A few years ago, we were lucky enough to be invited to the X Japan Reunion Concert at the Tokyo Dome. However, I was rather confused to see the bassist who died in 1998 up on the stage. Would they be so crass as to put an actor in his place? An impersonation? No, instead, it turned out it was a hologram. And a damn good one, at that.
In fact, it wasn’t until intermission that I realized that the performer, perfectly represented on the jumbotrons with what I later found out was footage spliced in from earlier concerts, was not actually present. Of course, the Tokyo Dome is huge, but even from our floor seats in the press pit (i.e. really close to the stage) I still couldn’t tell.
So it comes as no surprise that not only is one of Japan’s hottest acts currently a hologram, but there isn’t even a real person behind the music, other than a voice actress whose voice has been sampled, and now lives a life of it’s own in the guise of one Hatsune Miku, in a genre called Vocaloid.
It sounds a bit like something out of a Science Fiction flick (or the movie Simone) but this character has become a huge hit, and a number of my students have declared their obsession with this artificial artist. In fact, she’s so big that she’s even crossing over to the States with success many breathing Japanese artists would kill for (or at least, pull the plug, *rimshot*)
Toyota recently released this Corolla commercial, which seems surprisingly niche (and not a little bit awkward, honestly…big dreams? Works of art? Why is this dude still talking?) Still, it’s interesting for what it represents. I love when things that my students actually care about get such mainstream attention in the States, and it’s exciting to see this cross-cultural interaction.
In fact, Anime Expo just announced Hatsune Miku will be “performing” at this year’s event, with an epic 3D concert, and from the sound of it some people are pretty excited. She’ll also be a “virtual guest,” so I can’t help but think of this blue-haired hologram hanging out on the couch in the green room, or heading to dinner with the other Guests of Honor. Who knows, maybe someday?
What do you think? Do you love Vocaloid, or does it come too close to the “Uncanny Valley”? Are you beguiled by this beauty, or do you prefer your performers breathing? Will you be heading to Anime Expo this summer to check it out?