She’s beautiful, she’s talented, she’s immensely popular…and she’s not real. Hatsune Miku the virtual popstar creation of Crypton Future Media in Japan, has sold out another concert. Her much anticipated second annual March 9th (39) performance was seen live by over 2000 attendees, watched by thousands more in theaters screening the concert around the country, and streamed in real time to over 160,000 fans via Nico Nico Douga. That is a level of attendance reserved for world class entertainment, and Hatsune Miku didn’t fail to deliver. Her nearly three hour show featured multiple encores, special guest appearances, and was met by fervent enthusiasm by her fans attending live in Tokyo. In a noteworthy twist, her opening act was a real human performer (voice actress Aizawa Mai). Human singers playing second string to software? You bet. It’s all part of the pop phenomenon that is Hatsune Miku. We’ve got some great HD videos of the concert for you below, watch them while they last. They’re followed by a documentary look at her creation that you won’t want to miss. Is Ms. Miku a fluke that will soon fade like all other fads? Well if her 39 concert is any indication, we’ve only just begun to see the power of virtual characters on the pop scene.
For those unfamiliar with the Hatsune Miku concept, there’s really no better way to explain her than simply by showing her doing what she does best. The following videos are clips (often HD) of the MikuPa Hatsune Miku 39′s Live in Tokyo 2011 Concert as produced by 5bp, Sega, and Crypton Future Media. Not sure how long these will last, so enjoy them while you can.
The following clip highlights things that Hatsune Miku can do that humans simply can’t. Split second costume changes, horrendously fast lyrics – this is virtual virtuosity.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Hatsune Miku is just one of several virtual singers from Crypton Future Media. Here’s Miku in a duet:
Towards the end of the concert, Miku thanked her fans before singing a piece by Doriko, one of her more popular songwriters:
Many more HD segments of the MikuPa 39 concert can be found on Vocaloidnurdin’s YouTube channel.
Ok, so you’ve just spent an hour watching a green-haired diva stroll the stage in front of thousands of ardent fans waving glowsticks…what’s going on here? As we’ve discussed in our previous coverage, Hatsune Miku is a virtual character created by Crypton Future Media using voice synthesizing software from Yamaha called Vocaloid. Anyone can buy a copy of Hatsune Miku’s software from CFM and write songs for her to sing. Many will upload these songs to share sites like Piapro. Popular songs will often get videos made to accompany them. A select few will become so beloved that 5pb, Sega and CFM chose them for Hatsune Miku to sing in her ‘live’ performances. To get a better idea of the software, production, and grassroots fandom responsible for Hatsune Miku’s rise to fame, watch the following 14 minute segment from Asahi.com (a little old but still a great review). Fans won’t want to miss interviews with famous Hatsune Miku songwriters like Ryo, starting at 3:42:
In the year since the last 39 concert, the Hatsune Miku phenomenon has continued to explode across the globe. Her videos account for tens of millions of views on YouTube, many more on Nico Nico Douga, and there are hundreds of thousands of fans who have purchased her software or related video games. She’s starting to get major media attention (I’ve actually been interviewed to discuss her on Canadian radio, and regional divisions of Time magazine) and there are countless fansites dedicated to her on the internet. She’s big. Not Justin Bieber big, but getting there.
The progress Hatsune Miku is making is reflected in her latest concert. She’s reached a larger audience, one that is willing to pay to watch her on Nico Nico Douga or in theaters even when they can’t see her in person. She’s fueled by fan generated content that is expanding everyday. She’s attracted large production investments from companies like 5pb. If Hatsune Miku was a human performer, everyone would expect her best years to be ahead of her and coming up fast.
That’s not to say that she hasn’t hit some snags. Already fan feedback of the 2011 MikuPa concert is critiquing the manner in which she appeared on stage. In 2010, production teams used a see-through screen that made Miku appear more immersed in her surroundings. This ‘hologram’ projection was very appealing, especially to people being introduced to her for the first time (as I was). For this year’s performance, 5pb chose to box her up in a smaller, more conventional projection system, ostensibly to avoid glare. Discussions on whether her dancing, costumes, and singing have improved are all ongoing. I recommend reading the coverage on Vocaloidism to get a detailed breakdown of the 2011 concert and how it stacks up to other shows.
Whatever your feelings about the artistry or technology of the MikuPa concert, the cultural importance of Hatsune Miku’s success shouldn’t be ignored. I can’t think of another virtual character that has enjoyed such a bizarre form of persistent stardom. The crowd-sourced aspect of her performances are key to understanding her long term impact. Virtual characters are available to consumers in a way that human pop stars will never be. You can own Hatsune Miku. You can put her in your home and make her sing. You can dedicate hours to creating a perfect song for her and share it with the world, becoming famous along the way and maybe making some money as well. She may be the next generation of media. Just as video killed the radio star, virtuality could kill the pop star. I’m really not sure at this point if characters like Hatsune Miku will claim a small sliver of the music world and stay on the fringe or if they’ll explode to conquer the globe. In the next decade I expect we’ll either see the end of Miku’s ilk, or we’ll see human performers virtualize themselves to stay relevant. No matter what happens, watching Hatsune Miku in concert again is a sure sign that we live in exciting times for technology.
And she’s sounds pretty good, too.