Genre: Slice of Life
Studio/Creator: Madhouse/Harold Sakuishi
No. of Episodes: 26
Age Rating: 16+
My Rating: 9/10
Summary: Koyuki is an ordinary Japanese student until he stops a group of kids from beating up a strange dog. When he meets the dog’s owner, an American-Japanese immigrant named Ryuusuke and his hot teen sister Maho. When Maho discovers Koyuki can sign, she convinces Ryuusuke to let him into his band Beck, which he’s named after his dog. But can they become a Japanese [i]and[/i] American sensation, especially with Ryuusuke’s shady past?
Review: This anime is two stories in one: it’s Koyuki’s coming-of-age story and the story of a band’s rise from obscurity to fame. At times the story almost feels like a docudrama as we watch Koyuki mature from an awkward teenager into a man. I truly enjoy the chemistry between Ryuusuke and Koyuki, as well as the rest of the band. You really feel as though they care for each other. As his friendships with them mature, he gains more confidence, as evidenced by his interactions with the school bully. When his band-mates begin standing up for him, he’s no longer a coward. I also liked his friendship with Saito, an old man who becomes his swim coach and guitar instructor. Saito is somewhat crass, but he has an amiable side to him that almost allowed me to overlook his flaws.
The artwork for this show is great. What I really like is that it showcases Japan’s fascination with American pop culture. If you py attention, you can see it in the anime everywhere, from the music to the clothing (although the band logos are often mocked up in order to avoid copyright infringement), to even the character designs (Taira, Beck’s bassist, is basically Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, right down to the constant shirtless shots) The animation flows very nicely, even the rotoscoping is excellent.
The only real flaw is the pacing. There’s some filler moments early on that bog things down a bit. I do like the backstory for Ryuusuke that explains how he acquired his bullet-holed guitar, which is named Prudence. The story also introduces Leon Sykes, a thug who has a vendetta against Ryuusuke that I don’t want to spoil. He’s not an overdone villain, but doesn’t need to be. The vendetta even manages to drive a wedge between Ryuusuke and the band, causing some good tension.
Music/Score: The music is excellent. Beat Crusaders does most of the songs, and this anime really made me a han. My favorite songs are “Spice Up Your Life”, “Brainstorm” “Face” and “Hit in the USA”
Sub/Dub: I highly recommend skipping the sub. Because Ryuusuke and Maho spent time in the US, they actually learned some English. Neither of their Japanese VA’s sound convincing when they speak in English, so it’s more comical than it’s intended to be. I have heard some complaints about how the lyrics were altered for the English version, but I feel that’s to be expected with the differences in grammar between Japanese and English.
Violence: (3/10) I saw some light fist-fights, mostly between Koyuki and the bully and Ryuusuke and Leon’s “associates”.
Language: (7/10): There are a LOT of F-bombs in both versions. I really didn’t mind it because to me, it added some autenticitiy. I’ve met lots of crass people in real life.
Nudity: (3/10) There’s an episode where Maho and Koyuki skinny-dip. It’s also no secret that Saito is into porn.
Sexuality: (2/10)Saito and Chiba do make mildly sexual humor at times, but that’s it.
Drugs/Tobacco: (1/10) Since the band does get some bar gigs, drinking is a given.
Related Media: Tokyopop originally had the manga, but it’s been cancelled. I believe FUNimation also released a couple soundtrack CD’s. There was also a live-action movie.