Last August, hundreds of fans gathered in Tokyo to celebrate the birthday of a pop star. But this is no ordinary pop star. Not only is she just five years old, she isn’t even real! But although Hatsune Miku is basically just a computer program, she has spun what can probably be considered as a revolution in pop music that took over Japan by storm and has spread even to the U.S.
Hatsune Miku is what is called a “Vocaloid” (for “vocals” plus “android”), a combination of a singing synthesizer program developed by Yamaha and an anime character developed by Crypton Future Media. A vocaloid is able to combine tunes and lyrics from a song and have it sung by the avatar in her own, somewhat synthetic voice along with animations. But what makes Miku truly unique is not the vocaloid herself, but the creativity and culture of sharing that it has engendered among her fanbase.
Fans all over have taken the avatar to make their own music videos using third-party synthesizer programs that have sprung up around the Vocaloid phenomena. Empowered by social networking and online video sharing sites like Youtube and Facebook, these fans have made Miku their own and interpreted her in whatever way they like. Fortunately, Crypton has licensed the avatar in a way that encourages exactly this. This type of fan-based modification isn’t exactly a new concept in Japan, where hordes of fans create fanfiction and spinoffs based on their favorite manga or anime characters. Hatsune Miku hopefully represents the start of such a thriving and creative culture in the realm of music and animation. She is set to “perform” in a concert in Los Angeles in November at the Pacific Media Expo (PMX).
[ via The Atlantic ]