The Manga Cliche Review: Musical Talent, Part 1

Ok, normally I wouldn’t submit a product review post as a graded blog, but I’m feeling especially drained today and I still have a lot to do. (It’s 10 p.m. and I have to be up for an 8 a.m. class, so obviously I’m putting some priority on that glorious thing called sleep!) I’ll try not to do so in the future, but hopefully doing this entry will get me to post more review posts in addition to my news posts!

So now I’ll start off  The Manga Cliche Review by talking about musical talent or its sudden appearance in manga!

I don’t know why, but for some reason a lot of people become suddenly VERY TALENTED in manga. While most manga abusing this method tend to go in the direction of super powers or some such thing, there are a lot of manga involving strange musical talents.

A lot of manga come to my mind that have to do with sudden talent at singing, such as Full Moon o Sagashite or Skip Beat, but I feel like that the normal-girl-turned-pop-idol is a subject best left until after I get my hands on a copy of Mikansei No. 1. But in general, I wanted to focus on talent at playing music, not just singing, for this week’s cliche.

There’s just something about musical instruments that I respect immensely. I never learned how to play one and I find that I’m very poor at it whenever I try. Maybe I’m just being stubborn, but I probably won’t ever learn how to play an instrument and so I hold people who can in a certain kind of reverence. Obviously I admire manga characters who can play well too.

The Good: Detroit Metal City by Kiminori Wakasugi (Viz Media)

Detroit Metal City

An image from the Detroit Metal City movie. The manga, anime and movie are extremely popular in Japan.

Where do I start with Detroit Metal City? I’m actually not a fan of the death metal, let alone metal in general, so few would guess that I LOVE this manga. But Detroit Metal City, or DMC, isn’t really about death metal so much as the hilarious exploits of the main character Soichi and his utter lack of self- consciousness or self-control.

Soichi is the leader of Japan’s top indie death metal band, Detroit Metal City, under the stage name Sir Johannes Krauser II. Compared to Soichi’s typically polite personality and wishes to be a Swedish pop star, Krauser might as well be the devil. Krauser sings about killing, other violent acts and sex with absolutely no remorse. With his conflicting split personalities in tow, Soichi tries to get laid, re-connects with old friends and crushes, visits his family and rises to the top of the death metal world, all while trying to repress Krauser’s sudden urges and do what Soichi wants. Not only is Detroit Metal City a huge success, but Soichi’s efforts to break into the kind of pop music that he loves are complete failures.  Still, Soichi longs to depart from what he is good at and return to a life in the hip indie pop scene.

The reason I love this manga so much is because Soichi’s pathetic attempts to live a normal (actually rather boring and pitiful through the eyes of the reader) lifestyle just illustrates how much better he fits into the death metal lifestyle he abhors and is exceedingly good at. His shame over his success with Detroit Metal City invades his entire being and the frustration caused by this and his repressed sexual urges makes him go over the top and literally turn into Krauser at the most awkward, or opportune depending on how you think about it, moments.

This series is like watching constant schadenfraude in motion. Soichi doesn’t understand himself and never learns from his mistakes. He doesn’t understand what drives his alter-ego and he doesn’t know how to get out of his predicament (alhtough I doubt it would do him much good.) Seeing him turn into Krauser accidentally ( or some times on purpose) and screw up the life he wants is priceless. It’s like watching someone trying VERY hard to be cool, it’s sad, pitiful and terribly hilarious.

My only complaint about this series is that it sticks a little too much to an episodic format, which I feel doesn’t quite fit the manga. But, considering how Wakasugi uses the episodic format in order to illustrate Soichi’s personal life, I can forgive this.

The manga reviwed above was purchased by the reviewer with her own money. (Because she really doesn’t mind spending her money on this kind of manga.)

Coming up next: La Corda d’Oro

Some links to appease my professor:

Deb Aoki’s review of Detroit Metal City

Kuriosity’s review

TIFF’s review of the movie

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