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Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Volume 1

Note:

I like all kinds of different music. I mean, seriously, I’ll listen to just about anything except for modern Country music and degrading rap (I do like some rap, I’m just very picky about it.) Plus, I’m a big fan of Beck.

You know, the musician.

Two turn tables and a microphone.

Hell yes! I’m into that shit. Saw him at Bonaroo (a music festival in Tennessee) and it totally rocked. So, I’ve been wondering what this Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad was all about. I figured maybe this kid on the cover would be a huge Beck fan, or something like that.

But I was wrong. It’s about music all right, but not Beck Henson. No Scientology here, man. Just some crazy stitched up multicolor dog…how this is possible, I dunno. He really looks like a stuffed dog that’s all made of patchwork. Like Raggedy Ann and Andy or something like that. He’s cute though, so it’s okay. And the manga was funny. I don’t always like the art all that much, but the story itself  is funny.

So we’ll start the review.

*This review has spoilers. Nothing major, but a few. Proceed with caution!*

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Volume 1-Recommended

Mangaka: Harold Sakuishi
Copyright: 2005 (Trans.)
Genre: Shounen, Life, Music, Comedy
Chapters:

  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3

 

Summary:

Yukio’s spent his whole life as kind of a dull kid. He doesn’t have any cool hobbies (actually, no hobbies at all,) he has a crappy taste in music, and his closest friend, Tanabe, is a dirty little lech, which is constantly getting him into trouble. But things start to change for him after he helps save Beck, a stitched up kinda raggedy dog, from being picked on by a bunch of bratty little kids. The dog’s owner, Ryusuke, is a guitarist in a local band–though previously in the States he’d had ties with the popular group Dying Breed. From here, things take a turn for Yukio. The girl he likes begins hanging out with him, he gets into some serious fights (though is able to escape them relatively unharmed,) and he actually starts to get into some cool music. By the end of the book, he’s starting to form some interesting relationships with a wild cast of characters, plus, it’s discovered that Yukio might not be so plain after all, as his singing voice is discovered by Maho, Ryusuke’s younger sister.

Pros and Cons: Story and Content

Characters:

The characters are actually pretty awesome. There’s a wide variety of people, with their own unique personalities. Anywhere from the outrageous Kayo, to the thoughtful Izumi, to the loafing, outcast wanna be famous Ryusuke. I really liked how different all the characters are–it makes the events far more lively and is very realistic in this sense. I see the potential for these characters to grow and gain even more depth as the series moves on.

I also enjoyed the many strange encounters we get with just the “normal” people. Some are typical Japanese citizens, some are Americans from the bases causing trouble, while others are just normal people. You’ve got Japanese-Americans, I think a Korean chick in there, too (Hyoju sounds Korean to me, but who am I to judge?) It’s very diverse, and I like that. Plus the characters are able to carry themselves–you can get an idea of who they are, and that helps to enrich the story.

Cons? A few. There’s a lot of characters lacking last names, and I’m not just talking about characters who make one appearance and then are gone forever. People like Yukio’s friend, Tanabe, and Izumi’s friend/cousin (at least, I went to Beck sight to look up her nationality, and they said she’s her cousin: check it out.) What the heck!? Gimme a last name, please! Just so we can know more about these characters.

That’s the only complaint, nothing big, eh?

Story:

Okay so what I like about the story is how crazy it is. It’s realistic, but it’s also out there. That dog man…how he be so stitched, ya? But it’s cute, the little Frankenstein. Reminds me of that Edgar Winter song, Frankenstein (hey, we’re on the subject of music, right? So I can throw in some classic rock!) The story’s interesting, because it’s something anyone can relate to. We’ve all been students at some point in our life, and even if we haven’t been the boring dull kid, we’ve at least known about them, or seen them. So that’s a start. The other thing I like is how we can relate to wanting to make something of ourselves–in this case we’re dealing with musicians trying to make name, but we’ve also got a relative “nobody” on a smaller scale trying to the same thing: Yukio. On the outside, him and Ryusuke seem completely different, but I’d argue they’re more alike than things seem.

What do I mean?

Well, Yukio is a no one in class. Nobody pays attention to him, he really doesn’t stand out and is kinda boring.

Ryusuke is a no one in the music world. He’s had a chance at fame before, when he was part of the Dying Breed, but he’s not in the band, and they’re famous now, he’s not.

So even though Ryusuke is totally different, nonchalant and über cool, he does share some similarities with Yukio, our main character.

I like how this story isn’t just about the main characters, though. All the characters are being pulled into it, and if I keep reading, I’m sure everyone’s gonna have their place.

The story’s also pretty funny. I like how insane everyone seems to be. It’s a little melodramatic, but it does this in a funny way, not serious, so it’s cool in my book. What’s funny about it? Example time! Well, for one thing, how Yukio’s always tries to be cool, or make up something so that he doesn’t seem weird, but he’s always caught out. Case in point? Turn to page 118 of Beck, volume one. Earlier, he’d been staring up at Izumi sitting at a desk reading. You can really almost see up her skirt, and he apparently has stood there long enough to make himself late for their meeting. He tries to cover for it by saying he had to run home for his wallet, but she points out he’d been standing there the whole time. Is it funny when I write it here? No.

Is it funny in the manga?

Yes.

You’ve also got some classic humor, like how the protagonist knows he’s in a manga (32.) That’s called something…but I forgot the literary term! Sorry! Not gonna look it right now, cause I’m late enough with this review as it is. If anyone knows, leave a comment! 😛

I also like all the references to various music groups. I mean, one dude’s wearing a Def Leopard shirt(140)–which I find hilarious cause they are totally a guilty pleasure of mine (saw them twice at the State Fair. Yeah, classy, right?) I’m sure they’ll be more than that as the series progresses.

Cons? Got nothing so far. It’s a bit jumpy, but that’s fine, since it adds the randomness of everything.

Pros and Cons: Art

It’s okay. I’m kinda picky with my art, so I’m gonna give this dude a rating of 8 on a scale of 1-10. And I say that because I’m sure he’s skilled enough to keep everything proportioned, but he doesn’t. I know for the most part this is a technic used to fit in well with the theme and the type of story this is, but sometimes it drives me nuts! Right off the bat, we’ve got a poorly drawn rear in a bathing suit (5.) Are we supposed to find that sexy? No, it’s not (yeah, I’m a girl, but I’ve got standards on how our butts are portrayed!) Okay, another example of ill-proportioning? Look at page 37, where we’re given another skantily clad shot of Izumi…Her head is soooo small! And her shoulders so big. I mean, yeah, she’s a swimmer, but geez! She’s not a body builder, and she’s not always drawn like that…It’s irritating cause Mr. Sakuishi can draw really awesome, dynamic shots sometimes, like the angry drunk Americans on page 71. They’re crazy looking, but they’re drawn well. So that kind of stuff kinds makes me go bonkers.

Not to say he’s a horrible drawer–that’s totally not what I’m getting at. I’m just not a fan of this style. He’s obviously a very talented illustrator, I just don’t dig the style. They eyes are too big even for me sometimes, also…kinda makes the characters scary creepy and intense where they’re just chilling out (34, 99.)

Though I don’t like the style, it doesn’t get in the way of the story, and I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of people out there that like it. So I don’t think it takes away from the manga–it just personally irritates me. I’m still gonna get the rest of the series at some point.

Conclusion:

This manga is definitely worth your time. It’s funny, it’s very post-modern, and just a good read all around. It’s hip. We’ll put it that way. I liked it, and I think most people will get a kick out of it.

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Volume 1-Recommended!

Citations:

Sakuishi, Harold. Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. Trans. Steven Paul. Vol. 1. Hamburg: Tokyopop, 2005.

Posted in Blog: Cerulean Sessions, Blue's Reviews. Tagged with , , , , , , .

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