Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, July 11, 2005
Release Date: Friday, July 01, 2005
Translated by:Stephen Paul
What They Say
Fourteen-year-old Yukio Tanaka is one heck of a boring guy. He has no hobbies, a weak taste in music, and only a small vestige of a personality. His shy and somewhat neurotic personality makes him his own worst enemy. Little does he know that his life will be forever changed when he meets rocker Ryusuke Minami, an unpredictable sixteen-year-old with a cool dog named Beck. Ryusuke has just returned to Japan from America, and when he inspires Yukio to get into music, the two begin a journey through the world of rock 'n' roll dreams.... Lace up your Docs and head to the mosh pit--Harold Sakuishi's highly addictive manga series that spawned a hit anime has finally reached the States!
The debut volume of a title near and dear to my heart, this is the beginning of a coming of age story about a lonely boy finding out more about himself and his dreams inside of dingy club with rock music.
The cover features the cover artwork from the third volume of the Japanese release. The first volume of the Japanese volume featured the patchwork dog, Beck, which doesn’t really advertise what the manga is about. With this cover, a reader sees Yukio holding his guitar in front of a stage, immediately giving off the right impression for this title. I wish we could have gotten the original cover, and the artwork of Beck from the first volume does appear on the back cover, but it does make sense as to why this one was used. The English logo is located along the top and is also different from the original. The text has a stencil-like font that has the feel of text from a band flyer for a local show. It works with the matte finish cover quite nicely.
Inside there are two color pages in the beginning along with the appropriate volume and chapter headers. The back of the book features a 1-page preview summary from Beck as well as sample panels from the next volume. The print job looks great, sharp, crisp tones with no noticeable fading.
I really enjoy Sakuishi’s artwork, as his lines and tones are very refined and clean. At times the character designs feel like caricatures, with exaggerated features and a variety of rubbery facial expressions. The style strongly conveys a lot of the emotions to the reader. He also likes drawing the long-legged, curvy female figure, as is evident by the many swimsuit shots of Izumi.
Sakuishi also puts a lot of detail into his work. From the gun that Ryusuke holds in the beginning, to the dirty, flyer-covered bars, there is a lot of detail that goes into his artwork to properly get the setting and feel across correctly. I love how he portrays the nightclubs, as they look just like how I remember them. Also, for the music lovers, I am impressed with the detail in the guitar designs and the placement of the fingers on the strings. Those are real guitars illustrated in the panels, and it looks like they are playing real chords. It’s these little things that make me really appreciate the work that Sakuishi has done.
BECK is an interesting title in that on many occasions characters speak in English, as Ryusuke and Maho lived in America for quite some time, and the music from Dying Breed is in English also. Tokyopop handles this nicely by surrounding all English spoken text with angled brackets. The English is kept intact for the most part, with obvious areas of broken English in the original cleaned up and smoothed out. The foul language and Maho’s f-bombs are left untouched, which makes myself and I’m sure many others very happy.
The dialogue translation reads quite smoothly and feels quite appropriate. There is a spattering of slang throughout (“Dope”, “’Hood”, etc.), but it never becomes bothersome and actually fits the characters in a few spots. Honorifics are used, which is crucial as Ryusuke always insists Yukio drop the –kun from his name.
The SFX featuring a variety of editing techniques. Some are subbed in the margins while others are subbed in the panel. Some are left untouched and not translated while some are translated retouched in the panel. I feel like I’d rather one method, or maybe two at tops, was used as it became a little confusing and I found myself wishing there was either a translation or it should have been subbed in the margin instead.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Those teenage years can be an awkward, lonely, frustrating, and frightening period of one’s life. However, this time is also one of great growth and exploration, figuring out exactly who one is at the doorstep of adulthood. This I believe is the essence of BECK, a story about a boy named Yukio Tanaka, growing up and exploring himself after finding rock and roll and local dingy rock clubs.
Yukio, also called Koyuki (meaning Little Yuki) by his good friend and possible love interest Izumi, is a very typical, average 14-year old teenage boy with self-esteem issues, out of control hormones, and a feeling of loneliness as he has trouble fitting in. All that begins to change though after he reunites with Izumi, a childhood friend now turned woman, and also runs into Ryusuke Minami, a 16-year old local guitarist who spent a majority of his life living in the States and has a strange, patchwork of a dog named Beck.
Yukio’s taste in music is definitely somewhat weak and un-cool, only really knowing pop idols from Okinawa. Izumi lets Yukio have a listen of a famous American band called Dying Breed, and after only a few seconds something inside him changes and his interest in rock music grows. Yukio then visits a night club where Ryusuke has invited him to come and hear his current band perform. Yukio is really taken with how cool Ryusuke and his band looks onstage, and after attending another show with Ryusuke, Yukio starts to really feel a connection with something that he wants to explore. Slowly, Yukio begins to feel as though he is starting to fit in, and for once is actually showing an interest in something.
As Yukio begins to have feelings for Izumi, he meets Ryusuke’s 14-year old sister named Maho. Maho is tall, very good looking, and extremely foul-mouthed. She is a bit of a brat, speaks half English and half Japanese, and is definitely a bit of a wild child. Yukio can’t help but feel a bit mesmerized while in her presence, as well as a bit intimidated. While walking back to Ryusuke’s place at a fishing hole one night, Yukio’s true talents coming shining through under the moonlight as he joins in with Maho in singing a Dying Breed song, stopping her dead in her tracks and leaving her almost speechless. Yukio has got an incredible voice, and it is only a matter of time before the world hears it!
Overall the story does just about everything right with a debut volume. The characters are instantly enjoyable. Yukio comes off very timid and awkward a lot of the time, but he does have his moments of nobility, like when he tries to fend off some drunken American soldiers from bullying Izumi and her friends. Ryusuke is a bit of a punk and stubborn, but he is driven by his goal to be in the best rock band ever. Izumi is completely lovable and sweet, while Maho is the extroverted, wild one that will no doubt turn a few heads in her lifetime.
The story intertwines each of these character’s lives very naturally, creating an almost slice-of-life appeal that is slow-paced but still has an ongoing storyline that keeps the reader engaged. Sakuishi also has quite the bizarre and hilarious sense of humor, many times it is quite subtle with odd references to pro wrestlers and his assistants. As the plot progresses, the future of the characters begin to come quite clear. Ryusuke is looking to start a new band and he is going to need some talent, and one such talent will undoubtedly be Yukio.
Having sampled a bit of the Japanese manga and anime adaptation prior to this, I was really looking forward to getting my hands on the English translated release. I am happy to say that I am already enamored with this story. The setting of underground music and local punk rock clubs is something that, growing up as a club kid myself, hits really close to my heart. Through music one can find out so much about themselves and how they fit into the world that surrounds them. I think it is safe to say that if you are someone who also has been moved by music or played in local bands growing up, you will instantly find something deeply enjoyable within this story.
That is not to say that BECK has something to offer to everyone. The gentle, naturally flowing pace of the story is something that will appeal to those who enjoy slice-of-life manga. The characters are already quite strong and memorable, with the main protagonist in Yukio being one that I found myself connecting with very easily. We all have had, or are still having, our moments of awkwardness and insecurity growing up, but we also during these times began to discover who we really are and what dreams we want to achieve. So far Harold Sakuishi is off to quite a wonderful start with this excellent music manga, and I definitely recommended it to everyone.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left