Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: C+
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- 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. #5
By Chris Beveridge
December 19, 2007
Release Date: December 18, 2007
Beck Vol. #5
What They Say
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
The history of rock and roll is loaded with myths and legends, and the guys in Beck keep finding themselves in storied company. Famous faces swirl in their dreams as Koyuki jams with rock stars... and now Beck shares the bill with platinum artists at a monstrous music festival!
As the band's infamy grows, so do the risks and dangers of playing the game. The music biz is a cut-throat one, and Beck is about to put it all on the line. Tensions are running at an all-time high. This is the moment of all moments and the lights are shining bright!
Contains episodes 19-22.The Review!
As the band starts to get underway, the price they have to pay becomes apparent due to Ryusuke's past.Audio:
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.Video:
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.Packaging:
The cover artwork for Beck utilizes the same as the Japanese release but with the logo in full use. Saku gets the cover this time with a good if subdued shot of him playing the drums with a very mellow expression that belies just how into it he is. The background, purple for this installment, works fairly well but it's just a bit too dark in general for my tastes. 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.Menu:
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.Extras:
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)
With Beck being a show that in its own way really meanders about before getting to the point, this volume has some of the more difficult episodes to get through. Much of what we get here is clearing up the past and paving the way for the future and that's definitely needed, but it's so laid back and quiet at times while being filled with moments that frustrate that you can get a little edgy about the entire thing.
What makes up a good portion of the show at the start is in having Ryusuke deal with Leon and all that entails. Under captivity by him and his main henchman, Ryusuke isn't given too much of a chance to really think things through. Life is pulling him along at this point and there are chances that he can make a small shift in a direction or two here or there, but for the most part he's just going with the flow. And that flow involves a bit more back story on Lucille, which in turn brings Ryusuke face to face with a legend that ends up buying him a bit more time. Ryusuke's story hasn't been bad per se, and with him being in America for so long before the series got underway you know there's plenty of material to mine there. Yet, something about Ryusuke's story in this just seems to overwhelm the far more interesting story of Koyuki, or even any of the other band members that are getting the short end of the stick.
Koyuki's story isn't exactly a flash a minute either, though in a different way it's even more frustrating. His love of music that's come since the series started has been fascinating to watch and it's continuing to draw him even further in. One of those changes is that he's trying more and more to write songs, though he gets caught in the trap of writing material similar to what Jim Morrison wrote years ago. The struggle to write what's in his heart, what he feels, as opposed to what he thinks people want to hear, is what's driving him now. When that realization hits, when the clarity of the process really gets through to him, Koyuki doesn't become someone different but he becomes more of who he will be. And these are fascinating and beautiful moments.
Where the frustration comes in is in his relationship with Maho. As much as I like the cute and simple schoolgirls that he finds himself interested in or interested in him, Maho is the kind of character that a guy like Koyuki will really be drawn to. She's not familiar to him, not someone he's come across in his daily life, and that unknown bit of potential and possibility is almost like a drug. Yet he's also still just a high school lad and unsure of how to really move forward with what he really wants. He can do it with his music, and he can start doing it elsewhere in his life, but when it comes to a personal relationship the skills just aren't there. Not that Maho makes it easy though, such as when she and Ryusuke visit and she ends up spending the night and getting to know his folks the next morning. He's incredibly nervous and unsure around her, much as she reveals that she is with him, and the two are really in the same mode which makes it all the more bittersweet.
Maho just doesn't make it easy though since she's not sure what she really wants either, or how to say it without coming across wrong. Her own life is something that's not set in any way and she's being pulled along by events, such as the modeling she's now doing or the potential of a love interest in Yoshito. With a lot of attention now being focused on her, she's in some ways oblivious to the jockeying going on between the two men, something that's bound to get worse once the Greatful Sound concert gets underway as Yoshito ends up in Belle Ame and Beck is set to perform there as well. Everything is moving towards a big battle of the bands which will firmly put Beck on the road to where it needs to go, but the series has such an element of uncertainty to it that it isn't a complete lock yet. And that uncertainty is what makes the show so appealing since it avoids formula and predictability.In Summary:
The fifth volume of Beck starts to cement things for how the anime incarnation will end, which in itself only covers a part of where the manga is going to go. That's not a bad thing if they manage to end this in a way that really feels like it's closing out the first chapter in the larger story properly. These episodes are a bit more laid back at times than I would prefer, and the focus on Ryusuke is a bit much early on, but it's all in service to the larger goal. The good moments come frequently after some of these early events and there is plenty of what I think is the good material, both of Koyuki's growth as a musician and his relationship with Maho. Beck continues to come together well, the music is fantastic and the acting on both sides of the language options is stellar. Even when it's weak, Beck is great. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Music Video
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.