the Little Red Reviewer

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

Posted on: July 3, 2011

I’d gotten interested in the Anime BECK for one reason: the anime was directed by Osamu Kobayashi, who also directed my favorite anime series ever: Paradise Kiss. Yes, Paradise Kiss was a manga first (reviewed here), created Ai Yazawa, and it was her characters plus Kobayashi’s graphic detail style that made the Paradise Kiss anime better than anyone could have expected. Kobayashi has this habit of putting in buckets of detail at the right moments, things like funny bumper stickers on cars, funny t-shirts, unexpected sound effects, and excellent intro and end credit sequences.

confused? don’t be. Just know that if Osamu Kobayashi has anything to do with it, I want to see it.

Thus, BECK went on the netflix queue, with me knowing nothing about it except it’s about a bunch of high schoolers who start a band, and it’s directed by Kobayashi. Just for kicks, I got the first few manga (known as Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad) out of the library as well.

A coming of age story in a working class town, Beck stars Koyuke, a bored and uninspired 14 year old. Not the best student in the world, the only thing Koyuke likes about school is that he gets to talk to the girl he has a crush on, Izumi. Most of these interactions go horribly wrong, thanks to Koyuke’s buddy Tanabe, who doesn’t understand that peeping at girls at swim practice isn’t a great way to make friends with them. Hilariously awkward, to say the least. Koyuke and Tanabe’s after school activities tend to be hitting up the arcade and avoiding the bullies who hang out in the rough neighborhoods around the school. and Koyuke can never seem to avoid the bullies, both on school property and off.

So many Japanese stories starring teenagers focus on their obsession on getting into a good college and exams and grades and such. Not this one. it was quite refreshing.

After getting bit by a very strange looking dog, Koyuki meets the dog’s owner, sixteen year old Ryusuke. Another chance encounter later, and Koyuki learns that Ryusuke used to run with the guys in Dying Breed, a local band that made it big. Also, he’s got a really hot little sister who is the same age as Koyuki. Even better, he’s starting a band, and he doesn’t mind Koyuki tagging along.

This is the moment that Koyuki has been waiting for. The moment his life goes from horribly boring to a life worth living. A whole new world of rock and punk and rap, basement concerts, and bullet hole ridden guitars is about to open up to him. How far can this possibly go before Koyuke needs to return to his boring life, a life that’s not worth returning to?

With entertaining and obnoxious dialog (aka: swear word filled), three dimensional characters, love triangles and muddled backgrounds, awkward and clueless flirtations, Beck is an out of the ordinary story that’s just plain fun to read. Not the fastest paced thing in the world, but that gives the reader (or viewer) a chance to get to know the characters better. This isn’t shonen, it’s not straight up action. It’s slice of life/coming of age. The anime is worth watching just for the parrot scenes. you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get to them!

The author of Beck admits to his love for all kinds of rock music. Although I picked up a ton of references to The Ramones, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rage Against the Machine, I know I missed a zillion more.

the manga is just fine, but I think the anime is better. For starters, the artwork in the manga is just so-so, where thanks to director Kobayashi, the artwork in the anime is excellent, along with some additional details that are just perfect.

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2 Responses to "Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad"

I’ve been seeing this in my Amazon recommendations for a while. Might have to give it a try!

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I’ve never read the manga, but I loved the anime. Beck is one of my favorite coming of age tv shows.

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