Detroit Metal City, vol. 1-3

Soichi is a reluctant death metal star. He kills it as Krauser, the brutal front man of up and coming nasty band Detroit Metal City, but he’d rather be playing his own twee love songs about pastry, or watching Jean-Pierre Jeunet movies with his sweet, longtime crush from college. His frustration at not being able to follow his dreams often sends him into a rage that makes his performance as Krauser even more insane and further secures his legacy as the trashy, offensive metal god he never wanted to be.

Detroit Metal City is a raunchy, irreverent series that, at its best, skewers every genre of pop music and the people who identify with it. DMC’s fans don’t just like heavy metal – they are heavy metal to the core of their beings. And so, it would seem, is Soichi, despite his longing to be a pretty pop star. In the first three volumes of DMC, the band takes on other metal bands and rising stars in the hip hop and punk scenes, representing all of the music that has ever horrified parents. The series has a lot of fun showing how misplaced that horror is; for all their posturing, the star musicians usually turn out to have some dopey secret or human weakness; all they are really doing is jumping around in silly clothing and yelling.

The artwork complements the silliness of the stories, depicting KISS-inspired heavy metal excess with exaggerated whimsy. Everything is purposefully overdone, to the point that Soichi’s face contorts in grotesque shock every time his worlds threaten to collide. Note: this happens in every chapter.

DMC can be very funny, but suffers from the belief that all offensive humor needs in order to work is to show something offensive. I most enjoyed the jokes that flip expectations, such as when Soichi uses his Krauser get-up to convince his metal-loving younger brother that working on the farm and studying hard for school is somehow the best way to prove he’s a bad-ass. But too often the jokes don’t go beyond Krauser making an outlandish, over-the-top statement about rape or murder, and it gets old quickly. Soichi’s crush in particular takes a lot of uncomfortable abuse that is hard to find funny.

I could see this series having a lot of appeal for teens, but I caution librarians to be aware that this is a series that thrives on inappropriate humor. Any given page has characters screaming obscenities or threatening to rape someone. For some, this irreverent crudeness is the best thing about the books, but others are going to demand an explanation. Be ready to provide one.

In general I like the premise of DMC and enjoyed the goofy twist it provides to the idea of how to reconcile who you dream of being with who you actually are. At the same time, the repetitive jokes made it hard for me to get through three volumes, and there are ten altogether.

Detroit Metal City, vol. 1-3
by Kiminori Wakasugi
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421527420
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421527437
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781421527444
Viz , 2009
Publisher Age Rating: M (18+)