Detroit Metal City, by Kiminori Wakasugi, is about a boy with two personalities. One personality wants to be a trendy, pop musician who sings about love and happiness, while the other currently fronts a death metal band and sings about raping women. Oddly, Wakasugi completely makes this unlikely state of affairs work without having to give the character a psychotic disorder in order to explain him.
Soichi Negishi looks like an average, kind of dweeby, young guy on first appearance. He wants to sing songs like "Raspberry Kiss," about "frolicking on the beach," and he takes his inspiration from Swedish pop. In reality, he turns into a complete death metal god when he gets into his costume and make-up and performs as the front-man of his band, Detroit Metal City, where he brag-sings about doing unspeakable things to your mother and father. DMC's Negishi is reminiscent of the Susan Boyle phenomenon. A person is tossed aside by society because of their unassuming looks, but when they open their mouth, pure talent comes out and attention must be paid. The difference between the two examples is that Negishi uses the costume of his alter ego, Krauser II, in order to become a person who can't be ignored or tossed aside. He's just too damn terrifying.
How does such a nice boy fall into a crowd that screams "kill, kill, kill!" and worships him as their degenerate, patricidal, death metal god? The first volume doesn't actually answer this question but instead shows why such a nice boy like Negishi, who wants to sing nice songs and do nice things, gets something out of performing as such a repulsive character. Suddenly, and hilariously, he not only performs as Krauser II, he also becomes him -- a foul-mouthed, misogynistic, violent, ADHD-addled parent's worst nightmare. And in becoming Krauser, he may also be asserting his true feelings to the world in ways his everyday self can't even dream of.
Here is our sweet little indie pop band wannabe:
And here is our little boy all grown up into Death Metal God Krauser II:
This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality-cycling effects his personal relationships in bizarre ways. At times he drives off potential girls who came for sweet Negishi and got...someone else entirely. Another time he uses Krauser to scare his little brother straight. The manga really ups the absurdity of both sides of Negishi's personality -- his desire to emulate Swedish pop bands seems downright perverse, considering how easily he slips into the profane role of Krauser. Is there a real Negishi and what does he actually want? Krauser gives him the ability to scare the shit out of people in his everyday life who otherwise dismiss him, and therefore, he enjoys an odd form of social power that the role of Krauser II allows him.
DMC is wildly funny and isn't afraid to offend (and offend hard) in order to take aim at its many, many targets in the slick world of popular music and celebrity. In the end, both the pleasing indie pop persona is just as pretentious as the wild, angry, (rumored) baby-eater god of death metal. One persona just seems to offer Negishi a lot more pleasure, in spite of himself.
A review copy of Detroit Metal City was provided by Viz Media