Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

 BMCS   (Tokyopop, 2005-2006)

™ and © 2000 Harold Sakuishi

Loser Yukio (14) has nothing going for him and a terrible taste in music until he meets Ryusuke. Ryusuke’s lived in America, plays guitar, and owns a patchwork dog named Beck. Naturalistic, if not exactly “realistic” (the dog looks as if he’s trotted off the set of a Tim Burton movie), Beck is beautifully drawn, utterly convincing, and absolutely unpredictable.

Audience expectations get tweaked, as the clichés and conventions of the “uninspired kid finds his purpose” genre get ditched. The way Izumi, the pretty girl from grade school he has a crush on, asks him out—or his degenerate classmate Tanabe considering (too late) whether his perverted actions might be a crime.

It also manages to mix the disparate themes of the culture shock experienced by Japanese kids who’ve been overseas so long they’re not considered “really” Japanese any more and Japan’s love of American-style rock and roll. And while Americans may frequently appear here as either drunken lechers or unsympathetic rich kids, America as the birth place of rock is relentlessly revered.

— S. A. Bennett

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