Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Detroit Metal City, vol. 1

Yet another manga that I received as part of a giveaway on a manga blog. This time around, I was lucky to win the first volume of Detroit Metal City from TangonaT. Be sure to check out her blog about graphic novels, manga and young adult literature. Thanks for the free copy TangonaT!

The story: Soichi is a young twenty-something from a small town. He came to Tokyo with dreams of starting a pop band and playing songs reminiscent of his favorite Swedish groups. Instead, he became the lead singer in the death metal band, Detroit Metal City. At every show, Soichi transforms into Krauser II, a hateful, screeching, spit-launching lead vocalist who shreds the guitar with an uncanny ability. Unfortunately, Soichi still dreams of his sweet pop band, but, day by day, he's transforming more and more into his alter ego.

Reaction: This manga is filled with disgusting lyrics, curse words and ridiculous situations—and I loved every minute of it! Once you figure out the tongue-in-cheek humor, it's easy to enjoy this manga for what it is. And it's just one ironic, awkward situation after another, from DMC's aggressive female manager to the appearance of Soichi's old classmates. This is a story you absolutely cannot take seriously; otherwise, you're apt to become really offended really quickly.

Deep thoughts: DMC is full of misogynistic and violent lyrics, disturbing imagery and an odd dichotomy illustrated by Soichi and his alter ego. While it would be easy to write a treatise on why so much of this manga is objectionable, there are actually quite a few strong women here. For example, DMC's manager controls the band's destiny and is a huge metalcore fan herself. She's quite possibly the most messed up person in the whole manga. Now, compare this to the most wholesome person in the manga—Soichi's mom. He's completely devoted to her and, even though miles separate them, she still takes time to take care of Soichi as best she can. It's interesting to see that although Soichi is male and this manga is certainly offensive, some of its strongest characters are women.

Artwork: Unsurprisingly, Kiminori Wakasugi has a knack for the macabre and grotesque. I assume he wouldn't be drawing a manga like Detroit Metal City if he wasn't good at the genre. But, as well as he draws the sickening, KISS-emulating moments with DMC, he's equally amazing at making the mundane appear hilarious. Whether it's Soichi being mistaken as a groper on the subway or an old memory from college, even these fleeting moments are giggle inducing. Nearly every panel of this volume is fabulously exaggerated and makes a joke out of everything and anything; nothing is sacred in the world of DMC.

The verdict: Highly recommended. I will admit outright that this manga is NOT for everyone (not to mention it's rated for mature audiences). It's a special interest manga if there ever was one. But, if you like irony, awkward humor and know when to not take things seriously, this is the manga for you. Detroit Metal City is available in the U.S. from Viz.

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