Rock N’ Roll Youth, Step Up: BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad

Copyright © 2004 by Harold Sakuishi.

With most anime series, I usually have to comment on how it looks and whether it’s visually appealing or not.  In BECK’s case, this is a rare case of me commenting on how an anime sounds.

And let me tell you, this anime sounds sweet!

Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka is a young teenager whose dull high school life gets twisted around when he meets a young aspiring rockstar named Ryusuke and his fourteen-year-old sister Maho.  From that point on, Koyuki enters a world of rock-n’-roll, learning how to play the guitar, immersing himself in the sound of hot bands like Dying Breed, and even joining Ryusuke’s new band, Beck.  He struggles with life, teenage romance, and the pressures of the music business, all while keeping one eye on that impossible dream of becoming a rockstar.

For the most part, this anime is a slice of life series that reminded me a lot of Welcome to the NHK.  The animation style is similar and so is the plot (a young man having to overcome his innocence about the world and take more risks on account of an energetic young girl that he’s interested in).  It also has some good voice acting in the English dub, though at times I had to wonder how just faithful its profanity-laced dialogue was to the original Japanese show.  I also liked Greg Ayres doing the voice for Koyuki (worth noting he was also the voice for Yamazaki in NHK) and I was surprised by his singing voice when it finally come out.  Not the greatest voice ever, but it fits the character and the songs well enough.

But like I said before, this anime is all about the music.  Real-life bands like the Beat Crusaders and Meister provide a lot of the music assigned in the show to the fictional band Dying Breed.  The music’s style is mostly J-pop and alternative rock, with the occasional rap that seems like an homage to groups like Rage Against The Machine (in particular, Beck’s song “Spice of Life”).  By far, my favorite track in the entire series was “My World Down” by Meister, which also served as the ending theme song for most of the show.  A heavy melody of alternative rock guitar and ethereal backup vocals that always left me in a neat kind of trace by the end. And I have to say, the sound quality is good enough that I now have a better appreciation for the bass guitar in rock songs.

Much like Welcome to the NHK, BECK is not the most action-packed anime series, though it does feature the occasional street scuffle and music industry intrigue.  What’s really at the heart of this beast is a passion for rock and the thrill of a live show in front a wild audience.

The English dub for BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad is available through Funimation.

Bibliography: BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad.  Directed by Osamu Kobayashi.  Madhouse (studio).  Funimation Entertainment.  October 6, 2004 – March 30, 2005.

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