On the whole manga sucks. Why? Because manga is just another word for comics. And look around, my friends... comics suck. Sure there are some gems here and there, but there is no Kirby, Steve Ditko is still cranking out rants, we've unfortunately lost and underappreciated Steve Gerber, Steranko is busy being Steranko, and Alan Moore has pretty much retired. But I digress.
I'm here to talk about a manga title I like.
I wonder if there is a bunch of great manga we just never see because the lowest common denominator wins out. Import the crap that has the broadest appeal and let the markets sort it out. Hopefully it will all be this good.
DETROIT METAL CITY is full of weird visuals, tons of spanking and nipple play, metal, intestinal explosions, awkward drawings, homoerotic drug use and mood-sensing corpse paint. Like many Japanese things it is a weird mishmash of American pop culture stuck in a blender, mistranslated and immaculately executed as if on an acid trip. In other words, I can't explain it. You'll just have to find it yourself.
The basic premise is this. This little indie rock kid is trying to be a sweet, sensitive singer/songwriter. His friends are total nerds and nobody likes him. The usual. But he turns into Krauser II (I don't know who Krauser I is...) the singer (or Emperor if you will) for Detroit Metal City. It's a sort of mishmash of death metal, KISS, Visual Kei and just plain weirdness.
It's full of awkward situations were the kid says stuff that's pretty f'ed up and his alter ego takes over. Apparently all this happens when he puts on his make up (which grows more extreme with his mood).
When his alter ego is out he's obsessed with spanking. Being Japanese, of course there is weird and creepy sexual stuff. His uncle becomes this transvestite slave who gets kicked around, spanked and ridden (yes by the kid). His name in the band? Capitalist Pig of course! P.S. there is a lot of dry butt humping. You have been warned.
The whole thing reminds me a lot of GWAR, and I think that's why I like it so much.
The artwork is stylistically sort of terrible but done well. Kind of like good lo-fi black metal. It sounds like shit for all the right reasons. Well the artwork is so weird in places that it adds comedy to otherwise stagnant panels.
Now a word of warning. SEEK OUT ONLY THE COMICS! While researching this comic, I discovered a live-action movie that was made from this. It is absolute dreck and the music is HORRIBLE! Imagine the worst metalcore you can think of, then water it down, then imagine it put in a low budget feel good comedy. It's better you don't know.
I couldn't even sit through the trailor. It looked as bad as those Garfield movies...
Go to your LCBS and find this. I bet you won't be able to resist it. It was put out by VIZ Media in 2009 in the US (It was published in Japan in 2006). The author is Kiminori Wakasugi and as far as I can tell this is the only thing he's done. I only have the first volume but there's more (maybe 6 or 7?).
Oh and if your hipster ass isn't convinced by now, there's a quote from Andee Connors of Aquarius Records fame on the cover:
"A death metal indie rock emo soap opera... gleefully profane, wildly ridiculous, goofy as all get out, and weirdly sort of sweet."
I would like to add that for all the nonsensical pop weirdness, there is a slight exploration of the notion of fame and the nature of authenticity and the schizophrenia this split between doing what you're good at (plus keeping a secret) and failing at what you want to do but desire more than anything provides. I won't say it's deep or anything, but it feels like it's a touch more than just a superficial romp.
But you don't have to take my word for it!