Detroit Metal City

In the realm of Japanese publishing there are some strange, curious and profoundly entertaining magazines to be found, including a peculiar little pulp volume called Young Animal (ヤングアニマル Yangu Animaru). And while the magazine assuredly blurs the lines of good taste, it was in 2005 amongst the glossy photos of scantily clad, doe eyed idols and 4-koma gag strips that a revolutionary, albeit socially offensive, manga by the title of Detroit Metal City made its official début.

A mere three years later, DMC as it has come to be known, has garnered one of the biggest cult followings ever awarded to an independent manga, spawning not only a thirteen episode OVA (Original Video Animation), a plethora of merchandise, and now its own star powered live action, death metal comedy adaptation.

Directed by relative newcomer Toshio Lee, DMC comes to the big screen as a bold, brash and ambitious project headlined by one of Japanese cinemas biggest emerging talents, the irrepressible Ken’ichi Matsuyama, best known for his role as the eccentric L in the Death Note film franchise.

For those unfamiliar with the DMC mantra, the story follows the misadventures of Soichi Negsishi (Matsuyama), a naïve, hapless guitar playing romantic sporting a Prince Valiant hairstyle who travels to Tokyo from his small village in Ōita prefecture to pursue dreams of Swedish pop songs and trendy cafes. But after failing to make rent and facing a pile of unpaid bills, Soichi finds himself accidently cast as the front man of a masked death metal band called Detroit Metal City. Faced with eviction and too polite to let down his fellow band members, the soft spoken folk singer takes to the stage as the towering blond haired Johannes Krauser II. And thus begins Soichi’s struggle to reconcile his own dreams of Swedish pop bliss with those of fame and glory as the demon terrorist of DMC, best known for killing and then raping his parents (yes, in that particular order).

Joining Matsuyama on his twisted metal adventures are fellow DMC members Yoshihiko Hosoda (Hatsukare trilogy) as Alexander Jaggi and Ryuji Akiyama (Chromartie High) as Camus while Yasuko Matsuyuki (Hula Girls) revels in her role as the band’s violently tough-love manager and death metal mentor. And for those informed enough to have made the connection between the films title and its KISS origins, you’ll be pleased to know that the glam rock fame-whore Gene Simmons makes a none-to-subtle (as you’d expect) cameo.

The world of DMC is wildly unpredictable and its obvious Matsuyama revels in the duality of his role. From the excruciatingly saccharine Soichi to the insidious Johannes Krauser II, it’s a pure joy to watch his uncomfortable evolution as an artist. Populated with numerous eccentric characters and sporting an original soundtrack overflowing with satirical metal offerings such as Slash Killer, Death Penis and Mad Monster, director Lee has delivered a crazed musical masterpiece of outrageous proportions.

    J. Fletcher

    Based in Sydney, Australia. Entertainment Journalist. Critic. Photographer. Coffee Snob. Not necessarily in that order.

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