It seems as if the episodes where Ben-To is at its best are often the ones where it’s also at its worst. By contrast it was neither this week, and the episode was undoubtedly the safest and most straightforward one so far.
It was interesting just how much of a finale feel this week’s effort had, though we’re only halfway through the show’s run. The entire situation with The Monarch, Endou (Yasumoto Hiroki) was apparently resolved in just two episodes, and in a very matter-of-fact way. It was straight good vs. evil, the pure-hearted wolves against the cowardly, cruel Gabriel Ratchet. We get a little clarification on just how all this started – it was Monarch’s predecessor The Wanderer (Ohara Sayaka) who lost a battle to The Wizard (Yarizui’s predecessor as head of the Western Wolves). Ostensibly Endou wants revenge for that defeat, but it’s all a pretense for him to use underhanded tactics and declare himself the strongest. There’s not a lot of subtlety here, he’s just a douchebag and a bully who brought shame unto the previously noble Eastern Wolves organization, and it was pretty predictable that Yarizui and Satou would defeat him, and that Shaga would turn her cloak to help them do it. I just expected it to take a little longer.
I certainly won’t say this was a bad episode, but it had a decidedly flat feel for me. By far the best moments were the superbly choreographed combat sequences in the Ralph’s Mart where Shaga, Satou and Yarizui took down Monarch and his dogs. The result was so telegraphed, though, that it didn’t pack a whole lot of dramatic punch. It was nice to see an episode where Satou wasn’t a human punching bag, don’t get me wrong – he only got popped once, and he got the last blow (a nice touch by Yarizui to give him the killing move, given what happened last week). I didn’t laugh too often, though, and an episode of Ben-To without laughs is a bit hollow. Apart from a couple of excerpts from Oshiroi’s hard yaoi rape fiction starring Satou as the ultimate uke, things were pretty serious from start to finish.
With The Wizard off to study abroad, The Monarch defeated, The Wanderer retired to the life of Goddess of Discounts and their organization disbanded, I wonder where the source of conflict is going to come from next. There’s still the matter of Satou earning his nickname – I guess “The Main Character” just doesn’t cut it as a nom de loup – but he’s already proved himself to be a pretty strong wolf. Hell, he even defeated Shaga for the Hokkaido deep-fried chicken bento after the exhausted Ice Witch recused herself. My fear is that Ume will be coming back into the picture to provide a source of conflict, as she’s been away for a while and she’s overdue. There’s always the question of potential romantic entanglements, too, but I don’t get the sense this series will go too far on that direction.