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BECK: MONGOLIAN CHOP SQUAD #1 - - Special Review

Rock stars. Is there anything they don't know...?

For all the time that you lunatics have been recommending this show to me, I figured it was some crime show about a biker gang running a chop shop. BREAKING BAD meets SONS OF ANARCHY, perhaps - - that’s what “Mongolian Chop Squad” evokes in my mind. Seeing it, now, I can totally understand what all the fuss with American recording artist Beck was about. It’d be kind of equivalent of doing a manga/anime about an indy metal band and calling it KISS.

This was an alright opener. Just alright. I can picture how this show ratchets up the interest as it goes along, even if the pilot doesn’t the sharpest hooks. Honestly, if I spun a couple levels around in Photoshop and turned off “rasterize” or something, I think I'd find myself looking right at an American indy flick. This is one of the least anime-like anime shows I’ve watched. There’s no chibi, no speedlines... just a bunch of angry and aimless kids dropping plenty of F-Bombs.

I suppose the hook is in the overall premise of the show - - getting to see a rock band rise out of the suburban doldrums. I don’t know if that interests me enough to pick this over all the competition, but it is a subject that’s alternately fascinated and frustrated me for a long time. Notice how the lead is 14-years-old? I feel like most every other field of entertainment has a longer curve that wannabees must trudge through before reaching some level of life-altering success.

Rock music, though? The number of times you see kids jumping to some level of “life-altering success” - -t hat is, the kind that allows them to tour full-time instead of going to school or holding down a day job - - makes it seem like more of the rule than the exception. When I was 15, I had a silly public access show, sure, but it’s not like I was making any money off of it. The bulk of my existence was ruled by homework, sports and getting friends together to watch that year’s LORD OF THE RINGS flick. I couldn’t imagine being on some label-funded tour without learning so many important life lessons.

And I guess that's why BEHIND THE MUSIC has profiled enough rock star meltdown to make it a cliche. Maybe this show's hooked my interest more than I initially suspected...?

Couple that with how this kind of music is meant to be flippant, almost by definition,Watch this episode, “The View at Fourteen" here and decide for yourself.

Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk

NickTapalansky staff on Sept. 6, 2012 at 10:43 a.m.

We were JUST talking about this over on the OTAKU COMING HOME comment thread. recommended it with gusto. Guess since a link is RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME I should check it out, huh?

EDITED: Just watched it. I'm with Tom, sort of middle of the road. Interested enough to watch another ep, but not committed to a purchase yet.

Also, it's been years since I've had to sit through commercials! I don't usually use Hulu and don't watch cable, so it was almost a fun novelty when it happened here (though I imagine it gets old quickly).

sotyfan16on Sept. 6, 2012 at 11:35 a.m.

Beck is very much a slice-of-life series. Plenty of teen drama and dealing with growing up. Otherwise the series revolves around the music which makes this show one-of-a-kind as I don't know any others like it.

I felt a bit bored watching this myself (which is not the reason why I have not finished it) as it moves slowly but overall Beck is a good series that doesn't have a "wow" factor.

sickVisionz moderator is online on Sept. 6, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.

I've always been curious about this one. I like pretty much everything I've ever seen that's about musicians trying to make it and the only other anime I saw like that, NANA, is one of my favorite shows and manga of all time. It sounds silly, but the "Mongolian Chop Squad," part always threw me off as well and I figured it was like some action series where people played guitars in their off time or was something stupid like Chaos:Head where characters summon guitar swords or something.

tristenkw5on Sept. 6, 2012 at 4:15 p.m.

I watched this show earlier this year when I was looking for shorter form anime that were outside the usual "shonen" label, and felt exactly the same way the guys here who just watched it did. It was JUUUUUUST interesting enough to get me to watch a few more episodes in.

By episode 3 or 4 I was commited though because, although like Tom said this is a very un-anime-like anime, it shares that one thing in common with many other anime in that it takes what you'd expected from the American equivalent of the material and throws it out the window. Not in the, they get AWESOME SUPER POWERS kind of way, but rather it has a plot/story that gets less and less predictable as time goes on.

That's not to say it's the greatest anime ever or anything, but I think it would definitely be worth it to get at least a few more eps in before giving it the boot.

AURON570on Sept. 6, 2012 at 5:57 p.m.

I remember when the dub was airing on MuchMusic several years ago. Good stuff, was too young to understand much of it, but it's definitely on my list of anime to watch.

rubberluffyon Sept. 6, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.

This is definitely one of my favorite series of all time even though certain circumstances have led to me not finishing the manga (which I think is much better than the amazing anime). A good set of likeable, relateable main characters with actual realistic goals you can root for. Also the manga is a music lovers' dream when it comes to references. I never thought I'd see a dude wearing a Converget-shirt in a manga.

also Chiba 4 lyfe, yo.

AgentJon Sept. 6, 2012 at 9:34 p.m.

This isn't an inherently bad thing Tom, but I get the impression that you don't have a lot of tolerance for slow starts. It's a feeling I understand (certainly some video games and sports coaches have been at the end of my short leash) but I hope you don't miss out on some real gems because of it. I also might be completely off-base, but that's the impression I'm under.

You are watching the dub, yes? I just want to be clear for the 1000th time, the dub is the version to watch.

tristenkw5on Sept. 7, 2012 at 11:02 a.m.

@AgentJ: I agree with you, one thing the anime can do that the manga can't is actually let you hear the music in this music-centric story. The dubbed versions of the songs appeal to me much more, though I may have some bias since I prefer dubs more often than not.

Dig Deeper into BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad

Beck follows the story of Yukio Tanaka, a young boy that doesn't really have any hobbies. His life begins to change when he rescues an odd looking dog from a bunch of kids and meets the guitarist of an indie Japanese band. the show revolves around the bands adventures.

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