New York Comic-Con 2011
Hatsune Miku: Beyond the Character

by Todd Ciolek,

It's hard to find a modern analogy for the success of Hatsune Miku, the chirping artificial pop star that rose from the Vocaloid line of song-creating software. For comparable virtual singers, you'd have to look to fiction like Macross Plus, Megazone 23, and William Gibson's Idoru. Fictional or not, Miku is suffering no shortage of fans, as a room was packed for the New York Comic-Con panel featuring Weekly ASCII editor and “Mikunopolis in Los Angeles” director Toshihiro Fukuoka, as well as popular Miku-related video creator Masataka P.

At the start of the panel, Fukuoka stated that Miku is four years old this year and put up a collage of various Miku designs. He asked which was the original Miku, and, following excited guesses from the crowd, stated that “they're all Miku.”

Fukuoka then played several Miku videos, including one that mapped Miku's eerie synthesized vocals onto the music of the NES game Balloon Fight. Other NES game footage featured the infamous “kuso-ge” (crappy game) Spelunker and the Konami shooter Gradius. Then Fukuoka played the popular online meme video that pairs “Ievan Polkka” with a leek-hefting Miku.

Fukuoka also played several samples from early in Miku's development.

“At the beginning, it wasn't really music so much as just sounds,” Fukuoka said, playing a disturbingly suggestive clip of an over-excited Miku. Another clip replicated the jingles used by trains at various Japanese stations, only with Miku's squeaky tones.

Fukuoka moved on to some samples of the music that users can make with Miku, ranging from a multi-layered Bach arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” to the Star Wars imperial march. Another clip showed animated cutouts of Vocaloid stars Miku, Rin, and Luka peeping out violin strains. At the demand of the crowd, he also played a sample of Miku, Rin and Len singing Pachelbel's Canon in their trademark computerized rapid-fire yipping. Another song featured Miku, backed by three other Mikus, singing “Kimi wo Nosete,” the theme from Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky. To demonstrate Vocaloid's English-language abilities, Fukuoka also played a Luka version of Lady Gaga's “Poker Face,” her voice barely audible in the heavy mix. Lastly, Fukuoka showed “Alice in Musicland,” a fan-animated adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

Masataka P then took center stage to discuss the Miku Miku Dance program, a 3-D CGI development studio. Masataka played clips of a music video featuring a polygon-model Miku gyrating and singing. Masataka closed his presentation with the newest music video, “Eden,” made using a combination of Miku Miku Dance and other software.

“The video is what our world looks like from the point of view of Hatsune Miku,” Masataka said, adding that the video will be uploaded to NicoNico shortly.

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