Japanese Title: デトロイト メタル シテイ
Romaji: Detoroito Metaru Shiti
Release Date: August 23rd, 2008 (Japan)
Running Time: 104 mins.
Director: Toshio Lee
Writer: Mika Omori (Screenplay), Kiminori Wakasugi (Manga)
Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Rosa Kato, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Yoshihiko Hosoda, Ryuji Akiyama, Kazuma Suzuki, Ryo Kato, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Minami, Kaera Kimura, Rumi Hiragi, Yoshinori Okada, Gene Simmons
Meet Soichiro Negishi. He hails from a farm in rural Inukai, Oita prefecture and he is leaving home for the first time to go to Tokyo University. His dream as he states it is to “live in a fashionable apartment in Tokyo, live a fashionable life. Above all I want to be a fashionable musician.”
He really loves fluffy J-Pop and he has songs like Raspberry Kiss (unfashionable and incredibly cheesy). While at university he meets and falls in love with the angelically beautiful and nice Yuri Aikawa, a girl who also loves his twee pop music and she forms a small circle of friends who encourage Negishi to display his musical talents.
“No music no dream!” is his rallying cry and with a CD of his work he walks into the office of Death Records…
Fast forward some time and Negishi is now known as Johannes Krauser II, lead singer of Detroit Metal City (DMC), a death metal band who look like KISS and perform songs about rape and murder at a seedy club called Hell’s Gate. His band-mates are Masayuki Wada aka Alexander Jagi (Hosoda) on bass, and Terumichi Nishida aka Camus (Akiyama) the drummer.
The three are an up-and-coming band with a dedicated following and a demonic manager (Matsuyuki) who has a plan to make them the biggest death metal group in Japan. Sounds great but Negishi is absolutely miserable. Making death metal goes against his J-Pop desires which he cultivates in secret to little love from the public. As a result he leads a double-life as Krauser and the J-Pop loving Negishi, a double-life that gets a lot more complicated when he reunites with Aikawa who actually writes his favourite articles in a music magazine and hates DMC and the music they play. Negishi finds that Aikawa might still be interested in him which means he has to hide his day-job from her.
When infamous death metal artist Jack Il Dark (Simmons) announces a retirement tour DMC’s manager scents a great chance to boost the band’s fame to global levels so she sets up DMC for a battle with Jack. Can Negishi balance his double-life and dreams of pursuing Aikawa and J-Pop?
Detroit Metal City is based on the best-selling manga created by Kiminori Wakasugi. Despite the DMC boys performing death metal with lyrics exhorting people to murder and rape I found the film cheerful and heart-warming with a message about pursuing your dream even if it goes in odd directions. It is hardly an original story but the way it is dressed and the way the actors throw themselves into the action is what makes it entertaining.
The simple script, performances, costumes and film sets all combine well to allow the actors to inhabit their roles. When we first meet Soichiro, or Sou as his mother calls him, he heads to a train station holding his mother’s hand, carrying guitar case and sporting a mushroom haircut. What shines from the get go is that he has nothing but vague ambitions and a good nature. He is hardly a force to be reckoned and as the film progresses we see him struggling. It is only when he meets his manager, a woman with a hard-core passion for death metal who is simply a wardrobe change from being a dominatrix, that he finds his path. Not that Soichiro can see it but he has to face up to the idea that he has to integrate his desires into a wider environment to succeed.
When he does follow her guidance he finds himself dressed up like a member of Kiss complete with black leather costume, blonde wig and fierce face-paint. It is then that he gets the guts to challenge the world and everybody takes notice. With the details all laid out perfectly the film then milks the hell out of this very funny split between Soichiro’s desires (fluffy J-Pop) and what he’s good at (satanic death metal) and gives us the music and performances to match it. This split also serves as the face of a smart commentary on the highly orchestrated and manufactured nature of Japanese pop music where artists are made to fit an image to maintain their audience by management.
Soichiro changing his persona to become Krauser holds a universal message. While we may want to be ourselves it is hard to do and we may have to change to find a way to do it and achieve success in the public realm. As his mother makes clear sometimes this change is for the good of others. It is displayed when we see the DMC boys perform and their legion of head-banging fans in wide-angle shots and sweeping pans that show Soichiro’s dream may not be the exact one he wanted but it is still good and has inspired others.
Whatever the case, the film is funny and it is down to the performances. Matsuyama inhabits the dual roles of Krauser and Negishi. The two are totally different (way different from his turn in Norwegian Wood). As Negishi he wears tight fitting, pastel coloured clothes and has an awkward posture and goofy grin. Matsuyama’s physical performance approximates that of a hyper 12 year old girl from an anime as he jumps on beds and springs from despair to hope flailing about ineffectually. It is genuinely charming and innocent and I could not help but laugh.
There is great situation comedy involving the Krauser/Soichiro act and costumes and how people react to them such as a theme park audience full of kids who see Soichiro in full Krauser mode as he rips apart a Power Rangers display and is ready to split apart a rival in love! The direction has excellent timing, cutting to horrified reactions at just the right moments and displaying actors at their best. I loved the intense close-up where Soichiro as Krauser growls “The strongest energy to produce music isn’t love. Revenge. Hate.”
Matsuyuki is magnificent as a demon manager who puts out cigarettes on her tongue and has an evil cackle. She is sexy as hell as she trashes everything in her path and judges music by how wet she gets but what seems like impulsive and destructive behaviour is actually calculated to get people fired up and moving in the right direction. Tough love. I found it kind of sexy which is worrying…
DMC never takes itself seriously and as a result it is enjoyable. The fact that it finds time to have a heart-warming family get together which allows the theme of following dreams to be explicitly stated does nothing to hamper events. Indeed it made me like the film all the more. That written, the film gets it right when it finds and sustains the comedy in contrasting the world of Krauser and Soichiro. With its direction and a charming lead performance from Kenichi Matsuyama and the rest of the cast I can recommend viewing this as a fun and thoughtful way to spend a night.
I did this as part of a double review with Novroz over at Boku no Sekai. Her great review agrees with mine in its praise of the message carried in the film and Kenichi Matsuyama’s acting. I loved his performance in this and I am becoming more of a fan of his by the film. She also highlights two extremely funny scenes I didn’t mention the memory of which had me chuckling. This is not the first time we have done a double review, our first was The Twilight Samurai. I had fun again (watching Japanese films is always fun) and I can’t wait for the next review.
21 thoughts on “Detroit Metal City デトロイトメタルシテイ (2008)”
This sounds like fun. Can you get it in the UK?
I’m glad my review got that across (I did wonder if it would…). I had to import it from America so you’ll need a multi-region DVD player. If you do have one I recommend this film.
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I love your review! you really have a way with words.
It seems that we have same feeling toward the movie…the way we think of the message in the movie and the way we look at Matsuken. I like him more and more every time I see his new (to me) movie. He is a great actor. I didn’t highlight the Boss but I agree on everything you said about her.
I forgot to mention it in my post, but I was hoping for more interaction between Negishi and the rest of DMC member.
It’s been another fun double review, Jason 🙂
Thanks. I was wondering whether the review would display how good the film turned out and it seems it has 🙂
We do have the same feelings for the film and for Kenichi Matsuyama who has really impressed me. I have only seen two or three films with him in but his comedic performance here was really strong!
It has been another fun double review. Let me know when you want to do it again!
I honestly think that your review displays how good the movie is. You’ve shown your enthusiasm.
I have seen 2 movies by Matsuken and was impressed with him, DMC made it better…I want to see more by him. He has talent.
I am going to find time to look at some DVD stores and hoping to find something good from either Korea or Japan. I’d love to do another double review with you 🙂
Thanks. I enjoyed writing the review 🙂
I’m going to order more films next month and one of the films I’m going to order is the Gantz double-disc set which is a live-action adaptation of a manga starring Kenichi Matsuyama. There’s some Korean and Japanese horror as well 😉
Oh I love that film! And reading your review reminded me that I urgently need to watch it again! 🙂 Have a lovely evening!
Urgently need to watch it again? Wow, you must really love it 😉
I think I’m going to watch it again as well. Right after Heat After Dark. These are two of the most rewatchable films I have encountered this year. Have a lovely evening yourself 🙂
I do! The great thing about it is that you can watch it over and over again and it never gets boring because it’s simply so adorable! Kenichi Matsuyama is such an incredibly great actor! Ahhh, I get all excited^^
I love your passion!
DMC is such an easy film to sit back and enjoy. A lot of fun and a great message. I can watch it over and over like Suicide Circle, Chungking Express, Battle Royale and Spirited Away.
Yes, that’s exactly what I meant! 🙂
I only know Battle Royale and Suicide Circus, what are the other two films about?
I really like Battle Royal, I think it was one of the first Japanese films I got on DVD. But…. Suicide Circus just creeped me out! I watched it once and I doubt I’ll ever watch it again! -_-
Battle Royale and Suicide Circle really captured my imagination! I could write lots about the former like I did for the latter. I guess I have a dark imagination 😉
Spirited Away is a Studio Ghibli film which follows a 10-year-old girl who is moving house with her parents. They stop by what they think is an abandoned theme park only to get caught up in the spirit realm which is like an alternate reality onsen. It’s a lot of fun! It was on television a few days ago and just watching it again made me happy 🙂
Chungking Express is a rom-com that details the complicated lives of two men and two women in Hong Kong just before the island was handed over to China. It’s melancholy, scary, joyful, playful (the adjectives can go on) and so full of life that I love it a lot! It stars Faye Wong and Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung.
Thanks for your elaborate explanations! I saw the trailer to Spirited Away on TV while I was in London visting a friend! I thought about watching since a friend of mine really likes it, but then again, anime often bores me fairly quickly… but I must admit that “alternate reality onsen” sounds pretty amazing^^
I hope you do watch it because it is really good!
I wondered what this movie was about. Thanks for explaining, it seems more up my alley than I would have thought.
I bet you’ll love this film. If you do watch it let me know what you think of it.
This sounds like a FUN movie! The lead going from his two characters and back sounds comical, but your observation on the difficulty of being oneself and achieving success makes it sound like there’s more to it than sitcom scenes.
It manages to combine the ideas about identity with a whole lot of comedy so it’s always enjoyable. I can still picture Krauser’s dancing 🙂
Fact: I think Kiminori Wakasugi’s heavy metal manga Detroit Metal City is one of the best titles on the shelves right now thanks to its
Thanks for commenting! Detroit Metal City is a real blast and it’s great that the film adaptation did it some justice.
Have you seen this film?: