Manga-ka: Kiminori Wakasugi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: June 2009
Synopsis: “By all appearances, Soichi Negishi is a sweet, well-mannered boy who loves Swedish pop music, trendy boutiques, and all things fashionable. But at the same time he’s also Krauser II, front man for Detroit Metal City, an indie death metal band whose popularity increases by the day. Once the DMC makeup goes on and Soichi takes the stage, his natural talent as a death metal god can’t help but flourish. Is this the band he’s truly destined to be in?”
For those who have grown bored with schoolgirls, robots, samurai and pretty boys, VIZ’s Signature imprint has proven a salvation, offering such stellar series as Monster, Golgo 13, and the endearingly post-apocalyptic children’s series Drifting Classroom. They’ve recently reinvigorated the line with a range of over-sized trim titles that offer more variety from the normal manga fare, and Detroit Metal City is a great example of the diversity they’re bringing us.
If you’re a fan of the usual pretty manga characters, gleefully bouncing about their candy pop lands, this is not the manga for you. The artwork is more in line with domestic underground comics, scratchy, loose and deliberately ugly. The second chapter introduces you to the occasionally squeamish art with DMC’s first music video, including such visual effects as zombie babies and Krauser eating bats. Sound effects are translated, which really works as they add to the humour
As the story advances, an element I enjoyed was Soichi’s characterization. The sad sack nature of his romance life is something that is pretty in touch with most shonen and seinen manga, though this is countered by how extreme and disgusting the comedy of DMC can get. As the dual personalities of Krauser slowly start to blur, he often bursts into DMC mode while in civilian dress. His thoughts constantly waver between those of a cheery young hipster and a misogynist devil worshipping rock star, as he unleashes a mountain of curse words at his dream girl, and finds Krauser-isms popping up at the worst possible moments. This is countered with moments of his regular personality emerges while in Krauser gear. I found the chapter where he educated his younger brother on proper manners in Krauser-costume particularly hilarious and oddly heart-warming, rolling around the family farm.
The supporting cast isn’t very large as of this first volume, but I particularly enjoyed DMC’s self-centered, vulgar manager, who lives the metal lifestyle outright. He literally beats Soichi and company into shape, and causes much of his pain by doing things like redecorating his beloved apartment in a more Krauser-esque style , while also apparently acting as a competent manager, scoring them gigs, videos and TV appearances. The lady gets things done.
Nice production touches include the oversize trim VIZ is using on their mature readers comics, and the inclusion of temporary tattoos so you can make yourself totally DMC-ed out. VIZ also adds DMC dictionary definitions at the end of each chapter, with sometimes vulgar examples of how to use it in a sentence. This is rounded out by glossy accents on the cover art, and a short bonus manga touching on the lives of the twin assistants of DMC’s Boss.
I’d recommend this to fans of domestic underground comics looking for something similar in manga- it’s not really as out there as some of what Last Gasp and Drawn and Quarterly have put out, and is a franchise from a larger Japanese publisher with the usual media tie-ins, but would have been comfortably at home in VIZ’s old Pulp anthology magazine.
Detroit Metal City is definitely a great deal different from what you’ll find on manga shelves at any North American bookstore, and is a welcome change in my reading pile, though some readers might not feel quite as up to the very sexist dialogue and constant swearing, or the more caricatured style of art. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, and want to broaden your manga and comics horizons, this is a great book to start off with. Recommended for immature mature readers.