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Detroit Metal City Notes

Detroit Metal City is a show about a nice guy who wants to be a mellow pop musician. Unfortunately for him, he got hired as the guitarist and lead singer of the popular indie death metal band Detroit Metal City, aka DMC. Worse, he’s really good at it, even though he hates playing the raging, Satanic, misogynistic character Krauser. His two bandmates are only slightly more into their job.

The episodes are only 15 minutes long, and are pretty much all built on the same gag: kind, meek Negishi being accosted by the demons of his alter-ego, ranging from nasty fans to accidentally slipping into character in front of the sweet girl he’s trying to impress. It’s clearly based on a gag-centric seinen manga—reminded me of a much less surrealist Cromartie High School—so the bite-sized episodes work well at keeping the pace up and not wearing out the joke.

And they are hilarious.

What could have been merely funny repeatedly builds to spectacular crescendos of horrifying social disaster or beautifully orchestrated juxtapositions of what DMC’s fans are seeing and what’s actually happening, like some kind of antisocial sitcom on ‘roid rage.  It’s got an utterly vicious, absolutely no-holds-barred sense of humor, great timing, and several times manages to keep adding another layer to the joke just when you think the madness has reached the climax.

You sort of have to cringe at some of the terrible things that befall poor, gentle Negishi and the nice people he knows, but even though I usually don’t go for that kind of embarrassment-centric humor at all—frankly, I usually hate it—I was somewhere between laughing and gasping for breath in nearly every episode.

Notably, the series has a great feel for DMC’s rebellious death-metal fans—they’ve got a mix of genuine malice and middle-class rebellious youth trying too hard to be bad that sort of rings true while being overboard enough to stay funny.  (And let’s be honest, it’s pretty easy to make fun of death metal fans.)

The intro is must-watch—it is (of course) a straightforward set of DMC’s signature song, which does a great job of establishing the band and their music (and raving fans), the lyrics are believable yet amusingly ridiculous, and there’s a fantastic bit of the band doing repeated takes into the camera that, for some reason, I just can’t get enough of.

Oh, and then there’s DMC’s fast-talking, chain-smoking, sadistic manager. She is the most foul-mouthed character I have ever seen in anime. We’re not talking “uses the blunt verb form,” we’re talking Richard Pryor having an argument with a Quentin Tarantino character. Japanese doesn’t actually have any functional profanity per-se, so to compensate, she drops at least one random F-bomb (in English) per sentence, along with a wide variety of other very graphic imagery to describe just how much things do or do not excite her.  Seriously, to edit this show for daytime TV, you’d have to just delete her entirely.

The characters—or at least Negishi—also has enough functional personality to carry the plot (though there isn’t much of an ongoing one), but just enough of a lame dark side to not feel 100% sorry for (I love that he really isn’t Krauser inside, but when he gets really angry in his pathetic The Office way he has a tendency to let Krauser out because, hey, I’m somebody in another life, really!).  You just feel 95% sorry for him.

The show’s a whole lot of fun, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  Unlike a lot of crazy gag-based things like this, not only is it not wearing out its welcome or running out of jokes, it actually seems to be getting better—it’s building up layers of callbacks to earlier disasters and Krauser’s ever-growing and completely accidental legend of mayhem.

Good stuff.

3 Responses to “Detroit Metal City Notes”

  1. linespalsy Says:

    nice. i read the first volume of the manga a while back, not sure why i didn’t make it past that since i was enjoying it…

  2. Chainclaw Says:

    Japan has “no functional profanity” in their language? Considering all the profanity I’ve seen in subbed anime, I never would have guessed that.

  3. Matt Says:

    Those subtitle translations are most likely trying to communicate the intent of the dialog rather than the exact words that are being spoken. The way the language is structured, it doesn’t really need much profanity. For example, people tend to call each other by titles rather than names in many situations. If you call someone by the wrong title, that can basically be the equivalent of saying “f-you”.

    I got the DVD for this over the weekend and after reading this I clearly need to move it to the top of my “to watch” pile.