BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad is one of my favourite animes
. I feel like I could watch this series a dozen times without tiring of it. It manages to retain a slapstick
-free level of humour while still providing an involving story, a sweet teenage romance
, and some pretty cool music. If you enjoy playing guitar
at all, this is the perfect anime to watch. It made me want to learn
, and I don't even own a guitar
. My younger sister however, does, and she said the show inspired her to practice
more. It was interesting, considering that she usually looks down on anime, yet she enjoys BECK and was influenced by it.
The series is about a middle school student named Tanaka Yukio, or Koyuki for short. At the start he is a bit of a loser. He has one friend, and listens to some popular female singer who probably gets a lot of radio play and isn't very good. He has no idea what rock music even is. This changes.
A girl from his school asks him to go to a live show by a local band called Serial Mama, and Koyuki slowly becomes involved with the underground music scene. The lead guitarist, Minami Ryuusuke, grew up in America (he speaks a lot of English in the anime, a detail that renders the English-dubbed version a little strange to watch) and is friends with the fictional American rock band Dying Breed. However, he's arrogant and hates to follow others, so when he refuses to dye his hair along with the other Serial Mama members, the band breaks up. Eiji, the founder, swears he'll create the ultimate band, and Ryuusuke promises the same.
Ryuusuke's new band is called BECK, named after his very unusual mixed-breed Frankenstein-like dog. They play in a hip-hop rock mash up not unlike many popular yet untalented American bands of the late 90's, but the series does a remarkable job of making the music likable, even though it didn't match this viewer's taste. The lead singer is Chiba, a loudmouth asshole with a heart of gold. On lead guitar is Ryuusuke, and bass is Taira, a very talented blond prettyboy who often plays shirtless. The drummer is changed midway through the season from Serial Mama's old drummer to Koyuki's exchange student schoolmate Sakurai. Koyuki, while learning guitar, functions as back-up guitarist and vocals.
There are a ton of side stories, to give the feel of the hectic life of a young student. Koyuki receives guitar lessons from one Saito-san, in return for working for him and swimming on his swim team. Bullies at school break his guitar at least twice, he falls in love with Ryuusuke's little sister Maho, Eiji's band Belle Ame is more popular than BECK, Dying Breed comes to Japan, and late in the series Ryuusuke begins getting some unwanted attention from a bunch of revenge-seeking gangsters. Mixed into this is the usual band politics, but for the most part BECK sticks together and gets along well.
Like I said before, I could watch this series over and over. However, it is a great show, but there's nothing thought-provoking about it. If you are looking for something deeper, laced with metaphors, this is the wrong anime. That's not saying you won't enjoy this one, just that it's not an intellectually demanding experience. If you want some incentive to practice your guitar though, an episode or two of BECK should do the trick, while providing you with excellent entertainment itself.
by Madhouse studios (a great company).
Also, the opening and closing themes are pretty cool.
I always sing along to them.