Hatsune Miku is not a character from an anime. But, her music videos would count as animation produced in Japan.
After one of said works ended up included in my binge of Fantasista Utamaro’s animation directing work, database hound tools like MALgraph have been nudging me to watch other music videos featuring her ever since.
We are going to need a much bigger word processor document boat to tackle this fish.
As this is territory that some would argue exists on the fringe of what this blog is used for on a normal day, some background history is in order.
As a commercial series of software products, Vocaloid is a line of music program synthesizers with an associated line of voice packages first released by Yamaha back in 2004. While there have been new releases to the core engine over the years (Vocaloid 3 being the current primary one), the idea of the product remains the same. Via prerecorded sets of vocal song tones rather than a more direct text to speech feature set, a user can create music complete with their own vocalist. A creator would have full power to edit and tweak every aspect of pitch, tempo, and so on without needing to find a flesh and blood lead singer practice and perform the tune first. This would be true both for assisting in backing vocals for an established artist for certain stylistic enhancements, testing out notes of a song with a few different singing styles before having a company vocalist come in, or any number of industry uses.
In turn, the voice banks and associated marketing have themselves over the years have gone through a few shifts. While Yamaha develops and maintains the central system program, many additional companies have released their own Vocaloid sound packages for it, developing them around different styles of music and the like. As a product originally intended for more high level traditional commercial musician use, many early packages were more clinical, being oriented around a robust level of technical sound and minimizing the forward role of the software. The idea was that they would subtly enhance present industry work needs. Over time, while they were not the first to develop a Vocaloid audiobank around a particular artificial character, Crypton Future Media, Inc. became notable for what they dubbed The Vocal Character Series. The idea being that not only could a user have their own vocalist sound needs met, but to also come complete with a premade individual to assist in giving inspirational guidance for the creative process. An associated appearance to headline said musical pieces. In essence, ready made pop idols to give a bit of added marketing kick and a more focal point for end users to light artistic fires, who were only in need of a song.
Hatsune Miku was the first of this series, seeing release in late August 2007. Her audio package designed around sounding “cute” in a teen singer kind of way through all manner of technical manipulations.
The endeavor has payed off beyond their wildest dreams. The character went on to win numerous design awards, and has come to feature in advertisements from players ranging from Google to Domino’s Pizza. Now she regularly manages to hold sold out live concerts performed via hologram imaging, and has picked up international music figure friends along the way, as she recent featured as an opening portion of Lady Gaga’s recent world tour.
All that said: I do not have much of a prior history with the character herself.
It is fully possible the first video of hers I ever saw may well even be the Tell Your World piece that bubbled up during my Fantasista Utamaro post. I can not actually remember if I saw a music video of her before that. Surely I must have, given how much she pops up around anime circles, but I would not be able for the life of me to say what it would have been.
I like the idea of Vocaloids on the whole (for what it is worth, of the limited characters and songs I know I have heard prior, I probably like the sound of Megurine Luka the most), but I am not very familiar with a huge amount of the output associated with them. This comes from the nature of the engine itself. As the software packages associated with the Vocaloid system are fundamentally a set of synthesizer programs and vocal tone banks, anyone with the software and enough time can write their own songs sung by a particular character. Hatsune Miku then has thousands of tunes associated just with her, let alone the nearly sixty other Vocaloid packages in the stable on top of that (though they are not all character vocal types, and Miku is by far the most successful of the bunch).
As a result, it can get really imposing to sift through that level of content and try and suss out what the highlights are. These are not traditional music artists with a more limited discography one can just binge through. Even on the music video end, folks make their own videos all the time. This process has been made quite accessible to aspiring creators over the years via community developed freeware like the MikuMikuDance animation program. Of all the fun internet fan webpage history things, the MMD site is even still hosted on a GeoCities.jp domain! And yet, the graphics options it provides are at a point where a limited number of television animated series are now produced with it, such as Straight Title Robot Anime and the upcoming Hi☆sCoool! Sega Hard Girl.
Because there are so many Hatsune Miku videos out there in the wild wild internet west, the rules and my hyper preening process for this album length animation selection experiment to get the recommendation engines off my back are as follows:
– The music video must be listed under Hatsune Miku’s “Animeography” on her MyAnimeList.net character profile (15 entries, as of June 12th, 2014)
– The following music videos will be ordered by their release date
– Again, I am fully aware Hatsune Miku is a Vocaloid and not a character from an anime. However for our purposes, her music videos function as animation created in Japan, so I consider them fair game for this anime blog.
I will link to the music videos, rather than embed them into the article more directly. This out of respect for older machines, mobile users, internet bandwidths, etc, since there are so many of them this post is going to cover before we are through. If my personal hardware would have trouble rendering one of my own articles, then I would have no right to subject others to it!
I think this sets everything up, and I am ready to set out on a grand tour then!
[If you want to cheat though (and good lord, this post is huge), I have a small favorites list at the tail end of the article in the conclusion area. Only break glass in case of emergency and all that jazz.]
Nebula, by Tripshots
Released: February 3rd, 2009
The first of this particular MAL-engineered lineup coming out roughly a year and a half after the release of Hatsune Miku herself. This just about corresponds to the stage a number of real life musicians would be in after a period of some initial success. Even if prior music videos may have been made by a pop idol or band, there tends to be the desire to have a sort of “statement of intent” piece set to one of their songs. But, the character herself can not weigh in on such choices. It is appropriate then that this entire series of music video explorations comes to start in a piece where both the lyrics and video were engineered by the same person to give it a cohesive vision (in this case, Tripshots, whose day job does actually involve video production; Nebula was made in his spare time).
In lyrical intent, the song revolves around the idea of creation, expansion, and things still very much being at their beginning. The entire community that surrounds Vocaloids then, as effectively an avenue of artistic expression. As I had mentioned the idea of a “statement of intent” video, the visuals play this notion via slow panning shots, focus on poses, and generally speaking everything that surrounds Miku is doing more than the character herself. Certainly, she needs external input so as to be able to walk or sing on her own. More than that though, this is a video less gunning for momentum so much as it is for more for giving such actions a weight or impact.
This plays works it way down to the handling of the text based content as well, throwing out heavy handed “She is waiting for you” and “She has the Power to Change the World ” lines as it is. And the video does not have them there for a passing temporary kinetic visual spice either. They are presented rather plainly, directly, and with prominent image focus. They can not reasonably be missed out on by a viewer, being as central and prominent as they are, which again goes back to the matter of weight and the objective of the video.
It is a declarative piece. It is grandstanding in the effort of remarking to the viewer “This exists as a creative force on a global stage.”
Which is on the one level a bit of a strange consideration. After all the digital idol does not write her own songs, make her own videos, or have any say regarding how she should be seen. And yet also it is perhaps because of that which makes the need or desire for there to be a video such as this all the more pressing for an entity like her. That through this Vocaloid avenue, other artistic entities can find their own voices of expression they may not have been able to achieve otherwise. A lightning rod ready and capable of collecting an outside idea from that creative process, and seeing it come to life on that associated global stage. All Miku would need is someones participation from the other side.
While not itself a company sales pitch, it fires a conceptual cannon blast as regards lighting a tone for the rest of this line-up and where they may take the potential dreams this work may have hoped to allude would be on the horizon. To follow though on such ideals, and where they will come to roam.
Downloader, by Taishi
Released: May 27th, 2011
This piece, and indeed the next two after it in this particular chronology as well, arrives animated by professional outfit Studio DEEN. Personally, I find the visual imagery of Hatsune Miku emerging from an egg capsule within an egg ship amusing, given that one of their very earliest anime works was Mamoru Oshii’s film entitled Angel’s Egg. I am sure it is of rather minimal importance to an idol music video in 2011, I just rather adore that movie and like bringing it up.
In the event the title of the song escaped the viewer though, one by all means will be having that reinforced watching incalculable download process bars filling up and going about their business. This is not a total death knell strike against the video itself, as it does link up with the means by which a variety of Miku’s songs are developed and exchanged. Being surrounded by such screens as she is, it does speak to the raw volume of such music out there. Especially were we to even consider her perhaps downloading and listening to the songs folks create around and for her.
Going along with this, that the files or at least the visual representation of them via the download completion screens then coming to shatter, fragment, begin to reflect themselves and Miku, and so on. It is a minimal step then to take a leap and consider them in the light of the song remixes the community makes of existing material, or aborted projects that only had a certain level of completeness but a certain level of instrumentation does exist for as demo reels or experimental sessions. In this also how these particular shards could in their own ways perhaps capture if but a small facet of something they all look towards on one level or another. That of the digital vocalist herself, and whatever lens she may be viewed in from such strained angles. And as all this is occurring during that phase, we have no real floor, walls, or ceiling. In effect, no limits or an endlessness so it all.
From a visual theme perspective, I find it fitting how the surrounding video screens of the initial set are reformed by the end of the video so as to collectively display images of a spring onion and Miku receiving one in turn. It is a kind of personal accessory that has become associated with the character over the years. Albeit, rather than original design this is due to a fan video based off of the “Leekspin” internet meme. Said fan video has over ten million views on Youtube alone, as of this writing.
So definitely, from a conceptual standpoint, that works here. For as wide and varied an ocean of these various songs that envelop all manner of aspects regarding ways to represent or evoke a certain sense of Hatsune Miku as an entity that one can seek out or download, at times an overwhelming number of folks can also collectively determine that they all see something the same way. That as a communal effort, she should have a certain something added as a part of the larger consideration towards who or what she is. In this case, that something being a spring onion accessory, and a means by which to deliver it to her. It dovetails well with the previous video, taken in that context.
Even if what it has to show may not be the most visually energetic of movies, it is a representative building block in how external forces can impact her.
Chime, by Curl flavor
Released: June 1st, 2011
The next video courtesy of Studio DEEN. Given the download messaging of the previous piece, it is a nice nod that the following one begins by involving a progress meter completing its task and cutting to a media player showing a film file. The same one that then begins to show this music video. It is not much, but a nice little synergistic nod nonetheless.
That may well be one of the aspects of the video I enjoy the most, however. While a video like Nebula went the more slow panning camera route via character close-ups, this is more object and landscape focused. Gradual momentum over lockers, school desks, grassy fields, and so on. Many of these shots are then replayed with a particle rain of visual musical note shapes blowing through the air. It is all very impersonal, distant, and reserved. Arguably, it would not be too far fetched to even remark that I found it to be kind of, well, boring.
The song is light and airy in tone, so taken as the audio aspect of a corresponding video they do relate to each other in that respect. Yet, merely because the music alone is passive does not mean that connecting it to a larger multimedia experience need be unengaging. To pull an oddball comparative example that built up an unexpected community that would be appropriate given an unusual music industry figure like Miku: take the Lonely Rolling Star song from the Katamari Damacy soundtrack., which at this point is over a decade old.
Tonally, Chime and Lonely Rolling Star are operating on similar audio wavelengths. But, and this is keen, one would hear that other work in context of a light but whimsical visual platter, given the mechanics of the associated video game involving rolling up everyday objects into a giant ball made of random stuff. The song could act as a pleasant linking force between the ears and what one would have their eyes interact with visually.
Chime, meanwhile, has a song that wants to operate in a similar backing manner, but the design of the video is itself also quite limited in activity too. They get in each others way. Rather than a cheery little music video frolick or Sunday drive then, I as a viewer am left in a boat where I am more waiting for something to happen or the adventure to begin.
I am in the car and ready to go, but we never get out of the driveway, as it were.
I can see what DEEN were going for, I just do not think it happened to work out for me. That the musical notes themselves which form the nexus of so much of the selection of animated activity in the video ended up looking like a mere mechanical overlay than something more grounded and interactive to the world of the video does not help matters much either.
It never managed to connect in a manner where my suspension of disbelief switched on and could leave reality behind for a bit.
Sekiranun Graffiti, by Ryo (Supercell) (music) and Dixie Flatline (lyrics)
Released: August 13th, 2011
The final entry of this front loaded trilogy series of features from Studio DEEN in this chronology. And it is the only one of the three maintaining a hand drawn two dimensional look anime folks would be inclined to think of them with. Additionally, this also comes with certain creative duties handled by songwriter Ryo, who many would know from J-Pop mega group Supercell.
The title would in intent mean something close to cloud graffiti (a variety which could create a supercell storm, at that). It is an intriguing name to start with, and the video I find makes some good choices to avoid some of the issues which befell Chime. While this is also a flighty and airy song, it seeks to sell that sensation more through momentum. In this case, the fantasy notion of soaring through the skies. It is less of a wider scale theme or messaging platform, and rather acts a little escapism routine. Zipping through and around cloud cover, hanging out with seagulls over the ocean, and a little girl getting to go a bit of a dreamlike adventure.
A bit of a tricky thing from a color design standpoint is that with Miku’s giant twintails hair being within the blue-green spectrum, she could easily blur and blend into the environment. Blue aerial shots, water sequences being reflective of the sky above, and so on. The same applies for the small child, who while she has a shorter hairstyle and lighter tone does have her face framed by a similar selection from the rainbow.
However, I feel this was storyboarded around rather well, rather than comprising the idea of the piece. The two girls often have dense cloud cover behind their heads in the daytime portions. Shots of the ocean often focus on presenting their water appearances as shadows rather than a more accurate reflection. The back or foreground level lighting will switch around to alter their contrast at times. And so on. That the characters then wear lighter colors that would blend in more with the clouds, which would on its own be problematic, can be better hand waved. This is because the visual focus becomes the momentum and aerial maneuvering sold through the visuals and actions of the hair. That sensation of being windblown. Their more cloudlike outfit palettes then can somewhat assist in the effort of allowing the eyes to focus on the broad scope and speed, rather than finer fidelity matters if one was hung up on their clothes too much.
Of the three Studio DEEN works in a row that were in this line-up, I would say this was the one I found the most immediately enjoyable.
Less conceptual stuff in the cards than Downloader to be sure, but nowhere near as many missteps as Chime, and far more visual activity than either of them. As a digital idol singer character, Hatsune Miku could go anywhere and do anything for anyone in a video. So hurling her into the wild blue yonder and having her almost be a bit of a superheroine to someone by allowing them to get away for awhile in a kind of dream space makes for more than enough justification for it all in my book.
EDEN, by ATOLS
Released: October 15th, 2011
Roughly two thirds of this is very visually compelling to me. One third is something I am left kind of awkwardly holding, like I showed up to a business event with my backpack.
On the highlight end, the darker and dronier forward electronica vibes of the audio for this piece play well to the visual display elements surrounding its aggressive use of Miku herself almost as a piece of geometry. As if she was herself not much different than a mere rectangle, triangle, or circle to be contorted and flung about. Going along with that, the stylized look of things like wireframe skeletal structures struggling against liquid surfaces that apply a skin-like coating linking up with the more direct oppressive tonal vibes. I think the music video also managed to integrate live action footage well. By collapsing the idol singer and her structural clones into the central ball of much of the video, and then transitioning the imagery of the ball through that of reality before Miku pops out again. It completely sandpapers down the issue where the polygon vocalist could look really cheap or cheesy applied to a live background on her own. Instead that transition sequence and corresponding breakout looks far more slick than it otherwise would.
But, the moments where the lead is standing around surrounded by stage lights and reaching out in various ways of fear or confusion… do not really do a whole lot for me. And they form not just a bit of the intro, but also a large facet of the conclusion sequence. Thus, the structural bow of the film is dependent on them.
The song itself is about these ideas of beginnings and endings, of closing oneself off and yet also being able to then say goodbye to such. So on a thematic level, I actually do understand it from a visual perspective. Those staggering scenes juxtaposed as they are with the sequences of the sphere and other identical imitation entities that are attempting to hold back a more fully developed and independent Miku. And yet, because those other sequences of the clones acting in concert together are more overtly showcasing various impressive visual shapes and speeds, there is a sense of being “lost” in the scenes where the character is more in the realm of void and stage lighting. Not just more thematically lost either. But a sense one kind of would perhaps prefer to go back to the other more visually visceral and dynamic parts. For lack of a better word, the more exciting material, which in this case is more representative of the internal struggle and representation matters.
Yet, maybe that is even the idea? That it would be the better alternative? Given that I am having this conversation with myself enough to have read what they were potentially going for and making me perhaps consider if the internal world was the more interesting one, it does still likely actually work on some level? In a very roundabout way?
I do not dislike the video, and I am not indifferent to it either.
I think it may be making a play at something very interesting in terms of potential viewer response. The audio-visual language of music videos can be tricky to engage with at times though. Often, one will not have the luxury of their video being watched multiple times like I have been doing for these writings.
But perhaps that I did give it the time of day, to hold on to its awkwardness and mull over what it may be up to, rather than reject it outright, does mean I like it more than I may think.
Bacterial Contamination, by mathru (aka Kanimiso-P)
Released: February 3rd, 2012
This video arrives a little under the halfway mark of this adventure. I feel that is a great place for it both in and of itself, and for purposes of anyone who may be scrolling through the article quite quickly.
It is definitely one of the more arresting pieces when it comes to imagery. In terms of the impact it is gunning for, by pulling nearly a complete reversal on the commonly associated image of Hatsune Miku as a cute character, it is unlike any other in this list. This would be like her rebellious-but-calculated phase, were she a more traditional musician. Where everything begins to scream for Darkness and Maturity because I Am Not A Kid Anymore. Like there was some kind of race to now end up getting their merchandise on the front window of a particular variety of shopping mall chain stores as quickly as possible.
Yet, I want to like this video a lot more than I actually do.
The visual design work I find quite compelling – the infected and malformed Miku character I think is a real standout. Contorted skeletal structure, spider-like claw fangs, while still having traditional cute elements like a giant bow in her hair yet while also lacking a jaw, and so on. Reds, black, and grey may all be pretty bog standard Serious Darkness Stuff colors, but, they do the job they are fishing for so it is hard to fault them too much. The main problem comes though perhaps almost because of the applied intricacy to the alternations make to Miku’s character, or at least how it was handled. Namely, while the ferocious creature form looks menacing, the video lacks a whole lot for it to actually do as an individual. There is a large amount of camera panning as it stands around, small rooms where it can not go anywhere, walkways it stares at us from, etc. So they are mainly left to just making decorative poses with minimal action, like they were trying to sell a figurine set rather than the supposed bile and rage of the character.
The lyrics themselves being from the pretty routine set of “it hurts,” “I am in pain,” and “nobody is my friend” set of tween My Life Is Darkness feelings to key off of does not really do it any favors in that respect either. It has a lot of the posturing down, in an attempt to show how serious it wants to be taken. But most of it is really just that: posturing. There are sentiments it perhaps want to express, but does not really know how to. After around the third or so time they keep shoving shots of the Miku spider fangs in ones face just to slowly show them off like this was the Home Shopping Network, there really does get to feel like there was a sense of being lost or uncertain as a more horror oriented video. Not really knowing what else to do to show its depth of personality and left to keep repeating itself in a relatively safe fashion, hoping that covers up its gaps through sheer attrition.
Which may be apt as a thematic idea for a number of young adult feelings, sure. But I feel it does not quite buoy a whole music video as a piece of art.
Tell Your World, by kz (livetune)
Released: March 12th, 2012
This is the video responsible for getting me into this entire marathon situation. I covered it as a part of my post on the animated music videos of Fantasista Utamaro, which I would recommended as a companion piece this this massive article since it is focused around a single director. One of those works just happened to be a Hatsune Miku video, which again in turn meant data analyzing sites like MALgraph began to tell me I should watch all these surrounding additional Hatsune Miku videos in the MyAnimeList.net filing system too.
As a revisitation then, how do I feel about the video now? When I am more removed from an article explicitly about the director himself and his stylistic leanings?
I still think the flow of it is excellently handled. Starting as it does with the visual construction of the idol singer from individual strands and wireframes, moving into an application of polygonal surface area, then the color explosions that only work as well as they do because of Utamaro’s background as a textile student. He can pull a lot of palate application stunts that look so complex no matter how fleeting to the eye they may be. But few directors from more traditional video directing histories would be able to achieve such demonstrations as easily.
The idea of Hatsune Miku as a digital figure is also so completely inescapable here. Even beyond the front loaded construction of the idol singer herself from stylized component parts, the video glitches her in and out as a routine matter. It allows her to have radical costume changes on the fly. Additional wireframes bursting from her hands as if on a whim, and so on. I find this appealing for two reasons. First of all, the manner in which it goes about all this regarding her polygonal nature gives her a more angular and stylized look that I feel will hold up better over time. Consider, for instance, more hyper realistic attempts at video game polygon graphics that quickly go outdated when they are surpassed by even more realistic works. Meanwhile something more art style favoring like Jet Set Radio or Vib-Ribbon hold up significantly better years down the road. Certainly, that is a solid goal for a music video to want to have too, and it has been over two years since the Tell Your World video was released. And it still looks visually engaging due to having been placed in a more difficult style position to overcome. It is hard to surpass on raw polygon count firebreathing alone.
Secondarily though, the idea of Hatsune Miku being a virtual character: I had always found that sort of thing to be one of the more appealing aspects of the whole line of Crypton’s Vocal Character Series programs even in my previously less informed space regarding the songs themselves. The idea of this being a popular figure who sings songs and now even holds concerts, who is only really “real” so long as folks actively construct material or create as a community. So if anything, I find I am often pulled towards the artificiality aspects of her character. Those that place her in positions she can go that few live action acts could in terms of visual design sensibilities. That I see them as more interesting than the video attempts that seek to personify her as a regular human girl. Though this is not a hard and fast unbreakable rule on either side of that spectrum, if you look over my opinions of the various videos here in this post on the whole.
For a song then that is lyrically about voices joining together and connecting thoughts that wish to be expressed, I think the combination of visually assembling a figure who serves as a central lighting rod for a wide variety of creative musical expression serves an immense thematic purpose. Likewise with the rich and seemingly overwhelming colors surrounding them, the random costume shuffling, and indeed even the glitches and distortion effects.
It has the advantage of being the one Hatsune Miku music video I have have had the most analytical prior exposure to given that previous Utamaro post of mine.
But, I still find so much about it as very enjoyable. There are a lot of little details and artistic flairs one can appreciate on rewatching and revisiting the material. That all ranges from how even the glitches receive such impeccable color treatment relative to their surrounding palates and just how many places Utamaro can squeeze in his love of manga style visual onomatopoeia into the frames while so much else is going on. It is a pretty tricky video to get clear screenshots out of at its heights, colorfully aggressive and so enjoying the sense of speed that it has. But in the moment, that becomes the least of ones thoughts.
fake doll, by Hachioji-P
Released: August 27th, 2012
This production is of the variety that gets into the kind of pop idol song undercurrent which strikes me as kind of slightly uncomfortable.
A grease that allows the gears of much idol machinery to grind away is the notion the singer can instil at times a feeling like they are singing only for one person. You, the listener, directly. Like they are having a conversation overtly to you and you alone. There may be thousands around oneself at a concert, or they could be alone in their room watching a video on the internet. But either way, the sense of being able to strike the chords that can cause someone to view the singer as being there for them above all others. This is the sort of thing that causes a lot of real world human rights violations and other life commandeering contracts between record companies to their musicians. Lest the artist do something (for example, having a love life) that would risk breaking the fantasy for the audience, after all.
As a song, fake doll plays a very particular game. Miku knowing she is just putting on an act, and wants to connect with listener on a more emotional level even if it hurts her. Something that is, of course, itself part of an idol act fantasy utilized throughout the industry. Throw in a red and black dress, high heeled boots that go up beyond the knee, and lace up the middle, and there is a lot of engineering here that turns things for the digital idol dancer to vibe channeling particular desires.
Now, as a music video production playing to that, it would need to be shot to match. In turn, things like lots of dark background elements, long shots down hallways as the singer stares back, and backlit dancing so the figure can writhe like a shadow. That is all here in spades, and on point for purpose. Really, the video is pretty rock solid in that department. One could easily swap Hatsune Miku out and generally reshoot this frame by frame with a live action person, and the video would work the same on most levels. Heck, hurl this in some kind of industrial warehouse and install a smoke machine, and you have a fair number of 1980’s music videos right there!
So we are in this oddball spot where I think the music video is not only fine, but rather well tweaked and ironed out given where it wants to go. On a technical level I think it does a good job. At the same time: it also bugs me on personal level.
I think the video gets more than a little too close to playing with a fire that has burned a lot of real world musicians and put them through horrible situations because of their overly controlling management companies. So that metanarrative aspect does not sit as well with me. Perfect Blue is one of my favorite anime movies, after all, and it scares the hell out of me how relevant its thematic issues can still tend to be regarding the idol industry even today.
Miku may be a digital idol figure, but this video reminds me of too many very real problems the industry has, and how it preys on both performers and vulnerable audiences alike.
Weekender Girl, by kz (livetune)
Released: Aug 29, 2012
This video is kind of a blur to me, despite watching it several times just as I have the others.
Miku’s floral inspired dress is a good design as a singular facet of the video. And the flowery vector backgrounds I think are also appealing when viewed on their own too. I feel they do not jive well together, however. They blend into each other a lot, with much in the way of yellow-greens and cream. When the background and camera are also moving on their own independently as well, I am left with a sense where my eyes are not entirely sure where they should be going and focusing on. So much looks so similar. When the background shifts every now and again to either a rainbow rubber band inspired look or a grassy field, my opinion regarding the style and impact of the video shifts upward in my mind. Then I can see what is going on.
But even when the floral background colors take a shift towards redder and then more multicolored hues about halfway through the video, there is still the core visual trait that kind of bugs me. That where the light central background and the shirt-vest of Miku’s torso area are nearly the same color. And if you have ever tried to decorate an apartment before: your backing walls and featured furniture should not be of similar colors. At best it tends to just bounce off folks and they would be hard pressed to remember what the room looked like. At worse, it ends up appearing sterile and lacking warmth, like a doctors office or surgical ward. Unlike Sekiranun Graffiti, Weekender Girl lacks a high impact sense of speed and rocketing momentum, so the hair aspect can not come into play the same it did before in guiding itself.
This video has a repeated fascination with the central character’s knee area as well, which also seems kind of strange to me.
It might just be me, but Miku’s foot level dance choreography never really struck me as a thing to focus too strongly on. Were she a live action pop idol, then sure, I could definitely see cause for fancy footwork getting solid video billing. It requires a lot of athleticism and being able to memorize, practice, and execute the routine, regardless of editing powers. But, she is a Vocaloid and thus a music video director can really make her land all manner of moves in a convincing fashion given sufficient storyboarding and programming time. I think I then tend to prioritize on the larger scope or visual artistry elements of how her entire form is contorting or maneuvering, and then the background elements surrounding that.
There is a lot one can do with an animation camera, basically. Zooming in on faces, hands, or the like for idol posing and such make sense to me. But not so much on extensive knee use. There is not anything wrong with it alone, it is just more of a general sense of unfocus I feel from the video in conjunction with the color design quirks I have with it. So much present here in general just sort of sloughs off of me in combination with one another. Which is unfortunate, as I like individual aspects of it when one separates them out away from one another. I do not even necessarily think the video is bad so much as I largely find it just kind of bland, given how I process things. Which some would consider as even worse, admittedly.
If the video was more Miku dancing around in a field, with or without accompanying flowers, I would probably have a more upbeat opinion. Those are the aspects that stick out to me the most here, and it was a bit of a shame they did not get more of a boost. There is a solid video to be had of the digital idol joyously swinging around the great outdoors.
Freely Tomorrow, by Mitchie M
Released: October 12, 2012
It is almost impossible to confuse this video with any of the others on the set list. It is by far the most minimalistic regarding the application of color. As a matter of fact, only black, pink, white, and the occasional yellow for hair highlights appear. But it is not how many colors one uses, but what they do with them and how they are applied.
This video looks like something studio SHAFT would hurl together for a city public works project that slammed into a Target store commercial somewhere along the line. Doing so hard enough that it caused a terrible fuss for the ambulance. But, in this particular case, I mean that all rather endearingly!
The song in particular has received a lot of praise in the Vocaloid community for how realistic Hatsune Miku sounds in application and tweaking here. So I think it is rather appropriate to have gone with a more streamlined color palette. Make everything clean cut on one front, then overload on details via another. And it manages to do that one both sides of the issue. The song never breaks down in its consistency or straying back to something with a bit more mechanical sounding flavor no matter what it is doing in the lyrics. On the visual end, the simple limited colors allow for better overwhelming the viewer with hypnotic effects and lovingly integrated text throughout.
That the video’s art style aspects look as nice as they do to me is one thing. That they often integrate so well with the actual lyrics of the song though gives everything that extra pizazz that can feel lacking in some of the other videos. Miku sings of teardrops coming from the sky, and giant arrows rain down. When the next lyrics speak of overflowing, a visual effect akin to water in motion sweeps up. Being lost in hustle and bustle? Arrows going every which way at once, multiple indicators of speed limits, bouncing balls hurling down stairs, and so on.
It impresses on a technical and stylistic level, while still feeling very anchored to the song and operating in a reciprocal relationship with it where they can each enhance the other. It is essentially the goal of any given music video, really. And yet Miku or no Miku I know we have all seen our fair share of musicians and directors who failed to have those visions fully realized.
I find it to have a quality that greatly encourages one to rewatch it as a multimedia experience, rather than just a serving platter to encourage checking out the song alone. This song can lay claim to having reached one million views on Japanese video site Niconico in only twenty days, which is a still unbroken record (as of this writing) for a Vocaloid song in terms of raw heatseeking missile speed.
I can see why.
Reboot, by JimmyThumb-P
Released: Dec 13, 2012
In a change of pace from the other music videos, this piece takes the form of a more narrative based short film approach set to the song. As a result, I can not talk about the video without spoiling it, so go and watch it now if you are interested!
I certainly will not be going anywhere, just be back before dinner.
Alright then: unlike the other videos in the whole selection I am going through here, this song makes use of multiple vocal sets. Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka, for two, who are established Vocaloid entities. Plus a character named Samune Zimi, which is actually an original creation voiced by JimmyThumb-P, who made the song. Her lyrics are delivered with his voice modulated to have a similar kind of synth accented sound as the other two. Together, these three are all children sharing in a lovely little gift of some star keychains exchanged at sunset. And the beginning lyrics start talking of goodbyes and seasons stopping. And the song is entitled Reboot, which inspires a notion of being able to restart or something kicked aside one is attempting to recapture. It is a four and a half minute music video: given the setup, I was all but certain one of them was not going to be alive at the end.
That being said, execution is still what matters most at the end of the day; I’m not a monster who needs everything to surprise me, after all!
Going along with that, I think it managed to pack in as much as it could for the running time and the associated song. We have jewelry exchange, ice cream, death, funeral, blowing off friends, a lost soul, time elapse, college, reuniting, and returning to the location that kick started this whole chain of events but with everything being OK.
Some full films and television series have difficulty structuring what to do with pacing out near identical material. The advantage of being so short is it lacks time for dragging too long or otherwise messing around. It is a very scene-go-scene-go kind of highlight reel, emboldened to skip a lot of what could otherwise been dragged down in extended dialogue or ennui. Certainly, I feel the multiple vocalist approach helps reinforce the message it is gunning for. Not only that, but it never delves into spoken word parts, which the core Vocaloid software by itself does not excel in given the differences between speech and song. Even with the insertion of the musician into the song, they sing rather than speak. This is the kind of song that could have attempted to stuff a small direct monologue into, and I feel that would have thrown its pacing off. And visually, I feel a static monologue would have been kind of awkward to deliver via the CGI, which seems more natural when things are in motion.
The original character aspect I could understand folks being split over. Zimi sounds pretty close at an earshot glance, given the circumstances. But they do stand out a bit as a person with a filter next to the tonal voicebanks of Miku and Luka if one gets to zeroing in on them. But it becomes a matter of how much nitpicking one wants to engage in. This approach dodges the issue of needing to kill off an actual official character of Crypton’s Vocal Character Series. Instead the original character, in this case, is put to use as the linking bridge between Miku and Luka here to bring them together by a piece of work done by Vocaloid community member. Which is about as much involvement as an OC can be expected to have while also not trying to steal the visual or audio spotlight from the more established digital pop idols entirely.
Which, conceptually, gets into this really surreal mental area, when you get to thinking about it too much.
Redial, by kz (livetune)
Released: March 20th, 2013
This work comes courtesy of a particularly noteworthy director, that being Takashi Murakami. He is an artist most famous for establishing the Superflat art design style / movement. In this approach, which tends to favor things like flat planes of color, Murakami is of the opinion that modern society has resulted in and allows for lesser distinction between “high” and “low” class art. As such, he seeks out ways to take “low” elements like manga imagery and come up with ways to present them as “high” class art for rich clientele, or inversely find ways to adapt his “high” level art works into things “low” culture like regular plush toys or other consumer arena goods. Through these stylistic endeavors, he has managed to work on occasional animation projects. These range from a Kanye West music video (Good Morning) to producing projects for Louis Vuitton (Superflat Monogram and Superflat First Love).
And among these efforts, also a music video for digital idol Hatsune Miku. Technically two, as a matter of fact. The 6♥Princess video is staged to a Miku song as well, but the idol herself does not appear. So it does not count for this exploration since it can not be filed under Miku’s MyAnimeList.net animeography.
Redial then. Given how it starts, with its pink, blue, and green rocketships and aliens background, I think it definitely helps the viewer identify very quickly who is at the helm if they know his work. If things had stayed like that, or at least in a similar format, for the duration I do not think many would have really been too surprised. It is an aesthetic that Murakami is known and has achieved fame for. But, to its credit, from there we do get almost a visual genre cannon barrage. It moves along as it does to a more otaku oriented room setting, scrap heaps and the end of civilization after an apocalyptic event, flying through the sky and swimming in a wireframe sea. I think as a package deal it speaks to the director’s love of taking disparate elements of form and trying to forge things together in new ways. To create and sell the notion that different clientele may not be as far apart in a modern era. One could nearly liken to this video to a kind of sampler platter at a restaurant, where odds are there is something for everyone. Here, that ranges from the whimsical to the mundane. And a bit that would even be kind of sad in a music video production more explicitly focused on that kind of thing. The Redial video is, well, Superflat, squashing all these together into a vertical slice experience.
I also rather like the particular style of shading and design work taken to the Miku model in this video. There was a lot of attention in terms of giving her a rendering that would work well jumping from the initial aliens and rocketships backgrounds, transition to the more polygon heavy sets afterward, and back again. While a 3D model herself here, she has a soft design more indicative of a 2D experience and that associated level of expression. Yet they never seemed out of place in either crop of backgrounds. This is invaluable to the effort of trying to make a Superflat piece in the way this music video aimed to, as she leaps from one location and geographical location to another. It would not work anywhere near as well as visual media otherwise, had it leaned too far in certain stylistic directions relative to any of the backing sets.
It is a careful balancing act that needed to be achieved. So while some of the backgrounds I preferred more than others, as a transitional factor and linking bridge the modeling of Miku herself was never throwing a wrench into things and she never seemed like she did not belong where she was.
HORIZON, by Hachioji-P
Released: June 21st, 2013
This is easily the most professional look Miku has in any of these productions insofar as attire goes. Which makes perfect sense for the setting much of the video takes place within. Certainly she is known for wearing a tie over things a whole lot, but here it takes a further step in terms of a more complete look.
In what I find to be a set of circumstances slightly at odds with that professionalism though: this video also has a greatly noticeable increase in clipping or collision detection issues. On multiple occasions hair slips through solid objects like chairs or her own body movements. It stands out a lot because this is something many of the other productions in this lineup have not really run into. The same director even handled several of the works on this list (which I will bring up a bit more in the next video write-up)! Now if one wanted to try and use the argument that maybe this was some kind of simulation, I could try to entertain some of that. Miku does snap into a more traditional idol get-up for her at points. But it would then bring up the matter of why her hair flies through her body even on that plane of reality.
Now if we shove what I can only consider as graphical hiccups aside for a moment, there are aspects that I do think are appealing. The video is dominated by a generally limited heavy white and light blue palette selection. I feel that works for what it has on display. Lots of clean cut and overarching minimalism in regards to office design, blue skies with mirrored modern cityscapes, and so on. It goes well with the intended goal of the piece. We have a more organizationally ready vocalist doing things like dancing in the office, looking out windows, and otherwise selling this visual idea of being able to break out or go beyond something mundane or the everyday.
Which does itself even play into those bits where the sequences break down and smash shift into Miku in her more expected pop idol attire and an associated laser light background.
…except we still have clipping issues revolving around her hair even there.
It really does come off as rather jarring to me. I think the video is otherwise hard to fault in terms of camera direction, shot composition, color design, etc for what it is going for in its visual look and overall style. And it is not like these graphical snags are something that just happens once either. So I am really at a loss for why these hair antics seems to be a facet that made it into the final copy. There are other Miku videos in this line-up that have more complex dance and motion choreography but managed to dodge this scenario. If it is an issue regarding object interaction, one could block out the scene in a different fashion. The hair can go, well, anywhere. It’s animation.
It is a pleasant, clean, inoffensive to pretty much all audiences pop idol video otherwise. It does not knock my socks off, but I can not detest it either. Just with a rather peculiar headscratcher of a bad hair day problem.
So even a digital idol can have those too, I suppose, in their own ways.
GAME OVER, by Hachioji-P
Released: July 17th, 2013
We were so close to having the last video in this series have a very finale oriented and declarative name!
But I can not exactly justify switching up the order now, and still need to watch everything MyAnimeList.net directs me to. As this is the penultimate entry, perhaps consider this the conclusion and the video after this a bonus stage? That is about the only way it would work out.
Regardless: I would consider this on the upper end of the videos I have seen here.
Conceptually, the video is really quite similar to some of the other ones, for sure. It mostly consists of Miku dancing and posing, which is perfectly reasonable baseline material for a pop singer to work with. It is a safe combination of primary and fallback plans for any production like this. The difference I find between GAME OVER and, say, Weekender Girl comes from a level of finer fidelity and tighter impact.
From a scene blocking perspective, Miku never really moves all that much. Her dance motions are rather small and simple when they are happening, but never involve her feet moving her much from her planted location. Otherwise, she is relatively static, looking out windows and the like. What this does in effect is make the character an anchored point at all times regarding the cinematography. Even when the camera is zipping around, snapping forwards and back or left and right, one never is at a loss for where the central character is. You will know. This is reciprocal with those more minimal movements. She is never doing anything so complex one would miss what she is up to regardless of what camera motion is being used at the time. And crucially, any given position of that simple dance or the window scenes can be snapped or smash cut to with visual weight. They are slow and relatively angular, as idol dances go, so there is always a figure to cut from even a small aspect of them in the frame. This supplies a more ready supply of forceful camera ammo without having to do a lot of complex choreography or scene design.
It is a simple video on paper that requires rather pinpoint and active direction to pull off, and at that I feel it is highly successful. Note: of the lineup in this article, Tell Your World, Weekender Girl, fake doll, HORIZON, and DECORATOR all share Director or Co-Director credits with wakamuraP, who also handled GAME OVER. I would say this is his strongest work of that set, if we place Tell Your World aside given its outside the box influence of Fantasista Utamaro also at the directing controls.
Much like Tell Your World though, the color design here I also find very solid in application and important to note. With the amount of geometric shapes flying around and other visual distortions, this would be easy to make a blurry mess. I feel it manages to strike a balance between the furthest deep dark background layers and Miku’s more foreground black outfit with the more neon infused images and the tones of her hair and square end tie operating with the rest of the colors in the middle range of it all. Again, this all works with the notion that it is always very easy to tell what is going on and where.
This could have turned into a case of information overload or saturation issues where the color palate bled into each other all over the place had only a few different choices been made. So as a technical execution piece, I think it manages to surpass a number of its peers here.
DECORATOR, by kz (livetune)
Released: February 20th, 2014
As the most recent of the Hatsune Miku videos to make the cut for MyAnimeList.net’s categorization and thus the conclusion video of this particular marathon, there are any number of things one could hope for it to be. A grand experimental work, or maybe another narrative piece.
What DECORATOR happens to be is the opening song for the Hatsune Miku -Project DIVA- F 2nd video game developed and published by SEGA (which, despite the title, is actually the sixth rhythm video game in the main line of that franchise). The music video in turn was constructed using assembled information from the character motion database engineered for the same game, chained together and given a more independent level of graphical polish.
There is something kind of poetically fitting about this being our finale here though if terms of a character success arc or expansion. If we look back and consider what Nebula was going for in messaging at the start, and then number of coders and company resources involved in making multimillion selling video game franchises. It is a rather immense leap.
We end then with “just” another video of Miku dancing, but again there is not anything wrong with that given her line of idol “work” as it were. This time by and large on a high altitude stage complete with a laser light circular array system.
What I find interesting about this production is that I think the fact it uses rhythm game visual data linked together to form the choreography routine likely helps it a lot. While the camera can certainly be moved around in terms of three dimensional space, zooming, etc, these core character movements were designed to be large strokes or cut a broad figure. The idea being, of course, that a prospective player in a video game setting will often want the visual of the character motions. But at the same time they are also busy playing, well, a rhythm based video game. Their attention needs to also be on the note system to actually complete the levels, get high scores, and so on. I feel this shows a lot in DECORATOR; much of the momentum is Miku swinging her arms wide, bowing over, jumping jack pose plants, and so on.
She takes up a large amount of horizontal space in where she goes and what she does here. This compliments the idea where in the actual video game the notes would be going vertically. To have a significant amount of vertical choreography data would be counterproductive to huge swaths of the game this video is pulling information from. Such things would clash for attention with the actual play of the game. While this is a high gloss music video using a SEGA game intro theme and associated gameplay visual core, I feel it managed to walk a line of using the source code material to its strengths rather than manipulate it too much into something entirely different. It works on its own as “just” a dance video. The movements are huge, easy to catch while also maintaining facial expressions and the backgrounds are not detracting. It helps promote the experience of the corresponding entertainment product by being largely synergistic with how it would operate, with the vertical and horizontal planes generally doing their own thing.
While I do not think it kicks the doors off the room as a barn burning finale here, it is hard to say it really makes any missteps either. Were we to consider this entire music video marathon run as a concert, as a closer or final encore DECORATOR would stick the landing and most folks would go home happy. And if they tried doing those massive dance motions themselves, the crowd sure would be pumped up and get to leave on an endorphin high.
…big arm stretches and cracking of backs…
…And with that, we have completed the “full” rundown of the Hatsune Miku music video animeography! At least insofar as MyAnimeList.net’s database criteria is concerned.
I think this was a interesting endeavor, when one looks at running through these in a linear fashion. We have a wide variety of creators, both musically as well as on the directing and animation end, independently trying to find ways to approach their art over multiple years while still retaining certain recognizable qualities for the central character / digital pop idol. How far or in what ways these artists can try to push something, to essentially work with what has become an established personality brand while also not being able to consult with many of the normal players. While record label personnel still certainly exist, it is not like Miku herself can be asked any questions or even has much of a personal agent regarding what kind of career direction she should be taking. A musician or director can apply any emotion or visual circumstances to her. Rend and tweak even her bone structure however they would fancy. Which can be as artistically freeing as it is capable of locking someone up due to being spoiled or terrified by choice.
Of the list of fifteen videos here, if I was being pushed for three favorites I would personally select:
With an honorable mention going to Reboot for making an attempt at doing things via a short film narrative.
This all also, handily enough, likely provides a fair amount of concentrated insight into what I was looking for or prioritizing when it comes to these works. How they were put together on the visual mechanics front or otherwise saw to make what their creators and/or directors considered the best use of video aspects to accompany the sound, that sort of thing. Like a lot of music video catalogs from real life established bands or pop idols: some Miku videos are kind of a slog, most are relatively serviceable and functional for purpose, and a few stand out in various ways.
I am not sure there will be any fast trips to the supermarket to suddenly integrate Hatsune Miku’s fandom association with spring onions into my diet more. Really, given my prior statements regarding likely preferring Megurine Luka’s songs the most of the various Vocaloids I have had prior exposure to, I suppose I should have been running out for tuna fish given what she is associated with, yet I do not really buy a whole heck of a lot of that either.
But, for someone who exists as a force in the music industry through years of community effort giving her songs to sing, I can now better see how Hatsune Miku has proven rather adept at making some flesh and blood acts eat crow by comparison.