Hatsune Miku: More Than Virtual Success


What happens when you mix the world’s leader in technology and music? A feat no country has done before in the age of digital music.

If you haven’t heard about Hatsune Miku, Japan’s biggest pop star, that will soon change in just a matter of time.

Miku is not your ordinary pop star though she has the qualities of one—nearly 2 million Facebook fans, sold out concerts, top brand sponsors—but she’s even more prolific than Prince, having written more than 150,000 songs. With her blue hair, schoolgirl uniform and thigh-high boots, it’s not hard to see why the Japanese go crazy for her. But what sets her apart from any other pop talent in the country? She’s not human.

Created in 2007 by Japanese software development company Crypton Future Media, Miku is a “fabricated digital voice sporting a virtual character body.” If that’s quite a mouthful, try “hologram vocaloid.”

Miku’s voice was created using Yamaha Corporation’s “vocaloid” technology (a singing voice synthesizer) while her appearance was crowd-sourced. She was initially launched as an app. Within just one month, the app became the highest-grossing software at that time with revenues of 57.5 million yen.

The 16-year-old singer (she’s apparently 16 and is a Virgo) appears in “live shows” as a hologram wearing her blue hair in gigantic pigtails and donning the Japanese otaku favorite, a school girl uniform.

True to a pop diva, Miku became the face of several top global brands such as Louis Vuitton, Google and Toyota.

Since then, she has reigned the music charts and has quite a following in Japan, and she’s developing a following in the rest of the world: she recently speaking English, and she’s even going to be opening for Lady Gaga.

Her, or its, rise is perfectly understandable given Japan’s idol culture, says Japan Today. Miku reflects the Japanese Zeitgeist of “artificial intimacy”.

“The Japanese have always believed in animism and Shintoism,” said Morinosuke Kawaguchi, a leading futurist and designer. “They see a spirit in objects like wood and stone.”

“The Japanese feel sympathy for even a computer,” Kawaguchi added. “It becomes a partner.” Even more so a dancing, singing, virtually present hologram.

You can see a few clips of Hatsune Miku “live” in action below:

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: “Hatsune Miku (LAT ver.)” by _Chag/Flickr