Most music-based anime have a sense of seriousness — a dramatic flair that makes for a compelling watching experience where the viewer is drawn in by strong character development. The journey of the main characters fulfilling their musical dreams by making it big in the competitive world of music keeps fans glued to the screen. Then there’s Detroit Metal Citywhich dashes all hope of a heartwarming story and is replete with nasty humor, crude visuals and a sense of schadenfreude that delights as much as it repels.
The story follows the misadventures of a bright-eyed and optimistic (some would say naive) college student named Soichi Negishi, who dreams of becoming a pop star. The kind of music he likes to play is soft guitar ballads filled with lyrics of pleasantries such as walks on the beach, eating ice cream, puppies and making meet-cute with neighborhood girls. However, dreams do not pay the bills, so he finds financial success by donning his alter ego, Johannes Krauser II.
Johannes is everything Soichi is not: a violent and flamboyant metal musician who sings misanthropic lyrics about death, murder, genocide, war and crime. Soichi is leading a double life as Johann, wearing excessive makeup that makes him look like he failed tryouts for the band KISS, but his band, Detroit Metal City, is the hottest gig on the Japanese underground death metal scene. Therefore, Soichi cannot help but utilize his growing popularity to pay the bills, even if he hates the music he plays and his stage persona.
The funniest things about Detroit Metal City are the visual gags and the vicious poking fun at the metal genre. The kinds of songs that Johann sings would make even Cannibal Corpse blush, featuring some of the most disgusting lyrics that could not be uttered in any polite company. Most of the humor lies in the situations that Soichi finds himself in, where he tries to leave the metal scene but is inevitably drawn back into the proverbial bloodbath. Soichi, along with his other band mates, are nothing like their stage personas, and Soichi’s constant juggling act between sweet guy to vicious metal head will have comedy fans in stitches.
While there have been other anime series centered around music with comedic overtones, such as the Broadway/Blues Brothers spoof Nerima Daikon Brothers, there aren’t a lot of music anime titles that rely mostly or solely on comedy for their storytelling. Even a series like Aggretsukowith its cutesy, metal-based comedy segments, has moments of almost melancholic introspection and character growth.
In contrast, Detroit Metal City is a rare breed where dark humor is the primary focus, and the series taps into a sub-genre of anime that is sorely underrepresented. Detroit Metal City is raunchy, crude and offensive, and it takes the rough and ragged genre of death metal and makes it all the more amusing. Perhaps someday in the future, anime fans will have more music anime that focuses on comedy where they can both sing along and laugh.