The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad

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 J-pop 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.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: AC

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