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Naruto Music: Asian Kung Fu Generation

Wednesday 15th January 2014

Tom Smith on the Britmaniacs behind the Naruto theme.

AAsian Kung Fu Generation

They’re so loud and proud that they insist on writing it all in caps: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – possibly one of Japan’s most important alternative rock acts. The group’s tenth single ‘After Dark’ makes for the energetic, guitar-heavy opening theme an earlier volume of Bleach, and the group’s sound might at first seem reminiscent of America’s indie scene dashed with elements of punk, it actually has a lot more in common with The Who, their generation, and the sea of British-based guitar heroes that have appeared since.

Frontman Masafumi Gotou’s favourite bands include Scottish indie-guitar group Teenage Fanclub and Manchester’s best known sibling squabblers Oasis – for whom Masafumi later got to open when they toured Japan. His choice in six-string also rings with a British-tone, mirroring those same models twanged by Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks and Jeff Lynne, leader of the Electric Light Orchestra.

The Brit-rock appreciation continues with lead guitarist Kensuke Kita. The Manic Street Preachers, Supergrass and Radiohead all feature highly in his music collection, as does a penchant for the classic Les Paul guitar – one of his even shares the same wine-red and sunburst colour scheme as the doomed guitars Pete Townshend would windmill in The Who’s younger days.

Bass player Takahiro Yamada has a slightly wider music taste. His top bands span several decades and incorporate The Beatles, Oasis, and even a bit of new wave with The Pet Shop Boys.

All three members originally met at their university’s music club in 1996 where they discovered that they shared a love for similar artists. Soon after forming, Kiyoshi Ijichi joined on drums and, while he doesn’t share the same level of passion for bands from the UK, he does have a soft spot for American rock, punk and even heavy metal, which might explain the band’s heavier moments.

Being the big rock stars that they are, able to sell out entire nationwide tours and having all six of their albums debut in the top five of the charts or higher – and not to mention all of their singles since 2004 have ranked in the top ten – ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION now have the heart of Japan’s rock scene in their hands, ready to shape it how they see fit. And where do they start? With their own festival, of course.

Named the NANO-MUGEN FES, the event was originally hosted in the humble 500 capacity Shinjuku Loft back in 2003, soon after they were signed. The line-up was a handful of indie-rock outfits selected by the band members. Skip forwards to the present day and NANO-MUGEN is now held in the massive 17,000 capacity Yokohama Arena over two days and has a cherry-picked selection of the group’s favourite artists from America, Japan, and of course, Great Britain. This summer’s festival even included a performance from Kensuke’s idols the Manic Street Preachers.

With such a love for Britain’s music scene, it’s only a matter of time until the boys hit a venue near you.

Naruto Unleashed, featuring the closing theme "Haruka Kanata" by Asian Kung-fu Generation, is rereleased this month in the UK by Manga Entertainment.


Naruto Unleashed: Complete Series 1

was £39.99
“My name is Uzumaki Naruto! Welcome to my world.”
Containing all 26 episodes from the first series of the popular anime adapted from the best-selling manga created by Masashi Kishimoto. Long ago, a powerful Demon Fox appeared in peaceful Konoha, the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Their families and homes threatened by this evil force, the Shinobis (or ninjas) fought long and hard to protect themselves but to no avail. Then one Shinobi (known as the Fourth Hokage) made the ultimate sacrifice; sealing the spirit of the demon in the body of a newborn baby boy, Naruto Uzumaki. Twelve years later, Naruto has grown into a lonesome orphan with boundless energy, a penchant for mischief and dreams of becoming the next Hokage. Treated as an outcast by the rest of his village ever since he became the human vessel for the spirit of the Demon Fox, all Naruto really yearns for is attention and respect. And with the help of his mentor Kakashi, Naruto endeavours to overcome all the challenges set before him as he struggles to develop his ninja skills and takes the first steps in realising his dream.



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Matt Kamen weighs the difference between the original series and the newer Shippuden episodes of Naruto.
With hundreds of episodes under Naruto’s belt, it can be easy to forget just how far the world’s favourite orange ninja cadet and friends have come since their first days at school. The release of the complete first season of Naruto Shippuden seems the perfect time to look back at some of the key players in the saga, and see where the new series finds them – and haven’t they grown…?

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Arthur Rankin Jr (1924-2014)

An obituary of anime's secret angel
Arthur Rankin Jr, who died last Thursday, was not often thought of in connection with Japanese animation, though he played a major part in its history. In America, he’s best known as the co-founder of Rankin/Bass Productions. A stateside brand, the Rankin/Bass name is linked with handmade family cartoons as fondly as Oliver Postgate or Aardman are in Britain. But while the studio’s cartoons – especially the stop-motion Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) – are evergreens, few people know their animation was Japanese.

Psycho-Pass music: Ling Tosite Sigure

Tom Smith finds another band with an unspellable name
Meet Ling tosite sigure. Their name may be confusing to pronounce (for anyone interested, it’s more like ‘rin tosh-teh shi-goo-reh’), but that didn’t holdback Japan’s music-loving community from rushing to their local CD-shops and grabbing a copy of the band’s latest album i’mperfect, out now also in the UK thanks to JPU Records.

Hideaki Anno Interview

Evangelion's director on Gerry Anderson, fandom and his latest project
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One Piece Music: Bon Bon Blanco

Tom Smith on bikinis and cowbells
Need more cowbell? Have five! Japanese pop quintet Bon Bon Blanco (or B3 for short) is made up of 80% percussionists – and whilst its vocalist Anna Santos is the only member without an instrument to bash, I’m pretty sure she could work her way around a cowbell if pushed.

Ghost in the Shell Fashions

Helen McCarthy on Major Kusanagi – fashion icon
Ever since her debut, the heroine of Masamune Shirow's manga-turned-global-franchise Ghost In The Shell has been a high-end product. She's a cyborg combat specialist modified to look like a cross between a top fashion model and a porn star, in a world where most of the women we see are as objectified as in our own reality.
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