Beck Vol. #3 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:!
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Beck

Beck Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     October 12, 2007
Release Date: September 25, 2007

Beck Vol. #3
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Everybody says that making it as a band takes massive luck, but for Koyuki Tanaka, it feels like much more of a fate-type thing. It has to be fate when a rock star reaches down and lifts you up onto the stage! That fever dream placing you among the company of legends has to be destiny! The undeniable power of Beck can't be circumstance. He may keep screwing it up with the ladies, but the band is growing stronger. Maybe it's not luck or destiny... Maybe the music is bigger than both.

The Review!
The intensity of practice combined with the trials and tribulations of you push everyone to the extremes and things hold together shakily in these episodes.

With a show revolving around music the audio department comes across pretty well in its stereo mixes. Both the Japanese and English stereo mixes are done at 256 kbps and have a solid enough feel to them that it's easy enough to get into the music and be problem free with the dialogue. There's also an English 5.1 mix which does add a good bit of added clarity and impact to the music across the forward soundstage. With this being such a dialogue driven piece outside of the music there isn't much directionality to it but the overall forward presentation is solid. We didn't have any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With the stylistic choices for the shows design as well as the real world setting, Beck has a fairly distinctive look about it. Some of the scenes that deal with the live shows have a soft focus to them and some intentional noise to give it that real concert feeling. This softness shows up in a few other areas as well where it's with the characters themselves. Also visible throughout a lot of this are the color gradients from how it was painted which is fairly distracting in some scenes but not so much in general. Where the authoring really falls apart throughout this is with the amount of background noise that causes macroblocking going on. So many scenes have a greenish tint in the backgrounds as well as other colors that it seems like it's alive. The opening sequence, which I'm willing to give a little on for the visual edits they had to make due to licensing issues, has a lot of really bad looking areas with background noise right from the start but also a huge number of jagged lines throughout. Beck isn't a show that's going to look drop dead gorgeous but it has a very distinctive look to it which is thrown off by how it's been authored.

The cover artwork for Beck utilizes the same as the Japanese release but with the logo in full use. Chiba in full performance mode takes the cover this time and his intensity shines through with his design and expression.. The green background works well for him here since it feels more like a stage performance while the lighter colored logos on it get you to look more closely at the package in general. The back cover veers strongly away from the Japanese version with a cluttered look of various music knickknacks such as cassettes, books, ticket stubs and so forth along with several shots from the show. Everything is angled slightly and spread out across the cover with even the technical grid being used at the top and the episode listing at the bottom. The look overall is good but it's just a bit too all over the place. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Utilizing the amp design that was also done for the LE box, the menu looks good with the selections along the top as the various dials and connections. The logo is along the bottom portion along with a shot from the opening done as a photo taped to it. The upbeat instrumental music sets things up nice and overall the menu is a solid in-theme piece that really clicks just right. Navigation is simple and easy to use with quick load times and no interstitial animations. The use of angles and poorly labeled subtitle tracks has us using the menu to set things up as our player defaults aren't read properly.

The main extras that we'll see in each volume are here again in the form of the clean opening and closing sequences. Also included is a music video for "A Life on the Road" which runs a couple of minutes. This volume brings us a new commentary track, "With a Little Help from My Friends" with the cast and director.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Beck creeps just past the halfway mark of the series and it already feels like we've gotten here too quickly. It's been about a year since everything came together for Koyuki with Ryusuke and he's come a long way since then. As far as he's come though the challenges ahead are even greater. Balancing out school, relationships, family and the pressures of making the band work can easily be too much for someone his age. Bringing in his new idol in the form of Dying Breed for a Japanese tour doesn't hurt in easing the pain however.

Koyuki's life is what makes this series what it is and we see him go through numerous events during the four episodes here. Some of the most heartwarming and then heart wrenching scenes focus around him and Maho. The two have certainly gotten closer after the swim meet even though Koyuki hasn't called in on his win by asking anything he wants of her. Koyuki is definitely a bit naïve in a lot of ways and squanders this chance in a manner that ends up annoying her a bit but also likely proving to be a bit sweet. Maho has managed to become a real darling in the first half of the series with her rebellious ways but also in how she knows what her limits really are. Combining that with something in her that wants to be accepted by someone as nice and good as Koyuki, it brings out some very complicated emotions within her.

The storyline that runs through this volume is one that defines the way these characters will move forward. They're also moments that that will be with them for a long time depending on how it all plays out. On the interpersonal side, the relationship between Maho and Koyuki takes an awkward turn when his crush returns to his life. Izumi left her boyfriend and is feeling a bit free and relaxed when she comes across Koyuki. Though she may have designs on him in some form, knowing how he feels about her, she isn't exactly straightforward about it and works him in a playful manner. That introduces some predictable tension when Maho finds out but the way each of them approaches the situation is what makes it so much fun. Izumi is a great catalyst when you'd normally expect someone completely different and she ends up challenging both of them with their preconceptions of not only her but each other.

The other main changing point in Koyuki's life revolves around Dying Breed. They've been a strong influence on him since he first heard their music and has been something that he's almost latched onto as something larger than life. With Ryusuke's stories and the connection that's there with the music, the draw of the band and its members is beyond strong with him. The news of the groups arrival in Japan for a tour is exciting enough but there isn't any way he could imagine really meeting them even with what Ryusuke's said. There's even the possibility that Ryusuke may have been making it up all along. Their whirlwind meeting turns into something far more strange and surreal, particularly for someone of Koyuki's age, but is a defining moment in his life that he'll always have. The way he handles it is done in a way that you can really feel what he's feeling and going through and almost want to be there to experience it as well.

There is plenty of drama to be had in these episodes away from the Maho and Koyuki relationship as well. The school days material with the bullies and threats reaches an interesting turn and there is plenty that the band is going through as well as they work on their demo and everyone is pushed to their limits. The battle of the school bands at the festival takes up a good bit of time as well and really lets Koyuki shine in the long run after they deal with the embarrassment of his friend who joins the group in order to gain attention with a female classmate. There is simply so much going on in Beck that it's hard to realize that when it feels so laid back and mellow most of the time. It's a show that when you reflect upon it you realize just how much is going into it.

In Summary:
The series is at the halfway mark and I'm already lamenting its end as these first fourteen episodes have just been wonderfully enjoyable. Each of the language options provide a fascinating show to enjoy with its music and characters. The pacing is sometimes a bit odd but as it deals with real life situations it has a way of bringing things out of left field that seem just right even if it throws things off. Koyuki is a completely earnest young man who is just too interested in pleasing others. Watching his growth and seeing him realize how he's affecting others while also understanding what he really wants from life is extremely enjoyable. This show simply rocks on so many levels that it's amazing it got made.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Music Video,Guitar Pick,Textless Songs,Commentary Track

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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