As someone who prefers to eat small amounts of several foods at any meal possible, I love bentos -- looking at them, eating them, thinking about them...and I have often thought about how much I would love to make them when Emily goes to school someday. (Of course, I doubt I'll have the time and patience to make fancy anime bentos like these!) But the idea of sending her off every day with a lunch that's attractive, fun and well-balanced really appeals to me.
My only hesitation was that it might be too strange for an American kid to take to school. As I read here, the experiences of kids taking bentos to US schools has been mixed. But then, I discovered the waste-free lunch movement, and the accompanying Laptop Lunch Box, and I started thinking that maybe it wasn't such a weird idea after all. With bento-like lunch containers coming out here, by the time it's an issue I think it just might seem normal!
And then yesterday I came across the Vegan Lunch Box, which documents the (vegan, obviously) lunches packed every day by a mom in WA using the Laptop system. Great ideas, feedback on how the system works (and doesn't -- more lids are needed, I agree), examples of bento-style lunches of (mostly) Western recipes, and some idea of how well it goes over in her son's 1st grade class (very well, apparently). I'll be keeping an eye on this one and taking notes!
So, looks like Emily will get bentos and I get to have fun in, well, another 5 years or so!
More resources: fantastic bento photo blog from Mizuko Ito (this a great companion to the Vegan Lunch Box blog); flickr bento box group (drool!); Cafe Japan, which I have; Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go, which is on my wishlist; and if the Laptop system doesn't work for you, there's also the Zojirushi "Mr. Bento" lunch set and Zojirushi "Ms. Bento" lunch set.