Detroit Metal City strikes a bizarre balance of the cringeworthily unfunny and the gut-bustingly hilarious.
This short, 12-episode OVA which will henceforth be abbreviated to "DMC" for convenience's sake, revolves around Negishi Souchi, an aspiring musician fresh out of college who has moved to Tokyo with a love of catchy, lighthearted European pop music. However, due to a misreading of his lyrics, he has accidentally ended up as the lead singer of death metal band Detroit Metal City, who are the antithesis of everything he stands for, using the alter-ego of Johannes Krauser II, a psychopathic omnipotent devil-creature who murdered his parents and raped them. In that order.
DMC's humour tends to come from three things. The first is Negishi/Krauser trying, and failing, to balance out his two lifestyles and stop anyone from finding out who he really is, and this is about as unfunny as it sounds. This whole idea has been done to death before, and was not ever really all that funny in the first place. To make matters worse, this is basically the entire joke. None of the variations on it really change what's supposed to be funny about it. And it is repeated ad nauseam throughout the series.
The second of these is how over-the-top everything is, in particular the ridiculous song lyrics and excessive swearing throughout. These are initially funny but wear off pretty fast... and this only applies to the funny song lyrics. Excessive swearing just isn't funny. There is also one character, their manager, who is the worst thing about the whole series. The entire "joke" of her character is that she says "cunt" a lot and gets sexual thrills from music... and I'm not sure how that was ever supposed to be funny. It's just disturbing and used entirely for cheap shock factor.
The third, however, is what saves DMC and then some: the parody aspects. DMC is at it's absolute funniest whenever it is making fun of death metal. Partly this is just by how utterly silly DMC's lyrical content is and what utter caricatures it's fans are, but the best moments of this happen by contrasting the legacy behind the band members and their fandom's insane worship to what is actually happening. The best example by far involves Krauser humping Tokyo Tower with a crowd of onlookers treating it as though it were an amazing spectacle of a satanic ritual... all while you're very aware that it is literally just a man in a silly costume humping a tower. Or, for another example, a contest of who can pronounce the word "fuck" best, made so much better by how dead seriously everyone takes it. The real cherry on top is simply how oblivious everyone is to how far DMC has descended into self-parody.
The characters from DMC are basically nothing special. They all fill their roles fine, but that's about it, with a few exceptions from Negishi when he gradually slips into Krauser mode.
The music in DMC impressed me, because aside from it's silly lyrics, the music is actually the kind of thing you could imagine people buying into, which is something of a refreshing change considering you see many anime about music with very amateurish music quality. This isn't even restricted to just DMC's music, either. Some of Negishi's pop music is genuinely catchy, and some of the background music is good too, if infrequent and unlikely to catch your ear in favour of "Satsugai".
The animation isn't particularly high-quality, but if it was, it would probably just have been out of place. It has a much more stripped-back feel to it that's reminiscent of many 90's American cartoons, which is really just as well because it'd fit in nicely with some of MTV's cartoon titles of the day. It also plays around with framing a lot as well, only filling up around half or so of the screen a lot of the time, and often expanding as offscreen characters talk so as to bring them into view. It doesn't really add all that much in the long run, but it's a nice touch nonetheless.
In most cases I'd call something like DMC fairly average, with the good cancelling out the bad. However DMC does have something else going for it that makes it an exception: it's short. Clocking in at only 12 episodes, each of which are only half the length of a regular TV broadcast episode. The entire series runs around 2 and a half hours, around the length of some movies, and with it's fast pace in hand you can easily knock it out in a single sitting. It's brevity saves it from outstaying it's welcome and repeating itself too much, which it most likely would have done if it had run any longer than it did.
Overall, DMC is hit and miss, but if this seems like something you might enjoy then you've not got much to lose.
Final Words: If you've got a couple of hours to kill and want a quick fix, I'd probably recommend this.
For Fans Of: Dead Leaves, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt