One of the big things that has really exploded in Japan this past decade, is a program called Vocaloid.
Originally released in 2004 by Yahama, this musical voice synthesizer enables users to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and melody.
It didn’t get really popular until 3 years later, when Yahama released Vocaloid 2. With the release of Vocaloid 2, the program was given a makeover with the Character Vocal Series released by Crypton, featuring an anime-style character named Hatsune Miku as the mascot for the software. Many more voices have been released, including a GACKT one.
Wikipedia states that “Nico Nico Douga [which is best described as the Japanese version of YouTube] played a fundamental role in the recognition and popularity of the software. Soon after the release of the software, users of Nico Nico Douga started posting videos with songs created by the software. According to Crypton, a popular video with a comically-altered Miku holding a leek, singing Ievan Polkka, presented multifarious possibilities of applying the software in multimedia content creation. As the recognition and popularity of the software grew, Nico Nico Douga became a place for collaborative content creation. Popular original songs written by a user would generate illustrations, animation in 2D and 3D, and remixes by other users. Other creators would show their unfinished work and ask for ideas.”
In 2008, a fan-made program called Miku Miku Dance (seen as “MMD” on YouTube, Nico Nico Douga and other video sites) was released. MMD is a program originally made to animate computer models of Miku (hence the name). However, Vocaloid is such a hit that models of the other characters have been created. Today, the models aren’t limited to Vocaloid characters, and MMD is used to make most fan-made 3D music videos. As of this writing, there are “about 12,200” MMD videos, just on YouTube.
On 2010.03.09, Sega (who developed and published the Hatsune Miku PSP game) held the very first Vocaloid concert at the Tokyo Zepp music hall. (Interestingly, in Japanese, 3 is “san,” and 9 is “kyuu.” “Sankyuu” is Engrish for Thank you. In addition to “san,” 3 can also be “mi,” so 3 9 can be either “Sankyuu” or “Miku.”) Doing the music for the 39’s Giving (Thanks Giving) Concert was a real band named The 39S (The Mikus?)
But what’s so amazing about it?
It’s who sings.
Miku and others were holograms. Yes, that’s right. I said HOLOGRAMS! And they look so real! At first glance, they just look like animatronics, but you can see light shining through the bodies.
Even I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that these were holograms @____@ Only in Japan can you come across technology this advanced. Jeez…
(I think) You can watch the entire concert, here.