Few Japanese artists have ridden the noughties' global anime boom as hard as m.o.v.e. With anime soundtracks increasingly being used as a vehicle to launch Japanese artists overseas, the three-piece dance-pop group has been involved in several tie-ins, the most high-profile of which has involved providing the theme songs to the anime series and movie of the same name, Initial D. M.o.v.e are made up of songwriter/producer t-kimura, vocalist yuri, and rapper motsu. Too "rap" to be labeled J-pop and too "J-pop" to be considered an authentic rap act, a typical m.o.v.e song, if there is such a thing, pits yuri's high-pitched vocals against t-kimura's techno-rock backing and will often feature a cameo from MC motsu, rapped in a mixture of English and Japanese.
T-kimura started his music career in the synth pop duo Favorite Blue in the mid-'90s. After two underachieving albums, the group split, although record label Avex Trax kept faith with t-kimura for his next project, move (only in 2005 did the group change its name to m.o.v.e). Having first hooked up with motsu, t-kimura was in search of a female vocalist. Serendipity struck when, shortly after watching a video full of hopefuls and rejecting the lot, he chanced upon a performance by yuri on TV Tokyo's talent contest series Asayan. Yuri didn't win out on that show, but it was enough to convince t-kimura to get her on board. Move's debut single, "Rock It Down," came out in October 1997, but it was the follow-up, "Around the World," that made the bigger impact when it was used as the opening theme to the popular animated series Initial D, which explores the world of street-car racing and found an audience among car fans in Japan. Move also supplied the series' closing theme, "Rage your Dream."
The rise in profile drove move's debut album, Electrock (1998), into the Top 20. As its title suggested, it hinted at t-kimura's broad musical palette, taking in techno-influenced rock, rap, and that staple of '90s Japanese pop, Euro-beat. Live performances dominated the rest of the year, including move's first overseas performance -- at the Taipei J-Dance Festival in front of an audience of 30,000. A year after their debut, move dropped their second and most successful album to date, Worlds of the Mind, which entered the Top Three in Japan's Oricon chart and had shifted 250,000 units within three months of its release. In 2000, a remix album brought some of the best of the then-thriving big-beat scene in the U.K. on board, such as Les Rythmes Digitales, as well as respected names from the dance music world in Way Out West and 808 State. Move reestablished the connection with Initial D -- and the upper echelons of the pop charts -- with their tenth single, "Gamble Ramble." The song was the opening theme to the 2001 live-action film version of the animated TV series.
The increasing global popularity of Japanese animation has given rise to fan conventions, particularly in the United States, and in 2003, move duly performed at AnimeFest in Dallas. Another Initial D-related single, 2004's "Dogfight," presaged further anime-related releases. These included songs for two Avex-produced animated series broadcast on TV Tokyo: "Romancing Train," the closing song to Final Fantasy: Unlimited; and "I Wake Your Love!" and "Burning Dance," for the futuristic fantasy Monkey Robot (known in Japan as Asobot Senki GOKU). After changing their name to m.o.v.e in 2005, the trio kept busy by inventing their own genre (or so they claimed) called "J-Loud" to describe the heavier rock sound of sixth album Boulder. In the same year, m.o.v.e also became the first Japanese artists to take part in the Sony-sponsored Acid Planet online global remix contest. M.o.v.e's seventh album release, GRID (2007), signaled a return to the eclectic sound of earlier albums, taking in trance, R&B, and old-school hip-hop. ~ David Hickey