BECK is a manga by Harold Sakuishi published by Kodansha in Monthly Shōnen Magazine. It was adapted as an anime television series with the title BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad (the subtitle being the name by which the band is known in the United States, in the story, possibly to avoid confusion with Beck Hansen despite being named after). It tells the story of a group of Japanese teenagers who form a rock band. The manga was licensed in North America by Tokyopop, but after the release of the 12th volume in June 2008, the manga went on a hiatus.The series has also spawned three guidebooks. The manga won the 2002 Kodansha Manga Award for shōnen.
The 26-episode anime television series was aired on Japan's TV Tokyo from October 2004 to March 2005. It was directed by Osamu Kobayashi, animated by Madhouse and produced by Takeshi Shukuri and Yoshimi Nakajima.
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, Ryûsuke 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.
Yukio "Koyuki" Tanaka (田中 幸雄 Tanaka Yukio?)
- The main character; the series follows his rapid development from living an average life to becoming an outstanding guitarist. He is the fourth member recruited into BECK, playing rhythm guitar and singing slower songs. He also seems like a person that doesn't know much about life.
Ryūsuke "Ray" Minami (南 竜介 Minami Ryūsuke?)
- A slacker, but incredibly talented guitarist, he inspires Koyuki to begin playing guitar. He is the lead guitarist of BECK as well as its founding member. A large amount of the story revolves around him and his Gibson Les Paul guitar, named Prudence (Lucille in the original version, which is the same name of B.B. King's famous black Gibson), that has a somewhat dark history.
Maho Minami (南 真帆 Minami Maho?)
- Maho is Ryûsuke's younger sister and a talented singer. She is brash but emotionally fragile, and gradually builds a romantic relationship with Koyuki.
Ken'ichi Saitou (斉藤 研一 Saitō Ken'ichi?)
- Saitou teaches Koyuki both guitar and swimming. Though he can be a demanding instructor, he opens up to Koyuki, even asking him for relationship advice on occasion.
Yoshiyuki Taira (平 義行 Taira Yoshiyuki?)
- BECK's bassist, Taira is the first member recruited by Ryûsuke. Although he can sometimes seem uncaring or apathetic, he is actually the most mature of the band members and often offers helpful advice. He usually performs shirtless, much like the character he is based on: Flea of RHCP.
Tsunemi Chiba (千葉 恒美 Chiba Tsunemi?)
- The main vocalist for BECK, Chiba's vocals are more punk- and rap-oriented than Koyuki's and thus more fitting for the majority of Beck's songs. Chiba's inclusion in the band was that originally during a baseball game early in the series it was brought to Ryusuke's attention that he was a vocalist with a great presence on stage.
Yuji "Saku" Sakurai (桜井 裕志 Sakurai Yūji?)
- Saku is BECK's drummer and last member to join but for Koyuki. He and Koyuki are good friends and classmates; Saku was the first person to talk to Koyuki after school bullies impose a school-wide silent treatment.
Harold Sakushi, the author of the original manga, has confirmed in an interview with Tokyopop, that Chiba's attitude, style, and appearance was based on Zack De La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, and the way Koyuki holds his guitar is based on Tom Morello of the same band. Also, the band's first song, "Spice of Life", has a guitar riff similar to that of Rage's "Bulls on Parade", except that the notes' tones progressively ascend instead of descending. Ryuusuke is based on Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page (he is even acknowledged by some as "the Japanese Jimmy Page"), though also resembles Tom Morello in some of his playing — though, at times, he can be cocky (as seen when he tries to name the band after himself), like Yngwie Malmsteen or Noel Gallagher. Also, his attitude towards guitar playing and his playing style can be seen as similar to John Frusciante.
The manga contains many references and tributes to classic rock and popular culture. Nearly every other chapter has a mock cover of a popular rock album with characters from the manga in place of the people usually pictured, including Radiohead's The Bends, The Beatles' Rubber Soul, Oasis' Definitely Maybe and many many more. Other artworks contain parodies of famous moments within music, including one moment lifted from the music video for "Karma Police" by Radiohead, which shows Saito running away from the car instead. A particular dream sequence of Koyuki's in the manga (seen in episode 14 of the anime as well) features various deceased rock idols such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Sid Vicious and Freddie Mercury picking up garbage, meaning they were there "to clean up after Beck". In more recent volumes a character named George Graham, dubbed the "king of funk", shows a huge resemblance to George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic and shares the last name of Larry Graham, one of the innovators of slap bass. He comments on the band that he never heard such an amazing groove as when he heard Beck/MCS play. The manga also contains hundreds of references to rock culture, and existing bands. Throughout the series, references to real albums, including one sequence where Koyuki has a pile of albums lying on his bedroom floor that include Radiohead's Kid A and Sigur Rós' Takk....
Even in the anime, lots of musical influences can be seen, not only on the characters themselves: some of Koyuki's shirts have altered names for real bands, like "Ramonne" (subtitled "Johnny"), "Radiohead" changed to Rodiohead and Radioheat, and "Pixis" and a fictional band called Long Boy has a similar banana looking logo to the iconic cover art of The Velvet Underground and Nico. Koyuki's pose when he is singing without playing guitar is an homage to Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, who puts his hands behind his back while singing. In the ending sequence, some rock icons like Freddie Mercury, Sid Vicious, The Residents, The Beatles, Bob Marley and Kurt Cobain (who closes the slideshow) can be seen sketched on the slideshow. Also, some of the names Ryuusuke suggests for the band (before they decide to settle on "Beck") include R.E.M. (standing for "Ryuusuke Excellent Minami" instead of "Rapid Eye Movement"), Ryuusuke's Snake Pit, Minami Ryuusuke Orchestra (may be a take on Electric Light Orchestra as well) and Minami Ryuusuke and Family. Also, in episode 5 titled "BECK", The Hives' appearance is clearly parodied on the cover of an early CD by the Rocket Boys, a 1960s rock band and Saitou's favorite band ("Follow Me" By the Rocketboys is sung by Koyuki and Maho at a summer Festival at one point in the series). "Bomb the World" can be heard at the Grateful Sound, and The Who's "Sparks" is also heard in episode one. In the seventeenth episode Koyuki can be heard playing the main riff from Rage Against the Machine's "Bombtrack". Female indie-singer Jewel also makes an appearance at Grateful Sound in the 23rd episode (Koyuki borrows her acoustic guitar to step up on stage later on). An acquaintance of Ryuusuke, Erica Blige, a successful pop/R&B American singer of whom he receives news of the death, possibly had her name inspired by two real-life pop singers, Erykah Badu and Mary J. Blige (as well as other characters mentioned by Sykes in he manga, like "P. Dre" and "Missy Timberland"). It should be noted here that the character Tetsuo Kuroki, vocalist for the band Room 13, wears a Converge t-shirt on his first appearance. This character is also known for being a howler, and Room 13 is some kind of an extreme metal act as it seems.
Harold Sakuishi himself has admitted that the band is inspired in part by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sakuishi admits that they are his favorite band; their music, specifically the song "Under the Bridge", helped him through a difficult time in his life. A one-shot manga also called Under the Bridge was written by Sakuishi and narrates his first meeting with the band. This influence is widely seen in Beck, not only in the band's musical style, but also in the fact that Taira heavily resembles a younger version of Flea, the Chili Peppers' own bassist, both in looks (he is mostly seen playing shirtless and has his hair bleached blonde, as Flea used to have his own) and in playing style. The band that Taira joins in the final episode is The Pillows, who are mostly famous in America for their FLCL soundtrack work. Later in the episode a roadie tells Taira that their guitarist, Yoshiaki Manabe, is looking for him, proving that Taira is supposed to be playing with the actual Pillows.
Alt-rock band Boys Night Out also makes an appearance. During Koyuki's slideshow in the same episode, pictures from a live at CBGB's reveal men that resemble Joey Ramone and Iggy Pop, where Maho would ask curiously who they are, but Koyuki would answer with "some New York punks".
On Saturday, May 27 at Anime Boston 2006, U.S.-based anime distributor FUNimation Entertainment announced that they have acquired the license for the BECK anime series. Taliesin Jaffe (known for directing the dub of Hellsing) and Christopher Bevins (known for directing the dubs of Speed Grapher and Samurai 7) are the directors of the English version. The first DVD was released in 2007. The English dub will be released by Revelation films in the UK and Madman Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand.
BECK made its North American television debut on Canadian music channel, MuchMusic, on March 9, 2007. The series finished on June 3. Despite the fact that this is a shōnen series, the show was rated TV-14 for its language and violence, but the DVD edition is rated TV-MA for strong language, including near-constant use of the word fuck in the first episode and frequently in subsequent episodes.
In the English adaptation, many songs were re-recorded with English lyrics. The sung lyrics of some English songs in the anime, such as Moon on the Water and Follow Me, were slightly altered to correct grammar, although the incorrect grammar still appears in the English subtitles.
The Beatles' song "I've Got a Feeling" has the lyrics replaced in the American DVDs.
Live action film
A live action film is being produced and directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi who has directed manga to film adaptations in the past. J-drama stars Hiro Mizushima and Takeru Satoh headline the film as Ryusuke and Koyuki respectively. Kenta Kiritani portrays Chiba, Aoi Nakamura portrays Saku, and Osamu Mukai portrays Taira. Up to 30 new songs will be performed by the actors.
Fender Japan are producing two BECK signature guitars so far. Fender Telecaster, and Fender Mustang which were played by Tanaka Yukio. The signature are illustrated back of these guitars' machine head.
|Source||Reviewer||Grade / Score||Notes|
|Anime News Network||Carl Kimlinger||Overall (dub): A-
Overall (sub): B+
|DVD/Anime Review of Volume 1 (Episodes 1-5)|
|AnimeOnDVD||Chris Beveridge||Content: A-
|DVD/Anime Review of Volume 1 (Episodes 1-5)|
- Joel Hahn. "Kodansha Manga Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
- "Beck Rock Manga Gets Live-Action Film with Hiro Mizushima". Anime News Network. June 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
- Christopher Beveridge (2006-05-27). "Anime Boston - FUNimation Panel". Mania.com. Demand Media, Inc. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
- "BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad (TV)". Anime News Network. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
- Hayate (2007-09-07). "BECK ADR Directors Interview Anime Editorial". Tokidokijournal.com. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
- http://beck.ne.jp/ Official Japanese Site
- http://www.funimation.com/beck/ Official American Site (FUNimation minisite)
- http://www.muchmusic.com/tv/beck/ Official Canadian Site (MuchMusic minisite)
- http://www.beck-movie.jp Official Japanese Movie Site