Modern anime streaming platforms are on the rise to popularity in the South East Asia region, the Philippines included. One of the main reasons this matters a lot to us is because, for a long time, anime fans here did not have accessible (and legal) ways to watch anime. Looking back, it was mostly catching the shows traditionally on local and cable TV or finding that Crunchyroll and Netflix PH didn’t accommodate the ones we liked. Don’t even get me started with subscriptions and our internet speed! The struggle was very real, but fast forward to today, the industry is more acquainted with the demand for anime in Southeast Asia. If you’re not updated with them, there’s Bilibili, Ani-one Asia’s YouTube, Muse Asia’s YouTube, meWatch (Singapore), Catchplay (Indonesia + Singapore), FPTPlay (Vietnam), Vidio and Sushiroll (Indonesia), TCL, iQiYI, and lastly, POPTV (Philippines). All of these platforms are legitimate and official anime distributors.
My favorite part about this move is that we get to locally and legally support the anime titles we love, and at the same time, get the Filipino viewing experience we all deserve. I went and tried out the newest anime streaming channel, POPTV Bento, with that mindset. They’ve been on my radar for quite a while now, but I didn’t really get the opportunity to try their app until now. For a young mobile service, POPTV Bento has an interesting library and I see that its mission/vision really looks promising… but can it compare to the other streaming services? Let’s review and find out.
What To Watch on POPTV Bento?
If you’re already familiar with the other Southeast Asian streaming platforms, then you’ll also have no problem learning about this one. POPTV is a video-on-demand streaming service in the Philippines with a wide array of local blockbusters, Asian films, K-dramas, and even Tagalog-dubbed shows. In October 2022, the app launched a separate channel, Bento, in recognition of “Filipinos’ love for anime.”
To start off this review of POPTV Bento, let’s take a look at what their library looks like. Right now, they claim to have more than a hundred anime titles in their collection. You can watch their Bento teaser video below:
POPTV, like most other anime streaming services, offers a library of simulcast shows. These episodes are usually available about an hour or so after they air in Japan. As of writing, POPTV has 8 simulcast shows from the 2023 winter season: Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill, Unite Up, Welcome to Demon School Iruma-kun, BOFURI, Reborn to Master the Blade, Ningen Fushin, Sugar Apple Fairy Tale, Ippon Again, In/Spectre, The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess.
One of the main selling points and highlights of POPTV Bento is the availability of Filipino-dubbed shows. As of writing, the animes with these dubs are Spy x Family, Jujutsu Kaisen, Sing Yesterday for Me, Horimiya, and My Hero Academia. You could call it “cringe” or whatever, but one way or another, we all loved our childhood Tagalized anime shows (at least my age group and older did). So when POPTV Bento announced this, I was overjoyed with the thought that the app would pave the way to having Filipino dubs accessible out there not just for nostalgic adults like me, but for children, and other people of course, who would enjoy anime this way. I quote Anya’s Filipino version of waku waku — “Wow na wow!”
However, one thing I noticed right away is that it doesn’t have many of the classic or mainstream titles that are recognizable in the industry (think One Piece, Naruto, or Attack on Titan). While it’s less compared to other services’ libraries, it is still quite a treat to have this niche in a local and young channel and simulcasts and newer titles are a great opportunity for new anime fans. I honestly think these picks are fun, and it even gets categorized into humorous Pinoy terms such as Kilig Yarn, Medyo Naughty, Bida Ka Kid, Out of this World, Astig, and many more (I live for these silly category names). What’s more, one of the fun parts of a library is being able to be immersed in new and diverse titles.
POPTV Bento’s Mobile Interface
POPTV Bento’s navigation is very simple and straightforward. Once the app opens, you’ll easily find the icons for the homepage, Kids channel, Bento channel, your offline downloads (they have them!), and the app settings. As soon as I entered the Bento channel, the background changed into a nice and comfortable dark blue/violet color, something my tired eyes really appreciated. The poster of the featured anime popped out on the screen, followed by many lists and categories to scroll to.
I admit it was all very pleasing to look at. It’s not visually overwhelming, and the humorous category names are also a nice touch. Although I do get greeted by the occasional premium account icon and some short ads, I suppose it’s understandable as a free service. Inside the title, there’s information like the show synopsis, staff, cast, duration, genre, and TV rating. The features “Add to Watchlist,” “Download,” and “Watch Party” caught my attention too. Being able to download shows offline is a big help towards convenience while having a watch party seems like a great idea among friend groups.
The viewing is just as simple too. There are icons that lead you to view the episode lists and synopsis, subtitle options, video quality options (From Auto, Low, SD, to HD1080), and a button to click the next episode. The time bar/video progress bar, together with the ten-second rewind and fast forward, seems very easy to use too. Lastly, I appreciate how it notified me that I was not on WiFi, and that data charges would apply.
So far, the interface experience is simple – you click, view an ad, watch the show, and enjoy. Easy-peasy. However, as I’m writing this review, I do have some bones to pick with POPTV Bento. Keep in mind, I also tried the premium account.
For example, one thing to consider is your internet speed which may interfere with the entire viewing experience. I have a decent connection, so I am a bit bummed that while I was watching Police in a Pod, my 1080p video was buffering a lot. I opted to watch in 720p instead, and it seemed much better (the advance loading was moving at the same pace as I was watching, so it was a bit nerve-wracking). I also tried to download an episode of BOFURI too, but for some reason, it took me a while to do so. When I watched I finally watched it offline though, it honestly felt nice.
Another one I struggled with is that whenever I used the time bar or the options, it would cover up the subtitles, making it hard to read and navigate at the same time. The most bizarre encounter I had in the app though, is finding Made in Abyss with the child-friendly filter on. It really made me go, “Wait, what? NOO.” The show is marked as R13 here, which makes me question the app’s definition of child-friendly. For reference, other mature/violent shows such as Mushoku Tensei and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure on Netflix PH are rated 16+, while on Bento, it’s R13. Still, if you don’t care much about the rating and just want to watch stuff, this won’t affect you much.
Lastly, my honest experience is that I found it odd that I was still receiving ads despite my newly acquired premium account. I thought it was a bug at first but then I eventually discovered that POPTV Bento still runs ads on premium. I admit it was frustrating. However, I also noticed how much smoother the app was running after an update. My loading and downloads were faster. I also don’t see many ads anymore, and while it confuses me, I don’t mind it at all. (He-he.)
Pinoy-Friendly Prices and Availability
POPTV is easily available to download on Google Play, Huawei App Gallery, and Apple’s App Store. The free app already has quite a fun HD library on its own, but getting premium does have its perks. A paid account gives you access to simulcast episodes and other bonus titles. A mobile number is also needed to avail of the premium perks because that’s where they will be sending the codes to activate your account.
With the Philippines’ scene in mind, I would say that I am quite happy with their prices. POPTV offers three affordable subscription rates– P20 for 2 days, P49 for 10 days, P99 for 30 days, and P300 for 6 months. For reference, other streaming services charge a similar price. A ‘monthly mobile’ Netflix subscription in the Philippines is P149, Crunchyroll is P79, and Bilibili is P79 (prices vary based on tiers too). Or if you’ll like me, you’ll think of it as one less milk tea drink or snack to buy, and that is some extra change put to better use.
I’m also happy with how many payment options they have. Subscriptions can be bought via Smart Direct Carrier Billing, Lazada, Shopee, E-wallets (GCash, Cards, Paypal), M Lhuillier, RD Pawnshops, and even through local sari-sari stores in Luzon. Looking at it like this, it’s not intimidating at all to consider getting an account with POPTV. The question of whether it is worth it or not all comes down to preference.
Is POPTV Bento Worth It?
Frankly, I believe anything is worth it if it’s helpful to the situation. The way I see it, POPTV Bento is passionate about delivering a library of anime for the small price of watching some short ads. Unfortunately, it is not free of issues like its loading and downloading struggles, but ignoring those, it ultimately does its job of being a serviceable streaming platform.
In terms of the anime library, I would review and say that Bento does come off a bit weak with its titles, but the app is still young and fresh, so I understand that’s all we can have for now. It does look promising though. Remember when Netflix PH only had about 10 anime shows some years ago?
With that said, POPTV may not appeal to those who want to make the most out of their money. The upside of this, however, is that it has a particular niche of shows that is not as mainstream – something that would appeal to the casual or beginner anime fan. It’s true that Netflix PH or Bilibili would have your money’s worth, but I also believe that what you’re buying here, or supporting rather, is a local business of anime streaming in the Philippines. The fact that they have Filipino-dubbed shows already means a lot. If you like the idea of supporting that, then by all means, please do.
To add to this review, I believe POPTV Bento has a lot of room for growth and improvement from here on out. Some of the things I was personally looking for were the simulcast schedules and a piece of more detailed information on the show’s rating as defined by the Philippines’ Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB.) As someone who has been avoiding dramas and suspense for a while now, details of themes, violence, or horror are something I personally appreciate. There’s also my frustration with the ads and would prefer them not to pop up so often whenever I open a title to check the synopsis, but rather after I’ve picked an episode to watch: maybe throw in a confirmation to watch the episode and play all the ads in one go while they’re at it. Another issue I encountered is the slow downloading, and I think it would be helpful to be able to choose an option of what video quality we want to download the episode in. Do keep in mind that you can download even without a premium.
One thing I kind of miss when it comes to the Bento app is the fact that there is no web option. I am partial to services that I can use on the computer because sometimes you just need a screenshot to share. However, watching things on my portable devices in bed has its perks, and the anime fan in me can’t take an issue with that. That said, I really do look forward to when the service will be available on TV and on PC soon.
My final thoughts are: If you dabble in anime, then POPTV Bento might be good for you. But if you’re leaning toward more of an anime enthusiast, then I would say that Bento might leave you wanting more. It’s a good place to start though, especially with its simple interface. Plus, subscribing to premium to see the simulcast and Filipino-dubbed shows could be reason enough for you to stay too. As for me, I personally look forward to staying and seeing more of its content in the future.
Here is a quick summary of my POPTV Bento review:
|Unlimited Free-to-Watch Anime||Ad-supported|
|All shows are available for free in 1080 HD||Niche library content|
Some buffering issues (Personal Experience)
|Includes simulcasts & Filipino dubbed shows||Needs a premium account to unlock shows|
Only a few Filipino-dubbed shows as of now
No dual audio/subtitle options for Filipino dub shows
No schedule of simulcasts or duration of how long a title will stay on the service
|Affordable premium prices & accessible payment options||Service is only available on mobile and in the Philippines|
Some ad errors/issues (Personal experience)
|Features a convenient download option for offline viewing||The download period depends on your connection (Personal experience)|
|Includes episode information|
Features a child-friendly filter that requires a password
|Little info on what to expect from the show ratings|
And that’s the end of my POPTV Bento review! I hope that it was a helpful read. For more information, you can visit the Frequently-Asked-Questions page on POPTV’s website. You can also stay updated with announcements by checking their Facebook page, Instagram, and website to stay updated.