Cover of BECK volume 1 as published by Kodansha
|Genre||Music, Comedy-drama, Slice of Life, Romance|
|Written by||Harold Sakuishi|
|Magazine||Monthly Shōnen Magazine|
|Original run||1999 – April 5, 2008|
|Anime television series|
|BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad|
|Directed by||Osamu Kobayashi|
|Original run||October 6, 2004 – March 30, 2005|
|BECK: The Game|
|Released||March 31, 2005|
|Directed by||Yukihiko Tsutsumi|
|Written by||Tetsuya Oishi|
|Released||September 4, 2010|
BECK (ベック Bekku ) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Harold Sakuishi. It was originally serialized in Monthly Shōnen Magazine from 1999 to 2008, with the 103 chapters later published into 34 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha. It tells the story of a group of Japanese teenagers who form a rock band and their struggle to fame, focusing on 14-year-old Yukio "Koyuki" Tanaka, who until meeting guitar prodigy Ryusuke Minami was an average teen with a boring life.
It was adapted into a 26-episode anime television series, titled BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, by Madhouse and aired on TV Tokyo from October 2004 to March 2005. A live-action film adaptation was released in 2010 and stars Takeru Satoh as Koyuki and Hiro Mizushima as Ryusuke. The series has also spawned three guidebooks, four soundtracks, a video game and a line of guitars.
The original manga was licensed for an English-language release in North America by Tokyopop. Volume 1 was published in July 2005, but the series was discontinued after the release of the 12th volume in June 2008. The anime was licensed for an English-language release by Funimation Entertainment. The first DVD was released in 2007, and the last in January 2008.
Yukio Tanaka, known as "Koyuki" by his friends, is a regular 14-year-old Japanese boy entering junior high school. His 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, 16-year-old Ryusuke Minami, who soon influences Koyuki to start playing the guitar. The story focuses on the trials and tribulations of their rock band named Beck, and Koyuki's relationships with its members, in particular Ryusuke and his 14-year-old half-sister Maho.
After hanging out with Ryusuke and seeing him play with his former band, Koyuki slowly becomes interested in Western rock music. Ryusuke gives him a guitar, but when Koyuki breaks it, tells him never to speak to him again. At the same time, Ryusuke forms his new band Beck, with vocalist Tsunemi Chiba bassist Yoshiyuki Taira and Togo, the drummer from his previous band. Koyuki begins working for, and learning guitar from, 44-year-old Kenichi Saitou in exchange to have the guitar fixed.
He reunites with Ryusuke a year later, and begins to rehearse with Beck. Koyuki then makes friends with his classmate Yuji "Saku" Sakurai. When Todo leaves the band, Ryusuke has Koyuki and Saku join Beck as support musicians, becoming full members only when the band hears Koyuki sing. Eventually Beck releases their first album, which gets released on an independent record label in the United States, under the band name Mongolian Chop Squad. After gaining popularity from their US album and being in an internationally screened concert documentary, Beck earns a spot at the music festival Grateful Sound 5, where they put on the most talked about show of the whole festival. (The live-action film adaptation ends here.) However, circumstances cause them to part ways, making it their last performance.
Finding life tedious without being in Beck, Koyuki slowly gets the members back together, except Ryusuke whose whereabouts are unknown. They perform a few shows as a quartet, before getting an offer to tour the US based on their Greatful Sound show. After Koyuki and Saku drop out of school, Beck heads to America. But after several bad performances, they are about to get kicked off the tour before reuniting with Ryusuke in Seattle. (The anime adaptation ends here.) The rest of the tour is a hit and they end up appearing on national TV before heading back to Japan.
After releasing two singles, Beck goes on a nationwide tour of Japan and earn a spot at Greatful Sound 7. However, they are later cut from the lineup. They slowly comeback after forming a tour with several similar-sounding bands, get signed to a popular British indie record label and start recording their first album. The now-famous director who created the concert documentary Beck once appeared in, ends up directing their first music video. Their album and music video do well both in Japan and England, earning them numerous magazine articles in both countries. After another nationwide tour of Japan, they do a short tour of England, including a spot at the relaunch of the legendary Avalon Festival. The band then signs to a major international record label and records their major debut album in New York. With the album hugely successful worldwide, they tour Japan and America extensively, the series then ends with Beck headlining the main stage at Greatful Sound 9.
- Yukio "Koyuki" Tanaka (田中 幸雄 Tanaka Yukio )
- The main character; the series follows his rapid development from living a boring average life to becoming an outstanding guitarist and singer. Before meeting Ryusuke, he only listened to Japanese pop music, having never heard a foreign band before. He is the last member recruited into Beck (along with Saku), playing rhythm guitar and singing slower songs. Koyuki is voiced by Daisuke Namikawa in the Japanese anime, with Kazuya Hirabayashi providing his singing voice, and by Greg Ayres in the English dub. He is portrayed by Takeru Satoh in the live-action film.
- Ryusuke "Ray" Minami (南 竜介 Minami Ryūsuke )
- A slacker, but incredibly talented guitarist, who inspires Koyuki to pick up the instrument. Ryusuke speaks better English than Japanese, having lived in New York for 8 years. He is the lead guitarist of Beck as well as its founding member. A large amount of the story revolves around him and his bullet-hole ridden Gibson Les Paul guitar, named Lucille (which is the same name as B.B. King's famous black Gibson). Ryusuke is voiced by Yuuma Ueno in the Japanese anime and by Eric Vale in the English dub. He is portrayed by Hiro Mizushima in the live-action film.
- Maho Minami (南 真帆 Minami Maho )
- Maho is Ryusuke's younger half-sister and a talented singer. She is brash but emotionally fragile, and gradually builds a romantic relationship with Koyuki. Maho is voiced by Miho Saiki in the Japanese anime, with Sowelu providing her singing voice, and by Brina Palencia in the English dub. She is portrayed by Shiori Kutsuna in the live-action film.
- Tsunemi Chiba (千葉 恒美 Chiba Tsunemi )
- The main vocalist of Beck, Chiba's vocals are more punk and rap-oriented than Koyuki's and thus more fitting for the majority of Beck's songs. He is also very good at karate, which he uses in his performances. He is voiced by Shintaro Ohata in the Japanese anime, with Tatsuzo of YKZ providing his singing voice, and by Justin Cook in the English dub. He is portrayed by Kenta Kiritani in the live-action film.
- Yoshiyuki Taira (平 義行 Taira Yoshiyuki )
- Beck's bassist, Taira is the second member recruited by Ryusuke. 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 real-life person he is based on: Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His main live bass is a white Music Man Stingray (a 1993-1996 model as identified from the type of bridge) with 3-band EQ and a trans bridge. Taira is voiced by Kenji Nojima in the Japanese anime and by Jerry Jewell in the English dub. He is portrayed by Osamu Mukai in the live-action film.
- Kenichi Saitou (斉藤 研一 Saitō Ken'ichi )
- Saitou is a perverted middle-aged man and former Olympic swimmer who teaches Koyuki both guitar and swimming in exchange for Koyuki working for his business. Though he can be a demanding instructor, he opens up to Koyuki, even asking him for relationship advice on occasion. Saitou is voiced by Porsche Okite in the Japanese anime and by R Bruce Elliott in the English dub. He is portrayed by Takanori Takeyama in the live-action film.
- Yuji "Saku" Sakurai (桜井 裕志 Sakurai Yūji )
- Saku is Beck's drummer and the last member to join (along with Koyuki). He first becomes good friends with Koyuki at school, being the only person to talk to him. He is voiced by Tōru Nara in the Japanese anime and by Johnny Yong Bosch in the English dub. He is portrayed by Aoi Nakamura in the live-action film.
||This section possibly contains original research. (February 2012)|
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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 Pete Townshend 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 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.... Real-life famous music related destinations also appear, including: Kurt Cobain's house and Viretta Park, Jimi Hendrix's grave, Abbey Road Studios, the site of the original Cavern Club and Strawberry Fields.
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 a homage to Oasis/Beady Eye frontman Liam Gallagher, who puts his hands behind his back while singing. In the ending sequence, some rock icons like Freddie Mercury, Sid Vicious, Susumu Hirasawa, Michiro Endo, 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 and Yellow Magic 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 the 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 probably, judging from both this and the "illogical" playing style, a mathcore band.
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".
The original manga was written and illustrated by Harold Sakuishi and published by Kodansha in its Monthly Shōnen Magazine from 1999 to its May 2008 issue (which was released on April 5). A special 77-page side-story was published in the October 2008 issue of Monthly Shōnen Magazine. It depicts the last day of Eddie Lee, a popular American rock musician and Ryusuke's friend. The 103 chapters (including the Eddie Lee special) were combined into 34 tankōbon volumes.
The manga was licensed for an English-language release by Tokyopop. Tokyopop's German branch published the German-language version. In January 2009, it was announced that Kodansha let all of Tokyopop's German licenses expire, thus including Beck. This subsequently led to Tokyopop's English license of Beck expiring as well. Only 12 volumes were published. The series has also been released in French, Italian, Korean and Chinese, by Delcourt/Akata, Dynit, Haksan Culture Company and Tong Li Publishing respectively.
The 26-episode anime television series was titled BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, after the subtitle used by the band in the series in the United States, and 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.
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: Mongolian Chop Squad anime. 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, and the last in January 2008. The English dub was released by Revelation films in the UK and Madman Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand.
Beck made its North American television debut on the 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.
A live-action film adaptation of the Beck manga was announced in 2009, with filming beginning in July. It was produced and directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, who has directed manga to film adaptations in the past (most notably the 20th Century Boys trilogy). It stars Takeru Satoh as Koyuki, Hiro Mizushima as Ryusuke, Kenta Kiritani as Chiba, Aoi Nakamura as Saku and Osamu Mukai as Taira. The actors were given proper training on their instruments for the 30 original songs that were written for the film.
Beck was released nationwide in movie theaters on September 4, 2010. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oasis provide the opening and ending theme songs, "Around the World" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" respectively.
Grand Funk Inc. was given the Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Music for its music work in the film. The movie was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 2, 2011. The DVD came in "standard" and "luxury" editions, with the luxury edition including a bonus DVD.
In 2002, the manga received a tribute album featuring several different artists. The songs used in the anime that were performed by the character's voice actors with Beat Crusaders were released on a soundtrack in 2002. That same day an album featuring those same songs, but in their original versions, was released. A soundtrack to the live-action movie was released in 2010.
Action figures of each band member were created, equipped with amplifiers, interchangeable guitars and in the case of Saku, an elaborate drum kit.
|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) of the English dub by FUNimation Entertainment|
|AnimeOnDVD||Chris Beveridge||Content: A-
|DVD/Anime Review of Volume 1 (Episodes 1-5) of the English dub by FUNimation Entertainment|
- "Beck Rock Manga Gets Live-Action Film with Hiro Mizushima". Anime News Network. 2009-06-01. Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
- "Sakuishi's Beck Rock-and-Roll Manga to End in Japan". Anime News Network. 2005-01-13. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Beck Manga Side Story to Run in Japan in October". Anime News Network. 2008-09-04. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Report: Kodansha Lets Tokyopop Germany's Licenses Expire". Anime News Network. 2009-01-02. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Christopher Beveridge (2006-05-27). "Anime Boston - FUNimation Panel". Mania.com. Demand Media, Inc. Archived from the original on 29 December 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- Hayate (2007-09-07). "BECK ADR Directors Interview Anime Editorial". Tokidokijournal.com. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- "Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis to Do Beck Film's Themes". Anime News Network. 2010-03-30. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Colorful, Arrietty, One Piece Earn Japan Academy Nods". Anime News Network. 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
- "Beck Game Announced". Anime News Network. 2005-01-13. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "TL68-BECK". rakuten.co.jp (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-07-29.
- Joel Hahn. "Kodansha Manga Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
- Official site (Japanese)
- TV Tokyo's official site of the anime (Japanese)
- Official site of the live-action movie (Japanese)
- FUNimation's official minisite for the anime (English)
- Beck (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Beck at the Internet Movie Database