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Lee, Toshio (Director)
Detroit Metal City (Live Action Film) (DVD)
March 2015
Released: 2008, Viz Pictures
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

The DMC empire franchise is pretty massive. There is the animated series, the Manga comic series, CD’s and the feature-length, live action movie. I’ve reviewed the comic series and animated also on this site so I’d recommend that you read those reviews to get a bit more background on this series that took Japan by storm.

After the success of the comic, animated series and several CD’s the next logical step was a movie adaptation. I recently purchased on DVD. It is a standard movie, the dialogue is in Japanese with sub-titles and there is no booklet or extra features; it is a bare-bones production. DMC is distributed in North American by Warner so you should be able to find a copy quite easily.

The main plot point is that the main character is a young Japanese man, Soichi Negishi who is the front-man of the insane and wild Black/death Metal band, DMC but in reality he is a mild-mannered and gentle person who doesn’t even like Death Metal. The movie follows his trials and tribulations as he is coerced and manipulated by his somewhat corrupt (and perpetually horny) female manger. He wants to break free from his double identity and the fame and fortune and settle down, meet a nice girl and play J-pop and simple love ballads. There are constant jokes and plays on his double-identity. To add another dimension Neghishi has anger management issues and very often breaks into a rage and adopts the persona of his alter-ego Krauser II. DMC consistently plays songs about rape and murder that upset Negishi, who has nothing in common with his band, his fans, or his manager. His attempts at a career as a singer-song-writer on his own meet with total failure and ridicule which continues to fuel his rage and public outbursts. Of course the girl he is trying to win the heart of hates DMC, adding another layer of difficulty for him.

The role of Krauser II is played by Kenichi Matsyama who, apparently, is a really big deal in Japan. A few years prior to this he has won a couple of major film awards in Japan included the Japanese film industry equivalent to the Oscar for Best Actor. He has had tons of TV and movie roles, so he is the definition of ‘huge in Japan’. I’m not familiar with Japanese domestic film but apparently quite a few well-known actors play the various roles.

The movie follows the plot of the comic (the first couple if issues) and the first few episodes of the animated series quite faithfully. The costumes and characteristics of the main characters are all very well done. There is not too much changing of the plot, which is good because it really annoys me when a movie changes major plot points. There is a very minor plot-point that is expanded on (involving the main characters mother) in the movie version but it is tolerable. Another change was the ending of the movie but because the movie was adapting the first few issues, the writers almost had to write a slightly different ending or else the movie would have no conclusion at all! The ending actually tied in quite nicely. The ending they wrote was very acceptable. To appeal to a broader audience and get a safer film classification, they choose to tone done the sexuality and sex-related violence that was part for the humour of the comic. For example most of the rape and sodomy jokes are removed but much of the vulgarity (and there is a lot of it) is still intact. They also removed a very minor S&M subplot with a minor character as well and a couple of brief sex scenes. Overall the film is not nearly as gritty or cutting edge as the original comic, but it is still not for younger kids.

This movie is of interest to Metal fans for a couple of reasons but the primary one being that Gene Simmons of Kiss fame plays the role of the main villain (the Emperor of Black Metal, Jack II Dark). The soundtrack is quite heavy during the Metal related scenes but the music soundtrack is not drawn from any large-scale popular Metal bands, but it is quite Metal. The overall look and feel of the comedy is fun, with the portrayal of obsessed fans and the dual nature of people who play Black Metal and their real lives. I might draw a parallel to Dethklok where an animated idea became so big it grew into a franchise and actual band.

I enjoyed this light-hearted comedy and all the subtle Metal references made it appealing and worth seeing. This might be the easiest way to get into the DMC franchise as tracking down the out-of-print magna series might be a bit harder, and not everyone likes the style of Japanese animation, so this live action movie might be the best way to start your journey to Detroit Metal City.
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