Guess what day it is readers? But it’s not like you need me to tell you what day it is; MIKU’S BIRTHDAY! Would you care to join us as we celebrate her fourth year?
Hatsune Miku (her name using the characters 初 “hatsu/first,” 音, sound “ne/sound,” and 未来/ミク “miku/future”) was Crypton Future Media’s third Vocaloid, and first on the VOCALOID2 engine. She was released on August 31st, 2007, her character designer is KEI, and the Japanese voice actor Fujita Saki supplied her voicebank. Her character item is a negi, or spring onion.
Miku’s huge initial success was largely due to the internet, especially Nico Nico Douga. Various people (song writers, lyricists, movie makers, illustrators, etc) all banded together when Miku arrived on the scene, creating an abundance of original videos and paraodies. The fact that Miku had no set personality or story left the field wide open, allowing users to mold and shape her to any possible outline they could imagine. Her influence has been seen in various cameo appearances in anime and manga series, and in popular internet web comics, such as “Chibi Miku-san” by Minami. She is also the current mascot for Good Smile Racing’s Super CT team and now has several “live” concerts under her belt (the first being on August 22nd, 2009 at the Animelo Summer Live at the Saitama Super Arena).
At the end of April 2010, a new collection of voicebanks for Miku was released, called Hatsune Miku Append (the user needed the original Miku voicebank to be able to use the Append disk). It was a collection of six new voicebanks (still supplied by Fujita Saki). The new voicebanks were called Soft, Sweet, Dark, Vivid, Solid, and Light and were supposed to express different moods of Miku.
There is no arguing that the past year has been quite a big one for Miku. Owning largely to the groundwork that was laid before her previous birthday, which included the original Giving Day concert, Project DIVA 2nd, and the Append software, Miku was poised for a breakout fourth year. With her star shining as brightly as ever, let’s take a look at some of her biggest developments and achievments from this past year.
Project DIVA Developments
The release of the second game in the “Project DIVA” lineup coincided with Miku’s birthday last year, but the splash it made with Vocaloid fans definitely carried over into her fourth year. The second game in the series features tons of new songs and outfits, nearly all of which were once again created by individuals across the Vocaloid community, a feature which has always made Miku and the other Vocaloids so special. As the year progressed, SEGA released several new DLC outfits and songs for Miku and her friends. Sales and reviews for the game were generally positive, developments which likely contributed to the addition of many of the songs and outfits to the already popular “Project DIVA Arcade” (which also made their Singapore debut). Fans of “Project DIVA Dreamy Theater” on the PlayStation3 also had their wishes come true recently with the August release of a “Project DIVA 2nd” version of the HD game.
Thanks to developments over the summer it also looks like fans of this popular series will have even more to look forward to in the near future. As reported here a few weeks ago, the release date of “Project DIVA extend” has been confirmed for November 10th and will once again feature new songs, outfits, and opening single by famous musician ryo.
Hatsune Miku Live Party 2011
Following the smash hit success of Miku’s first March 9th Giving Day Concert in 2010, Crypton and production company 5pb attempted to follow up on that success with another live concert held in Tokyo. With another packed house and thousands more tuning in online from across the globe, the concert once again generated great excitement amongst the fan community. Unfortunately, due to several poor decisions and internal conflicts in the Crypton/5pb/SEGA circle, the concert’s graphical quality, programming schedule, and presentation style were harshly criticized by many. The mix of impressions was summed up in our article covering the event in March. In a somewhat encouraging move, the second iteration of this concert, performed on August 16th and 17th in Sapporo was considered to be a significant improvement in all respects (despite a lack of stream opportunities for fans). Both concerts and their music playlists will be available for purchase in their entirety this fall, information on pre-ordering and release dates can be found in this article.
Hatsune Miku US Debut
Perhaps the biggest news of the year, especially for many international fans, was the first concerted effort by Crypton and SEGA to help bring Miku’s “brand” and popularity abroad. While Miku and her fellow Vocaloids have already developed a strong following across the globe, little effort has yet been made to make her products, music, and image easily available to overseas fans. The first evidence of this effort began late last year when the CEO of Crypton Future Media, Hiroyuki Itoh, announced at New York Comic Con that a English version of Hatsune Miku would be considered if Miku’s Facebook page reached 39,000 “likes.” By mid-November this was quickly accomplished (her page currently has 250,000+ likes).
Things continued to heat up in early May with a series of rapid and exciting developments for the American Vocaloid fans. The first of these was the surprising announcement by Crypton and Toyota that Miku would become an official spokesperson(spokaloid?) for the 2011 Toyota Corolla. What followed was a series of promotional posters, a website, and several commercials that while received with a mixed reception, will nevertheless remind Miku fans of bacon-wrapped hotdogs for a long time to come. You can see the commercials and images in this article.
The biggest news had yet to come however when just a few days later AnimeExpo had announced that Hatsune Miku was due to become their first virtual guest of honor at their 2011 convention in Los Angeles, California. Tickets for her concert sold out quickly and the pending debut soon became big news throughout the fan community. By the time the Expo arrived on June 30th, Vocaloid fans were treated to a well-planned and exciting lineup of Vocaloid events for the whole weekend, including panels with producers and Crypton executives, MMD and PV premiers, and other various Vocaloid-centric events.
Toyota also had a strong presence at the event and provided several neat giveaways to fans. An interesting development for Vocaloid fans was the official announcement of Mikubook by Crypton, which, while still in on-going beta, will allow Vocaloid fans across the globe to socialize and recommend songs by Miku and the other Vocaloids to each other.
The concert was quite the sold out success and generated significant media and fan interest. While largely a replay of last year’s Giving Day event, it did feature improved graphics, several new songs from Project DIVA, and many new and beautiful costumes. While the English rendition of “World’s End Dancehall” might not have been a smash-hit success, the addition of some English lines to the event was a nice touch, and Miku saying “I hope to see you again” definitely has the hopes of many Vocaloid fans up for future concerts. While nno other such events have yet been confirmed, it is hard to imagine that a more positive reception for Miku from her American fan base. This event, as well as Miku’s growing popularity abroad likely left a strong impression on her developers and brand managers, which leads us too…
English Miku Voicebank
A dream come true for many aspiring English-speaking Vocaloid musicians, the announcement of Miku’s English voice as a result of her growing Facebook popularity was yet another ground-breaking development and further evidence of Crypton’s recognition of Miku’s international appeal and potential. Over the course of the nine months since the original confirmation of the new software, various reports have come out indicating that Fujita Saki (Miku’s voice sampler) was improving her English and that recording and development were on-going. Indications from Cryton at AnimeExpo were that the voicebank would be released in late 2011 or early 2012.
In mid-summer Crypton hosted an on-going contest on Piapro for users to submit potential artwork for English Miku’s boxart. That contest has now concluded and you can view the winning entry in this article.
Label KarenT is also hosting a special anniversary for Miku with lots of new music releases.
Now let’s take a look-back to some of Miku’s most popular videos of the past year.
“Pop Heart Sutra” by Onyuu-P
“Once Upon A Me” by DECO*27
“FREELY TOMORROW” by Mitchie M (a.k.a. Tucada)
“Shinkai Shoujo” by Yuuyu-P
“Calc.” by OneRoom(JimmyThumb-P)
“Online Game Addicts Sprechchor” by Satsukiga Tenkomori
“Time Machine” by 1640mP (164×40mP)
And now for some videos uploaded just for Miku’s birthday.
“ホシノウタ” by Toku-P
“Miracle na Power” by Gojimaji-P/Lamaze-P
“合言葉” by Ein(BeruP)
“to be style” by Clean Tears
You can view more birthday videos by searching this tag on Nico Nico Douga.
Lastly, but not least, we will showcase some beautiful illustrations of Miku for your enjoyment.
You can view more by searching this tag on pixiv.
Thus another year is added to the belt of the Vocaloid that started the whole craze. Four years and still going strong, so let’s keep it going!
I’d like to thank editor descent for their huge help in this article!
Some thoughts from descent: Many thanks to Bunny as well for putting in the hard work to make my favorite Vocaloid’s article so fitting. While its been awhile since Miku first graced us with her pretty voice and addictive cuteness, I really feel that her star has never been brighter. All the publicity from the concerts, countless hit songs, video games, Append, MMD, and the upcoming Voicebank have shown us that Miku will continue to be amazing embodiment for the passion and love of her fans and producers. While there are many who feel that Miku has become too “mainstream” or “popular”, I can only say that while I understand your feelings, I have always felt that her fame has been a great boon in making the success of the other Vocaloids, UTAUs, and MMD models possible. She proved that this genre could experience true commercial success and dedicated fan support. This has led us to a point where we can expect to bright future for her and all the other amazing voices and characters used by amazing producers and cheered on by fans everyday. So to Miku I say “O-tanjoubi omedetou”! And to all her fans, follower, producers, and aspiring-producers, myself included, I hope that we all continue to find inspiration and joy in everything that she embodies. As always, “Miku in my brain is Prettiest!” (<-A good series of albums, too!)