Anime Review: “BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad”: An Anime that Hits Every Note

Written by Alex Bowman January 17, 2013

People need to watch this anime. I know that sounds like a bold request but if you ever get the opportunity to watch “BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad” it would be ill-advised to pass it up. This show changed my life and really helped to broaden my perspectives on not only music but life in general. This anime, like many other “slice of life” shows, has the ability to speak to an entire generation and make us feel nostalgic for those days in high school when we were trying to come to terms with the meaning of our lives. This anime is also recommended for any aspiring musicians out there; if being a musician is your ultimate ambition than take notes while watching this anime because “BECK” also realistically showcases the gritty hardships of becoming a rock star.

The View at 14

The story of “BECK” follows a teenager, Koyuki Tanaka, who is suffering from a mid life crisis during his first year of high school. Koyuki eventually meets another teenager, Ryusuke Minami, and sees his band perform live. Koyuki soon regains a passion for life through music and decides to learn to play the guitar. With the aid of Ryusuke (and some other local musicians) Koyuki sets off on a path of self-discovery by becoming a part of Ryusuke’s new band, BECK, which results in Koyuki’s life being changed forever.

Spice of Life

The basic elements of a good anime are all here: you have your colorful and dynamic cast of characters, strong writing that really shapes and defines the world of the show and some really funny jokes that will have you rolling off of your couch in hysterics. However, the one thing that makes “BECK” such a headlining act is how easily one can relate to the story being told. You will really feel a sense of nostalgia when you see Koyuki struggling with his life, his grades, his future, and his social anxieties all while trying to overcome self-doubt and uncertainty because, let’s face facts, we all played that exact same tune when we were in high school. You’ll find yourself cheering along with the crowd when he eventually gets to show off his incredible talent to his peers and you might even start to sniffle when all his hard work pays off in more ways than one. This anime is also a good story for musicians to relate to; almost every aspiring musician will find something in this show where they can stop and say “Holy shit, I’ve been there. I know what that’s like.” The final episodes of this anime also raise some very interesting discussion questions concerning the music industry as a whole and the impact it has on a global scale.

Out of Tune

Now, you would think “BECK” is a lot like your favorite band playing a legendary gig in your hometown arena with how I’ve been practically kissing the ground it walks on; but as we all know from past experiences, not every concert goes off smoothly. This anime unfortunately has one string that should have been tuned quickly in order to save face. It basically all boils down to the music of the show (spoiler alert = it’s not for everyone). Some people may not get a kick out of the obscure references to certain band’s material or the constant promoting of Nirvana or Ramones music thanks to Koyuki’s t-shirts. Also, the actual music sung by Koyuki and BECK will probably not end up on everyone’s playlist any time soon. Koyuki’s song “Full Moon Sway” sounds way too much like a drunken, John Mayer ballad and some of BECK’s songs, like “Spice of Life,” sound like Rage Against the Machine if sung by a Christian rock band. All I’m trying to say is that the show has a unique flavor; it just may require a certain palate in order to be fully appreciated. On the other hand, the show’s intro and outro songs definitely set the mood for this show with some pleasing anthems for everyone to sing along to.

Encore

Despite a lack of musical variety, “BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad” will have you brimming with a sense of nostalgia and compassion as you watch an inspiring cast of characters struggle with life in ways that can easily be compared to our own lives. By all means, please find the time to watch this story of realization and perseverance because I guarantee that it will provide you with a new and better outlook on life and how you choose to live it.

My Rating: 9/10

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