Ben-to

Ben-to is completely crackers. And, for a while, you can believe it knows how crackers it is. Then it runs out of steam and its concept can no longer sustain what is already pretty flimsy.

why the twins are fighting for discount food given their nouveau-rich status?

It's in good company with the likes of Tenjou Tenge and Ikkitousen which take a similarly flippant view to the high-school brawler genre, populating their casts with impossibly buxom ladies. Here proportions are fast and loose with one recurring character - charmingly known only as "Brunette" - only ever shown from the neck down and waist up.

Obnoxious, but typifies the opening episodes which trudge through the regular tropes of harem building and "must get stronger" mentality from the protagonist. The story of bored students fighting over discount bento boxes is completely absurd, likely borne from a creatively blocked writer witnessing a minor scuffle one evening in a convenience store and spinning it out. From there it's only a short mental hop to the grandiosely titled "wolves" who value guts and glory over smart thinking, through to the lesser dogs or the belligerent boars.

It's a big ask to run with this, but the fights are slick and the story moves at a decent clip. Then the fan-service starts. Satou already spends a disturbingly large amount of time ogling the appendages of his discount meal tutor Yarizui, but the sigh-inducing sexual harassment of the one harmless female character - albeit a unabashed man-love fan - followed by a gratuitous bath scene would be disappointing were it not so obvious.

Starting as it means to go on, both the raunchiness, clichés and laughable premise are insufficient support once the first story arc concludes leaving only... Well, nothing to watch it for. Its contemporaries usually busy themselves with prolonged back-stories to give some breathing room while a more cogent story is cobbled together. Here though there are brief hints of possible developments, but in the end the latter six episodes and finale are an unreserved flop.

Satou may be constantly given short shrift but that's nothing compared to secondary characters who are gifted foreboding introductions, then either made clowns of or simply forgotten. Two of them are designed so similarly that when one runs off abroad it throws into question who was whom in the previous scenes. Individually characters manage to be different but still rely heavily on cookie-cutter roles: Shiraume doubles as the Japanese beauty and lesbian who is of course  violent and borderline psychotic (a hat tip to any homosexual Sunrise character, she is at least not thrown off a cliff) while Shaga is the busty family relation who mercilessly teases the protagonist.

Were it not enough to accept the concept of an ignored subculture of youths who openly brawl with one another for cheap food, the audience is asked to overlook glaring inconsistencies. Such as why the twins, the brutal antagonists of the final episodes, are fighting for discount food given the pains taken to show their nouveau-rich status. Or how after the amnesia inducing beat-downs Satou received in the opening episodes, he can duke it out every night with only some cursory scrapes and magically healing band-aids afterwards.

The series is unworthy of any serious thought. It may poke fun at itself initially, but too quickly does it fall into tired cliché. The wolf analogy is the same "noble animals" fluff seen in the obvious candidate, Wolf's Rain. The fighting may start slick but becomes as scrappy as all the other animation, incidental or otheriwse. Episodes may start in media res, rewinding back to an earlier point in the story, but this isn't enough to cover up a concept without legs, a plot without merit and characters without worth.