Here's an anime that makes good use of its raw edge and attitude when it comes to exploring real life, especially concerning those struggling to make it into the music industry. Nana and Full Moon wo Sagashite were other anime titles I've seen featuring characters struggling to make it into the music industry. However, Full Moon's take on the music industry was more light-hearted with fantasy elements thrown in and Nana was more focused on the character relationships that formed involving some who were struggling to make it into the music industry. But here in Beck, there is a greater focus on music and the struggles that Beck go through to become a recognized band.
Beck is certainly different from the norm in terms of storytelling for slice-of-life. The storyline has a raw, slice-of-life feel to it as the series shifts perspectives on situations between different characters and you never know what others are thinking. For one side as an example, we have Koyuki gaining self-esteem as he hangs around Ryuusuke and the other Beck members and trying to figure out Maho's thoughts of him. We never get a sense of events from Maho's perspective thus we are left to wonder what she thinks, just like Koyuki is. This was a different approach for me as most past anime I've seen explored events from the perspectives of all characters involved. Like real life, Beck leaves you wondering just what some of these characters are thinking of others and the events around them.
The anime also devotes a great amount of focus on music and outside aspects of Japanese society. Maho and Ryusuke are walking aspects of people who stand out from conventional features of Japanese society being a contrast to Koyuki, a boy who is a stereotypical example of the proper and manner oriented Japanese person. The Minami siblings have gone to America being able to mix Japanese and English with their conversations and not being fully adjusted to aspects of Japanese culture (one funny example: Maho getting annoyed with Koyuki mentioning her difficulty in understanding kanji). Hearing the mix of English and Japanese from both characters, even if the accents were heavy with most characters, was a fresh touch to an anime series like Beck, especially when characters were shouting out profanity in English in response to different situations.
Music was the big focus of Beck's storyline and the series did plenty with it. Other than focusing on American rock and rap, the two musical genres that influenced Beck's formation, the series delves into other musical genres with teaching and focus which include British rock and blues. Beck's struggle and slow rise in gaining recognition for their band is also depicted through the improvements in the skills of the band members, Ryusuke's own experiences and connections with music, and the attempts made by the band at gaining fame.
Animation and Beck's soundtrack also went into the music aspect of the series. CGI animation was used at some points to show characters accurately playing specific guitar notes during performances from Beck and others. Many of the songs used by Beck were up beat and full of energy, going well with the hard style of many of the bands seen throughout the series, including many of Beck's sounds. Koyuki's vocals for the softer-sung music were decent, though there were times where I wondered how his voice could be considered talented for singing in contrast to Chiba's highly energetic rapping.
There were also some glaring flaws that I found with Beck. There were times where it seemed like the animation budget to the series showed its limits through still shots and reused animation clips. The final episode was greatly disappointing as well with events towards the final minutes of the series were turned into a clip show and there was limited movement from characters in the episode, a stark contrast to all the music playing and excitement of the earlier Grateful Sound episodes.
Despite these problems, Beck was quite a thrill for me to see with its unconventional approach to slice-of-life anime and covering a wide range of musical influences with its focus on the rise of fame for a struggling band.