Anime streaming platforms in Southeast Asia are becoming more accessible than before, and one of the newest addition to the list is the streaming service for Filipinos — POPTV’s anime channel, Bento. The channel was recently launched in October 2022 in recognition of “Filipinos’ love for anime” and has since been gathering a fun collection of shows available to watch for free. While other SEA platforms such as Bilibili and Muse Asia have also been popular, the main highlight of Bento is that it was made specifically with the local audience in mind and that it includes things like Tagalog dubs. If you’re curious to know more then our review of the app might help.
In an effort to introduce the platform and connect communities, the people at POPTV Bento created their very own “Anime Festival” — an exclusive casual screening where anime fans could hang out and watch Bento’s newest anime titles available. Anime Corner was privileged with an invitation to visit their office on January 22, 2023, in Eastwood City, Philippines. The guests all shared mutual excitement about watching trailers, premiere episodes, and just getting together to have good food and geek out about anime.
In addition, we got the opportunity to have an interview with POPTV’s COO, Ms. Jackie Chua, about Bento and the anime industry/culture in the Philippines. Thus, without further ado, here is what we learned about the local anime streaming service, POPTV Bento.
Q: First off, can you share a brief history of POPTV, specifically how the anime channel, Bento, came about?
A: Filipinos always love anime. Some are casual or newbies, but others are what you call hardcore or otakus. There is a good chance that when we were little or when we were at school during our elementary or high school years, we were exposed to anime; it might be a morning show when we were kids or a daily anime we are waiting for after school hours to watch and talk non-stop the next day. We might be familiar with someone who joined a cosplay convention, or we might have been able to watch several Filipino-dubbed anime from the past or from social media.
Over the course of time, this love of anime became the pillar that helped build BENTO for Filipino anime fans. a safe place, a destination that they can visit anytime and anywhere if they want to travel to the different worlds of anime.
Q: As a streaming service catered towards Filipinos, what is your mission/goal?
A: Bento’s mission is to empower, appreciate, inspire, and promote individualism and self-expression by igniting the passion of like-minded individuals and cultivating a community of belongingness. Our goal is to cater to the diverse interests of anime fans nationwide, both young and young at heart, as they discover their authentic selves in their journey called life.
Q: Compared to the traditional TV and other streaming platforms we have in the Philippines, what do you think makes POPTV unique?
A: Aside from being a video-on-demand service app that offers a wide variety of movies, TV series, shorts, and specials at a very affordable price, the anime titles that POP TV Bento presents vary across a wide range of genres suited for the Filipino audience. The titles are selected from different suppliers so that Filipino anime lovers can enjoy different titles from different suppliers all on one platform.
Q: How well received was Bento among anime fans in the Philippines? Why do you think anime is so popular in the SEA region? How did it start?
A: Anime has always been a part of Filipino culture, from the earliest anime that aired like Astroboy and, of course, the ever-popular Mecha Robot in the 70s, Voltes V. Since then, anime has become popular, especially in the early 90s, when it even beat telenovelas, which were popular back then. That is why anime fans were also excited, especially for the new titles that are also airing simultaneously in Japan and also airing in Bento Premium.
The popularity of anime is really phenomenal, not just in Southeast Asia, but also in other parts of the world. A lot of people started watching anime when they were young, and they never stopped watching as they continue to grow older. I think an integral part of the popularity of anime includes not just the animation and the different styles of execution but also the vast story and different worlds that people focus on, which they enjoy and learn a lot from as they watch.
Q: One of my best childhood memories is when I was able to watch and experience the availability of tagalized anime. How does the Filipino dubbing process work? How do you pick titles?
A: Filipino-dubbed anime is really popular. As I have mentioned, during the early 90s, when anime was really on top of the rating game, these anime titles were all dubbed in Filipino to give the viewers a sense of “Tatak Lokal,” (Locally-branded) since you can see your popular hero speaking in Tagalog.
There are three separate dubbing procedures when it comes to tagalized anime:
First [method], the supplier will send the material with the original Japanese dubbed, and they will send several audio files for editing. Different files that contain the (1) Japanese dubbed, then the separate material for (2) Music and Effects of the Title, or M&E, and another file that is (3) mixed, contains both the dialogue and the music and effects. Then we will search for dubbing studios in the Philippines and hire them to do the dubbing of the project.
The second method is when the supplier has already dubbed the materials in Filipino and we only receive the Tagalog-dubbed version. The third [method] is through casting and voice auditions to make sure that the dubbing actor fits the character, like what we did in Barangay 143.
Q: Can you share with us what are some of the most popular titles on POPTV Bento right now?
A: Several Filipino-dubbed Anime like Spy x Family, Jujutsu Kaisen, and My Hero Academia are popular on Pop TV Bento right now. Other English-subbed anime such as Mob Psycho 100, In/Spectre Season 2, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Rage of Bahamut Genesis, and Danganronpa are also trending in Pop TV Bento right now.
Q: Are you also a fan of anime? What are your thoughts on the newer shows and the growing Filipino anime community in this digital era?
A: Yes, I am a fan of anime. These are the shows that cultivated me when I was younger—all the struggles and adversities that they were able to conquer, the camaraderie that they were able to build, and all the life lessons that they teach and inspire. Nowadays, compelling storylines and edgy stories are regularly innovated. The audience is also more appreciative of anime and the community. Society is more open to big anime events and is looking for more ways to celebrate and bond with other anime fans. Filipino anime fans are also supporting more legal anime by choosing to watch it on legal sites and stopping piracy.
Q: Do you have any future plans or projects for 2023 that you can share with us? Something anime fans could look forward to?
A: This is a very exciting year for anime fans. We have a lot of activities and events that will cater to the appetite of anime enthusiasts. Everyone is invited to be part of our groups and communities, which can give them a chance to get invited to different on-ground activities that include the exclusive preview of new anime series airing simultaneously in Japan. Plus, a lot of prizes and surprises await our fans in Bento.
And that concludes our interview. The “Anime Festival 2023” was one of the events POPTV organized where they invited local media companies and cosplayers. Some of the anime titles in the exclusive screening included Campfire Cooking, Unite Up, BOFURI, Reborn to Master the Blade, Ningen Fushin, Sugar Apple Fairy Tale, and more. POPTV Bento also teased that their next watch party will be bigger and better to accommodate as many guests as they can. Here are some of the photos we got at Bento’s Anime Festival 2023:
About POPTV Bento
POPTV is a video-on-demand streaming service in the Philippines with a wide array of local blockbusters, Asian films, and even Tagalog-dubbed shows. The app launched a separate channel, Bento, and has more than a hundred anime titles in its collection. A basic subscription allows users to watch for free and view offline, while a paid subscription allows exclusive access to the latest simulcasts fresh from Japan. Their rates include P20 for 2 days, P49 for 10 days, P99 for 30 days, and P300 for 6 months. POPTV is available to download on Google Play, Huawei App Gallery, and Apple app stores. Visit their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and website to stay updated with their newest shows.
If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the POPTV BENTO trailer below:
A big thanks again to Ms. Jackie Chua for this interview, and to Ms. Kim, Mr. Siegfried, and everyone at POPTV Philippines Bento for having us at their exclusive screening. Special thanks as well to Ian (naixworks) for the photos.