Detroit Metal City – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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Soichi Negishi is a sweet and shy young man who dreams of becoming a trendy singer songwriter. But for some reason, he is forced into joining the worshipping death metal band “Detroit Metal City”. In full stage make-up, he transforms into his alter-ego “Johannes Krauser II”, the vulgar-mouthed lead vocalist, and against Negishi’s will, DMC rises to stardom. The band is adored by their head-thrashing fans, but Soichi himself is too embarrassed to admit he’s in the band and even worse, the girl of his dreams hates DMC even more than he does. Even worse for Soichi, the now the legendary king of death Jack II Dark himself is challenging DMC to a duel. What is the fate of the innocent Negishi as he climbs to the top of the death metal world?

Derived from the hit manga of the same name by author Kiminori Wakasugi, Detroit Metal City offers a comedic look into one’s dream of musical stardom—and the rather ironic outcome that extends from it. The film surprisingly brings about a rather satirical approach in how the music industry within Japan operates, with a more specific adherence towards addressing label dominance over image and creativity. As such, we see Detroit Metal City tackle the duality that most artists must subscribe too in order to remain within the spotlight of an ever-changing musical landscape. What the film decides to do with this notion is explore it through the use of humor, cleverly depicting the conflicting nature of true identity within an industry that reinforces the conventional. Furthering this idea, the film completely parodies this lifestyle by establishing the individual—in this case the protagonist Soichi—as someone who dislikes his prescribed image but is actually well liked by the listenership because he does a fantastic in conveying it.

One can find that Detroit Metal City explores this concept of dualism and its role in self-discovery as material we’ve all certainly viewed in other films. What works great here is that it delivers this notion in such a humorous light that often times one will find themselves laughing hysterically at the rather complex situations we find Soichi in. A majority of the hilarity derives from the mannerisms expressed by Soichi himself, who is played by actor Ken’ichi Matsuyama. The dual character portrayal he carries throughout is just utterly fantastic, and it showcases his diverse ability to absorb himself into his roles regardless of the genre. Like his handling of L within the Death Note film series, Matsuyama once again presents a fantastic performance this time depicting the quiet and nerdy Soichi and the tough and vulgar Sir Krauser, with facial expressions that are just priceless. We also see him reflecting the dualistic nature that his character calls for in abundance, which I feel not many actors could’ve possibly pulled off with such ease.

But it’s because of these juxtapositions in character that the film truly shines as a comedic gesture towards the way we view musical idols and how their real personality is often strikingly different from their professional one. Finding the true Soichi as the complete opposite of the constructed image that represents death metal—a genre he despises immensely—offers numerous moments of hilarity that steadily build upon his own frustration and despair. Although hating the role that’s bestowed upon him as a leader within such a band, it’s even more shameful for him because he unwillingly has to acknowledge that he does an exceptional job portraying the person of what encompasses death metal. This establishes the gift and the curse of Soichi’s talent as we slowly begin to see that while he despises the genre, he continually pursues it in hope of it someday giving him the opportunity to follow his true passion of singing in a far less threatening genre—that of soft pop rock. As the film progresses, we see Soichi begin to reconcile these two roles as he attempts to achieve his true dream of musical satisfaction—even it means he must sacrifice one for the other.

In regards to its place in relation to the manga, the film removes many of its significant moments found within that version to incorporate additional new ones. As always the case with manga-to-film adaptations, material is bound to be removed order to fulfill the criteria of film. Fans more accustomed to the manga might find some of this removal somewhat difficult to adjust to, but the film remains faithful towards what the original source material offered in spirit. There are some surprising additions to be found within this film as well, many which were not introduced within the construct of the manga and are bound to please fans of heavy metal.

Rather than exploring this facet of the music industry in a serious fashion, the film cleverly decides to elaborate upon the notion that one should strive for what they’re good in, even if they dislike it at first. This transformative process offers a candid look into something we all face within our own lives, and in many of our cases, concluding with a more earnest outcome. This all plays out rather humorously within the film though as we learn just how difficult it is to maintain such an image, especially if that image is the exact opposite of what our true personality entails. In this regard, Detroit Metal City is a funny and poignant tale about one individual who is attempting to discover what his true passion in life is and the many—albeit humorous—obstacles that stand in his path. This universal theme, coupled with a comedic tone, truly establishes Detroit Metal City as a delightfully funny film that doesn’t take itself entirely too seriously considering the material at hand. While image might be a heavy portion of what constitutes the music industry today, Detroit Metal City showcases that being yourself is just as equally important, with this film being a shining example of such a philosophy.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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