Intense heavy metal gig leaves our Maximum the Hormone newbie wanting to live life to the fullest.

Maximum the Hormone are a Japanese heavy metal band perhaps most known outside of Japan for their song ‘What’s Up People!’, used as the opening theme to anime Death Note.

‘What’s Up People!’ was released back in 2007, but the band is still very active to this day, with their fans calling themselves Harapeko (‘The Very Hungry’). And while Maximum the Hormone (MTH) have a loyal group of ‘hungry’ fans here in Japan, it turns out there are Harapekos all over the world, as the band recently completed a European tour. The band played at five venues across the continent, finishing up at France’s famous ‘Hellfest’, playing alongside music legends such as Korn and Judas Priest.

Our reporter Ikuna Kamezawa seems to have a habit of crossing paths with MTH’s fans, and over the past fifteen years has become friends with at least five people who consider themselves to be ‘hungry’. One girl, Mizuki-chan, loved MTH so much that she would sing their songs non-stop at karaoke. She sang one song, Koi no Mega-lover, so much that Ikuna developed an allergic reaction to it, and whenever she heard that song she had to leave the room.

▼ Koi no Mega-Lover (without Mizuki-chan)

Across the years, Harapekos tried in vain to get Ikuna to become a ‘hungry’ fan too, by telling her about how fun the band’s live shows were. One fan enthusiastically told her, “There was one gig where everyone had to eat raw garlic before they went inside the venue! It was totally awesome!” But it was a particular comment from another fan that finally piqued Ikuna’s interest —

“MTH’s shows are really difficult to get tickets for. There are people who haven’t been able to get tickets for like, ten years! But if it’s a European tour, there’s a better chance you’ll be able to get tickets. You won’t get a chance like this again! Plus, if you go to the UK show, you’ll be able to do some sightseeing in London, too!”

The earnest presentation hit both of Ikuna’s weak points — once-in-a-lifetime opportunities mixed in with her love for the UK — and so she soon found herself outside Electric Brixton, a famous live music venue in London. She was stunned to see people were already lining up when she arrived at around 5:30 p.m. A lot of people, too; how did so many people outside of Japan know about MTH?

The show wasn’t due to start until 8 p.m., but the band were holding a meet-and-greet from 6 o’clock. Pre-concert meet-and-greets aren’t very common in Japan. Some venues host handshake events before or after a gig, but they don’t give you a real chance to interact with the artists themselves. Kind of like a conveyor belt, Japanese meet-and-greets tend to be a very brief affair, so as Ikuna joined the line to go into the venue, she assumed the band would be behind some sort of barrier, and she’d only be able to see them for a fleeting mo-

▼ They were there!!

Yes, the band were there in the room, and people could chat and take pictures with them. Again, this isn’t anything particularly extraordinary in other countries, but in Japan, getting this close to artists is pretty much unheard of. Ikuna was particularly impressed at how the band members took their time interacting with each fan one by one, and she couldn’t help but feel touched when she saw the happy faces of the Harapekos.

▼ Two fans pose for a picture with the band.

Interestingly, the meet-and-greet was only available for non-Japanese citizens. As it turned out, Ikuna wasn’t the only Japanese person at the gig that day; a bunch of hardcore Harapekos from Japan had travelled over to see the gig. But when Ikuna questioned them about the non-Japanese-only meet and greet policy, she was surprised that they all answered “That’s totally fine. This is an international show.” It seemed that MTH do these kind of up-close and personal meet and greets back in Japan too, so Japanese fans were fine with international Harapekos getting priority.

The kindness and generosity of the MTH fans was on full display. Hopefully that generous spirit would be extended to someone like Ikuna, who was coming into a MTH gig with almost no prior knowledge of any of the songs (with the exception of Mizuki-chan’s ‘Koi no Mega-lover’). She’d been told by a few Harapekos at home that ‘Once that song starts, you should watch out’, but she had no time to fully contemplate what that meant as the show suddenly began with a loud cheer from the crowd.

As soon as the band started playing their first song, Ikuna was pushed forward with the swell of the crowd. She’d been planning to watch the show inconspicuously from the back, but she now found herself in the second row, and as the second song started, the men around her started taking off their shirts. They were all covered in sweat, and Ikuna began to question her life choices as the crowd got wilder and wilder.

The third song started, and Ikuna recognised it as ‘the song to watch out for’.

The warning was apt; the song, it turned out, was What’s Up People! The song was likely many people’s gateway into becoming MTH fans, so understandably it got a huge reaction. People began crowd surfing, and Ikuna soon found herself sandwiched in between two topless sweaty men, completely unable to see the stage at all. Maybe this was what the raw garlic was supposed to be for — to keep other people at a safe distance from you!

As the band made their way through the set list and the crowd got more wild, Ikuna found herself stumbling and almost falling over a few times. This kind of gig was way too intense for a MTH beginner like her! Eating raw garlic would be way easier than this!

As the band played their ninth song, Ikuna saw an opening and dashed to the back of the crowd. Finally, a safe place to relax…! or so she thought. As the next song started, the crowd immediately started making a mosh circle and Ikuna found herself getting sucked right into the vortex, falling to the ground.

As a writer, Ikuna’s done some pretty out-there things, but as she felt herself falling, she started picturing the headline to her last ever article — “SoraNews24 writer crushed to death in London, lack of raw garlic to blame”. Luckily, her fellow gig-goers quickly spotted she was in trouble and hauled her back up to her feet quickly, and told Ikuna that the ‘safe spots’ were at the left or right of the crowd.

Stumbling to the side of the crowd, Ikuna finally had a clear view of the stage, safe from swirling mosh circles or sweaty topless guys. Before, she’d been entirely focused on simply staying alive, but now she was here, she could look over the crowd and see everyone having a good time. She let out a sigh of relief, and started enjoying the music.

But it was too little too late, as the band announced the next song would be their last one!

As Ikuna reflected over the gig, she couldn’t honestly say “the songs were so good!” or “the band was so cool!” as she had spent most of her time trying to keep herself from being trampled to death. However, there was something kind of special about the crowd all coming together, sharing each other’s sweat, transcending nationality and becoming one. 

Usually, the band would be the stars of any gig, but Ikuna felt like the crowd were the stars of this show. They had an intense, burning energy like the sun, and while Ikuna was afraid of getting ‘burned’ by it today, she couldn’t help but want to be a part of the sun itself in the future.

The opening notes to the last song started, and unbelievably it was ‘Koi no Mega-Lover‘!! Finally, a song Ikuna knew! She was so proud of herself that she dove right back into the mosh circle, ready to be a part of the crowd. In an instant, her 15-year allergy to the song was cured, and her memories of the song were replaced with new, happier (and sweatier) ones.

With that, the show was done and the Harapeko Londoners started filing out. Before they all disappeared, Ikuna was keen to find out how so many international fans came to learn about MTH, so she asked a couple of them on the way out.

This couple were among the many who told Ikuna they’d first heard MTH through Death Note. Ikuna was surprised and pleased to learn overseas anime fans were also the type of people to go and rock out at live gigs like this.

This couple had come all the way from Poland to see MTH, after having tried to get tickets for ten years.

This gentlemanly looking fellow came after being invited by an old school friend.

This mother-daughter combo was also nice to see!

This lively looking group seemed to also be fans of Swedish extreme metal band Meshuggah, and told Ikuna “That’s why we like MTH!”… Ikuna wasn’t really sure what that meant, but appreciated their cheerful spirit.

The fans had found out about MTH through a bunch of different sources, but were all united in their love for the band. Thinking of how they’d gathered from different countries for the concert, Ikuna felt like she’d made the right decision by dropping everything and going to a country on the other side of the world to see a Japanese band she hadn’t particularly liked up until this point. She went with the flow, and a whole new world opened up to her.

And at any rate, she’ll finally be able to join in the next time Mizuki-chan sings ‘Koi no Mega-Lover.’

Photos © SoraNews24 (unless otherwise noted)
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