Beck Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Revelation Films
  • MSRP: £15.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Beck

Beck Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     October 08, 2007
Release Date: September 17, 2007

Beck Vol. #1
© Revelation Films

What They Say
This is the story of shy, angst-ridden Koyuki, a fourteen year old boy who drags his feet into an unforeseen destiny. After stumbling into an exciting world of hard-living underground rock musicians, led by the charismatic and talented Ryusuke, he's accepted into a gang of disenfranchised youths and joins them in their quest - Their goal? What every young teen rebel wants - self-expression cranked up to ten, and to make an impact on the world around them that could seem to care less. Oh, and the dog might be a zombie, but whatever - zombies are cool. School's a drag, girls are terrifying, and what's the point of it all anyway? Rock and roll - that's the point of everything.

The Review!
The final volume is upon us, and brings more heartache than you would ever think possible for Takayuki, Mitsuki and Haruka.

For my review, I alternated between the English 5.1 and Japanese stereo track. The 5.1 mix is quite well done from the most part, although the dialogue mostly comes from the centre channel and also is a bit too quiet. This means that sometimes it’s a bit overpowered by the music, which can be distracting and lead to constant readjustments in volume. Having said that, the music, so important to this series, packs an excellent punch on this track. The stereo track is a bit more standard but still sounds good, and I didn’t notice any technical problems with either track as I watched the show.

The English dub is superb, with excellent performances by the end of the disc from all the leads.

Though not exactly bad, the transfer for Beck was slightly disappointing. For the most part, the show looks good and the colours, which have a bit of a drab tone in general, come across quite well. However, when the backgrounds in particular are quite dark, there tends to be a bit of blocking rearing its head and it looks almost like it’s moving at times. It’s slightly disappointing from that point of view, but otherwise a solid transfer, which incidentally was authored by FUNimation.

This release doesn’t feature alternate angles like many recent FUNimation and Revelation UK releases, instead only presenting the English language credits and title cards. Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.

The front cover is very red, featuring Koyuki squatting with a guitar, and the series logo and volume number at the top of the cover. The back cover is a bit of a mess, featuring what looks like someone’s junk on a desk (guitar picks and such) and fits the show well. You get the standard series description, as well as an episode list and extras. Though there’s no technical grid, all the information is clearly presented, though the runtime is exaggerated since it includes extras. The reverse side features some great artwork of some of the show’s other characters.

The menu fits perfectly with the theme of the show, taking the form of the front of an amp. The show’s logo and volume information, as well as clips from the show are at the bottom of the screen, while the buttons on the amp form the selection menus. The sub-menus are all in-theme and static, while different background music plays over each menu screen. Access times are fast, and the menu in general is one of the better ones from FUNimation.

The main extra for me was the “Day in the Life” Director Commentary, featuring Taleisin Jaffe and Chris Bevins discussing the problems they had to overcome in dubbing a show they knew would be an immense challenge. It’s really interesting to hear the reasons for some of what they done, and the commentary left me with a great deal of respect for both of their efforts. The other good extra here is a music video, “A Life on the Road”, featuring the characters singing, dancing and playing. The textless opening and ending also make an appearance to round things out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Music is a universal theme, and it’s something that generally speaks equally to people in any language around the world, and it’s one of the reasons Beck is so easy to watch and enjoy. Based on the excellent manga by Harold Sakuishi, the series runs 26 episodes and after the first five episodes here, it’s a great story of young people with a passion, enjoying themselves as they grow up.

Yukio Tanaka – best known to his friends as Koyuki – is a typical teenage boy in an anime series, sitting in his classroom wondering when his boring life will end. He spends his time at school with his best friend ogling over the girl he’s liked since he was a kid, and that’s about as exciting as it gets, until one day he’s walking home from school and stops a dog called Beck getting bullied. Its American owner thanks him when he comes along, and the next day Koyuki is all excited about what happened.

The girl – Izumi – asks Koyuki to come out with her friends, and the date of sorts leads to another encounter with the dog’s owner, Ryusuke, who ends up saving Koyuki and the other Japanese when they are getting picked on by some Americans outside the club. As it turns out, Ryusuke is part of a band with another guy called Eiji. There’s a lot of friction between the two characters which threatens to break the group apart, but Serial Mama have plenty of fans and their passion for music is clear.

As you’d expect with a story needing to develop, things between Eiji and Ryusuke come to a head and they decide to go their separate ways, with both determined to form the “ultimate band”. Meanwhile Ryusuke starts to spur on an interest in music within Koyuki; as he’s introduced to an American band called Dying Breed, he’s also given a guitar which leads him to meet an old Olympic swimmer called Saito, who agrees to teach him for a price. Add in Ryusuke’s hot sister Maho, who encourages Koyuki at every turn, and a real coming of age story starts to develop very nicely.

These first five episodes on this volume do a fantastic job of introducing the characters that make up this story, and in this one volume you get a great feel for their personalities and ideals, and for Koyuki in particular, we get to see some great development already. Watching him every step of the way as he goes from hearing Dying Breed for the first time, to his amazement at the guitar Ryusuke gives him, to his desire to want to play as well as the people he watches in awe in concert, you can feel the burning desire within him developing and it really gets you caught up in the story that is developing and carries things really well.

Any good show needs a good supporting cast though, and Beck has just that. Ryusuke is arrogant, sometimes annoying but always mesmerising as he commands the scenes he’s in, while Maho becomes a great cheerleader (and potential love interest) for Koyuki. While Izumi is the obvious choice in girl for him, she seems to have her eye on Ryusuke, and Maho is a bit like a far more uninhibited version of her, the sort of girl that will push Koyuki to achieve great things. The other characters, like Saito and Chiba, come across well with their introductions and none of the supporting characters feel surplus to requirements.

Of course, one thing that Beck could live or die by is its music, and thankfully it’s excellent. The songs sung by the characters are all very well done and fit seamlessly into the scenes they are in. There’s a fantastic scene with Koyuki and Maho at the end of episode 5 where they sing “Follow Me” and it just captures the moment perfectly, summing up so much of the episode in a scene that’s given enough time to play out and be soaked up. The music is just integrated perfectly into the show.

The only slight oddity – and I’d hesitate to call it downside – is the pacing. At times it’s very slow moving, which is definitely not a bad thing, but it sometimes feels a bit strange as you adjust to the difference compared to many other shows out there. In general each scene is given enough time to play out as naturally as possible, which leads to scenes like the aforementioned “Follow Me” rendition seeming longer than you’d expect. Having read the original manga, it initially threw me since I expected it to end sooner, but looking back on it afterwards I realised how perfect it was that they let that scene, and several others, play out with as much time as they need to get the point across, and the characters definitely come off better for it.

One final word has to go to the English dub, directed by Taleisin Jaffe and Christopher Bevins, which is superbly done. Beck was always going to be notoriously difficult to dub, with the directors facing two major adversities – singing and the use of English language in Japan. What the pair did, as explained on the commentary track, is keep the English in English and make the language differences more into cultural differences, and they cast people that could sing rather than trying to match the voices to the Japanese ones. And although it does start a little rough around the edges, the end product is excellent and, for me, better than the original. Something about the broken English doesn’t translate as well in the Japanese track compared to the manga, but the way it was done in the dub seems to fit perfectly. This is one dub I’d strongly urge anyone to listen to.

In Summary:
At its core, Beck is about two things – music and characters, and thankfully both come out fantastically well in this first volume; the songs are perfect and the characters engaging. Although the pacing threw me off a little having read the manga, the director has done a wonderful job of allowing the little character moments to shine through, and Koyuki’s discovery of music and how it will affect him on his journey to adulthood is just beautiful already, and we’ve still got five volumes to go! Add in a sublime dub and you have a brilliant package. Whether you like music much or not, everyone comes of age at some point and this is what makes Beck so easy to relate to, and such a joy to watch. If there’s any justice, this will be one of the breakout hits of the year.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),“A Day in the Life” Director Commentary,“A Life on the Road” Music Video,Textless Opening and Ending

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.


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