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So I'll Get To See Jam Project Again: Otakon Music Fest

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"Letters from the New York Otaku"

By David Cabrera

So I'll Get To See Jam Project Again: Otakon Music Fest

The best news of my weekend came when we were already in the car driving back home. On Sunday, as the convention shuts down, a lot of people sneak out of Baltimore before the con is properly finished up with closing ceremonies around 3 PM. Our group left around 2, and counting dinner I was home around 10. Coming from New York, if you want to get some sleep, you leave Otakon a little early.

So I was in the car when I got a text from one of my hotel roommates, sitting in the closing ceremonies.

“Otakon music festival in november with jam project”

My response (and, yes, I sent him this) was “!!!!!!!!!”

Here I'd been thinking about sleeping in the back seat, or trying out these brain-controlled cat ears I just bought... but this supplanted everything else. I mean, JAM Project! I LOVE those guys!

I last saw the anison super-group when they came to Otakon in 2008. It was unbelievable then, too: my friends and I had dreamed that they'd come to America for years, but figured they weren't popular enough here to justify a trip to the US.

You see, the things that made the members of JAM Project famous are not things that anybody in America knows about. In America, Hironobu Kageyama didn't sing the theme song to Dragon Ball Z on TV. As with many shows from the 80s and 90s, the music was completely replaced in the US version. Go-Lion was a huge success as Voltron (with its own memorable theme song that most people my age can sing for you, if you ask nicely), but we never heard the booming voice of Ichiro Mizuki, “Aniki”. Rica Matsumoto didn't voice the hero of Pokemon here, nor did she sing the theme song.

Those last two aren't with JAM anymore, but it's the same story with every other member!

Not a large amount of people in America actually know the singers of JAM Project, even the most famous ones. You have to be a pretty knowledgeable otaku to even know about them, and even then their all-out style isn't to everybody's taste, right? Mostly mecha fans-- one of the smallest subsections of the fandom-- know the group from their incredible theme songs for the Super Robot Wars games and anime. American anime fan tastes tend to go towards visual kei, or mainstream Japanese pop.

But Otakon got JAM Project anyway, bless them. The group played in a stadium not far from the convention center. At other points in the weekend they signed autographs: Fukuyama jumped up from his seat and hugged me when he saw the Fire Bomber poster I brought him. There was a Q&A panel similar to the last few posts I've done here: a big Utena fan was so happy to talk to Masami Okui that she broke down in tears.

Most impressive: lucky con-goers who went to a panel listed only as “Bandai Surprise!” were treated to JAM Project rushing into the room, forcing everybody into Lucky Star T-shirts with girls' school uniforms printed on them, and making everybody sing along to the theme song with them. I wish I'd been there.

JAM Project were fantastic convention guests, wonderful to their fans, and I was really hoping I'd get to see them again one day. Attendance was good for the JAM Project concert... but I get the feeling the VK concert the next day (nobody famous, as I recall) had a lot more people there.

So a lot of us want to see JAM again, but are there enough of us? I guess this event-- a collaboration with Lantis, featuring a few other singers under the label-- is a test. There certainly won't be 30,000 people in Baltimore that night, nowhere close... but I'll be there. There's no way I'd miss it.


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