Beck Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, January 24, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, January 29, 2008
What They Say
The Greatful Sound Festival is out of control with wild weather and wilder music. The chaos and pressure are getting to Beck... In fact, the band is falling apart! As Koyuki takes the stage to a growing crowd, the lucky ones will be able to say, "I was there." When the set ends, nobody can say for sure what will happen tomorrow.
As the music fades away, the future is cloudy, and it might just be time to move on. But as the legend of their gig takes on a life of its own, America is waiting outside the window of a van. The road is a long one, but some fires can burn forever.
Contains episodes 23-26.
The Greatful Dead concert is underway and everything seems to come together and fall apart at the same time.
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. 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. Koyuki and Maho are together at long last for the cover as they're on the bike, though she doesn't have her arms around him and she looks a little bit upset even though he's smiling. The pea soup green background for this really doesn't work well as it's just too depressing and not all that attractive. The character artwork helps but it can only do so much with a color like this. 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 and one last commentary track by the voice actors and ADR folks.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Beck draws to a close with the final four episodes and it's just like everything that's come before. There's an air of uncertainty to everything, a permanence that just doesn't exist yet there is something larger than all of them individually that keeps them all moving forward. The Greatful Dead concert event is something that has been their biggest chance but also their greatest weakness and now it's finally arrived.
The four episodes that close out the series are pretty interesting overall as you watch these five or six characters go through such changes. The Greatful Dead concert is something that has driven them for a bit now but it's been tinged with problems that only became more apparent after Ryusuke revealed what was on the line. That was bad enough but Koyuki has even more on the line in a way because of what's going on with Yoshita in regards to Maho. Maho herself certainly doesn't help as she's somewhat aloof at times and seemingly disinterested in just about everything. She's the kind of girl that you want to put a camera on for a couple of days to see what it is she does with her time. All of these pressures have been building up on the entire band though and with the concert now underway, it seems all the more real.
The concert itself is a good deal of fun as it plays out and the gang discovers everything that's going on. Their initial introduction to the layout came in the previous episodes, but now that it's all coming alive they're finding their place in it after having the fun with band members from other groups. But there is an undercurrent of problems that exist that mostly stem from Ryusuke which starts to affect others. The worst part comes when, in discussing the future of the band and how up in the air it is because of the deal Ryusuke made, he actually says to Chiba that Chiba may not belong in the band. The dream that most of them shared has haunted Chiba for some time and a comment like that, said with such a straight face, is pretty brutal. Brutal enough that it effectively destroys the band in the blink of an eye.
Watching the way it falls apart is admittedly fascinating however because each of them handles it in a different way. While there is an attempt made to try and get things back underway, Ryusuke's demeanor has cast such a pall over things that it's hard for everyone to really get behind it all again. There is such an earnestness and innocence to Koyuki though that he's able to not quite rise above it, but use it in a way to achieve what's become something of his own new dream. His ability to move forward is powerful here as he takes the stage by himself and just puts all of himself out there. Koyuki is the kind of character who has kept to himself a lot of the time and doesn't always seem comfortable in getting himself out there, but once he makes that decision – walks that distance to get on the stage in fact – he moves forward as a person in a strong way that really helps to bring him into his own. And that kind of change is reflected in his music which resonates with the audience.
The second half of the disc serves well as an epilogue to what has come and sets up where things can go from there. It's fairly down in its own way and very relaxed, but much of the series has had that feeling. With it based on an ongoing manga, they can only do so much in terms of wrap-up and resolution but what they did is quite good here. The best part is also the weakest part as there is a great little photo travelogue of the band as they move on to their American tour and the experiences that they have there. It's a great piece as it shows them moving forward like Koyuki and experiencing everything that there is out there. At the same time, it's something that I would have loved to have seen fleshed out more as a second season unto itself.
I don't know how Beck did in terms of popularity in Japan, but it's a series that just resonated very well with me and proved to be very enjoyable. I wasn't sure how well it would transition from its manga origins as the book has a definite feel of its own, but they captured the magic and enhanced it through the ability to really use music to strengthen the emotions and impact overall. The final volume of the series is a perfect place to stop since it ties up the Greatful Dead concert, their biggest venue yet, and deals with some smaller subplots that help to set up for the next leg of their journey. I had only hoped to see more resolution or progress made in Koyuki and Maho's relationship, but what we do get here is simply beautiful in its simplicity. Beck is a series that will be hard for a lot of people to get into, but if you do get into the show, it will resonate strongly. Very highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,"We Can Work It Out" Music Commentary, "A Life on the Road" Music Video, Guitar Pick, Textless Songs
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.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2