One Punch! JAM Project’s Gateway to Western Success?



 

 Whether it’s the exquisite action sequences, the superhero aesthetic, or the clever humor, the One Punch Man anime has been turning a lot of heads. Among its many memorable qualities, one particularly powerful feature is its rocking theme song, “The Hero!! ~Light a Fire in This Enraged Fist~,” sung by superstar anime band JAM Project. Its initial cry of “One Puuuuuunch!” is not only invigorating, it’s also a lot easier to remember then the string of German at the beginning of Attack on Titan’s first opening. It’s so catchy, in fact, that I believe that One Punch Man will finally be what garners success for JAM Project with English-speaking audiences.

Founded in 2000 as a collaborative effort between some of the biggest musicians in anime, JAM Project’s current incarnation features the singers of such beloved anime as Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Gaogaigar, and Macross 7. Individually, they are legends of the anime music world, and their work as JAM Project has been featured in series such as The SoulTaker, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, and the Super Robot Wars franchise of crossover mecha strategy RPGs. One might expect, given this pedigree, that JAM Project’s popularity precedes them, but that's not the case.

Though not without its fans, JAM Project has been sorely underexposed and under-appreciated by Western fans, particularly those in the English-speaking community. I attended the anime convention Otakon in 2008, which was JAM Project’s debut US concert, and despite the band having worked on so many cherished anime they came nowhere close to filling Baltimore’s Mariner Arena. Sadly, the would-be fans failed to realize that they could have witnessed a live performance of “Chala Head Chala” by the original singer himself, Kageyama Hironobu or a rousing rendition of Okui Masami's own "Rinbu Revolution." When looking at the large audience numbers in Japan, Brazil, and other parts of the non English speaking world, it made me wish that more people could discover JAM Project.

There are a few possible reasons why JAM Project has not been able to reach English speaking audiences. First, what caught on in the rest of the world did not necessarily find similar success in countries such as the US, Canada, and the UK. Saint Seiya, a series where Kageyama performed its second opening, was wildly popular around the world but hardly made a dent in English. Second, the anime that have been popular here, such as Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, often completely change the soundtracks, removing JAM Project’s footprint and any chance of recognition as a result. Third, some of JAM Project’s best work is only found in games that have never been localized in English, such as "SKILL," the theme song to Super Robot Wars Alpha 2.

One Punch Man changes things for JAM Project. The anime has not only been popular with hardcore anime fans, it’s also been grabbing the attention of superhero nerds, gamers, and other audiences that can often remain skeptical of anime. The manga itself reached No.1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List for Manga, and One Punch Man even received in article on Forbes’ websiteYou have bald streamers on Twitch talking about how they’d make the perfect Saitama (the chrome-dome hero of One Punch Man), and you have girls romantically pairing him with Genos, his cyborg sidekick. Among the various expressions of love for this series, the clearest and most concise way to communicate this passion is through two simple words: "One Puuuuunch!" While it’s not going to necessarily reach the audience that watches Breaking Bad, I truly believe that One Punch Man will have staying power, and that this will also translate over to JAM Project being greeted by a larger audience next time they perform in the United States.