Another Madhouse anime. After working on literally everything in the early 2000s it was a matter of time before Madhouse would have to use people in the role of director who did not have much experience. In comes the unknown Osamu Kobayashi to work on a slice of life drama about music and music production called Beck or Mongolian Chop Squad as it is known as in the West.
Our story focuses around the stereotypical anime teenager named Koyuki. He is feeling disconnected from the world and has nothing going for him. Of course, one day he happens to run into a young musician named Ryuusuke, who strives to be in a band and make it one day. Slowly, Koyuki gets pulled into the world of music. Thus, begins a journey through his teens as he struggles to find his own music and path with the band.
Due to the plot following the path Koyuki takes, the audience experiences events in extremely slow fashion. This can be seen as a positive though because the drama centers on how Koyuki changes and evolves with each event that unfolds around him no matter how small or large. Therefore, the unfolding plot becomes believable, which in turn relatable to everyday life. The audience gets to experience Koyuki starting from the shy school child into the more confident rock band member. It truly is a journey that makes the viewer stick around episode to episode.
With a mostly rock oriented soundtrack with outstanding voice acting, both English and Japanese, Beck certainly has one of the best audio productions anime has to offer. This anime is a gem for music fans out there. From the intro of “Hit in the USA” to any track in the show like “Follow Me” gets that blood pumping and foot tapping to the beat.
Now for the low points. The animation is simply substandard at best. It looks as if Studio Madhouse was working on a low budget for this one. Artwork is very simple and most characters look the same throughout, probably due to more low production costs. Luckily, the team was able to make each character distinctive in some form from one another, but just barely. Next is that slow plot. Yes, it serves its’ purpose, but teasing of other character’s past while Koyuki joins a swim club seems misguided. With such a colourful cast of characters, this leaves so much left unsatisfied aside from the main character.
As with slice of life, the character are another major highlight to Beck. The personalities are unique to each person along with the diversity in the rest of cast. Koyuki is a character one cannot help but sympathize with and root for. This goes for his ability to play the guitar better, and even his romantic relationship with another certain character. Beck really does get the viewer emotionally invested with the group and what transpires among them as their chemistry grows.
After a slow, yet nice 26 episode journey, it must be said the show’s ending is beyond disappointing. Instead of a band performance of some kind, the audience is treated to a slide show of pictures of what happens after certain events. The second half of the show is clearly rushed with the events unfolding with incredible coincidence. Possibly another circumstance of the show being reigned in over a decreasing budget, which was already low to begin with. Beck does remain a solid anime despite its flaws and constrictions. It will be seen as a true classic as time goes on.
TL;DR: Beck Mongolian Chop Squad is a classic to say the least. From the music production to the voice acting talent, the anime really shows off the strengths of what production can pull off even with a low budget. Unfortunately, due to a lower budget, animation and artwork suffer as a result. Even the ending is rushed out of nowhere, but the signs of production limitation were seen in the second half. Despite a slow plot, the show progresses at a pace making the story believable and something the audience can relate to.
Recommended Audience: Any fan of music would instantly enjoy this one. Fans of slice of life and drama would love Beck despite the animation and age. It truly is an anime classic for the genre.
Beck Mongolian Chop Squad is a top chart classic for a nice 3.5/5
Director: Osamu Kobayashi
Premiered: Fall 2004
Episode Count: 26
Rating: R 17+ Violence, Profanity
Genre(s): Slice of Life, Drama, Music
Streaming: Funimation and Hulu
Price: Shop.Funimation $30 USD
I am also a big gamer from the retro NES days to modern PS4 greatness. More fun facts about myself include: Job as an engineer with a degree in Geological Engineering, speak fluent German as a second language, ex-Pro current Amateur level Bowler.