BECK is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Harold Sakuishi. It was originally serialized in Monthly Shōnen Magazine from 1999 to 2008, with the 103 chapters later published into 34 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha. It tells the story of a group of Japanese teenagers who form a rock band and their struggle to fame, focusing on 14-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka, who until meeting guitar prodigy Ryusuke Minami was an average teen with a boring life.
It was adapted into a 26-episode anime television series, titled BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, by Madhouse and aired on TV Tokyo from October 2004 to March 2005. A live-action film adaptation was released in 2010 and stars Takeru Satoh as Koyuki and Hiro Mizushima as Ryusuke. The series has also spawned three guidebooks, four soundtracks, a video game and a line of guitars.
The Beck manga was licensed for an English-language release in North America by Tokyopop. The first volume was published in July 2005, but the series was discontinued after the release of volume 12 in June 2008. In July 2018, ComiXology began releasing the series digitally. The anime was given an English-language release by Funimation from in 2007 to 2008.
The 26-episode anime television series was titled BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, after the subtitle used by the band in the series in the United States, and aired on Japan’s TV Tokyo from October 2004 to March 2005. It was directed by Osamu Kobayashi, animated by Madhouse and produced by Takeshi Shukuri and Yoshimi Nakajima.
The anime has been dubbed and broadcast on TV networks in North America, France, Italy, Philippines and Thailand.
On Saturday, May 27 at Anime Boston 2006, U.S.-based anime distributor FUNimation Entertainment announced that they had acquired the license for the Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad anime. Taliesin Jaffe and Christopher Bevins are the directors of the English version. The first DVD was released in 2007, and the last in January 2008. The English dub was released by Revelation Films in the UK and Madman Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand.
Beck made its North American television debut on the Canadian music channel, MuchMusic, on March 9, 2007. The series finished on June 3. Despite the fact that this is a shōnen series, the show was rated TV-14 for its language and violence, but the DVD edition is rated TV-MA for strong language, including near-constant use of the f word in the first episode and frequently in subsequent episodes.
In the English adaptation, many songs were re-recorded with English lyrics. The sung lyrics of some English songs in the anime, such as “Moon on the Water” and “Follow Me”, were slightly altered to correct grammar, although the incorrect grammar still appears in the English subtitles. The Beatles’ song “I’ve Got a Feeling” has the lyrics replaced in the American DVDs.
A live-action film adaptation of the Beck manga was announced in 2009, with filming beginning in July. It was produced and directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, who has directed manga-to-film adaptations in the past (most notably the 20th Century Boys trilogy). It stars Takeru Satoh as Koyuki, Hiro Mizushima as Ryusuke, Kenta Kiritani as Chiba, Aoi Nakamura as Saku and Osamu Mukai as Taira. The actors were given proper training on their instruments for the 30 original songs that were written for the film.
Beck was released nationwide in movie theaters on September 4, 2010. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oasis provide the opening and ending theme songs, “Around the World” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” respectively.
Grand Funk Inc. was given the Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Music for its music work in the film. The movie was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 2, 2011. The DVD came in “standard” and “luxury” editions, with the luxury edition including a bonus DVD.
Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka
- The main character; the series follows his rapid development from living a boring average life to becoming an outstanding guitarist and singer. Before meeting Ryusuke, he only listened to Japanese pop music, having never heard a foreign band before. He is the last member recruited into Beck (along with Saku), playing rhythm guitar and singing slower songs.
Ryusuke “Ray” Minami
- A slacker, but incredibly talented guitarist, who inspires Koyuki to pick up the instrument. Ryusuke speaks better English than Japanese, having lived in New York for 8 years. He is the lead guitarist of Beck as well as its founding member. A large amount of the story revolves around him and his bullet-hole ridden Gibson Les Paul guitar, named Lucille (which is the same name as B.B. King’s famous black Gibson).
- Maho is Ryusuke’s younger half-sister and a talented singer. She is brash but emotionally fragile, and gradually builds a romantic relationship with Koyuki. Beautiful and fairly popular, Koyuki often has a hard time approaching her romantically. While she is obviously a gifted singer, Maho confides in Koyuki that she would actually like to be a film maker. She is also an amateur model.
- The main vocalist of Beck, Chiba’s vocals are more punk and rap-oriented than Koyuki’s and thus more fitting for the majority of Beck’s songs. He is easily the most volatile member of Beck, never shying away from a fight or hiding his feelings during dire situations. He is also very good at karate, which he uses in his performances. He originally took up karate because he was bullied severely in his younger days. When not busy with the band, he helps manage his family’s ramen shop; he says that if Beck doesn’t work out, he would open up a chain of ramen shops. Towards the end of the series, Ryusuke tells him that he should leave the band because he thinks he is not as passionate about music as the rest of the band. He complies, but quickly returns to play with the band. His appearance is based on Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha.
- Beck’s bassist, Taira is the second member recruited by Ryusuke. Although he can sometimes seem uncaring or apathetic, he is actually the most mature of the band members and often offers helpful advice. He usually performs shirtless, much like the real-life person he is based on: Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His main live bass is a white Music Man Stingray (a 1993-1996 model as identified from the type of bridge) with 3-band EQ and a trans bridge.
- Saitou is a perverted middle-aged man and former Olympic swimmer who teaches Koyuki both guitar and swimming in exchange for Koyuki working for his business. Though he can be a demanding instructor, he opens up to Koyuki, even asking him for relationship advice on occasion.
Yuji “Saku” Sakurai
- Saku is Beck’s drummer and the last member to join. He first becomes good friends with Koyuki at school, being the only person to talk to him while bully Hyodo instigated the entire class not to do so. He is closer to Koyuki than the other members of the band, and Koyuki often confides in him during moments of self-doubt. Towards the end of the series, he moves away to attend high school, but promises that he will return on the condition that Beck reunites. As Koyuki does reform Beck, he returns, telling the band that he essentially ran away from home to do so.