Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad Vol. #02 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 210
  • ISBN: 1-59532-771-1
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad Vol. #02

By Jarred Pine     November 09, 2005
Release Date: November 08, 2005

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad Vol.#02

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Harold Sakuishi
Translated by:Stephen Paul
Adapted by:

What They Say
After seeing Izumi fawn over Ryusuke's extended blues session, Koyuki is determined to practice like a madman on the dusty old acoustic guitar Ryusuke gives him. Later at a bar, Ryusuke suggests a tryout for a position in his new band between Koyuki and potential singer Chiba, a fiery hot-head. When Koyuki begins learning and practicing for this duel, he winds up joining a Beatles cover band that is partaking in a Battle of the Bands festival. Koyuki nervously joins, as the loser will be forced to strip naked! When Maho tags along for the festival, will the night end in steamy skinny-dipping action between Maho and Koyuki?

The Review
There really is nothing bad I can say about this volume of BECK, other than the wait for the third will be excruciating.

TOKYOPOP opts not to go with the original cover art from the Japanese tankoubon release, instead creating a new one using an illustration from page 180 with Koyuki playing his guitar in front of a rock stage background. The coloring looks absolutely perfect, highlighting the detail nicely on the guitar. I can definitely understand why TP went with a more appropriate cover, rather than the groin-sniffing dog (which can be found on the back cover), and they did a good job at making it look really spiffy. The English logo features concrete, block style lettering that is found on many band flyers you see stapled to phone poles and such. Again, I think this is much more creative and appropriate than the boring lettering on the original covers.

The print reproduction is very good, with the black tones and lines really shining and looking crisp. The lighter tones are not as solid as I would like, but they look pretty good. The volume header is in full color, the only color page in the title, and the chapter headers are present (I’ll let you guess the references) with the only extras being a page with words from Beck the dog and a two page preview of the next volume.

The artwork is not just the level of quality I would expect from a monthly serialized title (Kodansha’s Gekkan Shounen Magazine), but even better. Lots of detailed backgrounds, interesting perspectives, and wonderfully rendered full-page panels. Sakuishi-sensei’s character artwork is based in realism, but features a lot of rubbery, exaggerated facial expressions that really capture the characters’ emotions. His line and tone work is extremely refined, creating characters that are instantly memorable. I’m sure the fanboys out there will enjoy his attractive female artwork (although this is NOT a fanservice title). The best part of his artwork though is the little details that is put into things like guitars, background references, baseball helmets, and even how the characters hold and play their instruments. The finger placements are actual chords that you can play. It may sound funny, but his guitar artwork is sexy!

I am so glad that TOKYOPOP has translated the SFX for this manga, even though it is something that is usually not their policy. The methods for the translation are also the best I’ve seen from the company. Most of the SFX are subbed in the margins, using a small font that looks like the original SFX. Using the same font style actually helped to differ which translation went to which SFX when there was more than one style in a panel or page. Some of the bigger SFX even include the translation inside of the SFX, a technique that I rarely see but I do like. Signs and other panel text are translated in the margins as well in very small font. This was fine, except sometimes it got a little out of hand; for instance, when Koyuki was reading the letters and the translation was split across multiple margins.

All though I am not familiar with the original text, the translation to me reads extremely well. I felt the adaptation captured the quirkiness and attitudes of the characters, especially Saito-san. All the cultural references and jokes had editor’s notes in the margins explaining things. This was perfect during the baseball game when the pitcher was emulating pitching styles from famous manga (Dokaben) and real-life baseball pitchers. The original English text still is done in brackets to set off that the dialogue was original spoken in English. Honorifics are still also used when appropriate. Overall just an awesome job!

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
This volume takes place during summer break, a one month period in Japan, which to me was always a timeless part of the year where one grew and had time to figure out who they were. Harold Sakuishi really captures this feeling perfectly throughout the entire volume. The pace is quick, but I never really felt like I was being forced along and rushed to the next conflict. This is more of a slice-of-life style of storytelling mixed in with the goal-oriented themes as well. It captures that timeless and whimsical feeling that I remember from summer breaks. With this long-awaited second volume of Beck, Koyuki begins his coming of age during a summer break while learning how to strum the strings—a nice metaphor that illustrates the struggles and frustrations of adolescence.

As a gift for giving Ryusuke a leash for his patchwork dog Beck (mostly to keep him from biting Koyuki in the ass everyday), Koyuki gets an old guitar of Ryusuke’s that still plays and sounds great. After seeing how much Izumi enjoyed Ryusuke’s playing, it ignited a flame inside of Koyuki to learn how to play so that he can also woo the ladies. However, he completely underestimated how much work it takes to be able to even just play a couple simple chords in progression. The books are no help and Koyuki even becomes more frustrated when he receives letters from his childhood friend bragging about his piano playing skills. This is a true test for Koyuki. Will he succumb to the frustrations and obstacles of becoming a guitar player, or persevere and find himself through all the hard work?

While feeling down in the dumps, Koyuki meets up with Saito-san, a calm manager of a paper supply store at day turned ball-busting swim coach at the municipal pool during the evening. As an ex-olympic swimmer, Saito takes his swimming seriously as he constantly yells insults and obscenities at the student swimmers. Outside of the pool he is a gentle, carefree gentlemen who loves The Beatles and spending his money on women, well actually on sex with women. Saito sweeps in as Koyuki’s savior by offering him guitar lessons at his place, throwing Koyuki right to the wolves by signing up him for a Battle of the Bands competition with Saito’s old band mates. Koyuki definitely begins to show his stress, but this is a time where he is tested about whether or not he wants to take this guitar playing business seriously. Even though he picks up playing simple chords quickly, he is still very mechanical and unable to really put any emotion into his playing. This is something that he will have to learn later on as he gets better.

Meanwhile, Ryusuke continues his quest to find the best talent for his new band he is trying to put together. While participating as a substitute at a baseball recreation league game, Ryusuke meets an old acquaintance named Chiba--a curly haired, goatee sporting loudmouth with a lot of soul and energy. Chiba makes quite the introduction as he ends up starting a brawl on the baseball field, charging the mound after being hit by a pitch. His energetic attitude and gregarious personality provide a lot of great humorous moments, but his talents as a singer are still unknown. It is also during this brawl that we get another peek into the power of Koyuki’s voice as he yells at the top of his lungs for everyone to stop, which succeeds as everyone stops dead in their tracks. While there is no band formed yet, I can’t wait to see what this group of misfits and oddballs will put together once formed.

Harold Sakuishi is really hitting the marks across the board with this volume. The growth of Koyuki continues from “namby-pamby” (as Saito calls him) to someone with more self-esteem and assuredness. He still has a long ways to go, but this is his journey that we are taking in this manga so I expect to come just as naturally as the interactions between the characters are. The band rivalries and competition that Ryusuke is involved in are very interesting and I’m really excited to see how that will all pan out. There is a lot more humor and excitement in this volume, which I think is due in big part with the introduction of Saito-san and Chiba. These two oddball characters just bring a whole new element to the manga that had me in stitches on multiple occasions. When Saito-san shows off his finger speed to Koyuki and then adds motivationally, “The better you get at guitar, the more irresistible women will find you”, I about lost it. The humor has quite a range, from obvious to more subtle deliveries and background references (notice that all the baseball players in the brawl are doing pro-wrestling moves). Everything is just executed masterfully in this volume.

I definitely admit that BECK touches my heart in much more personal ways than most people probably experience from reading this book. However, even with my bias I think this volume really hits the mark on so many different levels that I have a hard time believing people will not walk away from it entertained and caught up in this great coming of age story. Growing up a punk music junkie and club kid, I can really appreciate all the little details Sakuishi-sensei gets across about growing up with music. He executes wonderfully with his bizarre and hilarious humor, slice-of-life storytelling, and a cast of characters that are instantly memorable.

TOKYOPOP also did a great job with the translation, keeping in all the cultural references and jokes by adding editor’s notes in the margins, creating an experience that I felt matches what the Japanese readers had. Sakuishi-sensei’s artwork is also excellent, great character artwork and I love all the little background references and details he puts into the guitars and instrument playing.

I’d feel like I let the manga community down if I didn’t recommend this book to everyone. Definitely get out there and try out these first two volumes. This is rock manga done right. I just hope the wait in between volumes doesn’t make me go out and start smashing guitars. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


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