Friday, December 31, 2010

Before K-ON!, there was BECK

Alright, this one has been sitting in my backlog for far too long...

Well, here you have it folks, the last entry for 2010, in which I'll post my two cents on this one particular musical anime series. I'll hopefully write another post by tomorrow, on new year resolutions and stuff.

At the time of writing (4th of December), I am 2 days away from being slaughtered by the fearsome attack of not one, but FOUR papers in exam’s week. Also, it’s 1 in the morning, and I’ve just slept for 5 hours last night.

So why am I still up, writing this? For one thing, I suddenly found myself getting excited over the next anime convention, imagining all the awesome stuff and awesome people that I expect to meet. But there’s another thing – something more significant – that made me to get up from bed, to write this… and that would be an old anime series that I’ve just finished marathoning (during exam week, even!)

The anime in question is BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. If you’re familiar with the series, you would know it as a slice of life series that focus on music… but– for those who are not acquainted with it – the series belongs to a different level altogether from K-ON!.

And since I’ve just watched K-ON! prior to BECK, I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on this series:

If K-ON! takes its name from the light music club (‘keion’, iirc), BECK is surprisingly not named after Jeff Beck or Beck Hansen– rather, its name is taken from the name of the series guitarist’s dog. Yeap, it’s kinda the same deal with Limp Bizkit, for those who have an interest in random useless facts.

This. Is. BECK!!!!!11111

The gist of the series, as Wikipedia puts it:

Yukio, known by his friends as "Koyuki", is a regular 14-year-old Japanese boy who enters junior high school with two childhood acquaintances. One is a pervert, and ironically the other is a highly sought after female student. Koyuki's boring life is changed when he saves an odd-looking dog, named Beck, from some kids. Beck's owner turns out to be an emerging rock musician, Ryūsuke Minami, who soon influences Koyuki to start playing the guitar, and even gives one to him. The story focuses on the trials and tribulations of their rock band named BECK, and Koyuki's relationships with the members of the band, in particular Ryûsuke Minami and his sister, Maho Minami.

So while K-ON! is more of a moeblob slice of life, BECK is your good ol shonen slice of life, with the story of the underdog up against the big boys, how the (more or less) loser gets the girl, that sort of thing.

After watching the cutesy artwork of K-ON! (and having immersed myself with a few other moestuff lately), it’s a nice change of pace to return to the good ol’ shonen stuff. The cast of characters are pretty interesting, even if they’re close to – or rather, absolutely – having zero moe factors:

K-ON!'s characters

BECK's characters

However, if you’re looking for plain rock ‘n roll music, then this is the series for you. While the characters designs are rather typical – nothing too outstanding, nothing utterly weird either – the musical instruments are pretty vivid. I rather enjoy looking at the instruments throughout the series:

Examples of the music instruments in BECK

But of course, K-ON! also scored on the details on the music instruments as well, I’ll admit that.

But can they beat this guitar?

Dat bullet-ridden Les Paul: dammmmnn

If K-ON! music is more pop-flavoured (can you say ‘fuwa-fuwa time?’), BECK offers a good amount of variety: you have your good ol rock, punk, ballad rock, hip hop… heck, there’s even blues as well! This, I believe, is the main selling points of this series:

Some of the music in the series

And speaking of music, the opening theme is quite catchy – fitting for the story of a rock and roll band – that I pretty much listened to them in full for each episode (usually for a series I just skip through them after a few episodes).

Here, you be the judge:

The opening theme

After I’ve taken things easy with K-ON!, it is perhaps important to be reminded that the world is, as sung by a certain rock band, “no bed of roses”. While I may not be a musician, I can certainly relate with some of the issues faced by the main characters and the band –ambition, friendship, clash of personalities, jealousy, etc… and, perhaps the most important of all: life ain’t all that fair.

Sure, I like light hearted moeblob slice of life as much as the next guy, but I appreciate these good ol ‘life is serious business’ kind of story… maybe it’s because I’m a masochist? Heh.

And speaking of musician, this series makes a LOT of reference and parody to popular bands and artists. Take a look, for example, at this guy:

Is he by any chance based on this guitarist…?

Yngwie Malmsteen

I mean, heck, look at the name of the shop run by this character!

Of course, that’s only a fraction of the whole story. Other bands and musician referred and/or parodied include Kurt Kobain, Freddie Mercury, Sex Pistols, Rage Against the Machine, The Rolling Stones etc (just take a look at the ending clip). If you’re into rock and roll, I’m sure you could spot all those reference easily! (just take a look at the ending to see what I mean)

The ending theme

Make no mistake: I still think K-ON! is a good series, but BECK appeals more to my musical taste – just like how some people prefer Nodame Contabile (or Detroit Metal City?) over these two series.

And apparently there’s a live action movie of the series too: now, if only I could just find the movie…

To conclude this post, here's BECK covering The Beatle’s I’ve Got A Feeling (with a good dose of Engrish, of course):

Anyone else has watched this series?


  1. I've never actually watched Beck. I probably couldn't compare it to K-ON in my mind though, because I would be watching Beck for a different reason. K-ON to me, was a show about schoolgirls living in a world with no problems and that's the reason why I liked it.

  2. I'm pretty embarrassed to say I haven't experienced BECK yet. I have several volumes of the manga sitting on the computer, but I've yet to start reading them..

    Thanks for your summary and images! Didn't realize there's dramatic aspects to the story, and different kinds of music. Thanks to your post I've raised Beck up a fair few spots in my unholy backlog.

    >At the time of writing (4th of December), I am 2 days away from being slaughtered by the fearsome attack of not one, but FOUR papers in exam’s week.

    I would wish you luck on those exams but it appears you actually traversed BACK in time to the 4th and wrote this post!

    I also salute you for portraying K-On in a positive light. moefist.jpg

  3. @Cap'n: I guess the same could be said to people who would rather watch BECK instead of K-ON. Your reasoning on what makes K-ON enjoyable is pretty spot on, couldn't have said it better.

    @Chiyo's Dad: To be honest I initially have a negative image of K-ON - thinking that it is, as some people have negatively labeled it, 'moeshit' - but then again, I didn't think that BECK would be a good series to pick up as well, 'cause I thought it'd be a generic shonen story.

    I somehow found K-ON to a rather lighthearted series - as Cpt.Awesome have pointed out - that I end up liking despite my earlier prejudice. And as for BECK... I'm not sure if I could really say this, but it's a rather personal story to me. I dunno, maybe it's the story, and maybe because I just love some of the songs, but I love the series.

    Whoops, I end up rambling for a bit here haha. moefist back at ya dude =D

  4. BECK is actually one of my favorite series of all time. The ending was a bit underwhelming, which led me to read the manga and experience the full story. I would highly recommend the manga if you want to know what happens next, trust me there's a lot more that happens.

  5. @Jerry: I don't usually read manga ('cause I'm kinda lazy to go through all the pages, heh) but you piqued up my interest. I guess I'll give it a go; thanks for the recommendation!