Detroit Metal City, Vol. 2
By Kiminori Wakasugi
Published by Viz Media
In the second volume of Kiminori Wakasugi’s gleefully vulgar series, Soichi Negishi continues to live his double life as a mild-mannered aspiring pop musician and powerful lead vocalist for an underground death metal band. As the line between his dueling identities deteriorates, Negishi finds himself falling into his Krauser II persona more and more often, especially in the presence of his longtime crush, Aikawa. Early on, he even stalks her when she accepts an amusement park date with another guy, eventually letting his jealousy transform him into Krauser, who humiliates her on stage during a “Victory Rangers” show. Later on, while rushing frantically back and forth from an interview (as Krauser) to dinner with Aikawa on her birthday, the blur between his conflicting personalities extends even to physical appearance as increasingly obvious bits of Krauser’s costume and makeup are accidentally left on in Negishi’s frazzled haste.
Also in this volume, Negishi is faced with two rival musicians who proclaim deep hatred for DMC and Krauser, one of whom turns out to be a beloved childhood friend of Negishi’s who has shed his old, kind-hearted identity as a means to personal empowerment. This is a particularly ironic (and effective) chapter as Negishi, who has essentially achieved the same end by giving birth to Krauser, urges his friend to turn away from his new, less compassionate persona in order to rediscover the boy Negishi so fondly remembers. Other episodes include Negeshi’s first encounter with a DMC fan website, an accidental Sid Vicious impersonation, staged sexual intercourse with a well-known Tokyo landmark, Krauser’s major film debut, and a surprisingly poignant look at the man behind DMC’s onstage “capitalist pig.”
The saddest and most fascinating thing about Negishi’s life as Krauser, is that not only does he very obviously use this persona as a (relatively) consequence-free means for acting out his darkest impulses, it seems likely that he’d have much better control over the way these feelings impact his “real life” if only he was willing to accept them as his rather than continuously using Krauser as the scapegoat. After all, it’s not that Negishi’s hidden depths are really darker or more dangerous than anyone else’s. Who among us has not entertained hideous (if fleeting) thoughts when confronted with strong emotions like humiliation, jealousy, or anger? We bury these thoughts, of course, in most circumstances, before they have a chance to become a threat to us or anyone else. By refusing to acknowledge these feelings as his own, however, Negishi deftly sidesteps the burial process, allowing those impulses free rein as Krauser, safely detached from his own identity. Would Negishi better control his deep resentment over Aikawa’s apparent indifference to his feelings if he had to deal with them the hard way? It’s hard to know for sure, but considering how deeply he values his carefully cultivated aura of innocence, I suspect that he would, and that perhaps it would even allow him to become someone more genuine than either of the personas he currently maintains.
An interesting point, of course, about Negishi’s offstage Krauser incidents is that they are not all bad. Though he obviously uses Krauser to act out his ugliest thoughts, especially those spawned by jealousy over Aikawa or, in one case, pride over Krauser’s legacy, he also uses Krauser to express feelings of concern or compassion–for instance, delivering fruit to a fan he believes to be on the brink of death. Perhaps it is not that Krauser allows him to be dark, but rather that he allows Negishi to be powerful in ways that Negishi can’t (or believes he can’t) manage on his own. Though Negishi is certainly vulgar, disrespectful, and often cruel as Krauser, he is also strong, decisive, and commanding–traits that could never be attributed to Negishi in his everyday life.
Despite all this discussion of Negishi’s particular pathology, something I admittedly find fascinating, it is important to note that Detroit Metal City is, above all, funny–a label that applies to its second volume at least as much as the first. Krauser’s big screen debut, for instance (in a film about a woman who finds love while struggling with an unknown medical condition that causes a horn to grow out of her head), displays a delightful kind of whimsy that is new to this volume. Though the series’ persistence as an episodic comic is disappointing for those of us who hoped to glimpse the beginnings of some kind of overarching plot, the humor holds up easily over the course of the second volume, even if Negishi’s situation never really changes. That said, the couple of brief fake-outs offered in this volume demonstrate just how fantastic it could be to see Negishi make a drastic change (such as quitting DMC) that might stick for more than the length of a single chapter.
With its relentless lack of scruples, questionably likable hero, and fractured, episodic feel, Detroit Metal City is not for everyone. Fans of the series, however, will find much to enjoy in its second volume. I certainly did.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Michelle Smith saysSeptember 16, 2009 at 11:49 pm
You really make this series sound good! The points you make about Negishi foisting his negative impulses off on Krauser are very interesting, but you’re also right about him doing good. The funniest bit of v1 was him driving the tractor when attempting to get Negishi’s little brother to do his chores. And I suspect the film debut would amuse me, too.
Melinda Beasi saysSeptember 16, 2009 at 11:52 pm
I feel so guilty about making it sound good, because I know you didn’t enjoy the first volume as much as I did. But I really do like it a lot! And I completely agree about that bit in the first volume—it was my favorite chapter without question.
The film debut is so delightfully silly… it’s the horn. It is utterly ridiculous and completely unexplained. And it gets really, really long.
Michelle Smith saysSeptember 16, 2009 at 11:54 pm
If only I could read the fun silly parts and leave out anything with the manager lady. I really, really hated the chapter where he just sits back and lets her trash his place and torment his neighbor.
Melinda Beasi saysSeptember 16, 2009 at 11:58 pm
She, at least, has a much lesser role in this volume. I mean, she’s *there* making vulgar comments like always, but she doesn’t have the same kind of influence as she did in the first volume. I was pleased by that.
Michelle Smith saysSeptember 17, 2009 at 12:00 am
Well, that’s good, at least. I feel like I should give the series another shot, but maybe I’ll wait until a volume where something really changes.
Melinda Beasi saysSeptember 17, 2009 at 12:01 am
I will keep you posted! :D
Ed Sizemore saysSeptember 17, 2009 at 7:31 am
I must disagree. I love the manager and might have a crush on her myself. (I’m still working out my feelings.)
Otherwise, great review.
Melinda Beasi saysSeptember 17, 2009 at 8:17 pm
Maybe it’s a guy thing? Hee. :D
firstname.lastname@example.org saysSeptember 17, 2009 at 5:49 am
Interesting to follow your review and comments with Michelle, too. Thanks.
Melinda Beasi saysSeptember 17, 2009 at 8:18 pm