Ordinary Middle School Student Yukio "Koyuki" Tanaka wonders if his life will ever be interesting enough to write an autobiography. This all starts to change as he steps in to rescue a frankenstein-looking dog from a bunch of pestering kids. The dog, Beck, turns out to belong to Ryuusuke "Ray" Minami, a Japanese kid with a checkered past that was largely spent in New York in the company of a currently world-famous singer/songwriter. Ryuusuke introduces Koyuki to rock music and lends him a guitar.Ryuusuke is also setting up a band, which eventually gets named BECK, after the dog. After Koyuki has learned to play the guitar to a somewhat passable level, he gets accepted into the band. There he impresses everyone with his fantastic voice. From then on, the whole story is mainly about BECK's struggles to become famous, both nationally in Japan and internationally. Well, that and Koyuki's romantic troubles with Ryuusuke's sister, Maho.The other members of the band are:
Ryuusuke Minami: The lead guitarist and front man for BECK. Raised in America, he and his sister Maho often stick out because of their personalities. While in America, he had befriended Eddie Lee, a prodigious guitarist who goes on to be famous in his later years. Ryuusuke vows to Eddie that he will make a band worthy enough to play alongside him, and goes on to learn guitar. Ryuusuke himself is rather talented, and has a bit of an ego.
Yoshiyuki Taira: The bassist of BECK. As the oldest, he is the most mature member and has the most experience with music (his father was the bassist of a jazz band.) He has no problem with staying in the background, but will speak up if he feels he needs to. His play style is based off Michael "Flea" Balzary of The Red Hot Chili Peppers fame. He also has bleach blonde hair and doesn't wear a shirt on stage.
Tsunemi Chiba: The lead vocalist of BECK. His rougher vocals suit the band's faster songs, but he raps for the majority of the songs. His brash and hot-blooded nature usually gets him in trouble, but he's just passionate about what he does. In his spare time he participates in rap battles, and apparently he knows some martial arts. His look and rapping style is a shout out to Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine.
Yuuji "Saku" Sakurai: The drummer of BECK, and a transfer student. He quickly befriends Koyuki through the music of The Dying Breed. Not one to conform, he is unafraid to speak to Koyuki after a school-wide silence is imposed on him. He is surprisingly talented, and the moment the band hears him play, they recruit him.
Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Ryuusuke likes making impossible bets involving Beck, and somehow he seems to expect his band to win. It might have to do with him believing that his band can win crowds over with their soulful and skillful performances, and not management touch-ups. The others still always call him out on it anyway.
Anime Theme Song: The Beat Crusaders performed the song "Hit in the USA" as the theme. This band tended to sing mainly in English and were influenced by the United States heavily. On a side note, they also performed "Tonight Tonight Tonight", the fourth opening theme for Bleach.
Art Shift: The characters are much more detailed in the manga than in the anime - especially noticeable when they are seen on profile (Sakuishi has a rather unique way of drawing noses, and likes to push his characters' expressions).
Averted in the opening sequence, where a number of Real Life casino logos had to be censored in the American release for legal reasons (including the fake Coca-Cola logo, just to be safe).
Big Damn Heroes: Ryuusuke has a bad habit of making impossible bets. Later in the manga, at Avalon Fest, he wagers that BECK will get the most viewers, everyone else goes out of their way to help. Matt Reed flies Koyuki in with his helicopter when it seems like Koyuki will be late for the show, and colleague band Room 13 tells people to go to their performance. Even Hype's singer Dexter Adams tells his fans to head to the show. Even the festival's organizer, Jodie Riley, helps out by opening up the gates and let anyone into the stage, even those without passes (since they would end up rioting to get in anyway). Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work out.
Celebrity Lie: subverted. Ryuusuke's claims to be an old friend of Dying Breed guitarist Eddie Lee are largely believed to be of this trope, but is in fact true.
Chekhov's Gun: "Devil's Way", Eddie Lee's unreleased song. From playing it privately to Koyuki over the phone, it becomes an important plot point late in the manga.
Remember that fabled helicopter of Matt's that was offhandedly referred to in an earlier chapter? The one that Ryuusuke said was just gossip written for the tabloids? Well, it exists. And it shows up just in time for a Big Damn Heroes moment.
Downer Ending: Averted. Especially because, in the anime, it does not happen in the final episode, but in the penultimate. And the story moved on in the manga.
Egocentric Team Naming: When the main characters are trying to come up with a name for their band, lead guitarist Ryuusuke spends a moment on the floor writing ideas. When he's finished, he holds it up proudly, and every suggestion contains his name, like "The Ryuusuke Experience" and so on. Of course, no one was impressed, though the fangirls that hang around them were amused.
Expository Hairstyle Change: Subverted. Koyuki attempts to change his hairstyle to something wilder when he enters high school, but since it's such a bother to style it every day, he quickly drops it and goes back to his usual 'do.
Lampshaded when Saku justifies not showing his driver's license to Koyuki: he says the photo didn't come out good because he had to open his eyes. But since said photo is neer seen, the trope's still in effect.
Face of a Thug: Taketoki Kanemoto, the frontman of Shiboyugi, may look like a cross between Scary Black Man and Yakuza, but he's an overall nice guy (just like the rest of his band, in fact) and close buddies with Chiba.
Five-Temperament Ensemble: a more accurate description of the group's dynamics. Chiba (choleric), Taira (melancholic), Koyuki (leukine), Saku (sanguine), and Ryusuke (phlegmatic).
Gangsta Style: Frequently employed by the actual gangsters who appear in the manga (and not just the American ones).
A Good Name for a Rock Band; Well, no. "BECK" gets settled on because all other options Ryuusuke and Chiba can come up with suck worse. By the time they make their international debut, their first agent comes up with the name "Mongolian Chop Squad". It's used whenever they're outside Japan, usually abbreviated to MCS.
Line-of-Sight Name: How they settle on "BECK"; they name the band after the dog, who was there at the time.
It Will Never Catch On: What Eiji thinks when he sees BECK and bands like Room 13 (which made their breakthrough thanks to BECK) making their break in the international scene, stemming from his disillusion after Belle Ame's failure to make an impression. Of course, things work differently for different people...
Jerk Ass: Ryuusuke, especially later in the manga.
Also, Kevin in the manga. He does everything to push the members of BECK (rather, MCS) around while they are touring the USA as the opening act for F.V.E. (the band for which he and his brother, David, who is sympathetic towards the guys, play) just for the hell of it. But then again, he justifies this by the fact that MCS's performances in USA are subpar (which they had been, until Ryusuke rejoined them in Seattle). From what David tells Ryusuke later on, this may be simply prejudice since Kevin had a Japanese girlfriend in high school, but she cheated on him.
Heck, any prominent character under Ran's wing (including Ran himself) is one of these. Eiji seems to enjoy looking down on BECK as a whole, while Yoshito outright hates Koyuki just because of Maho. As for Ran, well...
Large Ham: Saitou, Koyuki's swimming teacher-slash-guitar teacher-slash-employer. The man is just about as hammy as a middle-aged Japanese man can get, or even more.
Chiba could also count. He is, by far, the loudest of the members of BECK.
Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: For a series which features real musicians and instrument brands, it's surprising, but there are some, like Music Vibe instead of MTV.
Ordinary High-School Student: Koyuki, at least until he ditches school for BECK. Also Saku. Izumi and Hiromi fit this too, though they are mostly secondary in different points in Koyuki's life (e.g. once he starts attending high school, Izumi is Put on a Bus - as are almost all of his middle school colleagues - , with Hiromi serving as a replacement of sorts, because she starts dating Saku).
Pac Man Fever: At one point, Taira's racing game appears exactly the same when he's playing it as when he isn't.
Running Gag: Koyuki realizes he doesn't speak English every single time someone around him speaks it. ("I-can't-engurishu!")
As a matter of fact, we learn in the manga that, of the five members of BECK, Ryusuke is the only one who can speak English, which leads to loads of lost-in-translation when they go to the USA. And it's rather ironic, since Chiba sings mostly in English. So he wouldn't have a clue of what the songs mean if Ryusuke didn't explain (assuming that he did)?
It's possible that Chiba knows some (and he raps mostly in Japanese, by the way). We see that Taira later gets to learn as well, leaving only Saku (who is frequently asking "What's he saying?" to Taira) and Koyuki lost in translation.
This becomes unfortunate when Funimation was (eventually) forced to rename their release of the anime, allegedly because the real BECK complained.
The rail platform where Maho and Koyuki have their reunion happens to be the exact same platform in Dartford where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had their famous reunion in 1961, a meeting that eventually led to the formation of the Rolling Stones.
Also, aside from rock, another of Sakuishi's great passions is soccer. That can be seen by the soccer player names scattered about in the backgrounds, especially in the late chapters (for example, there's a bookstore named after Spanish midfielder Cesc Fŗbregas, and one of the new opening acts at the underground club where BECK started off is named Aguero, after Argentine forward Sergio AgŁero). There are even cameos for Ronaldinho (at the Avalon Fest, twice) and Lionel Messi (just before Greatful Sound 9).
A strange shout out is the cover illustration of the English EP of the band, which consist of a baseball bat in the bottom of a well, as described in Haruki Murakami's novel The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
Spoiler Opening: The group, plus Maho, is in America (first Vegas, then somewhere in the desert, then NYC).
Squee: Koyuki has something of a guy version when he sees Eddie from Dying Breed in the crowd at a gig.
Start My Own: Both Ryuusuke and Eiji, disbanding Serial Mama and starting BECK and Belle Ame, respectively.
Stout Strength: One could describe Saitou like this: despite that gut of his, he's an incredibly adept swimmer (which is a sport that requires a good amount of physical power).
Supporting Leader: Although Ryuusuke started the band, Taira, as a Type II leader, functions as this. He's involved in all of the important decisions made for the band, especially whenever Ryuusuke goes AWOL.
Surprisingly Good English: The voice-acting of some of the extras in the anime. The main characters, unfortunately, not so much. It could be a lot worse, but Ryuusuke and Maho supposedly grew up in the US, and their grammar and pronunciation really don't show it.
This is because most of the American characters were played by American ex-pats. Their acting, however, is more than a little weak once one compares it to the exact same lines spoken in the English dub.
Ryuusuke's much better English and the American extras in the movie lead to a lot of this.
In general, BECK and Belle Ame also follow this: BECK being Performer, Belle Ame being Technician, and other bands associated with BECK, such as The Dying Breed and Ciel-Bleu also being Performer. Hyoudo's band also was technician, as Ryusuuke pointed out. In general the Performer beats the Technician, except in best guitar when both Koyuki and Hyoudo won.
It should be noted that BECK plays both more technically challenging music than Belle Ame as well as more sonically pleasing music. I don't know if this is an aversion of the trope but it should be noted.
Tomboyish Name: Kazuo Sato, the manager and co-idealizer of Greatful Sound, and the one who helps BECK get their big break to stardom, is a woman.
True Companions: No matter what hardships they come through, BECK will always come together when it really matters.
Tsundere: Maho, in a more deredere way than usual (she's very frank about her feelings, after all).
Wedding Crashers: Late in the manga, Saitou wins Momoko back by bursting into her wedding in swimming attire.
Wrestler in All of Us: It's not rare for the male characters to pull off wrestling moves when they're pissed - in a magazine spot, it was even claimed Chiba was a Mongolian wrestler before joining the band!