Just as my interest in this one-note series — albeit a very hilarious note — was starting to wane, creator Kiminori Wakasugi unleashes his own brand of plot and character development that captured my attention once again.
After the insane antics of volume 2 — where Death Metal god Krauser II has, urm, his “way” with a world-famous landmark, i.e. the Tokyo Tower, in a hilariously strange performance sequence — one starts to feel that there are no taboos left to mine effectively for humor. Therefore, the first 100 pages of volume 3 ended up being a big of a dull read for me. Part of what made the humor work in the first two volumes was the way Wakasugi seemed to know exactly how to raise the comedy stakes with Krauser’s profane personality and bystander’s oddly worshipful reception of his actions. The humor was based in shock and when you laughed out loud you often did so in a kind of appreciation, thinking “wow, I can’t believe *he* did that!.” With that immediate sense of shock gone, a great deal of the ribald humor seems to have just been drained out of the title and with it a sense of energy that really lifted everything above and beyond mere “shock” tactics.
A part of what made the second half of volume 3 and most of volume 4 much more tolerable — even absorbing — is the introduction of a twisted version of a “shonen” battle tournament in the form of a battle of the bands among Japanese and international metal bands. Amusingly, a number of these bands have tried to “one up” the concept of death metal by selling themselves with gambits even more odious than DMC’s “rape your mother” mantra. DMC finds itself up against bands that have truly disgusting gimmicks (one band creates something known as “Scat Metal,” which is about as gross as you’d expect) and Krauser has to somehow meet them on their own bizarre terms and “defeat” them. Since the audience’s support decides the winner of these match ups, the battle isn’t about fighting but the power of performance. Luckily, Krauser II seems to have a number of tricks hidden up his weird costume sleeve…including his alternate personality.
The question of where Krauser’s “real” personalty — Soichi Negishi — is when all this happens helped renew my interest in the title. Unlike in earlier volumes where Negishi seems to have a distinct core personality that he covers up in bizarre make-up, a costume and swaggering bravado in order to become the front man of DMC, through out volume 4 there is a slow but sure blurring of the two personalities. Instead of just having Krauser erupt and ruin social situations when Soichi is in his “Clark Kent” disguise, Soichi is starting to peak through when Krauser enters the arena as a terrifying demon who is supposed to be singing about raping your mother but instead ends up chirping about love and dreaming and staring at clouds meaningfully. Suddenly it becomes unclear which personality is dominant and is one just a “performance.” The answer might be that both personalities are part of Negishi but the inevitable clashing of the two ends up giving much needed life to the story as a whole. The title might never regain the same kind of energy it had in volumes 1 and 2, but I feel there are a are few good twists and turns still awaiting me in the next volume.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.