Somehow I managed to never write anything about a seriously good series that came out a couple years back called Bakemonogatari. It basically revolved around Araragi Koyomi, a high school student that has an overdeveloped sense of justice. Each plot arc involves him coming across a girl that is in the midst of some kind of personal crisis that is manifesting in a supernatural way. The first arc’s victim was a classmate named Senjougahara, who was beautiful and aloof, and had completely lost her weight. By which I don’t mean she was anorexic, but rather that she didn’t weigh anything. With the help of a mysterious occult expert that appears to operate out of an abandoned cram-school, Araragi invariably finds a way to remove or mitigate the girls’ curses and the story moves on to the next incident. Nisemonogatari is the sequel or continuation of Bakemonogatari. Four episodes in we are getting to the meat of the current victim’s plight. Events are conspiring to fill in a bit of the implied back-story from the first season, giving more of an impression that there is truly an over-arcing plot to the story.
The character designs and voice acting are excellent, often provoking conflicting reactions that help keep the presentation of the story off-balance. I found myself sympathizing with characters that on the surface I did not like. The pacing is stylishly disjointed in a manner resembling Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, with oddly-timed cuts and changes in visual style. Again this helps create a form of dramatic tension that might not otherwise be present. Production quality is quite high, with each plot arc having its own intro sequence in the first series, and each episode changing its intro and ending sequences, a rare expense in popular animation. Sometimes I suspect the production companies do this specifically to appeal to a certain flavor of fanboy that sees such changes as an sure sign of quality, but in this case it’s no ruse.
Highly recommended as of four episodes into the second series.
Twelve episodes sounds like a short run, but Ben-to manages to wrap things up rather nicely in that time frame. Should the producers choose to run off on some endless perpetual status-quo like Dragonball or One Piece or Bleach did, Ben-to has positioned itself nicely, while still providing folks like me with a satisfactory ending. The overall story arc is a simple one, of a young man finding his place in a strange situation. Over the first few episodes we are gradually introduced to a cast of recurring characters, some endearing, some obnoxious, some a little of both. Throughout the process we are steeped in a fictional warrior culture of pride, vengeance, honor, and hunger. We are shown paragons of the way things ought to be, outliers struggling with the norms of discount-food wolves, and several antagonists that epitomize corruptions of the path our protagonist has found himself on.
While the conclusion was satisfactory, I was somewhat disappointed that there was a full-on denouement at all. The outcome of the battle for the grilled eel special wasn’t what mattered. If Ben-to has taught us anything, it is the fight itself that is the most important, of individuals striving in earnest to beat the shit out of each other over supermarket food. Whoever wins it deserves it and will enjoy it; this doesn’t need to be shown.
Not an instant classic, but well worth taking a look.
Faced with the need to obtain lunch and dinner on a modest budget, a brave young man seeks out the discount-priced box lunches at the local market. He is ill-prepared for the brutal combat that follows. Can Satou make his way through a gauntlet of bloodthirsty bargain-seekers and claim as his prize a meal he won’t be embarrassed by tomorrow at noon?
Episode two aired recently, but I haven’t had the chance to settle down with it just yet. It appears this series revolves around a school club whose members literally battle for bargain bento boxes. The protagonist is likeable, though using his direct point of view leads to an awful lot of petty fanservice. If I spent that much time in high school staring at girls’ thighs and chests I do believe I would have been slapped. I’m cautiously optimistic about Ben-to.