In my very first article written one and half years ago, I wrote about the anime music super group JAM Project and how their One Punch Man opening theme “The Hero!! was capable of bringing them out of obscurity among American anime fans. At this year’s Otakon, this theory was put to the test. Billed alongside veteran Japanese music sensation TM Revolution as part of the Anisong World Matsuri it was time to see if their presence had grown since their US debut in 2008.
As an avid fan of JAM Project, I bought a VIP ticket to the Friday concert. Near the front row of the event hall and surrounded by fellow hardcore fans, I knew that the diehards would certainly celebrate JAM Project. The real question was whether or not somewhat more casual fans, i.e. those who don’t necessarily live and breathe anime but are willing to attend a concert, would come out in droves. I still remember their 2008 performance, and how a part of the venue had to be cordoned off because of a lack of attendees…and that was for a free concert!
It was initially difficult to tell how much of the audience was there for JAM Project. Based on previous experience, TM Revolution’s fans will travel far and wide to attend his concerts, and deservedly so—the man puts on a hell of a performance. Moreover, his most popular anime songs, themes from Soul Eater, Gundam SEED, and Rurouni Kenshin, are much more enduring in the minds of American anime fans. While there is certainly a crossover between their fan bases, TM Revolution historically has had the edge.
JAM Project was on first. As they performed songs such as “Crest of Z’s” and “GARO ~Savior in the Dark~”, it was clear that my fellow hardcore JAM Project enthusiasts in the front rows were there for them first and foremost. Further back, however, it wasn’t quite as rambunctious. Clearly, much of the audience wasn’t quite so familiar with the band’s repertoire of songs, and while they appeared to enjoy the music, it came across as more of a brand new experience than a familiar visit.
The band’s lead, Hironobu Kageyama, then began a speech asking the audience to remember the heroes in their lives. That word—hero—sparked an audible reaction from the crowd. From there, the next song JAM Project performed after that speech was not quite the one the fans were anticipating. It was instead an earlier song from 2008, simply titled “HERO,” which reminisces about the role models in life and how they can inspire people even as adults. Immediately after, however, it led to what everyone was waiting for. Masaaki Endo, the most powerful singer in the group, let out an electrifying “ONE PUUUUUUNCH!” and the audience erupted from front to back. This was evidence that “The Hero!!” had left a deep impression in anime fans’ minds, especially as more than a few began to sing along as best as they could.
It’s fortunate that JAM Project was attached to one of anime’s biggest hits in recent years in One Punch Man, but I also think that the group more or less made their own luck by being consistently great. One of my favorite aspects of JAM Project is that they give it their all, creating incredibly good songs for even the most mediocre shows. Even if it’s a more-flash-than-substance giant robot anime in Choujuushin Gravion or a less-than-impressive tokusatsu show about super firemen in Tomica Hero Rescue Fire, their songs are consistently excellent. So when you combine JAM Project’s powerful tunes with a top-notch show in One Punch Man, it makes for an unforgettable combination. This devotion to quality is actually shared by TM Revolution, who can sometimes also be the best part of the shows he’s involved in.
At the end of TM Revolution’s performance, the audience called for an encore. TM Revolution responded and came out… with JAM Project alongside. Together, they performed JAM Project’s signature song, the Super Robot Wars Alpha 2 theme known as “SKILL,” and concluded an excellent and energetic concert. At the end, as Endo and TM Revolution battled to see who could last longer on the final note in a clash of alpha primates, Endo overpowered his worthy rival. While impressive in its own right, my hope is that those TM Revolution’s fans unfamiliar with JAM Project had their curiosity piqued.
Thanks to One Punch Man, people know JAM Project now, whether they realize it or not. This much was made clear at the Anisong World Matsuri at Otakon 2017. This opens up the opportunity for more fans to learn about JAM Project, and I’m looking forward to the day that the group’s fans can fill an entire stadium.