My daughter’s latest favorite diva is Hatsune Miku. Miku is 16 years old, 5’2” with cyan blue ponytails that fall almost to her ankles. She has a vocal range like no other – human, that is. She is a Vocaloid – the child of technology, music, and anime.
Hatsune Miku performs on stage as a projection, on a massive mostly-transparent screen surrounded by towers, under a rock star light rack. Rimmed by her band of live musicians, The 39s, she sings in the midst of a sea of glow sticks moving in rhythm. With expressive dance moves and fun, catchy tunes, her name reads “first sound from the future”.
She is a musician. She is entertainment. She is a confluence. She is illustrated by KEI, animated by SEGA, created by Crypton Future Media, and powered by Yamaha’s technology, with a voice sampled from Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita, singing a song written by Ryo Supercell), that is published by Sony Entertainment.
What’s a Vocaloid?
The first Vocaloid to become a pop idol, Hatsune Miku is a female singing synthesizer application developed by Yamaha – a piece of software. Vocaloid is computer music software where you create singing by typing in lyrics and melody. It uses synthesizing technology with recorded vocals of a human voice actor or singer – a “singer in a box”. Here’s an example of how it works.
According to Wikia, Crypton created Miku as “an android diva in the near-future world where songs are lost.” Japanese illustrator KEI was asked to design Miku “as an android” based on Yamaha ‘s signature cyan color. At the time, Vocaloid was mostly unknown. After Miku’s release, users started posting videos of songs they had created on the popular Japanese video sharing website Nico Nico Douga. One of the most popular was Levan Polkka, aka Loituma, with Miku holding a leek. Soon users were creating and collaborating on songs, illustrations, animations, and remixes. Crypton decided to ask their Japanese fanbase if it “was acceptable for them to sell her as a virtual singer”, instead of a virtual instrument.
Coming to the United States
Hatsune Miku came to California for Anime Expo 2011, an event called Mikunopolis in Los Angeles. A digest of video clips from her sold out July 2011 concert can be seen on the SEGA channel. Hatsune Miku was used by Toyota at AX to promote the 2011 Toyota Corolla.
Miku’s Los Angeles concert sold out on the 26th of May 2011. Not only was she the first singer to sell out but this was the only time AX, the company in charge of selling her tickets, had ever sold out. This also caused a huge fan outroar on the AX forums.
Hatsune Miku is a Japanese Vocaloid, and does not have voicebanks for English pronunciations. She can sing in English using her default Japanese voicebank, but still has a strong Japanese accent. An English voicebank is currently in development at Crypton Future Media. The Vocaloid2 software featuring Hatsune Miku is currently only available in Japan.
Project Diva is a popular rhythm game for Sony PSP featuring Hatsune Miku (and other Vocaloids) - Sega announced a new Hatsune Miku Project Diva Version 2.5 is in development, with a projected release date of November 10, 2011.
There are currently four Vocaloid singers:
Hatsune Miku – World Is Mine
Kagamine Rin and Len – Butterfly on Your Right Shoulder
Megurine Luka (my favorite!) – Double Lariat
MikuBook – the official community for Hatsune Miku (and vocaloid fans) Meet Your Next Favorite
Video on Hatsune Miku’s creators (Japanese, with English subtitles)
Hatsune Miku, and the other Vocaloids are amazing to watch and hear. Going to a concert would be like watching a hologram of your favorite anime, reading your favorite manga, or watching a movie or TV show - you know it’s not really “live”, but it’s entertaining anyway. And the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
For my recent post on the November U.S. concerts - Hatsune Miku Live Party 2011 LIVE IN SAPPORO!
Concert set list on mikubook (click “ALL PLAY”) - Hatsune Miku Live Party 2011 Mikupa 39′s Live in Singapore Live Set List
And for even MORE Hatsune Miku and vocaloid articles, check out:
Wall Street Journal – In a World of Aut0-Tune, Can a Computer Create a Star?
LA Weekly – Hatsune Miku: Her Best Fan-Generated Videos