Ben-To – 05

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I don’t know about Ben-To, I really don’t.  It has the ability to make me love it, and then five minutes later make me hate it.  And I’m not sure I find that to be a pleasurable experience.

If you follow discussions in places like Animesuki, you know there’s been a pretty lively and even heated debate about this series.  Mostly, it concerns a topic I’ve been outspoken about here – namely, Ume and the unwarranted abuse she inflicts upon Satou.  She’s obviously a polarizing character and I’m not at all surprised she’s split the fan base the way she has.  That’s why it’s so ironic that this week’s episode is sure to open the chasm even wider, and Ume doesn’t even make an appearance.

To be frank, Ben-To has a tendency to descend into pure, unabashed sadism in a way I find totally unappealing.  I’m all about Schadenfreude – I understand that laughing at the misfortune of others is the root of most humor.  But when there’s no sense of justice, or comeuppance, or getting your own back – well, I just find it tiresome.  I didn’t like the second season of Baka Test largely for the reason that it descended into a sadistic waste of time, and there are times when Ben-To does the same thing.  I understand the premise behind The Monarch and I expect that storyline to dominate the next few episodes.  But the brutal beating he put on Satou was really unpleasant to watch, especially since no one lifted a finger to help.  Is this really a comedy, with a scene like that?  And that was on top of him being randomly stripped and threatened with an ass-rape by a bunch of goons at Saga’s school for no real reason whatsoever except as a weak attempt at humor.  The general trend of an ever-deepening spiral of abuse inflicted on Satou every week has become a trial for me to sit through.

And that’s too bad, because I still find the premise of this series really clever.  And when it’s funny, it’s really, really funny.  And much of that seems to involve Oshiroi.  From Aoi Yuuki’s never-ending stream of linguistic sound effects to her ever-deepening S & M fantasies around Satou, every scene she’s in, she steals.  And the new character we met this week, star-crossed schoolgirl Inoue Asebi (Taketatsu Ayana), Shaga’s classmate, was a hilarious addition.  Shaga herself is a pretty memorable character too, though she was toned down from her bombastic debut last week (and how could she not be?).  Of course, she’s also apparently acting as a double-agent for The Monarch.

And that seems to be the plot driver for the next few episodes – the pending war between the Eastern Wolves under The Monarch and his oddly named organization, Gabriel Ratchet (who I assume take their name from the “Hell Hounds” of English legend), vs. Yarizui and the Western Wolves.  There’s also some backstory about some imagined slight from three years earlier that sent Monarch into a spiral of hatred vs. the West.  Honestly, that all sounds well and good but my level of enjoyment is going to be determined by which personality Ben-To reverts to as it progresses.  I’ve rarely seen a show that can whipsaw from whimsical cleverness to outright mean-spiritedness so quickly.  I don’t mind violence in a comedy like this one, but only if it’s a real fight and not pointless, gratuitous abuse – be it from Ume or anyone else.  I long for a return to the fanservice and GAR combat of the first few episodes – less Ume of course.  But at this point I really have no idea where things are going to go from here, so I’ll merely watch with mixed hopefulness and trepidation.

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  1. A

    It takes a certain frame of mind to enjoy Satou's abuse. I know it's gonna happen, but I have to look forward to the others' reactions to it.
    It is the weakest part of the show, but I don't mind it, especially if it helps them pace the episodes so that the plot resolves in a satisfying way.

  2. A

    So far I have found it far less offensive than I did Inami – I'm surprised there's no mention of Working!! here as a comparison! She was so bad that I stopped watching.

    Baka Test was definitely ruined by the sadism, but while I don't like Ume or what she does to Satou, there's something about how he responds to it that makes it slightly less offensive to me, and the comic timing is better so it feels less downright malicious.

    Mind you, I've not seen this episode yet… and those scenes sound worryingly brutal…

  3. Well, Inami's repeated abuse did come close to spoiling S1 for me a few times, it's true. But as annoying as it was at least there was a reason given, and at least she felt bad about it afterwards.

  4. S

    Ah, but how would we otherwise feel outraged by this Monarch character? A little bit of the old ultra-violence never hurt anyone, right?

    Also, Oshiroi was freaking stellar in this one. We only get fed little tidbits of her humour, but just enough to disregard the nonsense that's pacing the show.

  5. A

    Having watched this episode now… the battery was a joke that easily outstayed its welcome. I did work out why abuse of Satou isn't as offensive to me – Satou's reactions. The VA has great comic timing, and somehow sounds more like he's irritated by a lot of it rather than seriously hurt.

    It's a really different vibe to the end of the episode, which was surprisingly hard to watch. Whatever reservations I have about the show, I'm amazed how much humour and drama they can pull from such a gloriously absurd conceit!

  6. h

    This really surprised me. I never read forums like Suki so I have no real idea of how people feel about shows part from blogs such as this here. Clearly I'm out-numbered here but I'll still post my opinion.

    I for one REALLY dislike the Muscle Cop character. She really adds nothing to the scenes apart from her commentary – which may or may not be funny. I cannot imagine a scene that NEEDED her there to make it work. Same goes for Ume but she doesn't stay long so I couldn't care less.

    TBH the scene with Satou getting destroyed was brutal, but I didn't particularly mind since it sets out the whole premise for his underdog struggle. Since main characters in comedies never die – why not just make the most out of it? Does this make me a sadist? =P

  7. S

    Love love love Oshiroi. She doesn't even need any lines to make her stamp on the scene ;D

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