Pop Culture Gadabout
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
      ( 5/26/2009 01:16:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"HE'S A TRUE DEMON!" Soichi Negishi, the nice guy hero of Kimihori Wakasugi's energetically rude death metal comedy, Detroit Metal City (Viz Media), is a man of dual identities. As Negishi, the sweet face 23-year-old with a bowl cut and a predilection for Swedish pop bands, he's a sensitive man/boy. But when he dons a wig, whiteface and a futuristic KISS-style costume, he becomes Johannes Krauser II, mother-rapin' front man for the indy "evil-core" band Detroit Metal City (any echo of KISS' "Detroit Rock City" is strictly intentional).

Loved by his rabid fans for his shrieking lyrics about sexual assault and murder (the band's signature song, "Satsugai" translates into "Kill 'em all") and hardcore monstrous persona, Krauser is an embarrassment to Soichi, who would rather be a singer in the mold of whispery-voiced Kari Kahimi than the raspy creature he portrays in DMC. Unfortunately for our sensitive new age guy, he can't get arrested singing sweet pop confections like "Raspberry Kiss" while his celebrations of rape and domination are finding a growing cult of fans. The foul-mouthed president of the band's label puts it bluntly: Krauser's violent lyrics get her wet, while just a few stanzas of "Raspberry Kiss" are a dehydrating turn-off.

The conflict between these two aspects of Soichi provide most of the comedy in this "mature" readers manga -- which has also inspired a live action movie and a direct-to-video anime -- the first volume of which is reaching American shores in an understandably shrink-wrapped edition. "This album contains nothing but the most profane of profanities," the back cover of DMC's debut disc warns. "Listen at the risk of your immortal soul." Viz could just as easily put a variation of this sticker warning on the back cover of the book since much of its dialog (especially that delivered by Death Records' leather-wearing president) can be gleefully obscene.

Poor Soichi is a victim of his underground success. When he's falsely accused of groping a cute young thing on the subway, a notepad of prospective DMC song lyrics ("Spread 'em wide, you sows!") makes him look even guiltier to both girl and subway cop. To make matters worse, his ability to lose himself in the Krauser interferes with his attempts at wooing a pop-loving girl named Aikawa. Prodded into doing air guitar to one of DMC's songs in a music store, Soichi so gets into character that he begins shouting abusive invective at Aikawa. Singing one of his death metal compositions in a karaoke bar, he becomes so wrapped up in the song's nasty lyrics that he gobs on his would-be girlfriend.

The big joke is that, though he'd hate to admit it, the appalling faux demon Krauser is as much a part of Soichi as his regular girly/man day self. Soichi's unwillingness to be open about his show biz creation makes Krauser an even more formidable figure in his life. Visiting his kid brother Toshihiko back on the family farm, for isntance, he learns the boy's fannish adulation of the creature has led to his turning into a young delinquent. ("My music," Soichi thinks, "has wrought chaos on this family!") Instead of just telling the boy that Krauser isn't real, he dons the character's costume and makeup and convinces Toshihiko that doing family chores and studying will make him a better Agent of Evil.

Wakasugi's art has a loose alt comics look that's well suited to this broad material. He's especially fun capturing the awkward Soichi in poses that emphasize his geekiness and contrasting this with the strutting, self-assured Krauser. In DSMC, the pop geeks blush becomingly and stand stiffly and modestly, while the death metal types thrust themselves with aggressive abandon. Though the manga writer/artist states that he's musically more attuned to the sweet stuff than the hard core, the latter is obviously more fun for him to draw.

Volume One contains twelve stories, plus a bonus throwaway gag centered on Death Records' president. A few of the earliest pieces can get repetitious, our whiny hero bemoaning his role as Krauser one too many times, but once Soichi begins his comically erratic relationship with Aikawa, the book picks up steam and gets you rooting for its hapless Romeo. As a humorous dissection of the evergreen fight between day-to-day existence and art, between commerce and creative expression, Detroit Metal City nails its subjects with cheerful offensiveness. I'm thinking if the anime adaptation ever shows up on "Adult Swim," they're gonna have to do a hell of a lot of bleeping.


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter