Vocaloid Live Concerts in the West – A Different Interpretation

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While watching Vocaloid live concerts is something I would definitely add to the list of things I want to do before I kick the bucket, seeing a camrip video of a particular Vocaloid live concert led me into some deep thoughts, specifically this – when Miku opened up the concert for Lady Gaga. At first, I thought this was a really weird set-up, but then again, it oddly makes sense, considering Lady Gaga herself often wears anime-inspired outfits and hairdos. At the same time, the fashion also resembles Kpop stars, but that’s a discussion for another time.

What I think about the concert, or rather, the concert’s rendition of Miku; she seems to be interpreted quite differently. To be frank, Miku doesn’t look pretty cute. This might comes as a shocking fact, but it’s mainly due to how one’s society and culture perceives “cuteness”.

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While I certainly can not comment on particular individuals on their own perspectives, but overall, Japanese and Americans seem to perceive “cuteness” in very different fashion. In Japan, everywhere you go, you can see yourself getting surrounded by cute “mascot” characters from just about any corners – tickets, sweets wrappers, stationary. The Japanese love designing their products with cute characters, and if I’m not mistaken, most stores and even companies often have their own cute mascot characters too.

In Japan, cuteness is perceived as normal, regardless of age. Needless to say, the cuteness appeal is also brought to anime in the form of “moe”, which are just so popular in Japan. However, to an American, he might think differently. To a Japanese who doesn’t bat an eyelid to any cute, cartoonish design; becomes cringeworthy in the eyes of an American, perhaps with the exception of kids. As a result, it’s easy to classify anything with a cute, cartoonish design as something specifically tailored for kids, at least, the Americans just seem to possess that misconception.

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And in my opinion, this mindset, makes it harder for Americans to be appreciative of Vocaloid. If you had watched the youtube link I provided above, you can see how dead the crowd is Miku is interpreted quite differently, it’s as if instead of “cute”, they are pushing Miku to look “cool” instead. When Miku was performing Yellow and World is Mine, two of Miku’s most popular songs, those who are familiar with the original dance routines will easily notice how the choreography seems to be changed. Most of the cuter movements were altered, and Miku seems to move in much more wider motions too, as compared to the original rendition. Miku was “americanized”, it’s as if I was watching MMD live.

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I personally prefer the original dances myself, and I assume any long-time fans of Miku would feel the same as well. I know that Miku had already performed in the West before, but this different interpretation in cuteness, I feel, is still going to be an ongoing problem had Miku more concerts in the West. If any of you had watched Vocaloid concerts or are familiar with them, what do you feel regarding this issue?

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17 thoughts on “Vocaloid Live Concerts in the West – A Different Interpretation

  1. Yeah, they have been marketing Miku a bit differently over here in the West. For example, the two different illustrations for Miku V3 English; in the one aimed for the west she appears much older looking and it seems to be more focused on trying to be “cool.”

    As for the concert, the whole crowd is dead because they went to see Lady Gaga, not Miku. The vast majority of them have no idea who she is. Yes they made changes to a few things, but I think it’s because she was “part” of the concert, not the featured act. When Crypton and Sega run their concerts, like for example the one that came to LA, they kept everything the same. It really comes down to who runs the concert in my opinion. I’m going to see the Miku concerts when Miku Expo comes to New York and since they’re officially run by Crypton/Sega I’m sure everything will be the same as the concerts I’m used to seeing.

    • I see. And I’m guessing such marketing expand way beyond just Miku V3 English right? D:

      Yet, Lady Gaga herself mentioned before the concert that Miku will be opening her concert (I forgot where, twitter or some other social media). Her fans who checked regularly should had been notified of it. I see, I guess next time I’m looking to watch Vocaloid concerts, I should look out for ones officially run by Crypton/Sega, just to be sure.

  2. I guess this comment should start with my usual remark that i’m not a Miku fan XD Even talking from that viewpoint, i’m constantly blown away by the live Vocaloid performances, and I would leap at the chance to go to one. I think one of the reasons behind the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm is that they’re simply no aware of what Miku is. Because I can appreciate what goes into a Miku concert to produce the vocals and sheer quality of the portrayal of Miku herself, i’m much more likely to enjoy one of her concerts even if I don’t find the music itself to be amazing (and let’s be honest, there’s so much Vocaloid stuff out there that i’m sure i’d find something I liked if I actually looked).

    The other thing is…well. Imagine you went to a Lady Gaga concert and suddenly there was some foreign computerized voice singing at you while a cartoon girl dances around on the stage. It would be incredibly odd, to say the least, if you hadn’t encountered Vocaloid stuff before.

    Is a different Miku needed for the West? I’m not so sure about that. To be honest, I find it hard to believe that people who aren’t into Miku as she is now would be swayed by a different image (apart from teenagers, I suppose, but they might go for normal Miku anyway). Changing her image also means doing a disservice to her current fans. They’d be better off keeping her as she is in my opinion.

    • *shoots* D:

      Because Project Diva F had recently been localized, I would had thought the Vocaloid franchise would had been popular to some level in the West, perhaps I’m wrong, or perhaps Miku is just in the wrong place at the wrong time, lol. I’m not sure about this assumption here, but I would think Miku is definitely more well-known among active anime (and I’m not sure if most of the crowd in the Lady Gaga concert even watches anime, lol). I had been taking it for granted since I had been watching anime from way back, but I wonder if one need to appreciative of anime before being able to appreciate Vocaloid as a medium.

      Actually, I think Lady Gaga is one celebrity that may work, considering she often wears very exotic and bizarre outfits too. That, and her music also has an “electronic” influence. At least, her style would work more compatibly than others, I feel.

      If they aren’t into Miku, it will at least serve as a good introduction. Ones who were already familiar with Miku is indeed a different matter though.

      • Being someone who’s into anime enough to write a blog about it, I can fairly confidently say that the fact I know about Project Diva F is only due to pure chance. The vast majority of people, even those regularly using PSN wouldn’t even have a clue about what Vocaloid is. For many people at Lady Gaga’s concert it would have been their first time encountering Miku.

        I may be wrong here, but among people who aren’t major fans of Lady Gaga she’s considered…weird, and not necessarily in a good way. She’s probably not the association Vocaloid wants when it breaks into the Western market.

        On that last point i’m also not sure. I’m worried that they may just dismiss her as “that weird thing that happened at the Lady Gaga concert”, without even realizing Vocaloid exists as an entity in its own right.

        Just for the record here: Though i’m not a major Vocaloid fan I think it’s cool enough that I want them to succeed. My thoughts on these matters don’t stem from any level of dislike.

  3. As skycells and Silvachief above say, I think a lot of the subdued nature of the crowd is…that particular crowd. I found a link to her act in the San Diego Lady Gaga concert and the audience there was much more responsive and gave me the impression many in the audience knew who she was. But yes, I also felt the performance was…weird. It didn’t look or feel right. I was even a little disappointed.

    I do think if the Vocaloid mascots and concerts were marketed and presented the same way in the US as in Japan the response would be very good. It’s just the media industry in the US is oddly very conservative when it comes to East Asian “imports”. Just like the original 1954 Gojira was greatly altered for an “American” audience into Godzilla, ‘staring’ Raymond Burr, the US media industry feels that American audiences won’t react well to East Asian stuff and have been doing it ever since.

    On the other hand, here in the US for most people “anime” means Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z, or maybe Bleach and Naruto. They simply aren’t aware of the vast range and depth of most of the anime produced. It doesn’t help that many wouldn’t even watch un-dub’d versions anyway (a common ‘excuse’ I hear).

    The cultural differences do also come into play. Last week I discovered “Binzume Yousei” (Bottle Fairy) and really enjoyed it. It is VERY cute. When I noticed it had a dub’d version I showed it to a friend who also watches anime (though not nearly as much as I do). He has two young girls and I had told him I though they would like it. We sat together during lunch to watch the first episode and his initial enthusiasm sank when the Flower Viewing scene came up, in which one of the fairies pretended to be a drunk flower watcher. I realized immediately he probably wasn’t going to show his kids this after all. :(

    • Oh, can you give me the link? It also could probably be because since Lady Gaga was already in the middle of her tour, people were already familiar with Vocaloid by then after checking the earlier performances of the tour? Pure speculation, though. Yes, I’m disappointed too, but I think it at least serve as a good introduction for those not familiar with Vocaloid.

      That is indeed an odd marketing. I’m not sure if that’s the catalyst, but if the marketing style was already ongoing by then (I’m guessing around 2000s since 1998’s the year the American version of Godzilla was released), it does make sense that Americans seem to have such diverse preferences. Although, it could start even way before this. Not sure, since I very seldom watch movies anyway :p

      I think that’s exactly why it’s hard for them to appreciate Vocaloid, and while I’m at it, I might just add; other “cutesy” franchises and series too like Hyperdimension without looking at the finer points. In fact, most reviews I had seen of Hyperdimension and Project Diva seem to be negative, yet personally, I’m rather fond of them, lol.

      I didn’t watch Binzume Yousei but from what I can see, it does look like a fun, cute little series. Not sure in detail what does the “flower viewing scene” you mentioned entails :p Though I would suspect showing his kids drunk fairies isn’t the most practical thing to do, lol.

      • Hatsune Miku Live in San Diego @ Lady Gaga’s artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball HD:

        “(I’m guessing around 2000s since 1998′s the year the American version of Godzilla was released),”

        You’re making me fee REALLLLLL old here :) The original Japanese movie 1954 Gojira was modified and released in the US as Godzilla in *1956*.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla,_King_of_the_Monsters

        For the American production, some of the original Japanese footage was dubbed into the English language and new footage was shot with actor Raymond Burr.
        (though I didn’t actually see it until around 1972-1974, when I was ten or twelve)

        • Oops :D My bad, lol.

          Well, guess I wasn’t even around to see it, and the 1998 version was actually the first version I came across :p

          I’ll check out the Lady Gaga video soon.

    • In a way, that’s actually very sad.
      That page has, in the anime section, Sankarea as an example. Which is funny/ironic, in that this afternoon my son and I went to our local bookstore and as I was browsing the manga selection I spotted that they had added Sankarea. I was amazed at the difference in the cover from the Japanese version – it is just as TV tropes page says. Personally, if I hadn’t already known about Sankarea I would have just dismissed it as another zombie horror story based on that cover. I think those who might actually be looking for that sort of story, however, will be very disappointed, and possibly even confused (given who the real monster is) when they start reading it.
      I wonder if writing the publisher to complain would have any purpose…

    • “some historians have occasionally (and controversially) attempted to link kawaisa to the national humiliation endured by Japan in World War II and the nation’s resulting 180° turn from a warrior culture to a pacifistic one.”

      Isn’t this a bit too extreme? Or is tvtropes pulling a fast one on me? I should probably avoid this topic though since it feels touchy, lol. And I don’t have much knowledge regarding it anyway.

  4. So my question is… Who here actually understands the lyrics to the songs composed with Vocaloid, without actually reading the lyrics from somewhere previously?

    It’s pretty weird how we’re analyzing music with a westerner’s viewpoint that 90% of the very population don’t even understand

    • Vocaloid is an “acquired” taste as far as I known, and you’re right, the lyrics may also be one element to it. I actually have another post in my draft about Vocaloid lyrics, so I will hopefully get to it soon.

    • (sheepishly raises hand) I understand Japanese a little (though singing is much harder for me to follow than dialog, I’ve been studying it for nearly three years now).
      But, I have to add, I think what Kai is trying to say here is that the Vocaloid ‘live’ concerts are as much a visual as audio experience, and the visual experiences presented in the versions modified for US audiences are very different. While I enjoy listening to Japanese singers because I think it’s a lovely language to listen to, I probably like watching the vocaloid videos more than just listening to the songs, whether they be the ‘live’ concerts or the animations from the games/programs. I’ve always felt that a concert was something you went to *watch*. If you wanted to listen to the music, you did so someplace else where you could actually hear it.

      • Point taken. However, I want to mention that even for Vocaloid Lives, it pretty much went from

        Real people composing songs using Vocaloid -> Songs becoming popular -> Someone sponsoring a live so they can earn some attention.

        Simply put, a live does have a visual element, but it’s not the only thing (heck, if you wanted to make your own “live” or wanted some good visuals, you’d go use MMD)

        Vocaloid is, in my honest opinion, a way for normal people who may suck at singing/not have too much confidence in their voice to express themselves using a song.

        In other words, a universal “instrument”.

        Merely analyzing its visuals for the sake of comparing how it’s contrasted (or represented) in western/eastern cultures would make it necessary to talk about the artists who draw those depictions, and stray greatly away from the discussion of “Vocaloid” themselves

        • In my opinion, watching MMD and watching Vocaloid live concerts are two different things. While both focuses on visuals, MMDs are, obviously, far more inconsistent. Of cause, Miku’s personality (and other Vocaloids too I might add) is specially left for interpretation. But her characterization really went all chaos in MMDs. At least, during concerts, her personality managed to remain consistent throughout.

          I would agree on the instrument part but I think that’s just one side of the whole Vocaloid.

          I did mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to comment on individualistic views, but theorized in a generalized way, that Americans and Japanese has a different perspective in cuteness, which in terms, effect Vocaloid.

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