Detroit Metal City
By Chris Zimmerman
November 22, 2010 - 08:26
Studios: Toho Production
Writer(s): Mika Omori
Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Rosa Kato, Ryuji Akiyama, Yoshihiko Hosoda
Directed by: Toshio Lee
Produced by: Genki Kawamura, Yuka Higuchi
Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: November 9, 2010
Distributors: Viz Media, Warner Home Video
It’s fairly common for a manga to find itself adapted into a wide array of media once its reached a certain level of popularity. This often consists of an animated program and a slew of video games. While it’s uncommon, it isn’t completely unheard for a series to find itself making a splash in cinemas as a live-action adaptation, case in point being the Death Note film series. Detroit Metal City is the latest manga to finds itself in this unique position and even features Death Note stalwart Kenichi Matsuyama, remembered for his outstanding performance as L, once again cast in a lead role as the film’s manic protagonist Krauser, showing off the actor’s range.
Matsuyama’s Krauser didn’t always begin life as such, following the same basic plot points of the manga, the character is first born as mild mannered Negishi. The young man enjoys pop-music and even dreams of becoming a pop idol despite his diminutive nature. Most of his days are spent jamming soft ballads and eschewing a chorus of easy-listening lyrics. Unbeknownst to most however is Negishi’s insane alter-ego, Krauser, whose talents allow Negishi to unleash his wild side as part of the death metal band Detroit Metal City. Thanks to his out-of this-world makeup and raucous stage performance, Negishi has earned himself acclaim as the heavy metal lunatic.
Unfortunately, poor Negishi hates having to stoop to performing such music, only doing so because his pop music is flopping while his portrayal of Krauser rises in popularity. After running into a childhood friend who also happens to be a reviewer of music, Negishi is surprised to find that not only does she revile Detroit Metal City; she was also a fan of his original music. With this newfound revelation, Negishi becomes determined to make it in the business his own way without the Krauser persona. Meanwhile, his manager has other plans, scheduling him in a musical duel with the legendary Jack Il Dark, portrayed by Gene Simmons of KISS fame, complete with a flame spitting guitar.
Much of the humor that made the manga a cult hit carries over well to live action though it seems that the film-makers decided to take it to the next level by playing everything to the extreme. Keeping in line with the source material, the jokes are a mile-a-minute, coming one after the other without giving the audience a chance to catch a breather.
Aside from Matsuyama, the rest of the cast is hit-or-miss. Rosa Katou plays Negishi’s childhood friend turned music columnist and while she isn’t bad, she just comes off as the typical love interest with her performance just feeling bland and lacking emotion. On the plus side Gene Simmons delivers exactly what is required of him, poking fun at himself as the aging Metal Legend and adding some life to the film with his over the top theatrics that brought him fame.
There aren't much in the way of extras on the disc aside from trailers. This is disappointing considering a feature or a commentary devoted to Matsuyama would have most likely proved to be entertaining and enlightening in explaining how he went about his portrayal of essentially dual roles wrapped in one character.
Over all, Detroit Metal City is an enjoyable venture that captures the spirit of the manga. Its antics are humorous and don’t feel forced though the added sentimentality toward the end does threaten to undo the unhinged nature of the film. It’s got the heart and soul of a rock star, loud and obnoxious and at times lost in its own little world, but entertaining none-the-less.
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