27 October 2007

Review:: Beck Mongolian Chop Squad (anime)

I can't help it, I'm a sucker for music. This anime is the other side of the coin of Nodame Cantabile (reviewed 10.22.07), where Beethoven reigns supreme. Beck Mongolian Chop Squad is all about rock and roll, baby. There's loud guitars, a rock god quality in one of the main characters, and a moody dog whose skin appears to be made of fabric patches.

I have to admit that I was skeptical when the opening theme, "Hit in the USA" by Beat Crusaders, was sung solely in English. It's a catchy tune, though, and when you pay close attention to the lyrics, you realize it's more Engrish than English anyway. The end credits show drawings of rock greats like Sid Vicious and Kurt Cobain, along with other Japanese icons that I, in my ignorance, do not recognize. By the time you get to this point, though, you know the love for music is entrenched in every frame of this anime.

The animation can be quite striking at times, with shots manipulated to resemble artsy photography and old-school fuzzy film reels. What makes this series special is that it captures the magic of youth, of the power of music, and that desire to be part of something amazingly cool.

8.35 of 9
The main character is your usual run-of-the-mill teen, full of unbearable ennui until faced with something extraordinary (like in Death Note by Ohba Tsugumi). In the case of BMCS, the almost normal Koyuki meets Ryusuke, archetype of rocking coolness. The characters seem real enough, though it is a little unnerving that all Americans (and even Japanese kids who speak English) are portrayed as somewhat violent and foul-mouthed. I mean, I'm a rock-loving American too, doggone it, and I don't make swear-word sculptures out of each of my sentences.
Mature teens, as there are plenty of rather vicious swear words and even partial nudity (though even this avoids being too campy)
Like it? Try this!::
I can't help but recommend "This Is Spinal Tap." I know it's not anime but everyone needs that kind of laughter in their lives.
Further Notes::
The more you know about Japanese language and culture, the more you're bound to enjoy any anime-- this one in particular. Each episode is split up into a "live," which is supposed to mean "live concert." During filler Japanese urban jungle scenes, companies like "Samsung" and "Lawson" are cheekily drawn as "Samsang" and "Lawsan." There's even a poster for the Brad Pitt film "Troy," but it's denoted as "Moroy" instead of "Toroy," as it would be in Japanese. One particular reference to natto may be too obscure for some. I know some people who love this food, but for people like me, it's not just the smell but the sticky consistency that makes me go barf.