With Yarizui still sick in bed, Satou sets her alarm to the wrong time and takes it upon himself to get her the grilled eel bento she craves. On the way, he is stopped by the Club of Heracles, the wolf who brought Orthos to their “downfall” three years ago. He did so by convincing everyone else not to fight them, and let them take the bento without a fight. He’s back to do the same thing, but rather than go along with the plan, Satou wears himself out until he’s starving, awakening the guts of all the wolves around him. He defies Heracles and fights the Sawagi twins, wins the eel, and enjoys it with Yarizui.
And so ends the series with one of the more novel and interesting premises of all the fall shows, the idea that modern society has fight clubs within supermarkets in which the prizes are half-priced bento. It sounds far-fetched, but they really made it work, helped in no small part by the best hand-to-hand combat of the season, and the best soundtrack to boot. Heracles turned out to be nothing more than a convincing organizer; he was just tough enough to bully most of the wolves into inaction, but not The Freak. Satou wanted his eel, and he knew he wouldn’t get it until he worked up the savage hunger of a starved wolf.
We’re glad Heracles wasn’t simply a boss who was initially invincible; once we saw the Sawagi twins’ flashback and his plan repeated, we knew his power was more the stuff of legend than fact. The fact is, the Sawagis are so powerful, he took it upon himself to try to take them out of the game, and in doing so turn his back on the ideals of wolves. Yet even after Heracles was foiled, the twins still lost to Satou when it came to the Golden Wreath…and while we didn’t see exactly how that happened, we’re fine leaving it to our imaginations. Here’s something that isn’t imaginary: Ben-To was a damn good show.
Orthos revel in their victory over the Ice Witch while Sen is sick at home with a cold, but has her eyes on a grilled eel special at the Super Odori in two days. You and Nikaido meet the twins at Tokiwa for a rematch, and lose again. Nikaido learns they’re daughters of the CEO of Sawagi corp, who own a growing chain of Sonic Stores. They were driven from their old territory by a wolf named Heracles with his ‘combo’. Sen can’t shake the cold, but Heracles arrives in town to drive off Orthos again.
The cardinal rule of nature is, there’s always a bigger fish – of wolf, in this case. That is, the hunter inevitably becomes the hunted; it’s a matter of evolution. The Sawagi twins, who wanted to be ‘noble wolves’ from a very early age, were beaten and driven off by that bigger wolf. They’ve been interesting foes, because they’re not evil and are even fans of the Ice Witch’s work; but up until now they’ve also been virtually invincible, and this Heracles dude looks to be their kryptonite.
That should make for a nice battle, and the revamped opening suggests Orthos may ally themselves with Sen and You to survive. We’ll see. There weren’t any on-camera bento battles, but there was plenty of buildup to make up for that lack. Plus, a vulnerable, home-with-a-cold Sen is frankly frikkin’ adorable, though it seems cruel for her to have to face Orthos with a cold. Get well soon, Ice Witch! Cold ain’t got nothin’ on you!
Just as You is discharged from hospital, and being given a slow regime to reenter the fray, the Sawagi twins step up their vicious attacks on established wolves. No one remembers their idenity when they’re beaten, so they’re referred to as Orthos, the two-headed mythical dog and brother to Cerberus. Everyone save You, who remembers them as the sexy nurse(s) from the hospital. They dispatch him, then return to fight both him and Sen. Their combo attacks utilizing shopping baskets prove too much for the other wolves, and Sen is roundly defeated. The twins put the ball in her court as to how to respond in the future.
Holy bento, there was a nice piece of creative, insane, off-the-wall (and ceiling) combat, perhaps the best sustained fight thus far, and of a different style than those before. These Sawagi twins are a serious threat, as Sen can only keep up with them for so long. Even You inserting himself in the fight to try to even the odds fails, and we believe this is Sen’s first true, utter defeat. By the end, it isn’t close, either; the twins don’t have a scratch on them as they leave. In TNG, you know the bad guy’s tough if he can beat Worf so easily; here Sen is a similar barometer of a foe’s efficacy.
Besides the phenomenal battles and the soundtracks accompanying them (pumping up the goofy J-muzak to herald the start of a brawl is a really nice touch), we also applaud Ben-To’s consistency in the strength of its cast. Shaga is strong, but there’s a limit to her abilities, and she falls quicker to the twins than Sen. Ditto You. Extensive teamwork and some luck were necessary to take out the Monarch; even more clever tactics will need to be used to neutralize Orthos’ devastating coordinated attacks. They move as one. Yet even in the face of having their entire Bento game broken up by these ruthless twins, there are still moments when You can say things like “buying a hot dog with two sausages in it!” upon realization his nurse was actually twins.
Ume confers with the Sawagi twins about an exchange of apologies – Ume for allowing You to run around their school in his boxers, and the twins for allowing Shaga to infiltrate Ume’s school. The unpleasant ordeal makes Ume even more disgusted with You, and she punishes him accordingly. She then finds solace in “nursing” Hana back to health and trying to force herself upon Hana, and in the process finds her muscle guy rag with all the heads replaced by You’s. Ume blames You and the next day in school punishes him further, much to the approval of You’s masochistic classmate.
This episode’s prologue rather inefficiently confirmed one truth to us: we’d be perfectly content seeing as little of
Yumekui Merry Asebi Inoue as little as humanly possible. Her overwrought character with the aristocratic background just doesn’t mesh in any way with the rest of the cast. I don’t even get why she’s friends with Shaga. She’s more of a tacked on mascot. We were relieved upon realizing this would be not an Asebi-centric episode, but one that focused on everyone’s favorite stern lesbian class prez, Shiraume Ume. While this episode was another tangent from the normal Bento story, it added richness and intensity to the rather unique triangle between Ume, Hana, and You, in which Ume love Hana, Hana loves You, and You is Ume’s incrementally willing punching bag./
Ume’s seiyu, Ai Kayano, puts on a clinic in this episode, virtually making love to every syllable and breath she utters to Hana in a bedroom scene that’s part in parcel of what seems to be a release valve regimen for Ume and a weird, uncomfortable ordeal for Hana. It’s ironic, because Hana is the dominant one in her imaginary relationship with the literary version of You, but here in real life, the tables are turned, and she is forced to submit to the far more assertive Ume. So why isn’t Ume a bento wolf?
When Sen loses in quick succession to Shaga, Asebi, and You at Sega, she throws it out the window. You leaps out to catch it, but ends up in the hospital, covered in bandages. A pair of twins from Shaga’s school mistake You for the Ice Witch, whom they’re extremely interested in meeting. They disguise themselves as nurses and visit him one at a time. When one twin removes the bandages and sees what’s beneath, she races through the hospital yelling “freak”, unaware at the time that that boy is actually You, AKA Freak. They abort their mission, then hit up a supermarket and instantly dominate everyone else there.
The Bento Club’s normal operations are interrupted by a rather reckless – but very poetic – self-defenistration of You Satou, and much of the episode revolves around the exploits of the Sawagi sisters, whom he haven’t met before. By episode’s end, it would seem they’ll be more competition for Sen and her pack in the near future. The only Bento battle happened at the end, and we didn’t see it, but we saw all we needed to to get that these twins mean business. However, unlike the Monarch for instance, these twins seem to have a lot of esteem for the Witch, and would consider it an honor to fight her and an even greater honor to defeat her. Of course, they could just approach Sen and talk to her directly, but we guess that wouldn’t be as fun as all this subterfuge…
Though they look alike, one Sawagi twin (voiced by the higher-pitched Yukari Tamura) is impulsive and emotional (like Shaga), while the other (voiced by a lower-pitched Yui Horie) is more stoic and analytical (like Sen). You has the misfortune of wearing more bandages than he needs (Asebi’s family owns the hospital, and Shaga got them to overbandage him) when the twins descend upon him, albeit one at a time. His squirming and confusion with the dual personalities of who as far as he knows is only one hottie nurse, provides much of the episode’s comedy. His subsequent romp through the hospital corridors as his bandages unravel, and getting tangled up with Asebi and hot milk, only further justify his nom-de-guerre. The things we do for Sega.
Matsy presents Sen’s club with free tickets to a Hawaiian swim park, but after a long, expensive train ride, realize they’re missing one, so Satou has to buy his own, leaving him short on cash. Not only Nikaido has also been invited, but Monk, Endo, and other wolves. Since this is a park owned by Ralph Store, it also offers half-price bento a half hour prior to closing, so a battle ensues, with the added challenge of taking place in a pool. Satou makes the most of the result of Shaga’s “attack” on him and manages to grab the honor stamp.
A pool episode we didn’t hate would have sufficed, we weren’t expecting this: an innovative swimsuit episode that takes that trope and adds all of Ben-To‘s own distinctiveness. Just about every cliche had a distinct purpose: Inoue’s cameo uses up Satou’s ticket; his lack of cash makes half-priced food his only choice; and the Montage of Fun Events serves both to tire people out and make them hungry, preparing them for the pool battle. At first we thought Sen was being too serious and diligent when she came out in a sporty one-piece (worn under her clothes) and spent a lot of time stretching and doing laps. But she was just making sure she was fully-prepared if battle came – and it did.
The battle itself was full of great practical details. Fighters were hampered both by the sudden malfunction of sexy bikini tops; the distraction of said malfunctions; by cramps; even by the sting of the chlorine from all the splashing. The bentos themselves were floating around in clear plastic balls, requiring totally different tactics from store battles. And after suffering a long, intimate Shaga Hug, Satou makes ingenious use of his hard-on as a goddamn rudder to maneuver his way to victory. Heck, we were even made privy to the origins of Sen and Shaga’s noms-de-guerre, and learned that Satou’s is “Freak” (Hentai), which considering the manner of his triumph, is quite fitting.
Tadaaki Endo AKA Monarch doesn’t care about food or territory, he wants the title of the strongest wolf, once held by his senpai Matsy, now God of Discounts at the Ralph Store. To do so, he must defeat Sen. Sen leaves her territory in You and Hana’s care and goes after Monarch alone, but when Shaga shows up to warn You, they rush to help the ambushed and outnumbered Sen. Their hunger proves stronger than Monarch’s and they win the day. Matsy disbands the Gabriel Ratchets.
One thing we noticed immediately this week was how firmly and confidently the episode was directed. The pacing was perfect and the characters moved smoothly and effortlessly from place to place, helped in no small part by Taku Iwasaki‘s phenomenal and deliciously conspicuous music. There were no gags or fanservice. Everyone knew the score, and knew what to do, and did it. The energy level never dropped, but kept building until perhaps the best battle of the entire fall season, a downright lyrical spectacle: Sen, Shaga, and You vs. Monarch and his gang.
Sen keeps the west and learns she’s no longer a lone wolf. Shaga redeems herself by warning You and coming to their aid. You gets Monarch back for the beatdown he recieved. Matsy, who along with Endo and Nikaido was very much like Sen in her youth, vows to clean up the mess she had left the East after retiring. Just as Sen was Wizard’s successor, Endo wanted to be Matsy’s…but he lost sight of the most important things; the thing that gives Sen and You their power: honor, pride…and of course, the food, and eating it with people you care about when the fighting’s done.