[There are no spoilers of consequence in this post].
I failed Beck. I discovered Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad as an anime around 2006. I watched the whole show streaming, using mostly a wireless internet card running on a GPRS network. That.is.slow. Nonetheless I finished all 26 episodes on that ancient laptop and fell madly in love (items of devotion here [->] and here [->]). I identified so strongly with the lead character Koyuki because his story, at least in the beginning is so much like my own (minus the bullying).
When I was 14 years old (a sophomore in high school in the very early ’90s) one day I just decided to bring my dad’s guitar to school. I had no idea how to play it, and completely looked like a dumbass poser lugging this Yamaha classical guitar around. One day before class started (around 9:30 in the morning) one of the seniors motioned me to come to him and asked if he could borrow the guitar. I said sure, and before I knew it he was playing ’80s Metallica riffs on it. I was stunned. At the time Metallica was practically a religion to me (they’ve yet to release the Black Album and my head was filled with Master of Puppets and …And Justice for All), I must learn to play these songs!
I begged him to teach me. And, he agreed too! I then showed up every day at 7:00 AM so I can spend maybe 10 or 15 minutes with him as he taught me the basics and all sorts of metal riffs. I was a quick study then, and after maybe 3 months I could perform clumsy solos from the newly released Black Album (my least favorite among the Metallica stuff that I do like, but then it was new and they hadn’t cut an album for 4 years or so). I had continued on to form garage bands and rocked the shit out of life in high school and early on at university.
Like me, Koyuki discovered a taste for rock and learned to play mostly through an older adolescent mentor in Ryuusuke. Unlike me he joined Ryuusuke to form Beck, and theirs is a story of the little band from Japan that could (rock, that is). And they gave me great moments throughout the anime. However, the ending of the anime is quite unsatisfying, as it basically summarized via narration the events that happened in the succeeding volumes of the manga. I then undertook to read the manga whenever the scanlations come out (I posess 6 volumes of the Beck manga personally).
After 3 years of following it, the manga ends. It’s unquestionably a happy ending, the details of which are better left discovered through reading. Beck delivers a view of the music industry with a grounded perspective. The members of the band go through very tough times holding whatever jobs they could just to be able to pay for studio fees and the like. The choices of some characters to drop out of high school are treated well, giving them time to reflect on what they gave up if only to drive them further in pursuing their music.
Having watched the anime gave me a better appreciation of the manga. Why? It’ s because I got to listen to their music. It’s hard for me to imagine how to appreciate Beck just merely imagining how they sound. Unlike Nana which is driven mostly by the character drama, Beck really is more about rock and roll. The OST is a happy collection of British rock inspired ballads along with faster tracks with rap vocals. Odd? Very very odd. Does it work? I love it.
I don’t think everyone will though, musical taste is an ineffable thing for me. I like all sorts of things (my favorite act is Steely Dan) but I daresay Beck works musically, that is if you can stand the engrish. I happen to get a real hoot from engrish, so there’s really a lot to love from the OSTs. My favorite parts of the manga are huge double-page panels depicting iconic rock star poses. The whole band gets a bunch of these over 34 volumes, but Koyuki’s are my favorite.
But I said I failed Beck. When I started watching the anime, I picked up the guitar again and played for a few months practicing one or two hours a day. I couldn’t sustain it, and I was close to being able to play the songs from the OST too. I want to start playing again. I don’t really have that much time given that my anime and manga consumption, my blogging, and tennis eat up my hobby time. However I feel like I want rock and roll to never stop being part of my life, and that means bring some power to the dream and putting in the time to re-learn my chops.
Has there been a show or manga that made this much of an impact in your life? Share it with me. Beck is over and I could use the company.