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Inside the Metal Galaxy: why Babymetal have the most devoted fans on the planet

Babymetal fans
(Image credit: @MartinisHPKSDD)

Metal Hammer line break

The stars of this month’s Metal Hammer magazine, Babymetal may have only broke overseas in 2014, but this year marks ten years of a phenomenon. Exploding onto the scene with the YouTube sensation Gimme Chocolate!! (currently sitting on over 142,000,000 views), Babymetal outgrew their quirky curio reputation as they won over crowds thousands at a time, spreading from country to country in a global conquest not seen since the likes of Slipknot or Iron Maiden

Wherever Babymetal go, their fans are sure to follow – their fanbase a truly global army dedicated to deciphering the mysteries of the Fox God and pouring over the incredible mythology that develops with every new song, video and show. We caught up with some of these superfans to find just why they might be metal’s true saviours.

Babymetal fans

(Image credit: @babymetal_jpeg)

Pru from West Sussex, UK

Babymetal memorabilia adorns every wall of superfan Pru’s bedroom, from flags and Hammer covers to vinyl, posters and Funko Pops – Pru having built literal shrines to the group. As But, Babymetal are more than canny merchandisers – for fans like Pru they offer representation and inspiration, a reminder that metal icons can come in all shapes and sizes.

I decided to cover one wall with Babymetal. I figured it’d stay up for about a year

When did you first hear Babymetal?

“I first heard Babymetal when the Metal Resistance album came out in 2016 – so around five years ago this month. It was actually the Gimme Chocolate!! video. It immediately hooked me in.”

What made them so instantly appealing to you?

“At the time, I was looking for more artists as I was getting into metal. I was shocked somebody my age – and female – could make something so metal.”

Do you think that helped make it feel more empowering for you personally as a fan?

“Absolutely. Before Babymetal, if you asked me if a girl my age could have a massive metal group I’d have thought absolutely not, that it was insane. But they still managed to do it and even though the scene is so dominated by men it’s great to see such young females have such a massive role and fanbase.”

Do you see the Babymetal fanbase as a global community?

“It’s definitely a global thing, especially with social media. You can pick up your phone and start talking to a fan in America – or anywhere else really. There was recently a thing where we got like 75 fans from all over the world into a single call, but there were also these mini-chat rooms where groups who spoke different languages could just hang out and chat. Even working with a group who spoke 10 different languages, we still made it all work.”

Have Babymetal got you through hard times in your life?

“Especially during lockdown, I think. I’ve always been a massive fan since the end of 2016, I felt like I was becoming even more so during lockdown. Just having people to talk to – even if you can’t physically see them – was so lovely and I felt so close to them. In October Babymetal did Songs of Tokyo after having done basically nothing since February. Moametal told us all to ‘stay positive’ and I think for a lot of fans it was a moment we felt like we could get through [the pandemic] together.”

What made you want to completely devote your room to Babymetal and even build shrines to the band?

“To be honest, I don’t really know! In 2017 I just wanted to decorate my room so decided to cover one wall with Babymetal; at the time I figured it’d stay up for about a year. Over time I brought more posters and collected more stuff until over four years my whole room got took over. Then it was shelves with vinyl and things; there wasn’t one point where I decided ‘I want to do this’ but it just happened over time.”

How has Babymetal made your life better?

“They changed my life; now I really want to become a costume designer. Seeing Babymetal and their costume designs was the tipping point that made me want to do that – they shaped my career path.”

What’s the greatest Babymetal song, and why?

“I’d have to go with Headbanger!!. Not only is it a classic, but its really heavy whilst keeping those cutesy tones – there are definitely some songs that lean too far into ‘too cute’ or ‘too metal’ but Headbanger!! perfectly sits in the middle. Plus, the aesthetics on the video use a lot of religious imagery, lots of black and reds… I love it!”


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Eric from Ohio

Babymetal may have fans around the world, but for some it isn’t enough to just wait for the band to come round to their home towns whenever they are out tour. Bit by the Babymetal bug in 2016, Ohio resident Eric launched a fan blog (‘A Babymetal Odyssey’) dedicated to his travels following Babymetal from the Midwest to Tokyo and beyond.

I now know people from Japan, China, the UK… wherever I go I know I’ve got a friend there.

When did you first hear Babymetal?

“It probably would have been around 2014 – when Gimme Chocolate!! went viral. It’s kinda funny to me now, looking at my wall which has all these places I’ve been because of the band, but back then I hated it! In 2016 my friend and I got tickets to see Rammstein at Chicago Open Air and figured anything else was a bonus. In the weeks leading up to it I put together this playlist of bands that were going to be there and heard the opening riff of Karate and clicked over. I couldn’t believe it was Babymetal – after watching the video I knew we had to watch them so on that Sunday we got right to the barrier.”

What was it that won you over?

“I’ve been around heavy music since I was a kid – both my parents are super into it – but this felt like such a breath of fresh air.”

What spurred you to start writing ‘A Babymetal Odyssey’?

“Honestly, it was a bit of a time capsule for myself. I posted it up on my website, which is like my personal portfolio and showed it to friends and it got way more response than I ever expected it to. I think we all have these stories about following bands, but this felt like a special way to capture that.”

You decided on a whim to travel to Hollywood to see Babymetal for a second time after quitting your job?

“Not the smartest decision! There was just something about it – whether it was just wanting to have something to look forward to, or just needing it again after the Chicago show, I don’t know. It really opened things up for me – I was completely alone, in line for like seven hours wondering how I was going to keep occupied but then the time flew by as I started talking to people.”

How connected do you feel to the global community of Babymetal fans?

“I now know people from Japan, China, the UK… wherever I go I know I’ve got a friend there. It’s one of the only positives I’ve found in the last year or so when I’ve been stuck at home; I love the music, but its honestly the community that keep me going to all these shows.”

Have you ever seen a Babymetal fan and gone, ‘Wow, they’ve gone too far?’

“The first time we saw Babymetal, there were some guys who had been to like five or six of their shows in a row, vibing from town to town. I took one look at them and thought ‘who’d ever do that’ – cut to the 2019 US tour and that was me! I am that fan that’s gone too far at this point to be honest!”

What’s the greatest Babymetal song, and why?

Ijime, Dame, Zettai [“Bullying, No Good, Absolutely”] from the first album always really stood out to me. It has hit really differently for me this past year too as it was the last song I saw them play, at the last Babymetal show I went to – which was also the last concert I went to because of COVID. It was a song I never thought they’d play again, but hearing it in the arena again was a surreal experience and it really gave me chills.”


Babymetal fans

(Image credit: @MartinisHPKSDD)

Masaaki, Kyoto, Japan

I'm 60 years old now, and I think Babymetal made it possible for me to connect with more people.

When did you first hear Babymetal?

“I first heard Babymetal through the movie of their show at the UK Sonisphere in 2014. My first thought was, ‘why is such a young girl at a metal festival?’ I was very surprised! Moreover, I was impressed that the audience seemed to love them. I was a big fan of old jazz, but in just one song I became a fan of Babymetal!”

What do you think makes the band special?

“I like the theme of "The One" that Babymetal stand for. Their carrer has not been completely smooth; Yuimetal’s departure and Mikio Fujioka's sudden death were really hard times for the band. Now, their third album is great and they were able to celebrate their 10th anniversary successfully; I attended all ten Babymetal Budokan shows.”

Have Babymetal helped you through any hard times?

“When I tried a new job, I was scared and almost frustrated many times. However, it was seeing how Babymetal faced challenges like Sonisphere that gave me courage. Sometimes my English is not good, so I hesitated to attend international gatherings. But beyond words and countries, if we have a desire for something wonderful, I believe that it can be shared.”

Why do you think that people have connected with the band so much?

“The reasons why people love Babymetal vary from person to person. They have various charms; their singing ability, dance performance, the amazing skills of Kami Band, their kawaii message, stage composition and so much more. But what impresses me most is their humility – I really feel they are sincere.”

Do you find being a Babymetal superfan expensive?

“Certainly it costs a lot of money to keep buying all the Babymetal items. Going to a live show is not only a ticket fee, but also means travel expenses, hotel fees, etc. which aren’t cheap! I don't know exactly how much I've spent on it so far; it’s the same as when I was a jazz fan. My idols used to be Zoot Sims, Coleman Hawkins, etc. but their vinyl were also quite expensive.”

But do you think the band make it a worthy investment?

“Since I found Babymetal, I have discovered more music, met so many friends, and had more experiences. Until 2014, I feel like I was in agony in a really small world. I'm 60 years old now, and many of my classmates have had a drastic decrease in interaction with other people. But I'm the exact opposite, and I think Babymetal made it possible for me to connect with more people.”

What is the greatest Babymetal song, and why?

For me, the greatest Babymetal song is Ijime, Dame, Zettai. That was the first song I heard by the band – like I said, one song changed my life! Of course, this kind of experience is not something that has happened many times in my life. I was fortunate enough to come across this song and it changed my life. Probably not just me, because I can't forget the delight of the audience when this song was played at the end of the Metal Galaxy World Tour in Japan on 26 January, 2019. Of course, there is no doubt that the participation of the East and West Kami Bands and all the Avengers were also an inspiring factor. It was a very special and happy moment in time.”


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Hugo from Valence, France

French Babymetal fanatic Hugo has followed the band ever since their first appearance in Paris, following them across Europe and all the way back to their home country of Japan. With friends all around the world – a side effect of connecting with likeminded fans everywhere he goes – Hugo has a first-hand account of how deep the bonds go between Babymetal fans and just how far they are willing to go.

I’m a huge fan of prog, so finding something that had never really been done before felt crazy.

When did you first hear Babymetal?

“My journey with Babymetal started in 2014. I don’t really remember exactly how I found out about them – maybe it was a YouTube recommendation or ad – but it was a trailer for their very first world tour. At that time they’d never played a show outside Asia, so it was pretty much the beginning for them, even though they were already huge in Japan. I saw that video and thought it was the most batshit thing I’d ever seen in my life; I’m a huge fan of prog music and so finding something that had never really been done before felt crazy.”

When did you decide to go and see the band?

“Around May I think, because their first show in Paris was in June so I had less than a month before they arrived in Europe. I wasn’t even 18 yet – I turned 18 a couple of days before the show – but that became my very first Babymetal show and the first time I went travelling alone. It was kind of scary, but I fell in love instantly and it was like ‘mom, dad, I need to go and see if it’s as crazy as it looks!’”

Was the show everything you hoped it would be?

“That and more! They didn’t have the huge stage like in the promotional videos because they had already done shows at the Budokan in Japan, so in France their very first show was minimalistic. The girls were so young which made it feel even crazier; I was worried there were going to be a lot of weebs [Westerners obsessed with Japanese culture] but the crowd was very mixed and the show was a lot of fun.”

What do you think attracts all different kinds of people to Babymetal?

“At first, I think it’s the novelty – ‘what the fuck is that?!’ because that was my first impression! I think that draws people in but the musicianship is so brilliant and there’s a lot they do in their songs that means its almost impossible that if you love music you won’t find at least one song you love.”

What made you travel to follow the band on tour?

“The first taste of the first show in Paris I was hooked! The second show I did was one of the first London shows at the O2 Academy in Brixton and there I met a few French fans I’d become friends with in Paris. I started going to afterparties and things like that, because the fandom is really involved and every show the band arrange, the fans will set up their own afterparty. Now I can’t go to a show without doing those parties – it’s like a big family.”

How much have you spent following the band?

“I’ve never counted it all up, but I’ve spent thousands of euros following them. But if you can and you have the money… it’s a great thing to do!”

What’s the greatest Babymetal song, and why?

“Since I love prog stuff, I’d say Tale Of The Destinies. It’s a song that a lot of fans don’t really talk about but I love it – it’s so complex and has so many time signature changes that take it all over the place. That’s kind of my jam.”


Babymetal fans

(Image credit: @Yuemetal)

Hatashin Z from Fukushima, Japan

Hatashin Z is the chairman of the National Black Red Fox Association, a fan-group that support Babymetal by connecting fans of all ages through meetings and parties. Hatashin is just one of many Babymetal fans willing to go to the next level in celebrating their favourite band, fostering the burgeoning sense of community at the heart of Babymetal fandom – truly living the band’s ‘we are one’ philosophy.

The first time I listened to Babymetal, I started crying, for some reason.

When did you first hear Babymetal?

“I first discovered Babymetal through the video of their performance at Summer Sonic Osaka in 2013. I heard Ijime, Dame, Zettai and couldn’t take my eyes off the three people dancing while the bass, drums and roaring sound of guitars sounded so different to how they looked. When it finished I started crying, for some reason.”

How did you come up with the idea of the National Black Red Fox Association?

“In 2014 I went to see Babymetal at the Budokan. I saw the show where Yuimetal fell off the stage; people were shouting encouragement and after a while, when Zettai fully started, she reappeared. She ran to the centre of the stage and I started crying again; that was the moment I vowed to support them for the rest of my life. After the show I didn’t have anybody to talk to, so I decided to start hosting meetings!”

Why do you think they are so popular around the world?

“Their music tells you that you are doing your best in any situation.”

Have Babymetal made your life better?

“Of course! Since I live in Fukushima prefecture, I need to pay for travel and accommodation in addition to the ticket fee for live concerts in Tokyo and Osaka. Since I am married and have a family, I thought about maybe giving it up, but then I stopped drinking beer every day, reduced the number of cigarettes I smoked and stopped eating out for lunch, instead making my own. With all of that can spend 360,000 yen a year on Babymetal, and you can buy live performances, goodies, and of course magazines (including Metal Hammer)! I got a hobby and health! It was Babymetal that changed my life, and now I'm excited every day with fans all over the country.”

What is the greatest Babymetal song, and why?

Kimi To Anime Ga Mitai is the best song that you can see both cute and heavy sides of what the band do.”


Babymetal fans

(Image credit: @fzj80_METAL)

Hachimaru from Tokyo, Japan

Hachimaru lives in a self-built log cabin in Tokyo with his family. If you think that is impressive, you should see his spectacular 300 items-plus collection of official Babymetal t-shirts – almost every design released to date. While he may never complete his collection – something he has made peace with – he has used it to make connections with many other Babymetal fans and participate in the global fan community.

I currently own about 350 official Babymetal T-shirts.

When did you first hear Babymetal?

“I first heard Babymetal in March 2014; about four years after they started their activities in 2010. I saw the official video of Doki Doki Morning on YouTube by chance.”

Why did you decide to start collecting Babymetal t-shirts?

“I have been a collector since I was a child. Since I was in my twenties I have been collecting vintage rock t-shirts from the 70s to the 90s of my favourite artists (The Who, The Clash, Ramones). When I discovered Babymetal, it was impossible for me to avoid collecting my favourite T-shirts. It was fate!”

What's the most you have ever spent?

“The highest price for one t-shirt was 50,000 yen (roughly £324). The price depends on the timing of the moment and I've also been given rare t-shirts by other fans with good intentions, so the highest price doesn't mean the rarest one. I currently own about 350 official Babymetal T-shirts. I also own almost all of the official sound sources (video/CD/LP) that have been sold. Furthermore, I am also a collector of official Babymetal flags. The total value of my collection is probably more than 5 million yen (roughly £32,000).”

What is missing from your collection?

“The one remaining t-shirt I'm looking for is one of the oldest in the history of Babymetal, the "Babymetal x KIBA OF AKIBA" collaboration t-shirt. This t-shirt was given to the winner of the lottery as an application bonus for the single CD released in 2012, before Babymetal made their major debut. The details of this t-shirt are not clear and none of my many acquaintances own it. It is a very rare and phantom t-shirt!”

How do you keep them in good condition?

“I keep them in a shed (storage room) in my garden. The t-shirts are folded and put one by one in a transparent bag. I stack them and put them in a strong case and store them in the shed. Not all the t-shirts in my collection are new and unopened, 60 per cent are new and unopened, 40 per cent are used and opened. The collection t-shirts (303 types) are in extremely good condition.”

Other than your t-shirts, what items in your wardrobe are you most proud of?

“My home-made jacket. The base of the jacket is a replica of Joe Strummer's favourite shirt from the early days of The Clash (a rare find). The badges, studs, iron-on prints, patches cut from t-shirts and custom patches are all hand sewn and finished. All of them are Babymetal related parts. It is my symbol and my pride and joy, my battle jacket. I usually don't wear it because it's too flashy, but I always wear it when I go to Babymetal concerts to support them.”

What does your collection mean to you?

“My collection has given me the chance to enjoy interacting with many fans, and I am glad that I have continued to do so. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me so far (including my close friend ‘Ma-Metal’ who helped consult me with these responses). I think that not only me but every single fan in the world who supports Babymetal in various ways are the ‘biggest fans’. As Babymetal says –  ‘We are The One’”.

What is the greatest Babymetal song, and why?

“My favourite song is Doki Doki Morning. It's their debut song and it's also the first Babymetal song I heard. I think that the debut song is the most important part of an artist's personality, direction, momentum, ambition, everything. It's like a huge explosion of energy, like the birth of a star, and I find it fascinating. I hope that Babymetal will not forget their origin and sing this song forever.”

The new issue of Metal Hammer celebrating 10 years of Babymetal is out now.

MHR349

(Image credit: Future)