Live Action BECK: Crazy Awesome, but not without its Faults

Beck was one of the first non-shonen anime I got into that showed me that Japanese animation could do more than mystical manly fisticuffs. Its characters were ordinary people trying to deal with their faults and talents, making the characters that much more relatable. When you’re first introduced to high schooler Koyuki, you feel for him as he goes through the motions of his everyday life, consisting of lecture after lecture interrupted only by the occasional bullying by the upperclassmen. As such, you as the observer is glad to see him take a few steps out of his rut when he takes a stand against some tourists torturing a dog named Beck. And while his stand doesn’t come off as the most heroic of things, it does ultimately introduce him to the world of music, as he finds the dog’s owner is a rocker by the name of Ryusuke.

While the manga in its entirety hasn’t been released in the states, the 26-episode anime has been out and praised by many. And thankfully, I can say that the same praise is deserved by its movie adaptation as well—proof that story is just as important as who’s behind the director’s chair (in this case, Yukuhiko Tsutsumi of the 20th Century Boys very “meh” movie adaptations).

… that’s not to say that it’s entirely free of things to nitpick about, though. While I understand that things like mob mentality are so commonplace especially in high school, I found it hard to believe that a whole gang’s got it in for Koyuki who’s just too normal of a guy to really defend himself against such a horde. Still, the impossible odds he’s up against and general douchiness of those against the protagonists always makes the eventual payoff that much sweeter.

A similar payoff can be said about the hipster douche that takes every opportunity to c0ckblock Koyuki from Ryusuke’s conveniently same-age sister, Maho. While I don’t remember his character design from the anime, I will say that having the guy don that obnoxious scarf in practically every scene he was in made me hate him that much more. The bucket hat’s a nice touch, too.

As for Maho, and in general all the female characters in the movie, they never come off as the super kawaii female support that most Japanese works cast them off as; rather, they are each given a more active role in the plot, pushing it forward in their own gender-neutral manner. And while I had some mixed feelings about her wanting to pursue a future in filming for the movie (pretty sure the anime was something along the lines of a model alongside pretty-boy hipster scarf/bucket hat guy), such feelings were washed away, since it made for the transition into Ryusuke’s story line a lot easier. Thankfully, modern-day rewrites for things like YouTube and mp3s play in favor for the movie.

… but what really shines for this movie is its sense of camaraderie among the band. Named after Ryusuke’s dog, Beck is quite the awe-inspiring band, with Koyuki, Ryusuke and even vocalist Chiba (who, honestly, steals every scene he’s in) all having their own separate yet intertwining stories, all of which get tied in a simple yet efficient way. As for bassist Taira and drummer Saku… well, they do what bassists and drummers do best and worked for good backup whenever tensions were a bit too high—the Donatellos of their Ninja Turtles crew, minus the undertones of doing machines.

Another pleasant surprise was the occasional use of English sprinkled throughout the movie. Trying to make it in the music industry, it makes sense that Beck will end up crossing paths with some English speakers. And while most English in Japanese movies comes up short to say the least (see the opening scene of Evangelion 2.0) it was actually pulled off rather well this time around. Sure, there were some awkward bits where a contraction could have been preferred, but that’s more of general prose flow than anything else. Also, major props to the actors for Ryusuke and Maho for pulling off playing a bilingual character, too. Though having said that, I will nitpick at Ryusuke’s lisp, which I didn’t notice until he spoke in English and was forever noticeable from that point onwards. But such a nitpick is nothing compared to the most major minor gripe I had with this movie.

So apparently Koyuki possesses the voice of God because whenever he starts to sing, the audio fades out while the guitars in the background take over. I wouldn’t call it a major problem if it weren’t for the fact that the movie did this on more than one occasion. Maybe they couldn’t find a convincing enough actor to pull off the English lines (I guess the cap’s at two bilingual actors per movie) but it just came off as distracting… maybe not as distracting as listening through the Engrish vocals delivered throughout the anime, but still pretty distracting.

Regardless, what I’m doing is nitpicking and only comes natural especially when the movie as a whole is so good that nitpicking is the only real thing I can do besides f@ngasming over every scene. Seriously, check this movie out. My one regret is that the chances of getting a US release with the audio completely intact are slim considering they used songs from The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oasis, which worked perfectly as opposed to the other times American music is randomly used in movies (read: Death Note). Oh, how I yearn for the days when the exchange rate wasn’t as ridiculous.

%d bloggers like this: