Beck is one of the biggest things to happen to anime since Cowboy Bebop. Few shows these days are as talked about as Beck and to be honest you can't go pass an anime crowd without hearing about it. Whether it's on a forum or in person at a convention this is a series that has captured the interest of otaku everywhere. From my own personal experiences at this year's Anime Boston when FUNimation previewed the show the entire room erupted with ear-shattering applause and cheers. That attention, adoration, and praise was well-deserved.
Originally published in manga form about seven years ago, Beck was created by Harold Sakuishi. The animated version was released in 2004 and features 26 episodes to fall in love with. It really is a shame that it took three years for us to see the show here in the States but the wait was worth it in my opinion.
When it comes right down to it Beck is successful on so many levels because it's unique. This is one of those rare shows that bring absolutely no clichés to the table and really it feels like it's in a realm all its own. Everything is inspired from the ground up with a heartfelt story, realistic characters, and an amazing sense of style. An expertly crafted labor of love is the best way to describe this series and it's something that every anime fan must watch. This is required viewing because, quite frankly, it's one of the best anime experiences to come along in ages.
The third volume of Beck Dying Breed came to Japan and the members of Beck were able to meet up with Eddy. For a while there seemed to be some workings with Eiji but in good form Dying Breed defaced him in front of a large crowd. At the same time they brought our boy Koyuki up on stage and had him sing with them while they performed. This helped Beck get off the ground floor somewhat and really boosted Koyuki's popularity and presence all around. Some confusing relationship bits also happened between Koyuki and Maho and things were left mighty unclear.
The fourth installment picks up pretty much where the last one left off and there's a lot of ground to cover with the four episodes available here. For starters Maho and Koyuki are still having that awkward, unspoken relationship thing going on as it seems that neither knows what they want. Koyuki sees Maho with some TV actor and in the process becomes embarrassed repeatedly though Maho does come around to take Koyuki out on a date of sorts.
While that's going on our star is working his tail off as a dishwasher at a greasy chopstick joint in order to earn some extra dough. While there he's berated and worked to death but on his breaks he meets a cute girl who is experiencing the same thing at a nearby donut shop. As the volume continues we discover that the two are actually classmates in their new grade and the show hints at Koyuki's fondness of her. At one point he actually sings a version of "Face" but with her name as the only lyrics. Naturally she's impressed but she didn't actually realize he was part of Beck until catching a live performance later in the volume. Not only is there all of that drama but in between Koyuki is eyeing a telecaster guitar from a local music shop. It calls out to him in a way that nothing ever has and after a lot of work he manages to scrape enough together to pick it up.
Like the previous efforts the fourth installment of Beck is riveting character drama that offers some real emotion. Seriously, I haven't seen a show as engaging as this in a very long time. I must say that there is a new plotline that comes up during these episodes that I'm not entirely sure fits into the Beck mold. If you have been following the show you undoubtedly know about Ryusuke's guitar named Lucille. Well, there's some history behind it and Eddy. Let's just say that the death of that female star from a while back and some threats come into play here.
Despite the questionable plot surrounding Lucille the rest of this volume is rock solid. Beck manages to get a small foothold in America, Koyuki's character continues to develop nicely, and there is a lot of heart here. I can't get enough of this show and each episode pushes the story and characters to the limit. Whether you've a lover of music or not this is a show that you absolutely must watch.
Beck is presented on DVD with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. Considering the show was produced in 2004 that's not very surprising considering anamorphic widescreen didn't become the norm until 2006. Stylishly speaking Beck isn't an animated powerhouse. The artwork, design, and world are functional and detailed but not to excess. This is especially true during singing sequences because the lips in no way match up with the lyrics but that's a very minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.
As far as the technical quality of this release is concerned the transfer here is decent but not stellar. The opening sequence fairs the worst with ghastly aliasing and jaunted animation. The actual show looks better by far but there are still many scenes that include gradient blocking, compression, and grain. With the presence of four episodes on this disc instead of five the compression rate is noticeable better and the video quality stands out equally so.
Beck's audio comes with English and Japanese 2.0 tracks as well as an English 5.1 selection. Due to the inclusion of a lot of singing and musical selections the issue of dubbing is a make or break deal for a show like Beck. The original Japanese dub is fantastic with great emotion and natural voices. The English language offering is adequate and gets the job done but feels a little contrived at times. Each track here sounds like you'd expect they would. The 2.0 stereo tracks are relatively flat and the 5.1 features much more diversity on the soundstage. The rear channels pick up sound effects and music thanks to this being a dialogue driven series. Overall there were no flaws where the sound was concerned.
Once again we receive a special pick inside the DVD case. Disappointingly enough the only other features here are a music video and clean animations. Too bad the trend of including a commentary didn't stick with this release.
Beck is one of the best shows that I have seen in a very long time. Everything about this series from the ground up is engaging and feels inspired. Koyuki's journey through childhood and relationship awkwardness is compelling by itself. Add to that his quest for a solid guitar and Beck's attempts to make it in the industry and you have a quality story all around. This is another fine installment for the show and the series continues to argue the case why this is one of the best releases on the market today.
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