Otakon 2017 — Anison World Matsuri with JAM Project and TM Revolution
One thing that happened was I got to see Jam Project, the band that sings giant robots into Valhalla, in concert. I’ve seen them plenty of times before and I still don’t know how to explain that emotional experience.
You may know them from One Punch Man’s theme song. OPM is satirical and Saitama is depressed, but that choice of theme song betrays its heart. It cares a lot. It loves this superhero stuff passionately, and it doesn’t care at all how silly it might look. Like yellow PJs and a cape, it’s far beyond that point.
That’s Jam Project. Jam Project cheers on the Super Robots in their final battles with lyrics like “WHEN YOUR COURAGE PEAKS, THE DOOR OF FATE WILL OPEN!” “RAISE YOUR FIST TO THE SUN AND HOWL!!”
And you grab your glowstick and yell it all back at them. “DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH! YOU’RE A MILLION YEARS TOO EARLY! I’LL SHOW YOU THE POWER OF THE STRONGEST GOD IN HISTORY!!” That’s me, tears streaming down my face from the VIP seats. I love super robots and heroes. I know it’s silly, and it feels great. In fact, it’s completely the fucking greatest ever and I wasn’t fully alive before I saw a Jam Project show. Always passionate, always positive, and having just as much fun up there as you are.
How could I ever be ashamed of my nerd stuff, when JAM Project is up there giving it their best every single time?
You wouldn’t know it by the way I put it, but Jam was actually opening for TM Revolution (Takanori Nishikawa). He’s a major pop star who, in anime world, represents a very specific era best summed up by his songs for Gundam Seed. If you know anime, you probably heard TMR at some point. He’s still very much active in his 40s, and very justly proud of his middle-aged rippedness.
I wasn’t really ready for TMR because I’d never seen him live before and I had no idea if he’d be able to follow up a JAM show, carry over that intense energy. I don’t know what I was doing, doubting a professional like that. TMR is amazing with a crowd. I had forgotten how much stuff he was involved with in the late 90s and early 00s and I completely popped off when Hot Limit (remember DDR?) and especially Heart of Sword came up.
TMR has the charisma to carry a phone book reading, never mind a concert. It didn’t matter if you didn’t know him; he won over that crowd. From the diehard fangirls screaming and swooning as he flung his vest into the air, to ice-cold nerds suddenly melting against their will over Gundam Seed Destiny, he had us all. The concert used JAM’s band, so his songs felt a little different, more of a match with JAM’s sound than normal.
And to finish the circle, the encore was of course everybody coming out and performing JAM’s “Skill”, the song they always, always end their shows with. Skill is the most JAM Project thing. It’s about six or so minutes long, and the audience is expected to jump in place over and over again for large portions of that time while yelling “I can fly! You can fly! We can fly! Motto, motto (more, more)!” It is, again, absolutely the greatest.
It is at this point that I wish I could give you photos of JAM dressed like Final Fantasy and TMR’s Kingdom Hearts stripper ensemble, but unfortunately there was an aggressively enforced no-photos policy, common with Japanese entertainers. A con staffer, one of those puffed-up mall security types, threatened to boot us over shots of the empty stage.
The glowstick, by the way. 30 bucks. I had never pitched in for one of these before but figured that hey, fine, now is the time. This baby has many colors. And a preview window so you can see what color you’re picking before you change it! I realize that I am but a child before you King Blade holders, but I had a great time with this. It’s a brilliant scheme, also: the show becomes an interactive performance and, as I found out at Momoiro Clover Z this year, you feel totally weird if you don’t buy one.
I will, however, say that the “VIP experience” wasn’t that great. For $100 (regular tickets were $25) we got access to the first five or so rows and some very nice glossy prints of the artists (seen in this blog post), along with the promise of a meet-and-greet after the show with high-fives. It was the after-show part that was disappointing.
The way they pulled this off was not very VIP; it was more “get the hell out”, especially (again) the staffer who couldn’t contain that sentiment in his voice. They pulled us into a huge single-file line and walked us out of the place as fast as they could, and at the end of the road we shook hands with the gang: apparently someone had decided high-fives were too impersonal. I agree, and I’m thankful for whoever made the call.
Even high on the excitement of the event, my friends and I talked a bit about how abrupt and rushed this part of the show was. We suddenly felt very unimportant. And then it started raining, and we couldn’t get dinner, so we just had Crown Fried Chicken sent to the hotel.
Later TMR and JAM did Q&A panels, where they both answered a lot of questions and proved a lot of nerd bonafides, an unspoken ritual among all these otaku. TMR listed his favorite Gundam Mobile Suits a couple of times: I only remember that Haman’s Quebeley is his fave and he has excellent taste.
The Q&A hero was the mousy girl who lined up twice to ask both TMR and JAM to do “Nico Nico Nii.” They all did it. JAM’s delivery was top class.
JAM were also asked their anime crushes, and for posterity I’m going to list them for you along with what the individual members are known for.
Masaaki Endoh (Gaogaigar OP): Cutie Honey. This response was instant.
Hironobu Kageyama (Dragon Ball Z; JAM’s leader and basically the anime song man of the 80s-90s): Melmo-chan, a lesser-known Tezuka character; a little girl who turns into an older girl and presumably learns some life lessons. “When I was a kid.”
Masami Okui (Utena, Slayers EDs, the 90s): Akira Fudo, Devilman. She spoke as one speaks of the love of their life.
Hiroshi Kitadani (One Piece OPs, “We Are!”): Miss Machiko, when he was a kid. Miss Machiko is what we could consider a horny teen sex comedy, if the teens were 8 and endlessly sexually harassed their hot teacher. Today it’s Nozomi from Love Live. Fukuyama yelled “Perv!” at his choices and Dani immediately admitted that yes, his choices were totally boob-driven.
Yoshiki Fukuyama (Macross 7/Fire Bomber): Fukuyama was kind of “aw c’mon really?” to this question; not a 2D man. He eventually relented and named Heidi (as in Heidi of the Alps) from his childhood. As for current crushes, he completely sidestepped by bringing up Anne from the live-action Ultraseven. He’s not wrong.
Unfortunately I didn’t catch the second concert with FLOW and Yousei Teikoku, though one of my friends told me it would be extremely chuuni, and then my other friend told me afterwards that it definitely was. I regret this, but I was tired and eating this good-as-hell ramen at the time. My glowstick arm was already shot and it would be until Tuesday.