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Danielle Leigh’s Reading Diary — Detroit Metal City vol 1

Detroit Metal City, by Kiminori Wakasugi,  is about a boy with two personalities.  One personality wants to be a trendy, pop musician who sings about love and happiness, while the other currently fronts a death metal band and sings about raping women.  Oddly, Wakasugi completely makes this unlikely state of affairs work without having to give the character a psychotic disorder in order to explain him.

Soichi Negishi looks like an average, kind of dweeby, young guy on first appearance.  He wants to sing songs like “Raspberry Kiss,” about “frolicking on the beach,” and he takes his inspiration from Swedish pop.  In reality, he turns into a complete death metal god when he gets into his costume and make-up and performs as the front-man of his band, Detroit Metal City, where he brag-sings about doing unspeakable things to your mother and father.  DMC’s Negishi is reminiscent of the Susan Boyle phenomenon.  A person is tossed aside by society because of their unassuming looks, but when they open their mouth, pure talent comes out and attention must be paid.  The difference between the two examples is that Negishi uses the costume of his alter ego, Krauser II, in order to become a person who can’t be ignored or tossed aside.  He’s just too damn terrifying.

How does such a nice boy fall into a crowd that screams “kill, kill, kill!” and worships him as their degenerate, patricidal, death metal god?  The first volume doesn’t actually answer this question but instead shows why such a nice boy like Negishi, who wants to sing nice songs and do nice things, gets something out of performing as such a repulsive character.  Suddenly, and hilariously, he not only performs as Krauser II, he also becomes him — a foul-mouthed, misogynistic, violent, ADHD-addled parent’s worst nightmare.  And in becoming Krauser, he may also be asserting his true feelings to the world in ways his everyday self can’t even dream of.

Here is our sweet little indie pop band wannabe:

And here is our little boy all grown up into Death Metal God Krauser II:

This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality-cycling effects his personal relationships in bizarre ways.  At times he drives off potential girls who came for sweet Negishi and got…someone else entirely.  Another time he uses Krauser to scare his little brother straight.  The manga really ups the absurdity of both sides of Negishi’s personality — his desire to emulate Swedish pop bands seems downright perverse, considering how easily he slips into the profane role of Krauser.  Is there a real Negishi and what does he actually want?  Krauser gives him the ability to scare the shit out of people in his everyday life who otherwise dismiss him, and therefore, he enjoys an odd form of social power that the role of Krauser II allows him.

DMC is wildly funny and isn’t afraid to offend (and offend hard) in order to take aim at its many, many targets in the slick world of popular music and celebrity.  In the end, both the pleasing indie pop persona is just as pretentious as the wild, angry, (rumored) baby-eater god of death metal.  One persona just seems to offer Negishi a lot more pleasure, in spite of himself.

A review copy of Detroit Metal City was provided by Viz Media

15 Comments

I love the fact that you focus here on the ways Negishi uses Krauser to become someone who can’t be ignored. I think you’ve hit on the core of that character in a way I did not (at least not fully) in my own review. This is fantastic.

I’m not a huge manga fan, but this sounds pretty good. Thanks, Danielle!

Andrew Collins

May 28, 2009 at 8:16 am

Anxiously awaiting the chance to finally read this. I’ve been hearing about it for some time and always thought it sounded like a title I would enjoy…

Danielle Leigh

May 28, 2009 at 10:00 am

Melinda — Thanks! Now I can read your review, but I’m sure you explain the manga better as a whole, which might be more useful to readers in the end. :-) I was just fascinated by how Negishi really seemed to be into being Krauser in spite of himself.

Chris — it is a pretty funny manga, I think a lot of American comic book fans would like this book.

Andrew — you’ll have to let us know what you think. I thought the creator had a lot of fun with his subject.

One of the funniest mangas to come out of this decade.

The thing I like the most about DMC is how Krauser’s followers truly believe he really is a superpowered demon. Well, that or they are constantly high…

[...] Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources » Danielle Leigh’s … Detroit Metal City, by Kiminori Wakasugi, is about a boy with two personalities. One personality wants to be a trendy, pop musician who sings about love and happiness, while the other currently fronts a death metal band and sings about … Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic… – http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/ [...]

This really is an exceptional review. I was concerned I wouldn’t like it because of the crude stuff, but the way you’ve described Negishi’s identity struggles makes me think I will end up enjoying it after all.

Annoyed Grunt

May 28, 2009 at 1:46 pm

I saw the film adaptation of this last year. From what I remember it wasn’t quite the Jekyll and Hyde split in the character. He wanted to be the teen idol kind of guy but didn’t make any money so he got the gig as Krauser to pay the bills. I never got the sense that he even enjoyed metal until maybe the climax of the movie.

Danielle Leigh

May 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Michelle — Thanks! So are good reviews the ones that are convincing? ;-)

Annoyed Grunt — The film is an adaptation, right? I wouldn’t expect them to be exactly the same if that is what you are implying….or maybe the manga will show Negishi embracing his love of death metal over time? We’ll just have to wait and see….

The manga I tend to like are the really funny ones, Danielle — “Cromartie High School” is probably my all-time favorite — so that’s definitely a point in “DMC”‘s favor. Thanks again for letting us know about it.

I see it as alternative character interpretation: Some people think Negishi does like being Krauser and just can’t admit it, others think it really is just a way to pay the bills, and others would say he clearly has a serious personality disorder.

I think Negishi accepting he actually likes death metal would signal the end of the series (only read up to the Satanic Emperor arc though, so who knows).

[...] Hooded Utilitarian) Kate Dacey on vol. 1 of Detroit Metal City (The Manga Critic) Danielle Leigh on vol. 1 of Detroit Metal City (Comics Should Be Good) Sadie Mattox on vol. 1 of The Drifting Classroom (Extremely Graphic) Alex [...]

Yeah, see, now. This was just in bad taste.

[...] I want to read (links to reviews): Detroit Metal City (one, two, three, movie poster at right), Fire Investigator Nanase (one, two), and Nabari no Ou [...]

[...] I want to read (links to reviews): Detroit Metal City (one, two, three, movie poster at right), Fire Investigator Nanase (one, two), and Nabari no Ou [...]

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