As a last minute addition to Anime Expo 2013, Crypton Future Media’s US/EU Marketing Director Kanae Muraki held a panel on the afternoon of the last day to talk about Hatsune Miku, including several announcements. Topics covered ranged from an introduction to Hatsune Miku and the collaborative creative phenomenon associated with her to the latest collaborations with clothing stores, anime shops and even the opera. The main highlights of the panel, however, were information regarding the upcoming release of the English version of Hatsune Miku and a call out to fans to gather information on where the next concert outside of Japan should take place. More information on pricing and a detailed release date is expected by the end of July. Furthermore, people who enter information on the Find Me campaign get a chance to win a pair of tickets to Magical Mirai, including roundtrip airfare.
Kanae opened the panel with a self-introduction, as well as apologizing for the last-minute nature of the scheduling. She admitted that she wasn’t very confident of her English, especially in front of the packed audience, and that she felt goosebumps at the unexpectedly large turnout. Since the panel wasn’t on the printed schedule, she wasn’t expecting much more than 100 or 200 people to show up, much less the thousand or so people who packed room 502 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. An impromptu poll of the audience showed that a large segment of the audience had known Hatsune Miku for more than two years.
With introductions and greetings wrapped up, the panel moved onto the actual presentation, starting with a plug for the official Hatsune Miku YouTube Channel, 39ch and a preview of an upcoming con report. She talked about interviewing some of the cosplayers as well as including parts of the panel. The Anime Expo con report, which has since been uploaded after the event, is now available for viewing on 39ch.
Next up was talk about the English version of Hatsune Miku. Before the panel started, fans were given round stickers with the words “HATSUNE MIKU ENGLISH” and “SOFTWARE RELEASE SUMMER 2013” written on them, along with a link to the official website at MikuEnglish.com. The words were also arranged and colored in such a way that it looked like a Miku face, with her hair as a geometric design in the background. There was a lot of cheering when the English Miku slide popped up as Kanae asked the audience “did you get these stickers?” She said she was really happy to announce this summer’s release of Hatsune Miku English at Anime Expo since Miku had her Mikunopolis concert here back in 2011. Although she had released sneak peek demos at New York Comic Con, the full announcement needed to be made at Anime Expo because “you guys [here in the audience] waited so long.”
For the people who might not be so familiar with Hatsune Miku, Kanae proceeded to give a small overview, first by showing a slide with Miku saying “I’m not anime character or game character…” Since she had come across fans who had misconceptions about Hatsune Miku, Kanae said that by “English Miku is coming”, she didn’t mean an anime or game in English, but rather a “singing voice synthesizer.”
After mentioning that Miku before now could only sing in Japanese, she asked the audience to see how many people already use VOCALOID software. Surprised by a bunch of hands that shot up, she exclaimed, “really?! Oh my god… Um, that’s crazy!” Apparently, some people are making the Japanese sound banks sing in English, but having the English sound bank is supposed to make the process a lot easier. As a simple demonstration, she played a video of the software being used to sing in English the lyrics “I’m Hatsune Miku from Crypton Future Media”.
Kanae then went on to talking about the whole creative culture behind Hatsune Miku, how she can sing everyday songs made by many different musicians. This participatory culture, the Hatsune Miku phenomenon, is the focus of a documentary series called Mikumentary, of which Episode 3 was screened. Although this episode is being aired at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo as well as the Time Warner Media Lab in New York City, the public release of this episode online is not expected until September 2.
After the video finished playing, Kanae reiterated the fact that Hatsune Miku had started out as a singing synthesizer software package but had expanded to something much more. With the release of the English version of Hatsune Miku, Crypton hopes that it would bring a lot more of the fans in the United States into this participatory culture.
With the gentle introduction to Miku and her participatory culture, Kanae moved on to talking about the
Minglish Miku English release in particular. Mentioning that simply having a vocal database wasn’t enough to make songs, she touted that the release will have everything “in one package.” It will include the sound bank itself and the VOCALOID editor software Piapro Studio, as well as a set of virtual instruments and Studio One to create the backing instrumentals. This is very much like the previously-released KAITO V3 package.
She also put up a slide stating that Crypton plans on making a Mac version of Miku. On screen was a very shy and small Miku hiding behind a giant apple with a heart-shaped bite taken out of it, with the audience very much fawning over the cuteness. While previously Miku was only available for the Windows platform, Crypton is looking to bring out a Mac version in the future as well.
In a segue to describing how Miku English will be distributed, Kanae alluded to how a lot of times software such as games would come out in Japan first, forcing fans to import them. This time, Crypton is working with music software firm Big Fish Audio to handle a simultaneous release in the US. Furthermore, a download version of Miku English will be available as well. Big Fish Audio is a US-based developer and distributor of virtual instruments and sample libraries, very much like what Crypton Future Media does in Japan. At this point, two representatives of Big Fish Audio were invited on stage to talk about Hatsune Miku English being released at the end of this summer. According to them, they have been partnering with Crypton Future Media for at least ten years, and will be releasing Miku in coordination with Crypton. They say they are also excited for the Mac version, pointing to the many people who use Macs for creating music. More information about the release should be available on both MIKUBOOK and Big Fish Audio’s website. When asked after the panel ended, Big Fish Audio stated that more information about the release will be available by the end of July, and Kanae said that although pricing wasn’t finalized, it will probably be around the same price as their previous products like KAITO V3.
Following the product details, Kanae gave the audience a more involved demonstration of Miku English with a demo song titled “Coming Together” by bsc a.k.a. kuni. The creator of this song is actually a professional DJ/producer from Sapporo who makes loops and stems for UNDERTONE RECORDINGS. According to a quick oral survey of the audience, they seemed to have understood Miku’s English singing. As the English version was also voiced by Saki Fujita, Kanae thanked her for all the hard work she did on the creation of this voice bank. Coincidentally, this song was also played at the Crypton panel at Japan Expo in Paris, where CEO Hiroyuki Itoh made the same announcements during the same weekend as Anime Expo. Closing up the panel segment about Miku English, she asked people to visit MikuEnglish.com in order to subscribe to a mailing list for more information.
The rest of the panel was devoted to collaborative projects with Miku, starting with an reiteration of the announcement that Hatsune Miku Project DIVA F will be released in the US. There was a good amount of cheering when the SEGA logo came up for the trailer and even more cheering as the words “Hatsune Miku, the world famous virtual singer, is heading West!” flashed by on the screen. Kanae wanted to thank everyone for their support, especially when SEGA made a post on their Facebook page about the potential of a release outside Japan. She then mentioned the USA animate Online Shop, where fans can buy official Miku merchandise. Although animate had a booth during Anime Expo, they also sell their items online as well for people who couldn’t make it to the convention.
Moving forward, she announced a collaboration with fan apparel brand welovefine.com, a subbrand of Mighty Fine. They had a booth at Anime Expo selling T-shirts as well as “cosplay” tank tops mimicking Hatsune Miku’s standard outfit. These items are currently available on their online store. Furthermore, they will be holding a T-shirt design contest as well. Submissions are due by the end of August, and she’s encouraging everyone to get involved and create fan art just like fans have been doing in Japan.
Finally, the last segment of the panel focused on concert performances, and when asked whether the audience was wondering about them, someone shouted loudly “bring them back!” Slightly taken aback at the response, Kanae tried to segue into a slightly different topic, talking about how there’s all sorts of different types of concerts. The first she introduced was Isao Tomita’s Symphony Ihatov, which had featured Miku in a singing role while an orchestra played. Followed by this, she talked about an all-Miku opera piece titled “The End”, which in addition to the Japanese showings will actually be screened in Paris on November 15. She also mentioned the “biggest event” they are holding this year, a “Miku festival” called Magical Mirai happening at the end of August in Yokohama, Japan. Apparently, one member of the audience claimed to be attending the concert, much to Kanae’s surprise.
After mentioning many of these events, she wanted to let the audience know that they had a say in where Miku will be performing next or where Miku goods will be available. Crypton is asking fans to fill in information about where they are from and general comments on a special website for the campaign “Help Us Find You!” Information from these surveys will then be used as marketing data in order to help determine where concerts can be held and to make a convincing business argument regarding them. In this way, information can be more accurately collected than trying to manually count comments on Facebook. Furthermore, apparently Hatsune Miku had just reached a million fans on Facebook a day earlier. In celebration, they will be drawing one lucky winner from submissions for the campaign to receive a pair of tickets to Magical Mirai as well as a pair of roundtrip plane tickets.
The panel concluded with a screening of a selection of songs from the Mikupa concert in
Knasai Kansai this year. The video release is expected at the end of August, so this was a preview screening made specially for convention attendees, as a sort of apology for not being able to hold a concert at Anime Expo this year. After two false-starts, the video managed to start playing correctly. It opened with the actual opening of the concert with a lot of cheering from the female members of the panel audience when Rin and Len showed up on the teaser. The sneak preview showed Secret Police, Colorful×Melody, Hello Planet, Kokoro, PoPiPo and Romeo and Cinderella. The audience went wild when PoPiPo came up, and a certain red-shirted individual was wielding light sticks for the entire duration. When the preview ended, sad feelings melted away into thunderous applause. At the end Kanae asked the audience to please submit info on their website so that they can bring such concerts to the US. The panel closed with the Miku English demo song being played again.