Asian Kung-Fu Generation (アジアン・カンフー・ジェネレーション, Ajian Kanfū Jenerēshon), typeset as ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, is a Japanese rock band formed in Yokohama, Japan in 1996. For nearly its entire career, the band has consisted of vocalist Masafumi Gotō, guitarist Kensuke Kita, bassist Takahiro Yamada, and drummer Kiyoshi Ijichi. The band's musical style is influenced by seminal Western punk and alternative rock acts in conjunction with their own local Japanese indie rock background. As a result, their songs maintain a balance of various aspects of the genres, most typically expressing fast-paced tempos and prominent, hard-edged guitar riffs as well as rhythmic flow and emotional lyrics. Despite the indie nature of their music, the band has enjoyed widespread commercial success in addition to critical acclaim.
Formation and indie releases (1996–2002)
Asian Kung-Fu Generation was first formed in 1996 when Masafumi Gotō, Kensuke Kita, and Takahiro Yamada met in while attending a music club at Kanto Gakuin University, a private university located in Yokohama, Japan. After realizing that they all shared similar musical tastes, the three decided to start their very own band. Masafumi Gotō became the lead vocalist and played rhythm guitar, Kensuke Kita played lead guitar and sang backup and Takahiro Yamada played bass. Drummer Kiyoshi Ijichi joined them later on after parting with another college band he was with at the time. The four then began providing performances at their university as well as throughout the local Yokohama area. After graduating from college, following years of playing in several normal venues and having collaborated with fellow Japanese rock musician Caramelman, AKG released their first indie EP in 2000. The six-track EP contained original lyrics written and sung almost entirely in English. The four spent the remainder of the year playing in multiple clubs and hosting various independent events.
The year after, the band made an attempt to attain airplay on indie radio stations for their first Japanese single, "Konayuki" (粉雪). The song was eventually picked up by a popular radio DJ and put into heavy rotation on the station FM Yokohama upon the demand of listeners. AKG then released another indie EP, I'm Standing Here. This time, however, the band wrote songs which expressed Japanese lyrics. At this time, the band had begun drawing an increasingly large number of audiences to their shows held in various clubs in the districts of Shibuya, Shimokitazawa, Kichijōji, and Tokyo.
Hōkai Amplifier and Kimi Tsunagi Five M (2002–2004)
On November 25, 2002, after contributing to the Under Flowers Records compilation, Whatch You Gonna Do?, Asian Kung-Fu Generation officially released their first major-label mini-album, Hōkai Amplifier (崩壊アンプリファー). The group enlisted internet radio host and graphic artist Yusuke Nakamura to design and compose their single and album covers. The critically-acclaimed EP topped the High Line Records' weekly chart for two consecutive weeks and peaked at number thirty-five on the Oricon indies sales chart. As a result of its success, Hōkai Amplifier was re-released on April 23, 2003 by the band's new record label, Ki/oon Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music Japan. A month later, AKG held their first headline show at Shimokitazawa Club Shelter. That same summer, the band performed at the annual rock festivals of Fuji Rock Festival 03's "ROOKIE A GO GO" and Summer Sonic '03 in Tokyo and Osaka. On August 6, the band released their major-label debut single, "Mirai no Kakera" (未来の破片?), with their second single, "Kimi to Iu Hana" (君という花?), following shortly after. Days later, AKG held the first of what would come to be many annual concert festivals, entitled, ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION presents NANO-MUGEN FES. The festival took place on August 11 at the Shinjuku LOFT. The band followed it up by releasing their first full-length studio album, Kimi Tsunagi Five M (君繋ファイブエム) on November 19. The LP sold over 250,000 copies and landed in the number five spot on the Oricon charts in its first week. As their fame and following grew, fans began calling the band simply Ajikan (アジカン?), which is an abridgment of their full name.