Cult Classics: Detroit Metal City

16 Mar

As it’s been quite a while since we last had a Cult Classics post, I thought it was about time to remind you just how classic cult movies can be.  And while today’s movie may not be considered a classic yet, I have no doubt that one day it will be.

In 2005, Toshio Lee began publishing a manga titled Detroit Metal City, and in 2008, Mr. Lee followed up his series by directing a twelve episode anime series, as well as a live action movie.  I recently had the privilege of watching the live action movie.  And let me tell you, watching this movie is nothing if not a privilege.

Detroit Metal City

Detroit Metal City follows a young man named Soichi Negishi as he travels from his small farming community to the big city of Tokyo to begin university.  Once there, he attempts to put his dream of becoming a fashionable, Swedish-style pop musician into action.  Undeterred by his lack of success, he valiantly presses on, explaining to his friends that his dream is to inspire dreams in the minds of people who hear his music.

Fast-forward several years, and he we see Soichi has been forced to take a job as the lead singer and guitarist in a black metal band called Detroit Metal City.  During the day, he travels around Tokyo playing his Swedish-style pop songs to anyone who will listen.  At night, he transforms into Johannes Krauser II, demon prince who came to earth to sing for Detroit Metal City.  Soichi is miserable in his new life.  He despises the music he plays in his band, and everyone else despises his pop music.  He hates his alter ego, Johannes Krauser II, yet Krauser provides him with the boldness and self-confidence he cannot seem to muster as Soichi.  His life has become the exact opposite of what he dreamed of when he moved to Tokyo.

Soichi and his alter-ego

The bulk of the movie deals primarily with Soichi’s numerous attempts to either quit or sabotage the band.  Instead of allowing him to escape, however, his devices tend to backfire, inexplicably making the band more and more popular.  Throw a love story into the plot (obviously the girl doesn’t know Soichi and Johannes Krauser II are the same person) and a cameo by Gene Simmons, (as the supreme emperor of black metal Jack il Dark) and you have a pretty insane movie.

The best thing about Detroit Metal City is that the whole thing would’ve fallen apart if they hadn’t cast the perfect actor to play Soichi.  There are very few people who could actually pull off playing the ultra-fashionable and ultra-sensitive Soichi while at the same time playing the demon prince Johannes Krauser II.  Ken’ichi Matsuyama is one these select few.  His performance is some of the best (and most hilarious) acting I have ever seen.  Moments of identity confusion seem so genuine and so outrageous all at the same time.  The contrast between the songs he sings as the main character and then later as his alter ego is crazy, and the fact that Matsuyama actually sang both sets of songs is even crazier.  While he may never even be invited to bus Jack Nicholson’s table on Oscar night, I am here to tell you that this is great acting.

The second best thing about Detroit Metal City is that it has a moral message, buried as it may be beneath all its insanity and hilarity. You might not even notice it when you first watch the film.  Soichi’s goal of helping other people find their dreams becomes a prominent point in the movie.  It drives the love story, and it drives Soichi (and Johannes Krauser II) to do what must be done.  And while it is a poignant message about selflessness and giving, there is just enough utter ridiculousness around it to allow its sneaky infiltration into the minds of viewers who don’t even want there to be a message.

Finally, the last thing I love about Detroit Metal City is that it’s absolutely amazing for anyone who has even been into black metal, death metal, or any of the other variations of metal involving corpse paint, metal spikes, and lyrics about demons and doom.  I will admit that I was once a pretty big fan myself, and I can still be found listening to Amon Amarth or Children of Bodom on occasion.  Because of my previous love for this type of music, I found the caricature of metal that is the band Detroit Metal City to be hilarious.  Their lyrics are tongue in cheek imitations of some of the most violent and hateful metal songs ever written.  And the result is absolutely brilliant.

I loved this movie.  Anyone who has ever listened to metal will love this movie.  And I’d say there’s a pretty good chance that most other people will love it too.  It is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time.  Watch it.  Let’s make it a classic.

Wishing I had a death-metal alter ego,

david

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One Response to “Cult Classics: Detroit Metal City”

  1. tokyo5 March 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    Yeah, it’s a good movie (and manga too).

    http://tokyo5.wordpress.com/2008/08/22/detroit-metal-city/

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