Beck Vol. #4 -

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: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Beck

Beck Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     November 08, 2007
Release Date: November 06, 2007

Beck Vol. #4
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Growing pains, baby. It's a big step from nobody to almost nobody, and Beck is on the verge. The band is shopping their album around, but labels just aren't biting. The group has pissed off too many people in the music industry. But the blue collar boys in Beck keep on keeping on, and soon an indie label starts sniffing around...

There's a chance for an American release! That may not mean the money and fame are going to start pouring in, but it's a step in the right direction. Things are looking up, and while everyone's looking up... Why is there a helicopter hovering over Ryusuke's shack?

Contains episodes 15-18.

The Review!
Over the course of several transitional episodes, events outside of the group begin to coalesce that will lead them to bigger and more challenging things.

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. Taira in topless form with his guitar graces the cover this time and his rawness shines through with his design and expression. The orange background doesn't work too well but it gest the job done. 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As engaging as Beck is, it is very much a series where even after four episodes you feel like a whole lot was happening but you can't quite put it into words. Like life, it moves in long drawn out phases where things move slowly and often behind the scenes before it bursts forth for a few intense minutes. For the group here, the live performances are where things really happen for them as that's when they feel the most alive. The rest of the time is just life pulling them along.

That can be tough to pull off since you have to really like the characters and the overall plot direction in order to have a proper connection to them. Beck has really done wonders with this by providing a rather diverse cast of characters to deal with and giving them all small moments to humanize them in their quest to make music. Some make out better than others and some of the character material for the secondary cast from the manga is ejected for the sake of a smoother show, but overall it really does have a very good sense of flow to it. With the larger story being about the band making it big some day, seeing the small incremental movements towards that has been a lot of fun to watch.

The focus on Koyuki isn't a bad thing since he's the one who can go into all of it with open eyes and plenty of questions which can be answered for viewers unaccustomed to the world of music. Though he does provide for plenty in that area both on the business end as well as learning how to play and sing, it's his relationship side that is the most fun to watch. The very awkward and unsure romance between him and Maho has had numerous bumps along the way and neither are really clear in their desires or intentions with each other. Maho has the problem of certain friends that get in the way and make things even more uncertain for Koyuki. Koyuki for his part is surrounded by cute girls at school and some of them are starting to turn into fangirls when they see him perform. He's not too interested but he is young and male which means he's not thinking about too many things at once.

The band itself is continuing to face hard times as they struggle to get a deal of some sort while running into opposition from the producer that they inadvertently ticked off. While they're down they're certainly not out and are still working hard by playing the circuit, getting their self produced CD out there and practicing as much as possible. Each of them are also going about their daily jobs and doing what they can. Koyuki has found himself a nice part time job in a Chinese restaurant which keeps him busy in addition to all the new work he has at his new high school. His goal of buying a new Telecaster is what's motivating him as is the way he's progressing in his skills. He's still a diamond in the rough but even Ryuusuke is seeing more and more of his talents starting to shine through. His encouragement isn't the cleanest but it's the kind that often works well between young men.

In Summary:
If there is a weak part to the series so far, it's the less than interesting subplot revolving around the guitar called Lucille. It brings about some of Ryuusuke's past with Eddie but it also brings about a storyline that just doesn't fit in well with everything in terms of the violence and threat. Beyond that however, Beck continues to be a series that's strangely fun, addictive and fun to listen to. Just about every aspect of the show itself is a winner and even when it's weak it's still very interesting. These episodes begin the bands journey to fame, in America no less, and show how strange and twisted their path really will become. If the first three volumes didn't sell you on the series, this one won't either. If you loved those however, you're going to love this.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Music Video

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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