BECK is a manga, which was later made into an anime under the name BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. It was created by mangaka Harold Sakuishi and was originally published by Kodansha in Monthly Shōnen Magazine. It tells the story of a group of Japanese teenagers who form a rock band. The manga is currently licensed in the USA by Tokyopop. The series has also spawned three guidebooks. BECK won the 2002 Kodansha Manga Award for shōnen.[2]

Title: BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad

Genre: Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 6 Oct 2004 – 30 Mar 2005

Synopsis: Tanaka Yukio, known as Koyuki, is your typical 14-year old, feeling detached from life and with a liking for Western rock music. One ordinary day, after returning from school, he saves a grotesque dog belonging to aspiring young musician Minami Ryuusuke, who yearns to form a rock band named BECK. From that moment on, Koyuki must undergo a journey through his adolescence and struggle for fame and fortune.

The Highlights
Animation: Shoddy and unfortunately substandard.
Plot: Slow at times, but very down-to-earth and relative to actual life.
Music: Outstanding music score; nice use of references to real life artists.
Cast: Colorful personalities with realistic relationships between them.
Ending: Rushed and ends abruptly… for no apparent reason.

I can safely say that BECK is perhaps your answer to anime’s Rockstar Supernova… and unfortunately a flawed one at that. Whilst the musical score and cast are highly noteworthy, the animation and ending are inexplicably a let-down… and that’s putting it mildly. Just as the series was coming to an end, I was hit by a conclusion so anti-climatic that it left my jaw falling to the floor. Nevertheless, it is one anime that never fails to keep my head nodding with its music, and my eyes riveted to the screen with its slice-of-life drama.

Visually, BECK is not eye-candy: the animation is rather sloppy and looks as though it was created on a tight budget. The artwork also disappointingly simple and superficial, which I assume is due to the low production costs. Conversely, the crew put a creditable effort at designing the characters, rendering them distinguishable and distinctive from one another. In this department, it eventually passed, but only barely. Perhaps the only commendable artwork is on the guitars and equipment featured in the show.

As far as story goes, the only setback is that it progresses at a snail’s pace. This however can be seen as a plus-side – this is how daily-life drama is supposed to be. Moreover, the drama instilled is very believable and easy to relate to everyday life. Koyuki’s transformation from a pathetic adolescent schoolboy to a self-esteemed rock band member is highly credible, and the relationship between Koyuki and Maho made me watch to the very end.

The mostly rock soundtrack is definitely something to look forward to. Mainly performed by Beat Crusaders and Sowelu, the score features some of the best music you’ll ever see in an anime. My recommendation would be “Moon on the Water” which has become one of my all-time favourites, and if you enjoy heavy rock you are in for a real treat.

The cast is perhaps the main highlight of the show. Here you will see a very diverse group of personalities that will invoke your own feelings. For instance, Koyuki is someone you would want to sympathize with, Maho is someone to drool over and Yoshito is someone you feel like beating the snot out of. Each of them is unique in their own way and the chemistry built between them is fantastic.

The ending is a major disappointment. Just when the climax is about to be reached, I was presented with a sketchy slideshow which seems to have been rushed. Another possibility is that it can be another case of an over-budget Gainax. Thankfully, this didn’t dispel the fact that it still is one of my favourites. Yes, it is imperfect, but a series can be and still remain an all-time great.

Yukio (“Koyuki”) Tanaka (田中 幸雄 Tanaka Yukio?)
The main character, the series follows his rapid development from living an average life to becoming an outstanding guitarist. Being extremely polite, he cannot help but let others push him around, a possible metaphoric stereotype on the very proper and manner conscious Japanese society. Recruited as the last member of BECK, he serves as the second guitarist and vocalist, and has a very beautiful voice that is mostly used for Beck’s slower songs. He owns a Fender Telecaster, a Gibson SG, a Gretsch 6122 and a ’69 Fender Mustang. He finds the broken SG while working for a moving company and has it repaired and buys the Fender Mustang in Tottenham Court following the advice of Billy Riley to “take three lines next time.”

Voiced by: Daisuke Namikawa (Japanese), Greg Ayres (English)

Ryûsuke (“Ray”) Minami (南 竜介 Minami Ryūsuke?)
A Japanese character with a long history in America, he speaks fluent English, and frequently uses both Japanese and English in his conversations. He lives alone in a shack by the fishing pond. His skills and taste in music inspire Koyuki to take up the guitar. The band’s creator, Ryûsuke is BECK’s lead guitarist. A once-younger Ryûsuke and Eddie Lee stole the Lucille from the trunk of Syke’s vehicle.

Voiced by: Yuuma Ueno (Japanese), Eric Vale (English)

Yoshiyuki Taira (平 義行 Taira Yoshiyuki?)
The first recruited member of BECK, Taira is the bassist, and the most talented band member next to Ryûsuke. He plays Music Man StingRay bass. His attitude may sometimes come off as uncaring. He has been seen working as a traffic officer. As the story progresses, we learn that his father was a jazz musician that left him and his mother when he was young. He is the most mature person of all of the band members, often giving helpful advice.
Voiced by: Kenji Nojima (Japanese), Jerry Jewell (English)

Tsunemi Chiba (千葉 恒美 Chiba Tsunemi?)
Main vocalist for BECK, he is the key member that Ryûsuke needed to bring Taira into the band. Compared to Koyuki, his voice is more punk-rock and rap oriented, like the majority of the band’s songs. Despite his looks and attitude Chiba was the top student in his high school which Koyuki and Saku also attended. He can also at times sensitive, and felt secluded from the other band members when he did not see the dream of the dead rockstars at Grateful Sound as the rest of the band did. He also named the band “Beck” after staring at Ryûsuke’s dog for a few moments (at the time, he was dissatisfied because all of Ryûsuke’s suggestions to name the band had his name on them). He later tries to verify his position within the band.
Voiced by: Shintarou Oohata (Japanese), Justin Cook (English)

Yuji (“Saku”) Sakurai (桜井 裕志 Sakurai Yūji?)
The fourth member to join, he was also Koyuki’s first good friend, sticking with him even when the school bully and his gang beat him up for breaking the silent treatment on Koyuki. He is the drummer, inspired by his brother, and replaces the original drummer of BECK who followed Ryûsuke from his original band, Serial Mama.
Voiced by: Tooru Nara (Japanese), Johnny Yong Bosch (English)

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