Beck Mongolian Chop Squad

It's a good show. We'll just get that out of the way. FUNimation produced the domestic English release, and for the most part, it's a good dub. Especially considering it's a music anime, and the English voice actors re-recorded the songs (or most of them at least, and it honestly sounds better than the heavily accented Japanese versions of the (English) songs) with their own voices...and it sounds pretty damn decent. I wasn't blown away, but I was impressed. Particularly by Greg Ayres, who voices the lead role of Koyuki, and whose previous roles I've never really cared for.

Beck Mongolian Chop Squad sounds like a pretty weird title for an anime. It's technically TWO titles. Beck is the name of their band in Japan, and when they're released in America it's changed to Mongolian Chop Squad (because a band named "Beck" would never sell in American, hahaha). The name of the band comes from the leader's patchwork dog, the strangest mutt I've (or indeed anyone in the show) ever seen.

The show has a lot of great themes. Growing up, following your dreams, balancing real life with your dreams and goals, friendships, relationships, changes, staying true to yourself, staying true to your music, and so on. 14-year-0ld Yukio/Koyuki comes across guitarist Ryuusuke on the verge of forming a new band (his present band has just broken up and he has made a bet with one of the musicians over who can get a popular band launched first). When Ryuusuke's little sister Maho invites Koyuki to Beck's show, Koyuki's life is changed forever. With encouragement (and a guitar) from Ryuusuke, Koyuki sets out to learn to play the guitar. He receives lessons from a former student turned volunteer swimming instructor Saitou. On Maho's recommendation he is eventually invited into Beck as a back up vocalist and guitarist, along with his friend Saku, who becomes the band's drummer. Koyuki struggles with his relationships between the girls Maho, Izumi and Hiromi, the constant bullying at his school, and with an awkward friendship with Ryuusuke. Chiba, the band's lead singer, struggles with his place in the band, wondering if he really belongs in the group. Ryuusuke's trials could fill a show of their own; the driving force of his troubles come from a mysterious bullet ridden guitar called Prudence. Base player Taira and drummer Saku hang out in the background, working to keep the group together when problems arise.

The show follows the band from formation, to stardom, and then to dissolution. The characters all grow in their own ways, particularly Koyuki, who is the focus of the series. The animation is good, though the concert scenes can be a little boring as the same short sequences of animation are used in repetition throughout the various performances. The music is fantastic, but again, it's mostly the same couple of songs performed over and over again. And there's nothing wrong with that, but with such a good soundtrack, it does leave one wishing that certain songs were heard more often, or that more were written and included to begin with.
The series does fall a little flat in some places. Some storylines aren't completely wrapped up (individually; as a whole there's a clear ending to Beck's journey), and some of the characters sort of drop off the map near the end. Koyuki's on again, off again relationship with Maho is a little strange, especially since two other girls enter into his life in the mean time. None of them really go anywhere at all and only serve to cause conflict between Maho and Koyuki. Or make Koyuki look like a man whore, as he entertains the idea of each of them in turn, even while being obviously taken with Maho. A more concrete "I like this one" instead of "I like all three, so whichever one's left I'll take" would have been better. I mean, it's clear that Maho and Koyuki will end up together eventually, so the rest seems a bit unnecessary.
Ryuusuke is also a complete jerk most of the time, though deep down he really is a good guy and a good friend. He just has, erm, "problems," and he takes out his frustrations on his friends. He grows as well though, as it seems that the concept of friendship is something he doesn't quite understand at the beginning of the show, but he learns it from the others as time passes.

It's worth a watch. It's entertaining, and I think it's very relatable. The characters in the story are the underdogs, the outcasts, the rejects, the oddballs. They slowly climb to something more, and begin to earn the respect of the people around them. As I mentioned before, the music in the show is great, in particular the intro song, Hit in the U.S.A by the Beat Crusaders, and a song called Moon on the Water which is sung multiple times throughout the series. The Pillows' (who did the music for the anime FLCL, and it's FLCL songs that are played here) music makes an appearance near the end of the show, though briefly.
I'm not sure what sort of extras are on the DVDs, as I watched it on FUNimation's cable channel. But it's definitely going on my "to buy" list.


Stier said...

BECK is great. The story, the characters, the animation, but mostly the music.
It has one of the best OST in anime without a doubt

Kris said...

Definitely up there with the soundtracks for Cowboy Bebop and FLCL, which are two of the best, in my opinion.
Though I wish I could snag it in English; they probably didn't reproduce the soundtrack with the English actors (and I doubt they will). Because the songs really do sound better without the heavy Japanese accents. And with (slightly more) proper grammar. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Kris! Smooches,

Stier said...

well you hit the jackpot of another two of my musically favorite anime. I also like Wolf Rain, Samurai Champloo and Tengen Toppa a lot. Wolf Rain has a huge and great OST, with tons of different music styles, including rock, jazz, pop, even Bossa Nova!.
For Champloo, it was one of the firsts to successfully integrate rap and hip hop into anime, in a great way.
and as for tengen toppa, it uses a lot of mixing an musical styles too, but the price goes, for combining rap with opera in a song such as Libera me from Hell, which is one of the greatests songs I have ever listened