Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad) 2004
For a while there I was on a real supernatural binge but I soon shifted to quite the nostalgia trip, hurling myself down memory lane.
So far, that has involved watching a lot of 80s and 90s anime but more specifically, a lot of coming of age things. Last month that included Kids on the Slope and Almost Famous and more recently, I’ve finished Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad).
Here’s the premise from wikipedia:
[Beck] tells the story of a group of teenagers who form a rock band and their struggle to fame, focusing on 14-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka, who until meeting guitar prodigy Ryusuke Minami was an average teen with a boring life.
And things for Koyuki definitely do get more interesting – he goes through all the classic coming-of-age storytelling markers; love, betrayal, doubt, loss, jobs and success. And because he’s a nice kid, the significant musical success he achieves doesn’t leave him with a monstrous ego. (There are also plenty of scenes showing Koyuki and the band putting the work in, which is great).
Beck uses a fair amount of serial storytelling, but it is all leading to something big – it’s more the sub-plots which have that feel. And there’s a good share of school drama on hand but the music and interpersonal relationships within the band take more of a front seat. Secondary, is probably the stop-start, romantic sub-plot, between Koyuki and Maho.
[Minor spoilers from here on in]: The episodes build really well to the big festival, where one of the more feel-good scenes happen, and it was interesting to see that uplifting conclusion undercut by the ‘break up’. Of course, there was time for another shift in the storyline but because I’d grown to care for the characters, I wished that the tour had been more ‘on screen’ rather than shown in montage, but I can see, since the anime only had one season, that the tour had to be compressed.
Time to switch to dot points:
- I’ve seen a few complaints about the character design in my reading up on the series, but I think they’re distinctive, even if the animation doesn’t appear as seamless as in other shows.
- Pretty much everything about the band feels spot on – players moving in and out of the group as ‘real life’ pressures kill dreams, the rivalry with other groups, the small steps with first gigs, the hard work that has to happen, it’s all there!
- For those of you who dislike love triangles, Beck almost has one, but it’s more of a bittersweet realisation of change, and it gets ‘solved’ in a sensible way, which I liked.
- Saitou provides most of the comedic moments – he’s hyperbolic, but has more than one dimension at least.
- Since Sakuishi’s manga started in 1999 you’ll probably note a lot of references to 1990s rock and metal music throughout, and RATM fans will see more thanone clear homage too, all of which was fun to pick up on.
- Koyuki might seem a little meek in some ways… and yet, he’s really not, especially if you consider the swimming pool and the Dying Breed gig for just two examples.
- In terms of the sub vs dub, I think most folks will enjoy the songs more in the dub.
- Related to this, I like the way that some of the English that Maho and her friends use (and her brother at times) isn’t always given subtitles in the sub. That way, if you don’t speak fluent English, just like Koyuki, then you’ll experience the same uncertainty he does, which is an important part of the romantic sub-plot.
- While Leon is supposedly the film’s primary antagonist, I think the real villain just might be Ryusuke, whose secrets and tantrums often threaten band and even the lives of his friends. Seriously, he has redeeming qualities but oh boy.
- And yeah, part of that last one is me wanting teens to act like well-adjusted adults, when it’s never that simple when you’re growing up; it’s hard work, and more, the mistakes the characters make fuel the story and the drama after all 🙂
Okay, I’ve likely missed some things I wanted to mention but I think that’s enough for now.
Ultimately, I doubt I can fully separate my memories and associated feelings around being young and playing in bands with the show itself – but even if you’ve never joined a rock band, Beck will probably still satisfy so long as you enjoy coming of age/teen dramas (and hard rock and certain metal sub-genres in general).
Thanks to Curtis for the reminder about this series too!
Review Count: 147 (I thought I might mark my 150th review, so I’m counting down at the moment).