I Was Made to Hit in America… Beck: MCS Ends


[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.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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34 Responses to I Was Made to Hit in America… Beck: MCS Ends

  1. I have lightly practiced bass for a little over a year now, and back when I was watching Nana, the first 22 episodes or so had me practicing bass constantly in inspiration. After the other 20 grueling episodes, I didn’t touch the bass for a month, lol.

    I wonder if back then you were jamming the 0-3-5-0-3-7-5-0-3-5-3-0000000000 ? everyone’s first riff, lol.

    As for anime with impact on my life, all of them. But especially ef ~a tale of memories~ which made me decide to become a director.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I don’t think that was my first riff but yeah, I spent a lot of time in practice. Watching K-ON! is also making me want to play as well. My hands are a mess right now for playing tennis three days straight, but I’m almost positive I’m going to pick up that guitar in the bag at the corner of my room.

  2. Ryan A says:

    Guitaaaaara~! When I heard a lot of the OST stuff in Bebop I wanted to play it, so I practiced more. I started playing a year before high-school (96?), but I was around insanely good musicians, so I didn’t stick with it that much (weird huh?). So I still played on and off practicing various things, and Bebop gave me a good little inspiration…. but other than Yoko’s stuff, mer.

    What pushed me to play more was Shugo and his mad skills. Wild fingers. Other contemporary stuff is simpler in comparison, though I’m sure it’s not as wicked as jazz or classical pieces. Damn, and my guitar is still broken D: I probably don’t remember how to play anything, but usually I’d just improv for a couple hours for practice anyway 🙂

    • ghostlightning says:

      but I was around insanely good musicians, so I didn’t stick with it that much

      That is indeed strange. When I was surrounded with musicians who were better than me, my role simply changed knowing that I couldn’t be the best player. I went into composition and organization more. But yes, Cowboy Bebop has some wicked tracks.

  3. Now watch Gravitation.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I almost did, and I’m don’t think that I regret not watching it.

      • Kiri says:

        If you’re ever to reconsider Gravitation, the manga is infinitely superior to the anime and OAV. Then again, it’s also much, much longer.

  4. asher says:

    GTO and Nodame Cantabile–in their own little ways–somehow made an impact in my life. GTO because of my work and simply because I’m not exactly the most conventional prof out there. Much as I like to emulate some of Onizuka’s tactics, I tone it down just to make sure I still have a job to go back to. NC, ironically, made an impact in a way that reminded me of how strong my inclination to classical music is. I can take it, I like it and I don’t care if others find it old-fashioned and boring. Reflects my frustration too of playing the violin, hehe.

    I saw some Beck episodes locally and while it’s not exactly my cup of tea (now at least), I thought it brought a good sense of discovering music and sticking with it. Had this been shown when I was a highschool junior (it was grunge for me, with Eraserheads, of course), I would probably have continued learning to play the guitar. Hmm, maybe you can give me a refresher course, lol!

    • ghostlightning says:

      Classical music is not square nor is it boring. I dig it, though in my case it’s the live action Nodame Cantabile that did more to make me love classical music more than my favorite movie did (Amadeus).

  5. Kiri says:

    I related to the first half of the first chapter of Bakuman hardcore. And then it became hilariously optimistic, and I stopped relating to it and just kept enjoying it for what it was.

    I can sympathize with a lot of characters, and a lot of stories touch me deep, but it’s rare that I really, really identify with someone in terms of having gone through the exact same ordeal. I think part of it is just me alienating myself though.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Your case presents an interesting point. A show or manga can be highly relatable and then it stops being so. Or, perhaps the characters change — and we stay the same. After all the stories move in compressed time, it’s highly unlikely we’re synchronized with the characters’ changes in outlook or attitude.

  6. by the way GL, I think that for you at this stage in life, The Legend of Black Heaven may be the most inspirational thing you could ever watch, period.

  7. JELEINEN says:

    For me, the music was the downfall of the Beck anime. They’re supposed to have a revolutionary new sound, not the stuff we got to hear. I realize that would be impossible, which is why the anime was doomed to failure. I’m just ticked that Tokyo Pop dropped the license for the manga here in the US.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I can understand why people won’t see the music as ‘revolutionary.’ However, having listened to the OST as much as I have — I get a very strong sense of fun that went into the music and I get caught up in that much to my enjoyment.

      Whoa Tokyopop dropped it? Oh man so I won’t get my copies fffffffff. I have the first 5 or 6 I think. Should I buy the rest up to when they stopped? What do I do?

  8. Martin says:

    I’m looking forward to watching Beck through to the end, but something tells me I’ll be letting the manga eat up my bookshelf space in the coming months! I’m a stickler for experiencing stories in their original form, as much as I appreciate the better aspects of adaptations.

    I was hooked on the anime of this for similar reasons to yours – I’ve been playing for nigh on a decade now (and I’m almost proud to say I still suck) and have dabbled in a few open mic nights at my local and joined bands that were so informal we didn’t even have a name, let alone any original material. There’s a buzz you get from performing with other people and experiencing what happens when you bounce ideas off each other though…it’s capturing that sense of throwing yourself into something purely because you love it that’s Beck’s greatest strength. Rock and Roll, for all its self-parodying on occasion, is still a great way for people to express themselves, feel like they’ve acheived something, or just have fun with like-minded people.

    I did love the attention to detail though – from the instruments to the workings of the music business and the meandering, everyday flow of the story that charted the characters’ ups and downs with such realism.

    I’m more into more experimental and uncool music these days but if you’re a Metallica fan I strongly urge you to give Death Magnetic a chance. It’s their most consistent album since the Black self-titled one, and crucially allows you to forget St Anger never happened. Quite a return to form actually. (:

    • ghostlightning says:

      I actually have Death Magnetic but I’ve been afraid to listen to it! This is when I realized how strong my feelings for Metallica are. I will definitely listen to it now.

      There’s a buzz you get from performing with other people and experiencing what happens when you bounce ideas off each other though…it’s capturing that sense of throwing yourself into something purely because you love it that’s Beck’s greatest strength.

      Man I wish I said that. Well done. But then again, consistent with our current theme of pure expression — I know I did something right when people in the comments section blow me away with their contribution to the conversation. I’ve transposed my expression experience from music playing to the ‘performance’ or presenting ideas through writing and holding forth in discussion in the comments section. I’ve had several posts that felt almost entirely like cerebral jam-sessions and I hope my enthusiasm and vitality for the/because of whole thing comes through in my writing.

  9. JELEINEN says:

    I thought the music was good (certainly a cut above the normal pop music we get in anime), but didn’t live up to the (granted unrealistic) expectations set up in the manga.

    They stopped at volume 12, which is just about where the anime ends as well. It’s still worth getting up to that point anyway.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I think my favorite arc in the manga is their US tour arc, but I suppose getting the volumes that wrap up the ‘Greatful Sound’ arc is worth it. Thanks for the heads-up, much appreciated.

  10. Ryan A says:

    btw, ghostlightning, I think you might find Sweet No. 1 on the Rainbow release somewhat inspiring. I revisited that album after a couple years, and am still pretty much invigorated. (MF for sample)

  11. Evelance says:

    Eyeshield 21 is the best manga ever, though i do love Beck also
    How Sena grew from a wimpy kid to an ace who brought his team to a draw with the supposedly strongest team in the world (America) is just inspiring
    GTO and Death Note are also great

    • I’ll have to check Eyeshield out. Look for the manga I’ve written about here in WRL as well:

      Onani Master Kurosawa
      The Five Star Stories
      Wolf Guy
      Bakuman (a current favorite)
      Team Medical Dragon

      I wholeheartedly recommend these. Thanks for the recommendation!

      • Evelance says:

        I don’t get it, why do some of you guys have avatars/pics?
        Anyway, i’m thinking of somewhat becoming a…i dunno…follower?
        I also recommend Shanaou Yoshitsune or Sanzoku Ou, pretty interesting

        • Avatars are available to WordPress or at least Gravatar users. Thanks for the recommendation. You can subscribe to the blog via email (see the link at the footer, or via rss, if you use a feed reader like google reader).

          Have fun browsing the site ^_^

          • Evelance says:

            Thank you, i’ll get on that

          • Evelance says:

            Lol it’s been a while but i thank you with all my heart for recommending Onani Master Kurosawa, quite a touchy read 😉 haha

            But i need to ask, when Kurosawa confessed to Kitahara about asking a girl out was he talking about Sugawa? And was the girl Kurosawa was with in the end Sugawa or Kitahara?

  12. lelangir says:

    K-ON makes me wanna play guitar more than reading Beck (mostly cause I read the scanlations in bed and literally wasn’t sitting in the right position, whereas most of time i’m sitting in the chair watching anime and can pick the guitar right up and start playing lol)

    • I totally get you. By the time I was reading the manga I’ve already finished watching the anime — which I watched sitting up and I could pick up a guitar if I wanted to.

      At one point I could play ‘Sister (Face)’ and ‘Follow Me’ (the Koyuki/Maho cover was HNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGG… what a scene).

  13. Pingback: My Life in Anime & Manga

  14. Melissa says:

    Before I say anything, let me just say that this article almost sums up how I feel about Beck perfectly.

    Back when I was in middle school, in roughly seventh grade, I picked up the guitar out of sheer curiosity. Sadly, I never got very far with it and soon stopped playing due to a lack of motivation. (I’m also pretty much just musically handicapped. My brother got all the artsy genes.) But watching Beck gave me a sort of inspiration to start playing again. Though I’m aware I’m not part of some small band in the middle of Japan, and that I’ll never really go anywhere with it, I think that’s just part of the story’s magic. It draws you in and you become swept away by at least a portion of the character’s enthusiasm and drive. (Plus, who wouldn’t want to suddenly find out their a musical genius?)

    And actually, I really prefer the anime’s dub over the sub. As much as I love engrish, I just can’t watch a show where almost half an episode is spoken in it. I’m also pretty biased thanks to the fact that my first exposure to Beck was with the dub on television at some ungodly hour in the morning. And the songs dubbed over? Don’t even start about how much I love it. They’re sung in engrish in the sub anyways, so I feel like there really isn’t a difference except with the pronounciation, haha.

    • Thanks, I just a few days ago Spice of Your Life popped in my random playlist while jogging and it kinda brought me back to this show. It’s funny how the manga that has the richer story but since it’s about music, the anime has the stronger pull.

      Nothing beats those full page spreads of Koyuki doing rockstar poses though.

  15. sadakups says:

    I just finished watching the anime last night and I really enjoyed it. Beck was something that K-ON wasn’t. Then again, K-ON had a different approach as it was more moe than being a band anime, and hence, I find it hard now to watch K-ON after watching Beck.


    I enjoyed it despite the Engrish songs and mind-boggling Chiba-rap. And I seriously lol’d when Koyuki started playing the riffs from Rage’s Bombtrack. I also enjoyed what transpired in the Greatful Sounds festival – they were coming to the stage on by one, and so were the crowd. Koyuki definitely killed that show.

    I admit that the last episode felt so cheap with the slideshow, and thanks to this article, I am forced to read the manga, since I like to know what really happened in detail.

    • I’m a big fan of both, as you did note that they’re about different things. I think it’s good you watched the anime first before you started reading the manga. It’ll be fun to hear the OST in your head as you go through the otherwise silent concerts of Beck around the world. I think the USA tour was my favorite bit.

  16. Cory L says:

    I actually discovered Beck shortly after discovering the magical abilities of torrents. I went on a downloading spree for anime torrents and rejected many due to them being too “anime”. But once I heard Beck’s intro theme (same thing happened with Cowboy BeBop) I was sold. And after watching a few episodes, my initial shallow judgement of the show gradually transformed into a genuine love for it. I identify with Koyuki, and I envy him. I always find myself re-watching the show and getting lost in the Beck universe. This anime gives me hope. Being the loser I am, like Koyuki, I know that if I find something that I truly love and work hard at it, everything else will fall into place.

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