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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Comics With Non-English Words: Beck

A quick word on this new (hopefully) reoccuring feature. If you haven't noticed by now, I don't like doing reviews. They bore me, and I ramble on for far too long. So this probably isn't the most informative place for people on the fence. But regardless of that, I will be doling out my personal experience with a title, and more importantly, I'll post up some pretty pictures (that's really all you need isn't it?).

There's barely any manga posts on these blog aggregators anyway, so who are you to complain?

Crayotic Rockwell

Beck screen

You've probably heard of it. It's licenced in the states. There's an anime, and a manga before and post that. People love Beck. It's one of those titles that lends you some street cred, proving that you're a man of culture who can appreciate more than explosions, fighting tournaments, and accidental boob touching. So needing all the credibility I can get, a couple of weekends ago I devoted myself to reading a deluge of Harold Sakuishi's rock band manga. And I wish I could say something witty like "Beck rocks!" but this is less a case of rocking and more a case of rolling (over and going to sleep).

Beck screen
Koyuki is pretty cool when he's not acting like a mark.

Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible. I did manage to go through a whole 24 tankubons after all. There is some pretty good—perhaps even brilliant—material in it, but when looking back afterwards I just kind of scratch my head and think "that's it?" Like eating Subway for dinner. This is largely in part to the band's one step forward two steps back nature, and Sakuishi-san framing the story in a serious, real life manner. Which generally translates as underwhelming and repetitive (hey, I don't mind seeing guys slave away in a crap job once or twice, but after that I've got the point okay? Oh, and that fucking dream sequence—way to work the copy/paste button, guy).

The other problem is that it can't stick to a format. While it ambles along in slice of life mode for a lot of time, when it becomes neccessary to throw in some excitement, woosh! in swoop the moustache twirling BAD MEN (emphasis added just to show how evil they are) that have as much depth as your typical shounen villian. They certainly do add drama, but they feel out of place and manage to highlight the dull parts of Beck even moreso.

Beck screen
Zach De La Rocha Chiba-san takes part of one of Beck's bigger moments

And even with these antagonist foils, there's very little payoff whilst reading this manga. Not only does it feel like the band has accomplished very little (which is weird coz they actually have, but many *important* moments come off as not much more than footnotes), even worse it feels as though what they have accomplished can all be attributed to dumb luck or outside help. I'm not saying that I need Koyuki to develop a new guitar technique every concert to win over the crowd, or some kind of obstacle defeated each volume... but after twenty-four volumes?

Well, I certainly expect to have a greater sense of satisfaction than I do now. Off the top of my head, I can think of maybe 4 or 5 moments that stand out in the course of everything I read. Everything else is just a blur of them sucking on stage and raving like fangirls over Dying Breed (seriously, that part is just plain embarressing).

Sure, I could now give you a run down on I did like about it, but why spend more time typing text when there's plenty of other reviews out there gushing over it. Hit them up if you want to prove what a neanderthal I am.

Beck screen

Now, I will say that churning through the series in such a condensed time may have affected my views on it somewhat. I can't say say for certain how it would have played out if I was to read a chapter or even a volume with a weeks downtime in between. I suspect it wouldn't have been quite so repetitive, but at the same time I also suspect that I wouldn't have bothered riding it out for the full 24 volumes either. Because while Beck is still continuing now, I know that I'm not interesed in following it.

"Sometimes once you stop, it can be a real effort to convince yourself to get back on."

(That's an analogy for all the pro-am unicycle riders reading the blog)


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