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[R1 DVD art]
AKA: デトロイト・メタル・シティ
Genre: Satirical black comedy.
Length: OAV series, 12 episodes, 15 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks.
Content Rating: TV-MA (Violence, sexual harrassment, language, controversial issues.)
Related Series: Detroit Metal City (Live action movie.)
Also Recommended: Cromartie High School, Beck, Mitsudomoe.
Notes: Based on a manga by Kiminori Wakasugi, serialized in Young Animal.
Rating:
 

Detroit Metal City

Synopsis

There's a new band on the indie metal scene: Detroit Metal City. Fronted by Johannes Krauser II, their songs embody the spirit of rape and murder, demons and evil and all the nasty things that fall inbetween. Why, Krauser the second is even known to have raped his mother and murdered his father at a very young age, and with each new song, each new concert, his notoriety grows thanks to his fans.

There's just one problem, though; behind the black and white makeup of Krauser II, the face of mild-mannered Souichi Negishi, a man who loves his parents dearly and would like nothing more than to become a famous indie pop song creator. He loves Swedish pop bands, artsy movies and the people starring in them, and he loves the fashion industry. All this is things he dreams to be a part of, but unfortunately, Detroit Metal City keeps finding ways to get in the way of his dreams.

Review

Many people out there believe in the statement that "rape is never funny". It's a core belief that rape used in comedy is and will always be in bad taste, and it's one that I would actually like to fully agree with. The problem is that Detroit Metal City is just goddamned hilarious. It not only challenges this notion in all of its facets, and the only short answer I can really give is this: It depends on the context.

When it comes to Detroit Metal City, though, you have to keep this in mind, because never in my long time of watching the entertainment media, animated or not, have the words "rape" and "murder" been thrown around with such wild abandon. Krauser's backstory is merely the beginning of it, and the rest is carried along by DMC's blindly devoted fans, who are more than happy to take any accidental happenstance and turn it into another entry in Krauser's epic saga of murder and rape. If Souichi falls on top of someone by accident, his fans interpret that as him raping them. If his detractors leave the scene after a confrontation, he probably murdered them. And possibly raped them on top of that. The whole thing is so ridiculously over the top that it's impossibly not to laugh at it.

But the underlying thought is composed of a lot of separate ideas of which the comedy is based on. First and foremost, the show happily lampoons the blind faith of devoted fans in all its glorious stupidity. It's not just that DMC's fans buy this ridiculous, contrived setup of Krauser's backstory; it's that they revel in it, and anyone questioning it or outright naysaying it is met with immediate and intense hostility. At least three episodes are partially based on the heavy metal scene clashing with other music genres and their equally devoted fans; starting out with punk rock, and then later hip hop and, surprisingly enough, another black/death metal legend. Well, maybe not so surprisingly; most fans of a certain genre of music knows, and probably already experienced, in-genre verbal fighting.

What makes DMC even funnier is Souichi's distaste for his not-exactly-chosen profession. I'm honestly curious how he ended up doing the front gig for a band of DMC's caliber when his personal tastes differ so greatly. At first, he seemingly puts up with it only because he's under the thumb of his manager, an almost cartoonishly vile woman who seemingly uses DMC not only to fulfill her dream of creating an indie metal band, but also as a masturbatory aide judging by her many outbursts. She wants DMC to make her "wet" -- which she is more than happy to remind them -- and she drops the "F" bomb cluster-style in almost every single appearance of hers. I would not idly call her DMC's biggest fan, which should speak volumes of the sheer levels of egotism she exhudes.

The general idea of the satirical part of DMC is the whole balance between dreams and reality, more specifically the things you have to do to earn a living aligned against the difficulty of making a living of what you really want to do. Like I already mentioned, I am deathly curious how Negishi ended up fronting a death metal band, but that's how he DOES make a living, and he's apparently quite good at it. This angle deepens when Souichi's pride in his work starts shining through. He might not like being a part of this band, but he's not going to let anyone who doesn't "get" his character take over his role, and he never really sabotages his performance or the chances of his band in any way, regardless of how often it gets in the way of his dreams or his encounters with a girl he really likes, or what he has to do to her to refrain from being associated with the band he works for. It gives his character a slight egotistical bent, which plays out nicely against his perfect front or his evil alter ego.

Being a fan of (amongst other things) heavy metal, the show also makes me a bit uncomfortable, to be honest, because there's always this underlying worry about how being a part of this fandom makes one appear to people who aren't fan of metal. Living in one of the countries that make up the metal capital of the world has me wondering if this is how other people see metal. A lot of it is image-driven, I'm certainly not denying that, and heavy metal has its share of... let's call them "actors"... as any other industry, not to mention fans who doesn't quite see it like that, much like DMC's fans in this show. Then again, rock music is hardly the only music style that had to fight for its public acceptance; even the hardanger fiddle, a popular instrument in Norwegian folk music, was once considered the devil's instrument, though unlike rock and metal, for different reasons unrelated to satirical undertones or irony.

As far as music goes; DMC's music is actually quite decent, even if the lyrics sounds like they're written by five year olds. The show obviously doesn't have the animation chops to give any technical blow-by-blow of Souichi's virtuoso, like the kind you can see in Kids on the Slope or Beck, instead relying on gimmicky stuff like playing with your teeth or just hammering the strings for what it's worth. But all image-related ridiculousness aside, its metal melodies are simple, but enjoyable enough for me to enjoy. Compared to that, Souichi's pop lyrics -- short, agonizingly cheesy ditties about eating pie and walking hand-in-hand with your girlfriend -- and the music that goes with it are all uniformingly terrible, and I've listened to my fair share of pop music through my years of watching anime. It's also the only oddity in DMC, since said fan community seems to be the haughtiest of the lot, even going so far as to send Yuri Aikawa, Souichi's main love interest and a reporter for a fashion magazine, into the lion's den (a DMC concert) to write an article about a band -- and a musical style -- they have already decided they hate.

It's in that topic DMC finds its stride; in that a metal band's image is often just that. Not always, as certain bands here in Norway has taught us, there's more than enough people out there who takes this stuff far too seriously, often to the point of pyromania or murder -- a point which isn't entirely lost on DMC, if Souichi's pride and occasional problems separating his two lifestyles are any indications. But most of DMC's payload is basically just vocal bile. Nobody actually get raped in DMC. Or murdered, for that matter. If anything, there is more posturing and grandstanding in DMC than anything else, and for all its offensiveness, it doesn't often get truly unsettling.

Well... it's going to depend, really. It's going to depend on where your general taste in comedy lies, and I wouldn't want to presume or speak for actual rape victims and how they're going to feel about this show. Much like notorious comedy show South Park, your enjoyment of Detroit Metal City is going to heavily depend on how you feel about crass, black and completely unhinged humor. Obviously, not everyone are going to like what they see and hear. But there is nothing truly malicious about Detroit Metal City -- everything it says or does is it poking fun at itself or people who take their fandoms too seriously. It pokes fun of extremes, both good and bad, and calls them out on it, and Souichi is your front man. He's not as good as he thinks, but neither is he as bad as he thinks. He's actually a surprisingly good balance between dreams and pride in his work, about aspiring to be good while falling to lesser admirable traits that are as much a part of him even if he doesn't want to admit it. He's caught up between two "ideals", being neither and both at the same time.

I bring this up mostly because of a segment near the show's end, where we get to meet Detroit Moe City, als known as Luna. She is the daughter of two DMC fans, a girl of around four to six years old, presumably, and when we meet her, she's already painted up like Krauser himself. She proceeds to sing DMC lyrics (which, let me remind you, are all about rape and murder) and starts humping her father's leg, to which the spectators -- concert goers -- shouts about how it's so cute that she is now totally raping her dad and will probably kill both her parents before she grows up. And her parents are both immensely proud of her over all this. This is where I felt the show went a little over the line, and while I laughed, it was more of a nervous, awkward laugh.

A dark, unrelenting, from-the-hip kind of comedy that's bound to make you laugh, heartilly or awkwardly. Or both.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: There are snippets of violence and unwanted sexual advances going on every now and then, often used as tools for the whole "portrayal of a false front" for the band. Most of the controversial material comes from what's being said, both through song lyrics or the overactive imaginations of fans or concert managers. The word "rape" and "murder" sees more use in this show than any other I can think of. Oh, and the cast also includes one Keisuke Nashimoto, a masochist who works as a gimp/abuse recipient for DMC's concert under the nickname "Pig of Capitalism".



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subs only.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Detroit Metal City © 2008 Studio 4°C.