mean "walks up with a marching band behind her."  Really, he's kinda oblivious.  She approves of the way he disregards the warning Stalkergirl gave him, which I'm sure thrills him to no end.  They walk in, and as he approaches the bento shelves...

...Stalkergirl walks by, saying "I told you not to come."  Unnerving, that.  Shrugging it off, Yo continues forth, reaching the bento racks just as a supermarket worker finishes putting half-price stickers on the boxes.  Great timing, Hero!  With visions of a good dinner flashing through his mind, he runs on...

...oblivious, he is.  Simply oblivious.  Horses don't have blinders as big as this.  Awareness reaches some small portion of his hindbrain and he turns his head to see what danger approaches.  There is a sudden white flash, and we blissfully draw a veil over what occurs; while we don't see it, it's obviously not fit for man nor beast.  When the picture reforms...

...oh dear.  He hears someone mutter "Ice Witch", and he looks around just before his bloody and broken form passes out.  What he sees astonishes and frightens him...

...because really, who'd wear THOSE boots with black stockings?  His last coherent thought before he passes on to The Great Beyond is that Stalkergirl is the Ice Witch. And then everything goes black.  As he dreams, he remembers what occurred the night before.  It was much like this evening, when he went for the half-priced bento... he was pummeled by two people he'd never met, but the coup de grace was...

...the Ice Witch, spin-kicking him in the face.  The End.

Our Hero is woken by a bucket of water being dumped over his head by a supermarket employee.  At least, I hope it's water.  And that he's a supermarket employee.  In that getup, the phrase "It rubs the lotion on it's skin" leaps to mind.  And now we get exposition, lots of it, that explains just what the heck is going on around here.  See, Sato Yo has accidentally stumbled into a secret world, a world where people fight for the glory of possessing a half-priced bento.  Those that fight knowingly are known as Wolves.  People like Our Hero, who do not understand the rules or the power that is Fight Club the half-priced bento, are called Dogs.  Some fight for pride.  Some see it as a testing ground. 

But don't ever say "it's just bento."  To Wolves, the half-priced bento is a Holy Grail, something worth fighting for.  Maybe even dying for.  Once Desaturation Lass wakes up, the two of them are handed some granola bars by the employee (who was once a Wolf himself) and ushered out into the night... having given Our Hero much to think about.  The next night...

...Yo and Oshiroi are again at the supermarket, now fully aware of what's going on.  When the supermarket employee finishes discounting the remaining bento and leaves the field of combat, it begins.

As the first wave of the storm breaks over them, Oshiroi goes down, but Yo is still on his feet; then hunger and pride drives him forward towards the bento of his dreams... the aforementioned natto and okra cheese-smothered rice bento.  Almost immediately, he is outclassed and about to eat the knee of some random Wolf, when...

...The Ice Witch cometh.  Immediately, the field focuses on her, and she begins destroying the competition with a flurry of fists, feet and something else that starts with "f".  Given the distraction, Our Hero makes a dive for the half-priced bento, with Oshiroi cheering him on with a hearty "I'll weep at your funeral."  Awwwwwww, that's so sweet!  Unfortunately, he is laid low by a combination of strikes from the Monk, The Brunette and The Ice Witch with the killshot.

As she walks away, she tells the two Dogs to appear at her club room at seven-thirty the next morning, if they want to survive on the battlefield.  The next morning, Yo arrives at the clubroom and walks in...

...not entirely sure what's going on here, but I think I like it.  Judging from the sounds coming from Oshiroi, she definitely does.  The Ice Witch greets Our Hero as "the half-priced bento-seeking idiot," which seems appropriate enough.  She then introduces herself as Yarizui Sen, the president and only member of the "Half-Price Association."  Fade to black, roll credits.

Well, that's quite the way to begin.  Of all the ways you could start a series, that was definitely one of them.  Will the series keep up the momentum with Ep02?  We'll find out next time!

THIS EPISODE'S EYECATCH:


Next episode: more zombies!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:29 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 2657 words, total size 21 kb.

1 Wacky premise, clueless male lead, bevy of weirdo girls... talk about a hit-or-miss scenario.

Posted by: GreyDuck at August 15, 2012 09:01 AM (Buiw/)

2 I wanted to like it, but I only got three episodes in when I realized the eye-candy was all that was keeping me.  Your write ups are much more interesting.

Posted by: Tom Tjarks at August 15, 2012 09:53 PM (yNpP3)

3 Can anyone comment if this scenario has the slightest basis in real Japan, as opposed to Animeland? Are half-price lunch boxes really that coveted?

I recall a reference in Mahoraba "Heartful Days" to the half-price god, although there he was just uncle half-price. His passing caused a terrible storm of housewives. This is the only similar reference I have seen, even in Animeland.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward at August 17, 2012 04:27 PM (QbDss)

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