Adapted from the popular cult manga by Kiminori Wakasugi, Toshio Lee’s “Detroit Metal City” is a colourful, campy and very funny ode to following your dreams, even if they don’t turn out the way you’d initially expected.
Japanese teen idol Ken’ichi Matsuyama plays Soichi, a simple country boy with a gift for taming livestock who decides to leave his small town for Tokyo to attend university and emerse himself in the “trendy” lifestyle he’s always aspired to. He also dreams of being a pop singer, cranking out treaclely tunes about holding hands and eating cheese tarts with an imaginary sweetheart. It is here that he meets his dream girl, Yuri (Rosa Kato), a similarly starry eyed proponent of all things “trendy”; and establishes his motto: “no music, no dream”.
However, as for many of us, life after university hasn’t really turned out the way that he’d hoped. Instead of playing Swedish style pop in candy coloured boutiques, Soichi is now Lord Johannes Krauser II, the demonic lead singer of Japan’s hottest Black Metal band, Detroit Metal City. How Soichi, or the rest of his band for that matter, from the socially retarded otaku drummer Camus (Ryuji Akiyama) to the pervetedly gyrating basist Jaggi (Yoshihiko Hosoda), ended up here is rather shady, but they are kept in line with cackling glee by a metal queen known simply as Boss (Yasuka Matsuyuki).
A chance meeting with Yuri intensifies Soichi’s identity crisis as he tries to pursue his love and keep his shameful alter ego secret from her. However, what Soichi doesn’t seem to realize is that he isn’t actually any good as a pop singer. In fact he kind of sucks. But that doesn’t keep him from playing on the street every Saturday, despite the fact that his only loyal fan is a pomeranian named Merci. And so as Soichi’s “trendy” dreams slip further and further from his grasp and Detroit Metal City’s star continues to climb, Soichi is pushed to the point of nervous breakdown, prompting a return to the family farm.
Will Soichi find himself and returns just in time to defend Detroit Metal City’s title of Metal Gods against American metal master Jack Il Dark (KISS’s Gene Simmons in a passable cameo)? Well, the answer’s pretty obvious, but that doesn’t make things any less fun or funny.
With blitzkrieg pacing and eye-popping manga inspired set-design and cinematography, the film plays sort of like a mash up between Fumihiko Sori’s 2002 hit “Ping Pong” and the Guitar Wolf vehicle “Wild Zero.” And it manages to be both twice as hilarious and as inspirational as the former and as loud as the latter. In fact, one of the real strengths of the film is the soundtrack, which, for a film as goofy as “Detroit Metal City,” is surprisingly kickass.
The other strength is the spirited performances by Matsuyama as Soichi and Matsuyuki as Boss. Some of the funniest scenes are a result of Soichi resuming his usual, effete persona while still in his Lord Krauser make-up and costume, although he still manages to be a dominating, evil presence when he puts his mind to it. Matsuyuki on the other hand is obviously having a blast as the domineering, but sexy manager who keeps her band in line by beating the crap out of them.
Although it might be a little too goofy to satisfy all comedy tastes, if you like it weird and loud, “Detroit Metal City” is your kind of movie.