wJan 8, 2009

BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad

I have finally finished all 26 episodes of the anime series Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad.

Beck is an anime about a boy named Yuko Tanaka, known to his friends as Koyuki. Like most anime male protagonists, he's pretty uninteresting and useless in the beginning of the series, having only a pervert for a friend in middle school. He soon finds excitement after saving an odd-looking patched and blue dog from bullies, and finding its owner to be Ryusuke Minami, a long-haired bad-ass who used to live in America, and can speak English. Ryusuke teaches Koyuki how to play the guitar, and eventually invites him to join his band. It turns out Koyuki has a great singing voice, too.

In addition to boning up his music skills, Koyuki meets new friends, struggles with his relationships with girls, faces bullies, and tries to balance being a student with being a serious musician. He also swims in his spare time. He is a sweet and easily likable protagonist.

What bothered me the most about this series is its low budget. In some episodes, the animation quality took huge nose-dives. Additionally, many scenes occurred in which the audience was looking at a background they had already seen a dozen times, while the characters spoke off-screen. This has been done well, in series like Utena and Evangelion. Here, though, I just felt really uncomfortable by their pacing choices.

The characters who were supposed to be fluent in English in fact had atrociously horrible English, even when they were supposedly from America.

Even the music annoyed me! Ai Yazawa's NANA had a nice anime adaptation, and it also focuses on rock bands. But their music was nice and not overplayed. In BECK, I hated nearly every song by the end of the series because I was so damn sick of listening to them.

For me, the series was exemplified by the last four episodes or so. I finally felt invested in the characters, the music, and the atmosphere. BECK's concert at Greatful (LOL SPELLING) Sound was amazing. And then the characters went backstage. The audience onscreen, and me watching on my TV, both cheered for the characters to come back out for an encore. But instead of taking the momentum and running with it, everything fell apart. Nobody went for an encore. Ryusuke disappeared, the band split up, and everyone went their separate ways.

For half an episode. Then, everyone went to America and did a country-wide tour. Of course, the viewers could only see this in a series of "photos" (read, stills that the animators were too lazy to animate) with Koyuki and Maho talking over them, even though we couldn't see them.

It just felt like a really disingenuous ending to me, like the writers were trying to set up a fake horrific problem and then reunite everybody, so the viewer could feel emotionally satisfied. Except that I didn't, because the problems that had been set up from the beginning of the series (will Koyuki and Maho be together? How will Koyuki get a job since he left school? When will Ryusuke ever act as bad-ass as everybody thinks he is? Why is Maho always such a jerk and why does Koyuki still like her?) were unresolved (probably because the manga was still on-going, but whatever!).

I think this anime would have been great as a 13-episode series. By doing this, they could have both fixed their pacing problems, and not used annoying recycled animation or limited motion in a glaringly obvious way.

I liked this story the most when it was a coming-of-age story about Koyuki. Well, that and the story about music. I thought that the backstory of Ryusuke's guitar was unnecessary and distracting, and unbelievable.

I would like to try out the manga sometime, which just finished its run in May of last year. I'll probably wait a while, though.

Now I will need a new anime series to watch! I keep a to-watch list here. If you have any suggestions, on that list or in general, let me know.
I also keep a list of anime I've already seen here, because I am OCD like that.

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scribbled mystickeeper at 8:08 PM

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