It’s perfectly normal to be curious about an actor who played one of your favorite characters of all time. When you hit his name on Google and it comes out that he stars as another awesome anime hero–well, that’s when you hit play again.
I had nothing but praise to the heavens for Takeru Sato‘s transformation as wandering samurai Kenshin Himura in this year’s live action adaptation of the Samurai X manga. In hindsight, it is better for relatively unknown actors (at least to me) to put on these well-loved manga shoes. It gives viewers a blank slate. Now I no longer hold this advantage when I sat back to watch Sato turn into BECK‘s awkward guitar hero Koyuki. But once again, both the movie and the young thespian did not disappoint.
I first caught the anime BECK because it offered two good things–a fresh shonen manga story, and raw rock music with lots of stunning guitars. I am a girl but yes, strange to some, I am a fan of both. BECK the movie starts with the introduction of Yukio Tanaka, a skinny, 16-year old boy whose only talents seem to be blending into the wallpaper and attracting bullies. His flat life changes when he saves Beck the dog and meets its owner Ryusuke Minami, a talented, pendulum-tempered musician who dreams of forming the best band in Japan. With no friends, no hobbies and nothing to do, Koyuki (little Yukio) blindly stumbles after the self-assured Ryusuke, falling into the frighteningly exciting world of underground rock, and unwittingly starting a pockmarked road to self-discovery.
Mongolian acting chops. From the day-old jeans and band t-shirts that fall loosely over the actors’ hangers for shoulders, to Taira‘s blonde hair and Ryusuke’s too-cool-for-a-haircut locks, the actors easily fit the BECK members’ mold. Kenta Kiritani’s Chiba and Osamu Mukai‘s Taira were cuter than my expectations, which was a pleasant surprise. The standout though is Aoi Nakamura’s Saku, whose cheeky smile and easy chemistry with Koyuki pulled the most laughs and ‘awwws’ from me. It was a classic show of J-bromance.
Ryusuke was not my favorite character in the series, and he is not my favorite in this movie either, which at least goes to say that Hiro Mizushima did a good job. Ryusuke has long crossed the line from confidence to arrogance, but it his inner dork and innate uncoolness that ups his likeability. Mizushima was able to translate that double face well, and maybe it helps that I liked him long ago in 2007’s Hanazakari no Kimitachi e.
Sato was fittingly frail and naive as Koyuki, which was impressive to me after seeing the actor wield a sword and flash the death glare as Hitokiri Battousai. He was able to invoke the character’s inner turmoil through tormented looks and the awkward sway of his limbs. Through his painful yet exciting transition to a braver version of himself, Koyuki’s weapon of choice was the gorgeous yellow Telecaster. And instead of hiding behind it like most misunderstood loners, Koyuki strummed to express his repressed self.
Hit in America. Just like the anime, the live action adaptation moved me to do two things: root for Koyuki, and bob my head to the music. Koyuki is one perfect underdog–self-conscious, uncertain and underfed. The clincher is that the boy is bored and hungry for stimulus, something that the boys from BECK brought to his dead days. Ryusuke’s younger sister Maho–who shared his erratic mood swings and relentless passion– provided the additional push and shove, and the requisite teasing romance. It is easy to relate to that moment Koyuki laid his pointed chin on the concrete, looking blankly out the window. Most of us had days walking around with the wits of a zombie, wondering if “this is it?” Koyuki found a way out of his slump and ran with it.
Music was the lifeblood of this story, and the movie thought to put out its own songs different from the ones in the anime. The feel was the same though, a portfolio that to my ears took references from the Strokes, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oasis to name a few. The pound-your-fists-soundtrack eased the risk of boredom from the 2 hour-flick. One disappointment though was how Koyuki’s voice was never revealed. It was shown to move crowds, part waters, lift leaves, but to the viewers it was Sato opening his mouth to a catchy beat. With the subtitles, it seemed a bit like Rokeoke with Koyuki. If the director wanted to end the movie with viewers wanting, or to force their imaginations to imagine Koyuki’s voice, he accomplished both. But it was a tad annoying.
That said, BECK was a good couple of hours spent. Catch what you missed in the trailer below. Thanks to Youtube and torrents, it’s never too late to tune in to BECK’s Greatful Sound.