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Detroit Metal City

The anime that goes up to 11

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


Detroit Metal City

Detroit Metal City (Image courtesy Sentai Filmworks)

© 2008 TOHO CO., LTD. / Hakusensha, Inc. / Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. / Beyond C.

Milquetoast and wanna-be pop star Soichi Negishi gets conned into becoming the lead singer and guitarist for Detroit Metal City, a death-metal band that’s tearing up the charts (and tearing up a lot of other things, too). How can poor Soichi balance a life of spitting fire and blood onstage with keeping the respect of his parents and his girlfriend—none of whom know about his new day job, and who hate the group anyway?

This wickedly funny, rapid-fire series, based on the equally unhinged manga of the same name (also the source for an inspired live-action film), gets a lot of mileage and laughs out of its one idea, and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

  • Riotously funny all the way through.
  • Short enough to watch all in one sitting.
  • Extremely vulgar and politically incorrect humor.
  • Definitely not for those who can't stand metal music, even in small doses.
  • Director: Hidekazu Shimamura
  • Animation Studio: STUDIO 4°C
  • Released By: Toho
  • Released Domestically By: Sentai Filmworks
  • Audio: Japanese w/English subtitles
  • Age Rating: TV-MA (language, sexual material, violence, adult situations)
  • List Price: $29.98 (DVD)

Anime Genres:

  • Comedy
  • Music

Related Titles:

He's seen life from both sides now

All Soichi Negishi ever wanted to do was be a musician. He moved to the big city from his parents’ farm out in the sticks, with high hopes of becoming a softly-strumming, sweet-voiced pop star in the vein of a male Kahimi Karie. But through circumstances too bizarre to explain, he ended up on the extreme opposite side of the musical spectrum … as the Cookie Monster-voiced, Kabuki-makeup-wearing, armor-plated, ear-destroying lead guitarist and vocalist for the scabrous underground death metal sensation Detroit Metal City.

That’s just the setup for this manic comedy of (bad) manners, a sort of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde meets Spinal Tap.” It manages the amazing trick of being both crude-and-rude and sweet and endearing, often in the same moments. On the one hand, you have Soichi using the attention and fame he’s garnered in the guise of Krauser to steer people that much more towards a better life, because he’s really just that nice of a guy. On the other hand, there are plot threads involving how many times Soichi (as Krauser) can say the F-word in the space of one second. The two should not coexist, but they do, and both even get laughs.

Offensive, vulgar, uninhibited, hilarious

Consider a typical Soichi/Krauser misadventure. On discovering that his girlfriend Yuri is friendly with Asato, a hip young designer, Soichi attempts to impress him with a song: “Sweet Lover.” When Asato blows him off, Soichi blows his stack, and allows the Krauser side of him to take over and rewrite the song as the Satanic death-metal “Evil Lover,” where fluffy lyrics about baking cookies are turned into roaring boasts about having roasted one’s parents alive in the oven. Krauser’s manager loves it—no surprise, since she’s a woman with a penchant for leather skirts, putting out cigarettes on her tongue, interjecting four-letter English swear words into her dialogue (the F-word gets a real work-out with her), and thrashing Soichi into submission whenever he steps out of line.

You can see how one of the nasty side effects of Soichi’s schizoid life is “Krauser” taking over whenever things get difficult. Sometimes Soichi’s able to make the most of it, though. In one episode, Soichi returns home to his parents (who know nothing of his “career”) and finds a DMC fan close to the family who’s letting his enthusiasm for the band overwhelm everything else in his life. Soichi dons his Krauser makeup and garb, and tries to steer the kid a-right … although it doesn’t quite work out as expected. (One of the best running gags is how Krauser’s fanbase attribute to him superhuman abilities he doesn’t actually have.)

One of the touchier parts of the show is how DMC’s own music is vile stuff—morbid, sexist (the word “rape” appears as a boast in the lyrics a lot), antisocial, you name it. What’s clever is how the show itself manages not to be any of those things, by using the morbidity, sexism, etc. of DMC as the butt of its own joke. That and most of the gags referencing rape are so far over the top that they’re too ridiculous to be offensive; e.g., a moment where Krauser sexually assaults the Tokyo Tower (he keeps his clothes on, thank goodness). The gag is more about the fact that he’s willing to do something that ludicrous on camera for the sake of his reputation than anything else.

Spry, and doesn't overstay its welcome

The show’s been constructed to be funny and fast on its feet in more ways than one. Each episode is only fifteen minutes long, and the show runs through most of the key events in the first couple of issues of the manga that inspired it before capping things off with a showdown against the wrist-slitting, snake-wielding “Jack Ill Dark,” the reigning Western champion of death metal and (voiced, hilariously enough, by Japanese tough-guy actor Riki Takeuchi). The live-action adaptation of the film followed a similar pattern: it even has many of the same individual episodes depicted here, including a screamingly funny sequence where Soichi has to keep a date with Yuri and appear as Krauser on a TV interview show, both at the same time. He forgets to wipe off his makeup at one point … and it just gets worse for him from there.

Another amusing thing about DMC, like Spinal Tap before it (and Fear of a Black Hat), is how the fictional band in the story is arguably as good as (or at least no worse than) any real-life band in the same genre. So much so, in fact, that DMC’s own music has been released as part of the soundtrack to the film … although with lyrics like “Rape That Chick!”, I don’t recommend playing it for people who aren’t already in on the joke. Have them “go to DMC” first.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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