Boy makes it big with a band, thus overcoming the loneliness of being an outcast. Using this unremarkable foundation, the series proceeds to erect an impressive plot quite unlike a lot of other shows around. It's mainly the style of presentation, the attention to the details of this musical world, and the fantastic characterisation that allow the story to shine.
If there were one literary word to sum up the entire story, it would be ‘engaging'. It doesn't grab you with stunts or sick twists, but with drama that is textured and intricate in delivery. How does this show make you feel? Well, being a sucker for long-haired men in baggy jeans and Vans trainers, I immediately wanted to blast out some Silverchair, stick posters of Kurt Cobain all over my wall, dig out my tattered jeans from days past, and lounge in a smoky room pretending I know a lot about Hendrix.
On the one hand, the most fun episodes portrayed the practical obstacles in the way of the characters' dreams. For example, the episodes where Ryuusuke, the lead guitarist, hunts around for various characters to enlist for the band, all the while considering the compatibility of these individuals, are excellent. Koyuki's awkward progression from rookie to decent guitar player is believably slow, and the way he and his friend Sakurai Yuuji come to form the final additions to the band comes across as a well-deserved triumph. On the other hand, the personal dynamics found in the bullying side plots, Koyuki's love triangle, and Ryuusuke's semi-gangster background added real value.
In a more general sense, this series also celebrates the universal power of music to shape a person's life. We all have a song that means something to us, or an album that describes how we think about the world, or a band that first bonded us with our friends, and this fact of life makes it easy for us to connect with Beck's central theme. Not once does this series lose pace or divert into silly unrelated subplots in order to bulk up the mid section. If anything, the level of entertainment rises consistently until the very satisfying climax.
Created in an era when glossy animation, flawless movement, and bold colours are the trend, Beck presents us with something directly opposed to the norm. Nothing but deliberate stylistic choice could explain what the creators did with the visuals; for one, movement was generally awkward and what I can only describe as ‘easygoing'. The animation also had an unrefined quality because of the muted colours and simplistic character designs.
Yet, I could tell that different did not mean shoddy in this case because the attention paid to capturing Japan's rock counterculture was fantastic. Everything appeared lifted from real life, from the various phrases on people's T-shirts, the labels on their baseball caps, the layers of colourful outfits, to the fashionable glasses, their distinct hairstyles, their peculiar mannerisms, and the posters and shop signs that depicted where these people went to have fun. I was also impressed with the CG shots of instruments being played, and the realistic way in which the musicians moved. In the end, the high rating is deserved simply because the quality of the actual product - the effort put into capturing the culture - is so high, and the unconventional, unpretentious style works so well to enhance the mood of the story.
Well, it should be clear by now that Beck is very much about sound; in fact, making beautiful noise is all Ryuusuke and his band care about. Do they achieve this? Most definitely. Is it worth buying? Hell, yes. That is, if you like that kind of music. ‘Hit in the USA' by the Beat Crusaders is such a catchy rock opening theme, that I insisted on listening to it every episode (maybe even rewinding to hear it a second time before the story started). ‘My World Down', the ending theme, reminded me a lot of classic nineties Brit-rock bands like Oasis. Whilst the songs during the rehearsals and live gigs often had nonsensical English lyrics, the heavy riffs and hard guitar sounds were right up my alley. Interestingly, unless a radio was present or the characters were in a rehearsal, music was largely absent from the everyday scenes, with natural sounds being used in the background instead.
Just like the animation, the voice acting has a laid back quality to it which I find captivating - moreover, all the voices are well suited and competent in straight Japanese. A few of the characters, like the bullies in the first episode, have genuine American voice actors, however, Ryuusuke, Maho, and a couple of other Engrish speakers sometimes did not make the grade. With lines like ‘Who do you think I'm making me scary?' Maho is the second worst Engrish speaker I have yet come across (Black Lagoon's Revy being number one). Ryuusuke's is more weird than bad because he has the accent down, but not the pronunciation. Fortunately, although Engrish features relatively often in this show, it doesn't detract much from the overall quality.
Beck's approach towards its cast is very well considered. I got the impression the creators allowed these personalities to be themselves and to develop and drive the plot in the way that suited them. The characters, in essence, felt natural.
Yukio Tanaka (generally called Koyuki) is introduced in the first episode as an isolated individual. For example, he gets embarrassingly tricked in class, but rather than get upset or angry, he just sits down again, as if this were normal. However, Koyuki isn't a simplistic introverted dork, nor is he strictly antisocial, because he does have friends of sorts. Moreover, he will unreservedly stand up for a physical fight even against three massive American bullies to protect his friends. It is only in the face of conventional social situations that he rolls over. He is not a coward, exactly, but a person who is so overwhelmed by group dynamics that he can't comprehend being a part of ordinary society.
Ryuusuke Minami is a company executive's son with a legendary guitar, well-travelled, well-connected, and charming in that mysterious musical genius sort of way. Like Koyuki, he is disconnected from the norm, but unlike Koyuki, he gets noticed. One of the first instances he is introduced, he's coldly and publicly breaking up with a girl, showing no sensitivity whatsoever. At the same time, he is a passionate and inspirational person who helps Koyuki to find meaning in music. Ryuusuke is not straightforward, and the several facets of his very subtle personality are revealed incrementally throughout.
Other band members worth some limelight include my favourite, Taira the bass player, who has a calm, self-assured attitude, and Chiba, a silly, aggressive front man who provides some classic comedy moments.
A host of important but less central characters include Maho Minami, who is Ryuusuke's sister and Koyuki's love interest, and Saito the perverted former Olympic swimmer, who makes for a good comedy addition. He links seamlessly into the plot by helping Koyuki build a sense of self-worth through swimming and work. Izumi Ishiguro, Koyuki's childhood love and Hyoudou the bully make enlightening contributions too despite being minor characters.
There are many musical anime, a multitude of coming of age stories, and countless plots about nobodies who become somebodies, and yet Beck still manages to navigate a refreshing route through these well-worn ideas. The characters have a notable intricate quality, the story is an uplifting one about perseverance and passion, and the animation style both surprises and delights. Beck is just a superb piece of work.
ANIME NORMAL LIVES SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Beck is a slice-of-life/romance/motivational show about everyday teenagers aiming to become *random shounen lead pops up* THE BEST MUSIC BAND IN THE WORLD! Now before I start I have to clarify how slice-of-life is for me the dullest genre imaginable. What saves face to it is when they try to mix it with something else besides that. Romance is the easy way most of them head for. We can’t have a series about everyday people who can’t have love problems, right? And since this is an anime, we just can’t have a show without an indecisive lead or the world will come to an end. Ok, we might as well throw in some youths who want to accomplish something great and awesome that will inspire the audience to cheer for them. All that sound just fine and we can have something good if all go well.
… And guess what, they didn’t. It is a fine romcom of a show if this is all you ask for, which is at best a completely average anime for me. Teen flicks are not exactly the brightest or most well made shows you see. Reasons?
The production values are messy. There is a huge quality gap in several episodes and the result just makes you think they were running out of money half the time. It is also very confusing to see them looking cool in one scene and like stupid caricatures in another. Something which does not count as artistic choice but plain laziness. This is not the usual treatment we get from Studio Madhouse.
The songs are not as awesome as they are supposed to be. For a series about a band who claims to aim for the top and doing pretty well in terms of popularity as it goes on, the songs don’t exactly excuse it. They don’t sound as amazing as they are supposed to. In fact, most sound pretty average so you can only think they are popular only because people with no taste cheer for them.
Their English pronunciation plain sucks! They aim to be the best in America when they can’t even talk properly. Maho in particular is supposed to know it perfectly and she obviously can’t speak English. I know that the songs and the language are “supposed” to sound great and that the viewer is “supposed” to suspend his disbelief long enough to accept a series were the band is a lot better than it sounds. But come on, it’s not like we couldn’t get a far better soundtrack or proper English-speaking voice actors. This again feels lazy.
The romance part is completely useless. Seriously, it is there but it never seems to matter. EVER! This is the story of some teens who want to be the best in the world and not to score with some girl (who conveniently is in the same band). In fact, they can get all the romance they want from groupies as soon as they succeed. Instead of that we get this ridiculous romantic triangle of sorts which couldn’t be more juvenile than that.
The main lead is too indecisive. Seriously, Yukio is shown to be antisocial and reluctant most of the time and yet we are supposed to think he wants to show his worth and cheer for him as he struggles for acceptance. Sorry but I can’t suspend my disbelief that much. People who want to take over the world (at least the musical one) are supposed to be cocky sons of bitches and not these frail chicken.
The story is very simple and is even left incomplete. Well, there is no need to further analyze that; simple stories are easy to get over and incomplete ones are extremely annoying. Yes, you can still read the continuation in the manga but this is a review of the anime.
The anime is not very motivational. Seriously, it ain’t. If its goal is to make you cheer some simple guys who aim for the top, then the whole thing is done lazily. Just compare to the far greater response other music band anime had. Detroit Metal City, Suzumiya Haruhi, K-on, these tuned thousands to either start their own band or at least scream of joy every time they heard one of their songs. Beck didn’t have this effect because the songs weren’t that good and the protagonist was neither a death metal king of demons nor a cute loli. HE WAS A CHICKEN!
The anime is not realistic. In case you wonder “It’s anime, of course and it isn’t” I just have to mention this because most people I know who like it is exactly because they consider it realistic. The above anime I mentioned are to them too unreal but Beck is down to earth for having average everyday people. That is so sweet; too bad they are drawn lazily half the time, their songs are not that great, their English is terrible, the romance is out of place, the lead is a chicken, the story is incomplete, and I don’t dance like an idiot every time I hear them perform. And for Pete’s sake, WHAT DOES A MOTIVATIONAL SHOW HAVE TO DO WITH REALISM? They aim to take over the music world; does that sound like something everyday normal people would do? Normal people just want a job, money, sex, and/or lots of time wasted on their hobbies. Jeez, get your facts straight already…
VERDICT: MEEEEH. I have seen far better and I sure don’t feel like ruining my English in order to become famous.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
General Artwork 1/2 (seems good but it’s messy in too many places)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Premise 1/2 (typical)
Pacing 1/2 (slow)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 0/2 (left incomplete)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 6/10
Historical Value 2/3 (rather famous)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 2/4 (kinda memorable for its presentation but that is all)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Dull and hardly motivational as it claims.
WARNING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!
I´m writing this review just after finishing rewatching BECK just for one reason: After watching it a second a time (after more then a year!) I was hoping not to fall in the Fanboy magic again and be able to write with a sober opinion. BUT ITS FRIKKEN HARD!
Anyway I´ll start:
I´ll warn you, Beck is a hardcore Slice of Life with a huge piece of Music. I never watched such a. near to reality, telled anime. It was just perfect. The story itself start a bit confusing and uninteresting but gets A LOT better right after the second episode.
It flows in a good pace and never makes you tired. It IS really filled with emotion and is in my opinion a masterpiece of a story. There were some points were it got boring but only because of its reality factor. Come on! It is a Slice of Life and doesn´t our life get pretty boring sometimes, too?
I would like to write more but it´s impossible without spoiling anything about the anime. The story was really believabel and could suck anyone in! I also liked how the band progressed with each step and live session. Music fans could find also alot of reference but I´m aren´t one so I have no clue wich ones.
If you are watching Beck for the first time and are sucked in it and only concentrate on it then you will likely not notice the many flaws the animation have. I don´t know if it was the art style or if the animators got bored and lazy sometimes but the animation is a crazy mix of great backgrounds and sometimes good animations AND a huge bunch of still frames, awkward body motion and a weird anatomy. I just don´t know what to say but I would recommend to enjoy the anime and not to pay attention to the animation if you are picky about it.
But its nothing that would you make go "AHHH My eyes!!!"
Right now while writing these words I´m listening to "Face" on youtube and I must honestly say: It´s a frikken great song and is sung by a really great singer. Of course the biggest selling point of the anime is the music and sound and I totally agree the songs are awesome!
But now after so much praise lets go to the reason why I only gave it a 8,5. Reason is... some of the voice actors were either bad chosen or just bad. And I´m not speaking about the english pronounciaten yet! It´s how dry and emotionless some of them speak. For example Eddie. It kinda made me wanting to kill the voice actor for such a manner of speech. It sounded like he is just reading some lines without even trying!
Combined with the story they make this anime a hit and a MUST WATCH! But let us look at the charas first, kay?
Though there wasn´t much character development and a lack of good animation the charas still were fleshed out, alive and filled with emotion. I loved each of them. Honestly! Even this bastard Sykes. You will live through the entiry story with them and feel with them about every victory and let down they´ll will face. Of course the Spice of Life genre helps here a lot but still I think the writers did a good job on both, charas and story and were able to combine them in a awesome anime!!!
I would to recommend this anime as an MUST WATCH! for everyone who likes anime. Not because I love it. Not because the music is awesome. And not because there are real life references but because it really shows the music world how it was a couple of years ago and how sometimes life can be cruel.
There are scenes where you are a heartless bastard If you didn´t feeled anything, like for example the least episode. Just watched and you will understand.
NO Anime and I repeat myself... NO ANIME get me so emotionally and NO ANIME made me so pumped up during their live sessions like BECK! Not even these new 2010 animes or classic one like Naruto, Death Note or movies like "Promised Place".
This anime is really something. It´s like the band in the Story.
This anime is Beck...
Thanks for reading. I appreciate comments.
So Beck is about this boy called Tanaka, who was actully just alone or felt alone but one day most of it change because he found his childhood friend he haven't seen in two years, and before that he help Ryuusuke dog called Beck. but throug his childhood friend he learn of the rock band called The Dying breed when he heard it first time he instatly loved it what was this new music because it was awesome,
i would say if you want to watch a really good music /Rock music anime Beck will be the right choice to take. a litte old animatiopn but the story makes up for it!
ALL I REALLY WANT TO SAY IS I WISH THE ENDING WOULD HAVE BEEN A SECOND SEASON RATHER THAN A MASH UP!