College graduate Souichi dreams of becoming a wholesome popstar. Shame then he became a death metal frontman so vulgar that Satan himself would evict him from Hell. Johannes Krauser II of Detroit Metal City (DMC) is said to have killed his own parents and then raped them. Or was it other way round? Either way, he can vocalise ten rapes a second! He killed his parents and so should you.
Detroit Metal City has one of the most absurd premises I have ever seen and it is hilarious! The shift back and forth from meek-mannered Souichi to indecency incarnated Krauser had me laughing every episode.
Problems most often arise when Souichi tries to put the moves on his crush, only to have Krauser’s crazed fans enter the scene and bring out his inner Demon King. He can’t supress his alter ego at the sound of DMC’s music, and pity any fool that dares challenge his might. In the first episode, DMC fans attack him for badmouthing the band to his crush after she says death metal is horrid. As a defence, he must air guitar Krauser’s moves to prove that he didn’t really mean it. This turn into a head banging, air banding romp and blurts out a line from his song – to do unsavoury things to the girl. She runs off in tears. Each episode’s scenario is funny. The rap battle may be the best. When Krauser raps, he destroys your life with shameful facts about your past.
Possibly my favourite character would be the band manager, who gauges how well a performance went by how wet she is and how many orgasms the music gave her. If she’s as dry as sandpaper, then the performance was trash!
This dark humour won’t be for everyone. Certainly not. Out of context, this all sounds horrid. Fans of the darker side will be in pain, however. One of the best decisions the team made with Detroit Metal City was to have half-length episodes (excluding OP and ED) with accelerated dialogue. It keeps the pace quick and the jokes rolling.
I had a ton of fun with the hidden gem that is Detroit Metal City. And don’t worry; Souichi’s parents are alive and well living peacefully in the countryside.
Art – Medium
Like South Park, Detroit Metal City uses intentionally jank art and seems recorded by someone holding their phone vertically at times. Shame! SHAME! But seriously, the art adds to the humour, though more visual variety and quirky animation would be better.
Sound – Very High
The acting is sharp, fast, and hilarious – the manager’s random English swearing is great. The music sucks in the perfect way.
Story – High
A soft-spoken boy dreams of singing innocent pop music, but transforms into the Demon King of death metal against his will when inconvenient. This premise works far better than expected to hilarious results.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: A must watch for dark humour fans. Detroit Metal City’s compact size packed with vulgarity of ludicrous proportions is a hilarious watch.
In his dying message, an old man tells his robot granddaughter, Key, that she can turn human if she makes 30,000 friends. She has until her battery runs out. Key becomes enamoured with pop idol Miho and desires to be a singer herself, believing she will gain the requisite friends through the big stage.
I can’t be the only one who thinks that 30,000 friends as the secret to becoming a ‘real girl’ is ridiculous. What an odd solution. I wonder if they considered that for Pinocchio in 1883. Believe it or not, Key the Metal Idol does find a way to justify the mass friend request gimmick, but that doesn’t make it any less illogical. If you can’t accept this goal, then stop the anime right there – the story doesn’t get better.
When all you need is 30,000 friends, I’d say going on TV as an automaton would do the trick. If people can create fan clubs from their favourite waifu, then a real android would have millions of adoring fans. She certainly doesn’t try to be discrete about her identity, so what the hell, go for it.
Before aiming at pop-stardom, Key finds herself roped into an adult video company. Hey, the producer wasn’t lying – she would receive many “friends” in a short time. Just sayin’. Thankfully, her friend Sakura rescues her from the casting couch. The adult video producer pursues her since. Key later becomes the faith healer of a cult, which is admittedly quite humorous (and the cult leader looks like the drunk boxing coach from Tomorrow’s Joe). Once another friend rescues her, the cult is now in pursuit as well.
Key the Metal Idol takes a while to reach its main plot of her trying to become a pop star (I thought this was a subplot for act one). The narrative is often distracted by subplots tangentially related to Key. She feels like a supporting character in her own series until the finale.
Once the main plot does begin, the conflicts stem from the choreographer obsessed with her, and from the evil robot scientists that wants the secret behind her autonomy beyond any other android. She is said to contain an immense amount ‘Gel’ (android power source). The main villain seems…special. Let me see if I understand you rightly, Mr Villain. You have created robots that pass for human and have complete remote control features, and your grand plan is to make a pop music group? Are you sure your PhD is real?
From the adult video producer to the scientist, all the villains are corny one-note characters, stereotypes. “I am evil!” yelled the mad scientist. “I am abusive!” yelled the abusive artist.
Key the Metal Idol’s best quality, if I had to give you one, is its eerie feel. From Key’s wide, unblinking eyes to the muted, unwavering music contrasted by the pop songs, the atmosphere does convey the feel of a child in a dangerous adult world. A better protagonist could have taken this atmosphere and chilled you to the bone.
Emotionless characters in anime rarely work. Rather than give us a pitiable character to care for, these writers give us empty characters with no personality for us to accept as deep. However, the ‘Nothing’ character is usually part of the supporting cast (50% of harems have one). In Key the Metal Idol, the Nothing is protagonist. You can see what the writer wanted. He expected us to feel for Key, similar to her inspirator Pinocchio, an innocent child lost in the dark world of reality as nefarious entities seek her power. But with no personality, this is like asking me to care for a gun in an action movie. There is no emotion to latch onto. We do see attempts at bridging a connection between her and the audience. For example, she drinks water in episode one in an attempt to fit in with the other school kids, despite it damaging her systems. The presentation— in fact, the presentation of this anime as whole, lacks style and weight to affect the audience. Even within the confines of Key as she is, the story doesn’t use her well.
I commend the team for trying, but it tackles subjects far beyond its ability. Key the Metal Idol is out of its depth.
Art – Low
The animation is surprisingly good for the time, but the cels weren’t lined up well, which results in screen jitter. For those who may not know, traditional animation uses cels (short for ‘celluloid’) with the background and each character painted on separate transparent layers. To make sure the cels align for each frame of photography, they have ‘registration holes’ on the edges (out of frame) that give consistent placement. I’m wondering if Key the Metal Idol used registration holes because every layer jitters more often than acceptable. It feels like they guessed the positioning of frames.
Sound – Low
Key is better in English – actually sounds like a robot in both cadence and filter – but the Japanese takes the rest. I like that they redid the music in English for the dub. It works within context.
Story – Low
Should an android make 30,000 friends before her battery runs out, she will become human. Key the Metal Idol reaches too far and the goal slips through its fingers.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: For Serial Experiments Lain fans. I don’t know any better way to describe who will enjoy this anime. If you like that “oddness” and not-quite-there cohesion, then Key the Metal Idol may just be for you.
A train delayed by snow brings two women called Nana together. One Nana has no goals in life other than to be independent, hopefully breaking away from her incessant need to fall in love with every guy she meets. The other Nana, fiercely independent, seeks stardom as a punk rock vocalist while burying the hurt she feels from her ex-boyfriend, who abandoned her for another band. Love is far from her mind.
To make things simpler, I will refer to one Nana as Hachiko (her nickname given in the show) and the other as Punk Nana. As always, the anime’s name is in italics – Nana.
These women present themselves as likeable characters right away, conveying their personalities in an authentic manner on the train. Hachiko’s bubbliness spills forth as she gives Punk Nana an earful on her amazing current boyfriend. Meanwhile, Punk Nana’s reserved nature and maturity billows off her like the smoke from her cigarette. The two may be opposites but she can’t help smiling at the endearing Hachiko. The first encounter between these two girls is a masterclass in giving the audience a feel for the characters in minutes.
After the opening episode, we go back several years with Hachiko to her high school life of moving from one love to the next (Punk Nana receives similar flashback treatment later). Hachiko keeps falling for one guy after another, each older than her. She gives new meaning to falling in love at first sight. Guy delivers pizza – she’s in love. Guy cooks at the restaurant – it must be love. Guy breathes – love! Get a grip, Hachiko! None of these men return her attention except for a married man a decade her senior. Like the introductions, this is another case of excellent writing, for it establishes her flaw and its resulting conflict without a drawn out explanation.
Hachiko is a stupid girl, a girl that claims independence, but is entirely dependent on others, has no skills and no direction in life. She sounds like a terrible character, so why do I like her? She is authentic and the story doesn’t let her get away with anything. Her hypocrisy about independence leads to the negative turn after act 1. Her stupidity results in…well, to avoid spoilers, let’s just say I hope none of you, dear readers, makes the same mistakes she does. Her romantic view of life and love is punched in the ovaries by reality and maturity. A craving for love or rather, what she thinks is love leads her down a path of mistakes – to put it mildly. And as any great writer will tell you, the theme for your ultimate conflict works best when you start it early, giving the conflict time to resonate throughout the story until it builds from a ripple into a tidal wave that crashes over the protagonist.
Ever wonder why a story that suddenly goes dark in the finale never feels right, even if you can’t quite put your finger on the reason? It’s because it lacks that resonance. The story didn’t foreshadow properly, obfuscating its goal for the sake of shock value. Nana doesn’t make that error. Now, it never becomes dark like those other anime, but my point is that its heavy drama never comes out of nowhere, even when it barges into what we thought was a comedy episode. When a dramatic change occurs, it feels right because Nana never lied to us. It makes sense.
The relationship pacing for both Nanas and their respective boyfriends recalls His & Her Circumstances(don’t remind me of that ending! T_T) in how well they move forward, free of artificial stalling. The story does slow when needed through effective use of internal monologue in contemplative moments, which unlike Honey and Clover doesn’t tell us how the characters feel.
Due to the strong writing and fast pace, I couldn’t stop going from one episode to the next, watching 20 in my first sitting – even the terrible idea to repeat episode 1 as episode 6 didn’t stop me. However, the second act seems to double the cast overnight and both old- and new-comers must have their dedicated arcs. Like the author’s other famous work, Paradise Kiss, this doesn’t work. Side characters are side characters for a reason. You can’t make everyone lead singer. This is especially noticeable in the third act, where seemingly everyone must wrap their respective arcs before the Nanas can take their bows. The finale feels like having to shake everyone’s hand at the end of a wedding rather than riding off to the honeymoon. Between the flashbacks, repeats, and tangents, I could make a case to remove near 10 episodes’ worth of content from the total. The worst part? A random time-skip in the final episode raises several new questions with the Nanas and gives no answers. The manga is on permanent hiatus, I understand, but one has to choose such a weak end by design.
The end is similar in unconventionality to Paradise Kiss, which I liked in that anime, but Nana doesn’t guide us to that end with the thoroughness it requires. Relegating protagonists to the sidelines before the finale is not a good idea.
My other serious complaint would be with the music side of the story. After Beck, Nodame Cantabile, and Your Lie in April had such strong understanding of music and the industry, it’s a shame to see Nana offer so little. The bands don’t have many songs, there are no standout musical performances (the aforementioned three feel like nothing but standout performances at times), the concerts lack animation, and the industry insight only meets minimum requirements for fiction. The best music is in the opening and ending credits, not within the story. The sole detail of the music plot that stood out to me was its exploration of one’s fame affecting friends and family around you. I like how some react with joy, others with jealousy.
Ultimately, the characters carry Nana, especially with many being such engaging train wrecks. You can learn many lessons on what not to do in life here, which is where great drama originates.
Art – Medium
The characters have a distinct style and their animations are expressive, but that’s really it. Everything else from environments to animation is average.
Sound – High
I listened to the OP and ED most episodes. Sadly, music within the story is nowhere near the level achieved by other music anime. The voice work is great in Japanese and English, though I preferred the latter for giving Punk Nana a raspier voice.
Story – High
A fateful encounter brings two women with the same name yet opposing personalities together as they deal with love and life in Tokyo. Nana’s strong characters, complemented by punishing drama, make this anime an engaging ride despite some excess fat in the structure.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: A must for fans of intense drama meets comedy. Though Nana is a great anime, its crazy drama and ditzy protagonist may make your head spin before you reach the end of its long runtime.
Your Lie in April was the fan darling of the fall/autumn 2014 and winter 2015 seasons and though I avoided discussions, morsels still fell off the grapevine to inform me of its heavy emotional content. I feared another Clannad. But after several requests for review, it was time to step up.
Since the death of his mother, former piano prodigy Kousei can no longer ‘hear his music.’ The world is monotone in his eyes. Along comes Kaori, his opposite, a violinist with energy, colour, and humour he has never had. Her exuberance forces him back onto the stage to play a duet with her in a contest. She sees the potential to revive his passion.
Your Lie in April shows its strengths within minutes. First, I love the humour, which punctuates the drama to avoid depressing the audience – “The school shouldn’t be standing in the ball’s path!” Kousei’s childhood friend says after she smashed a baseball through a classroom window. In contrast, we have the foreshadowing, hinting of the sobriety and weight that is to come. The absence of his mother, the abuse he received by her cane, his lifeless view of the world, and his lack of joy are excellent foreshadowing. This is how you do dramatic storytelling – not by suddenly throwing it in for the final act.
As Kousei’s backstory unravels and his arc progresses, we see April’s most brilliant quality – the love-hate relationship between Kousei and his mother. The writer could have left the backstory at child abuse or even just having a dead mother, but this delves so much deeper. Boy abused by his mother – that’s the basic level. Boy abused by his mother, who wants him to be the prodigy she couldn’t be after illness claimed her motor functions – interesting. Boy abused by his voyeuristic mother, whom he still loves and wants to impress despite an awareness of the abuse – now you have my full attention. And she affects him more in death than in life? I can only be so engaged! Remember, this is just one thread in his arc.
The way the narrative shows this internal drama is spectacular. The spectre of his mother leering over his shoulder during a performance conveys all we need to know in a single image. That said, his inner monologue could do with trimming in parts.
Where Your Lie in April stumbles is in Kaori. If someone has recommended this anime to you, they have most likely done so by focusing on her and her arc as the best aspects. However, Kaori lacks the dimensions seen in Kousei. Earlier, I talked of the several layers in Kousei’s conflict with his mother, but for Kaori, she stops at the first level. She’s a girl with a serious illness. And that’s it for her conflict layers. By no means does this make her a bad character, yet for someone that is near equal protagonist to Kousei, it isn’t enough. Having a tragic circumstance doesn’t make a character deep – that way lies emotional manipulation.
Her main purpose is to be Kousei’s opposite as she brings him back to life, which she does excellently. The problem dwells in the two-way exchange. Because her own conflict is only surface deep, Kousei does not have much to help with in exchange. She complements him, but he doesn’t complement her with even a tenth of the effectiveness. For a great example of her role done right, look to Kimi ga Nozomu Ein, where the love interest also has to bring the protagonist back to life. The difference between Kaori and Nozomu’s girl is that the latter has her own intangible weakness to interfere with her good qualities. She’s helpful and kind, but also selfish, never mind the seed of resentment buried deep within her towards the protagonist’s previous girlfriend, who was also her best friend (drama!). This gives the protagonist an angle to help the love interest in return. Kaori is kind – no but. Yes, she’s sick, though as mentioned earlier, that doesn’t automatically give emotional flaws. Now, if the illness made her bitter or some such, then we’d be talking.
Kaori’s design problems also result in her finale having half the impact of Kousei’s dramatic high note at the mid-point. If their relationship had had more give and take, her finale would have struck better. The finale is still good regardless because of his perspective on the events and the spectacular final performance (bloody hell that is beautiful).
Also, she’s too whimsical. Her introduction has her dancing and playing music atop a kids’ igloo, tears in her eyes, as birds fly around her. I know her liveliness is to juxtapose his introduction – the episode is titled ‘Monotone/Colourful’ after all – but this is so whimsical that a flock of tweety birds now serenade me awake every morning and bring me my slippers.
Again, I want to stress that Kaori is not a bad character. She is plenty of fun and complements Kousei well, but is average beyond this and not the reason to watch Your Lie in April.
I wish I had more space to explore the childhood friend’s arc – my word count is already high – so a quick note, since it’s worth mention. She realises she has feelings for Kousei only once he takes an interest in Kaori. She was there for him through the worst and now…he’s turning away. This is an effective subplot in showing another consequence of Kousei’s actions. I feel so sorry for her.
Well, here we are, the end of an anime I both looked forward to and dreaded. Your Lie in April turned out much better than I anticipated (Kousei’s arc, honestly, brilliant) and I would recommend it to most viewers.
Art – High
Colourful and vibrant art makes this anime leap off the screen, especially in the spectacular final performance. Full animation when playing music is great to see and they mask the CG well.
Sound – Very High
Piano and violin? You truly are trying to make me love you, aren’t you? The VO is great in both languages, as should be expected these days.
Story – High
An aimless pianist has colour injected back into his life when a girl his opposite forces him to tickle ivory again. Your Lie in April has one of anime’s greatest character arcs in its multi-layered protagonist, but the love interest, who should by all right be his match in quality, doesn’t leave his shadow.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: Watch it. Your Lie in April is a great anime, worth it for the protagonist alone. Even viewers averse to heavy drama will find the humour enough to stave off depression after the story’s darkest moments.
There was once a time in my life when I had no interest in music. Whether it was dancing, playing, or even listening to it, there was no appeal to me (classic Disney movies were the exception ~Oh rinky, tinky tinky. Tout le monde veut devenir un cat~). Even video game music didn’t matter to me beyond the game itself. I wonder if others experienced this. It wasn’t until my mid-teens when film/TV/anime tracks started to click because of their story context. Listening to a track standalone instantly evoked the emotions I felt from the show. Now that I love music and listen to it every day, stories centred on music have newfound appeal. Nodame Cantabile has been on my list for a decade (thanks to it starring my favourite anime voice actor) and at last, I have opportunity to watch it. Do not let me down!
It took me, what, ten minutes – if that – to love Nodame Cantabile?
Chiaki is prodigy at the piano and violin with dreams of conducting, until his arrogance and a spat with his teacher gets him demoted to the delinquent class. Not all is lost, however, when he hears piano played in an untamed yet inspiring manner. He must find the player! Well, all is, in fact, lost, for the player turns out to be his neighbour Nodame, who lives like a hobo. Flies crawl inside cans, half-eaten noodle packets replace floor tiles, grunge leaks from the very walls, and a general aroma of ‘loser’ fills her apartment. Worse yet, she declares herself his girlfriend after he cleans her pigsty. He pretends not to know her in public because she’s so embarrassingly filthy.
Having seen nothing but the cover art, I expected Nodame Cantabile to be a lovey-dovey romance. I did not expect these characters. Their opposing personalities and styles – her trashy freestyle and his clean precision – create instant chemistry and had me laughing right away. Furthermore, this dynamic isn’t contrived, forced to work because the writer said so. You believe that despite her being everything his isn’t, her random play style enthrals him because it shouldn’t work, not according to his meticulous studies. Inversely, she also has much to learn from him about taking the music seriously when needed.
One of the truly remarkable qualities about Nodame Cantabile is how it succeeds at making Chiaki and Nodame’s relationship a slow build. One major irritation with anime romance is never getting the couple together until the end. Oh, we know from episode one they will be together – it’s obvious – but the same nonsense will keep resetting their progress every episode. Our eyes can only roll so much. Nodame Cantabile never resorts to the one joke or gimmick to keep you on the hook. (See B Gata H Kei for a serial offender.) When Chiaki receives an offer to conduct an orchestra in another city, of course it’s going to set back the relationship. It makes sense. Nodame has opportunity to study under a master? Naturally, it means putting the relationship aside for the time being. Their relationship progression mirrors how it would be putting career first in real life.
Though primarily focused on comedy, Nodame Cantabile knows how to tackle serious subjects such as the worry of being able to constantly one-up oneself – “Have I hit my peak already? Will I ever perform better than this? – and the difficulties of managing a global career alongside a domestic relationship. It handles these issues well in a comedic manner without undermining their severity.
The main thread of the series is Chiaki’s journey to become a conductor, which starts at the academy when he gathers an odd bunch of characters like a rock violinist and a flamboyant percussionist to form an orchestra. Despite Chiaki’s handsome features and popularity with the ladies of the group (they like the way he waves his baton), his expectations of perfection make him difficult to work with. Seki’s inner Coach Sagara emerges here. It doesn’t help that their orchestra teacher from Germany always seeks the punani, even leaving Chiaki in charge just to go on a date. Everyone thinks the teacher must be some evil twin of the real famed composer.
The second season in Paris had me in hysterics. Nodame lives next to an actual Weeaboo, who’s about to learn from her what a real otaku is like. Her freak reaction to the French greeting (kiss on the cheek) is flawless as well. (Pro tip: Don’t greet a Japanese woman that way unless you are already friends. One woman called the police on an Italian tourist for this.)
Lastly, the music itself is top notch. The pieces are indistinguishable from a concert recorded at the Sydney Opera House. It gave me shivers. I found myself leaning back and simply closing my eyes to listen. I now listen to the soundtrack when writing reviews.
Art – High
The style is a bit long in the face. When playing music, the fingers are in sync with the notes for close-ups, but often static at a distance. Good framing and visual style ease the limited technical budget. This would warrant a Medium rating; however, season two improves everything with more animation, more style, cleaner characters, and concerts receive full animation through CG. The CG only falters when focused on a single character trying to move too much.
Sound – Very High
Ma boi Tomokazu Seki! What can I say? Superb as ever, especially opposite the female lead – the Japanese track is a must for the acting chemistry between these two. When in France, hearing people speak actual French is nice. It’s a shame they had locals voiced by Japanese actors with heavy accents. Seki, who’s character is meant to be Japanese with an accent, sounds better than the French waiter who’s supposed to have no accent! They nail the classical music. Any weak music comes from several out of place OPs and EDs, though the Paris ED is beautiful – actual French singer too!
Story – Very High
A hardline classical musician and his [alleged] girlfriend pianist pursue their dreams in music. With a dynamic main couple, great cast, beautiful music, hilarity, and drama where it matters, Nodame Cantabile hits the perfect note.
Overall Quality – Very High
Recommendation: Must watch. Nodame Cantabile goes above its genres by never falling into a routine or the predictable path. Even those with no interest in classical music will find reason to love the characters.