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 fifth volume of Beck took a somewhat different approach to telling the story in the very beginning. For a while now that show had been focusing on Ryusuke and some mysterious elements from his past, namely the history with Lucille. Leon Sykes had his thugs kidnap Ryusuke and after some careful persuasion our protagonist finds himself back in the good graces of his companions. Koyuki and Maho had some more time together for a bit of relationship gobbledygook and Beck started gearing up for the big finale. This series has been a hit the entire way through but does that trend continue when it's time for the curtain to close?
With any review of a final volume I hate to give away details concerning the plot. There's nothing I hate more than when somebody ruins an ending for me so in an effort to keep you guys guessing I'll do my best to be spoiler free. Beck ends satisfactorily but like the previous volumes it's the trip, not the destination that makes the show worthwhile.
The events leading up to this installment were very interesting and those happenings have ramifications for the characters and band this time around. Ryusuke struck a deal as the band got their break but as the time comes for them to perform so many things are up in the air it's not even funny. It's not just a matter of how well they perform but rather it's more about whether or not they'll still be together when the dust settles. Tensions run high in this installment and more so than the previous volumes there's a lot of development.
The first two episodes essentially wrap up the show and bring a fitting end to everything. Some questions still linger as the 24th episode finishes but the final two act as an epilogue of sorts. The problem I had with this manner of storytelling wasn't exactly what tale it told but rather how it was presented. It felt like an afterthought and to be quite honest these two episodes probably could have been fleshed out into a 13 episode season. I wanted more time to explore these character's lives and really came to care about what happened to Koyuki and the rest along the way.
There's no denying that Beck has turned out to be one of my favorite shows. It has real heart, well-developed characters, and an atmosphere unlike any other. There have been a few missteps along the way and some disappointment sets in towards the end, but overall this has been a heck of a ride. If you have watched the show then you'll be pleased that it ends how it does (though you'll probably wish it was longer). If you haven't seen the series then definitely pick up the complete set when it's released.
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.
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.
The bonus features keep in step with some of the previous volumes as a guitar pick, textless animations, music commentary, and a music video are the only things you'll find here.
Beck is one of the best shows that I have seen in a very long time. The focus has shifted from being mostly about Koyuki to being about the band but all around the quality has stayed strong. Right up through the end things hardly skipped a beat and this final volume wrapped everything up quite nicely. My only complain is about the final two episodes feeling kind of rushed but even so they were still fun to watch. Highly Recommended
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