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Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

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My absolute favourite music-related anime series of all time. Actually, now that I think about it, I think it's my favourite series ever. That's saying a lot. My first official post here will be about Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. That's them in the BG here. My avatar is also based on a character from the series. Lets' start shall we?

In a nutshell, the series is about the birth of a band, starting with a young lad named Koyuki. Through a series of events, Koyuki's mundane highschool life is transformed into music experience he would have never dreamed of. I don't feel the need to blab on about plot here. It's best if you go see it for yourself and just take it in.

The music featured throughout the series is mainly a blend of punk and alternative. Vocal-wise, it could be considered a bit more pop/mainstream rather than hardcore punk, because melodic vocals are pretty dominant (since this series was aired on television, allowing bands with screaming vocals to record the soundtrack would probably scare away the masses).

Beat Crusaders, a Japanese pop-punk band, plays a heavy role in the series' soundtrack since they do the opening song, "Hit in the USA". The opening sequence features a clip of Beck singing along to the song, and various other clips of the band that don't show up in the anime. Though not obvious at first, Beat Crusaders also provide the instrumentals for the fictional bands (namely Beck themselves). Instead of the Beat Crusaders vocalist singing during the series, the band worked with the voice actors to differentiate each fictional band sound by using different vocals. I'll probably do a separate post on Beat Crusaders. There's too much to say about them now.

Fans of Rage Against The Machine will notice that when the character Chiba takes the stage, he seems to have an almost identical sound to Zack de la Rocha. While it may seem to be a rip off of Rage, it is more of a tribute. In fact, there is an existing band Japan called Typhoon 24 that has had much influence from Rage and uses the same vocalist that does Chiba's rapcore scenes from the series. The vocalist is also heading another band that some say is pretty much the Japanese version of Rage called YKZ. If you happen to have a chance to listen to YKZ, you'll hear Rage within seconds. The same machine-like guitar riffs, the same distorted bass, and the same overall powerhouse sound. And once the vocals kick in, it's as if Zack learned Japanese.

The anime soars above any other music-related anime because it prioritizes music over anything else. If you have seen any episodes, you'll notice that the animation isn't the highest quality (Ex. High angle shot over Koyuki as he quietly walks behind Izumi) but when some instruments are brought into the picture, they appear to be done with a 3d program, keeping every little detail in place. Pickups are in full view. Guitar frets can easily be counted. Sometimes even the glare off the guitars finish can be seen. This type of detail is dominant when Ryusuke plays guitar.

Just look at that acoustic!

Speaking of guitars, the series creator, Harold Sakuishi shows that he's a true music fan by referencing real brands. Features music brands include Les Paul (Lucille), Gibson, Fender, Gretsch and that beautiful fucking Musicman Stingray that Taira plays. Now I think for copyright reasons, the ACTUAL brand names were modded to sound similar (and OBVIOUS). Examples include Les Paul - Les Pole, Gibson - Tibson.

Lucille minus the bullet holes

Unfortunately for the drummers, there isn't much information about what types of drums are being played. I haven't seen the anime in a while, but based on some screencaps Im just going to make a wild guess. I've seen Saku play what I believe are 5-piece Yamaha Stage Customs OR Pearl Forums, yellow finish, black lugs with clear resonant heads and coated drum heads. Two crash cymbals, a 16" and an 18" with one 22" ride and what could be 13" - 14" hi hats. Now don't take my word for it... Just wild guess, mmkay? It's more or a less a typical rock setup. No Peart or Bozzio here.

Saku's kit might be this... Maybe not.

Before I end this, I'd like to point out that the anime's ending features illustrations of musicians and emerging artists. One personal joy I found during the credits is an illustration of the synth player/vocalist from my favourite band from Japan, POLYSICS. She is featured wearing her ENO look with a very strange headpiece on. I will definitely have a POLYSICS post up sometime soon.

On a more personal note, Beck is very close to my heart simply because I was once in a band. I once went through the similar trials and tribulations of forming together with a group of friends to make music and let ourselves be heard. Music fuels our lives, melody channels through our veins and our emotions are leveled out on a mixing board. It just so happens, my former bandmates have watched Beck from beginning to end dozens of times. Currently, I happy to report that we are all on good terms with one another. When we watch Beck, we remember the good times and fun experiences because our band life almost seems to be mirrored in the series. Connections like this are rare. Whether it's between my bandmates as friends, anime fans, music lovers or musicians, or between us and the characters, story and and overall theme of Beck, I will cherish it to my dying days.

If you know me well enough, you wouldn't be surprised if I babbled on and on about Beck. I'm only doing this as an introduction to the series. It's up to you to experience the musical goodness that the series has to offer. Everything I've mentioned here is only a taste of what Beck has to offer. If you're the type of music fan who gets goosebumps from a wailing solo, or can't keep your head still to the beat of drums, watch the series.


The fans are waiting.

- The Joshness

Opening Act

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a professional music critic. I do not have an expansive knowledge of everything music. I do not intend of establishing my opinions as fact.

I am here to express my thoughts on different musicians, bands, genres and element of music. Some thoughts may be generic, and some may be more personal.

My goal here is to share what I know, spread awareness for bands/artists/musicians and simply record the influence of music in my life in journal form. I thank you for your understanding.

Rock on.


The Joshness