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Interview: Kumiko Murayama, IA Producer

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IA is a newer Vocaloid persona created by 1st PLACE, based on the voice of anisong singer Lia. Based on Vocaloid version 3, she has appeared in a few games, many Youtube videos, and other media, and recently got her own rhythm game, IA/VT Colorful.

At Anime Expo 2015, we spoke with Kumiko Murayama, the CEO of 1st PLACE and the lead producer of IA. She answered questions about IA’s origins and the future of music with Vocaloids in general.

This interview was conducted by Michael Huang and has been edited for concision and clarity.

How was Lia chosen to become the sampled voice of IA?

It was Lia and her management who came forward–she had gotten married and had kids, and was on maternity leave, so she didn’t have the time to continue promoting herself and continuing on as an artist. She wanted a way to keep her fans happy while also raising her family, and using the Vocaloid as a means to do that was something she proposed.

That’s really fascinating. Do you think that is something that singers who can’t perform as much as they like to might use to extend their artistic abilities in the future? Could it be a general trend?

One of the other goals Lia had was to become a worldwide artist, and at the time of her leave, she hadn’t met that goal yet. She wondered what could help achieve that goal. Since the Vocaloids are popular not just popular in Japan but all over the world, that was one way of pursuing that dream.

As for other artists using that approach and maybe making a trend, it sounds like it could be something that’s viable.

IA is based on Vocaloid 3, a newer version of the software than some other Vocaloids like Hatsune Miku. How has the company used the newer features of Vocaloid 3 to produce IA, and how is it different, even improved over previous Vocaloids?

As technology comes out, there’s always new features that get added on. As we were developing IA, Vocaloid 3 had just come out, and there was a feature called “TriHorn” as well as many other features specified in the manual. But we used other features not in the manual, without specific names.

Vocaloid 4 is already out, and we put a lot of time and effort into IA’s development, so even though it’s still on 3 we think the quality matches that of 4. TriHorn produces much better, much more natural voice quality. It sounds a lot less animatronic and a lot more human.

Photo by Kaori Suzuki (official)
Photo by Kaori Suzuki (official)

How long does it take to prepare for one of these live concert appearances, where she’s being projected onto the stage?

It depends on a case by case basis, but the one that you saw on the sample video, that took about half a year to produce. And the production that’s playing on July 4th for AX took about a year to produce.

IA has been used in different kinds of branding for different companies. Out of all the companies IA’s been involved in, which industry do you think has had the most impact in terms of attracting fans?

There was a game, Groove Coaster, that really helped internationally in getting people more familiar with IA overseas…people that played this game and went to Youtube to watch the videos. As a result we got 2 million views.

Do you think Vocaloid artists like IA or Hatsune Miku are the future of pop music?

The main mission or goal is to get a worldwide fanbase for Japanese music. For the most part in Japan, there aren’t a whole lot of new musical genres that are being created. [Instead] there’s a lot of refinement of the existing genres. This is taking a genre and giving it worldwide appeal and getting as many people outside of Japan interested in the music, and Vocaloids.

Do you see this beginning to spread outside the anime fan culture? Or do you see that as the primary audience?

We want to appeal not only to otaku and anime fans, but to make it mainstream, worldwide music. The way we feel we can do that is to create places where people can make that jump. For instance, “City Lights” was one of our big collaborations with a drum n’ bass group. So that was a way to get more people to become more interested. Similarly, Groove Coaster is not so much an anime, but it’s a music game, so again a bunch of people played that and become more interested in IA and watched all the videos on Youtube.

The grand plan is to bridge the gap between people who believe that Vocaloids are only for otakus and make it more widely acceptable. It’s not going to be like people are going to be turned off by looking at the image and thinking, “this is just another Vocaloid, this is just anime style and I don’t care about that.” The idea of this was to broaden the horizon for Japanese music in general, so that we have international customers who say that, “Oh I want to listen to Japanese music.”

Conventional Wisdom: The Year of Our Con 2011 (Part 2: The Miku War)

In the end, we got the the Miku videos up. You can see them here. But the road there was long and circuitous.

II: The Miku War

She told us, the nice girl at the press booth, that we needed to a sign a form to film the Hatsune Miku concert. It was a three page list of rules with a consent form at the end, which needed to be signed to get both photo and video shooting rights. Each press outlet only got two main event tickets for the whole con, and since I wanted to go to Kalafina, that meant only one person would get to cover Miku.

A three page list of rules sounds restrictive and intimidating, but as we read them we were astonished by their generosity. We were allowed to shoot six songs, seven if the intro montage was included. We were allowed photography rights anytime. These are some of the loosest rules I’ve ever seen in my time as press at anime conventions, in which the norm has usually been 3 songs maximum, if any at all. (The no-footage-whatsoever rule for Miyuki Sawashiro was more extreme than most, but the norm is closer to that end than to its opposite.) Moreover, no restrictions were described in public dissemination for the footage and photography—no prior approval or limit written in the rules.

We were, in other words, free as can be. And I knew we had to get that footage out ASAP.

These people were in line for the Miku concert. A local news crew apparently interviewed some of them for the evening broadcast.

I remember sitting outside the Nokia Theater the night of the concert, writing my Kalafina reflection article. It was a warm evening, t-shirt and shorts temperature, and I was in as relaxed a mood as I possibly could be in the middle of a hectic convention. When the Anime Diet staff who attended came out of the show—Rome, Dan, and Mike—they were excited, albeit tired. I looked at the footage Dan shot—despite his initial misgivings, it was more than usable. It had gotten the essence of what the concert was like; the music was crystal clear and the smoothness and dynamism of the animated idol was plain. In short, I knew we had a winner.

We celebrated at the ESPN Sports Zone. It was also Dan’s birthday, and we had a toast. Then we all drove home.

I spent some time in the press lounge over the next couple of days, splitting the footage into songs, adding a few titles. I doubled checked the rules to make sure we weren’t restricted on it. We weren’t; the only thing even close was a set of contact info if we wanted access to the official photos and videos that would be made available to the press.

So we uploaded them—where else?—on Youtube, the first ones going up on the last day of the convention. They were an immediate hit, with thousands of views. I noted specifically that we had permission, and that an official DVD/Blu-Ray was forthcoming (its release is now imminent as of this writing). The videos, while clear, were no substitute for whatever official footage would come along: the angle wasn’t ideal, for one. It was a nice preview at best.

This is just one strike of two.

The takedown notices came within almost exactly 24 hours, one right after another. They came from a party I didn’t know was involved with Miku, Sega Japan. (They are the ones who actually animated Miku’s motions.) While it ruined my dinner and made my blood pressure rise—not since we were kicked out of Google Adsense for “adult content” have I been so irritated and angry on behalf of the staff—I also was somewhat prepared for it. Posting concerts, though we’ve done it before without issue when it was part of our press privileges, can be risky. But the document, I assumed, had us covered. I immediately called Dan and asked for a scan of the rule sheet, knowing that there was no provision on there for video releases on the Internet. It’d be a matter, I was sure, of contacting the right people listed on the sheet and explaining the situation, pointing out that our contract didn’t specify anything of the sort, and that we should get at least our Youtube demerits removed.

So I wrote emails to both reps that were listed in the contract—one from ASCII Media Works (sponsor of many of your favorite current anime) and one from Crypton Future Media, the creators of the Hatsune Miku character and voice. I wrote a long, detailed and documented email, complete with annotated scans of the rules. We were in the right, I felt, and we could prove it. This was a misunderstanding that could be cleared up if I just simply explained it in justifiable detail.

That, in retrospect, may have been the wrong approach. Neither representative was a native English speaker, and the wall of English text may have been intimidating. They may not have had the authority or even the knowledge to correct an issue with Sega and Youtube. I only received a brief reply from the ASCII representative, which indicated (as far as I could determine) that Sega was busy removing videos from Youtube and that this was their initiative to prevent piracy. In short, my question wasn’t answered, and I replied back that the issue was that we thought we did have permission. You can see the rules we got for yourself below, with the relevant section circled.

  

We’ve never received any further replies from any party. Not ASCII, Crypton, or—once I discovered how to contact them on Youtube—Sega. I sought help from a friend who speaks fluent Japanese and has worked with industry figures before to draft a much shorter, to-the-point letter. It got no response either. She explained that Miku’s rights are knotty and complex, with many stakeholders on the production committee; it was very possible that the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing, and that just because Crypton and ASCII permitted something does not mean that Sega or anyone else would. And a glance at Youtube revealed that Sega had been pretty ruthless indeed; no video with any clear close-ups of Miku or other Vocaloids remained from that concert, by anyone. They were consistent, at least.

So we had no videos, two strikes on our Youtube account, and no recourse. Youtube’s counterclaim procedure—in which you say that you indeed own all the rights to the creation—had the scary warning that it could lead directly to a lawsuit. In fact, a lawsuit was required if the content owner disputed your counterclaim. I hesitated greatly at this prospect. I began to despair that we’d ever get the strikes removed, which by now was the main goal—having strikes forbids us from posting videos longer than 15 minutes and any additional strike for any reason will get all our videos removed.

Two months later, by chance, I read a tweet from our own Wintermuted about the upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray release of the Mikunopolis concert. The link went to the concert’s official website, which, inexplicably, I had never explored. This may rank as one of my larger oversights, because when I went to the “Press” section, I discovered the passage I had been looking for all along (see the red boxed area):

So that was it. Sega didn’t want any Miku vids on video sharing sites, but they had no problem with self-hosted videos. Why they didn’t tell all of us as press this earlier, I have no idea. They could have told us this when I made my email inquiries too. Thing is, we at Anime Diet have no desire to go against the wishes of the rights holders. We just needed to know the rules up-front. Those two sentences would have avoided all of this trouble had they been in the rules from the beginning.

But I was happy to discover this. It led me to repost the videos on our own servers the very next day.

The black marks on our Youtube account still remain, however. I’m still considering what to do with that. So the story is, in a way, not quite over. But the important battle—the videos themselves—is concluded, in a kind of victory.


Conclusion

I tell this story not for pity’s sake, or to showcase our spoiled nature, or even to disparage Sega or other rights holders. I certainly could have googled for the official site much earlier, so it is a story of my own neglect as much as anything else.

What we have here, though, is a great example of both the liminal nature of being fan press I talked about earlier, as well as the importance of communication.

This was a problem with two dimensions. One is that Sega’s discomfort with press footage loose on Youtube and other video sites is an example of how much further “new media” has to go in terms of respectability, especially when they are still not far removed from their fan roots. A CBS, NHK, or CNN would probably have no problems posting similar footage, and the ASCII rep’s cloudy reply mentioned something about how Sega wanted to prevent “audience footage” or something like that from getting out. Clearly, Sega had the mindset that whatever was shot by parties other than themselves was amateurish and unworthy of release. While I understand that mentality to some extent—it’s the same mentality that prevents many guests of honor from being filmed or photographed in general by their management—it needs to be clear what is and isn’t allowed from the get go, so that the outlets who follow the rules to the letter don’t get penalized.

That’s the second aspect, and the more important one. What burned about the experience was how after-the-fact it was: how we found out two months afterwards that the problem wasn’t having videos, the problem was putting it on Youtube. This is not clear from simple takedown notices that offered no precise explanation for their removal. I realize here, too, that language and culture barriers may have played a role. Yet the rule sheet, and the explanation on the website discovered later on, were clear enough. Had those two sentences been in the rule sheet, we’d not be in this mess. The videos would have been posted not long after the concert and all parties would be happy.

It was not a loss. I learned a lesson about communication and about the need, as a reporting outlet, to ask the right questions beforehand; and that in our mission to bring you the best and most complete coverage there are always going to be lumps along the way. They’re worth taking, though. Despite my frustration—on behalf of Dan, who shot the videos, and for my staff and for our viewers—I think we did right, and we always want to do right by both you, our audience, and to rights holders. We may be scrappy and “new” as media, but we’re also growing. Let us know, that’s all we ask. Chances are, we probably want to do the same thing.

Whew. Glad that’s off my chest now. :) The next part will be the final part in the Conventional Wisdom series, and it’ll be a lot more positive.

Next time: hobnobbing with CEOs and bloggers.

Hatsune Miku: Mikunopolis 2011 Concert Videos

Well, everyone, the wait is over! We discovered that we indeed have permission to post our concert footage online, so long as we host it ourselves. And that’s what we’re doing here: posting all 6 concert videos which were taken down by Sega on Youtube, hosted on our own servers. They’re streaming, they’re instant, and they’re awesome. (And, unfortunately, they are Flash so iPhone/iPad users, no dice for now…looking into a solution for that. As an Apple user it pains me to say that, but this is a better, more universal solution than Quicktime for now.)

Anyway, enough yapping. Here’s the videos!

Clover Club

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Electric Angel

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Koi Suru VOC@LOID

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Poppippo

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Romeo and Cinderella

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World is Mine

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Vocaletariat at Mikunopolis, unite!

Vocaletarian revolution. Vocaletariat is a class of people using Vocaloid. Just like animetariat, and I’m sure many vocaletarians and animetarians overlap. Vocaloidian. Vocaloidist. Vocaloidism. Mikunopolis was surely revolutionary experience. Mikunocracy. Mikunocrati. Mikunology. Mikunolepsy. Mikunomancy! Continue reading Vocaletariat at Mikunopolis, unite!

MIKUNOPOLIS At AX 2011: Promise Of Rebirth

 

So in the 25-plus years after Megazone 23’s enigmatic virtual idol prototype, Eve Tokimatsuri appeared on the scene inspiring what has become something of a cult-trope in science fiction, last night’s one-of-a-kind Anime Expo event in MIKUNOPOLIS was something of an evolutionary leap. Considering the fact that the most prominent western variations on this concept have come in the form of a middle of the road Al Pacino movie, as well as through the almost genetically-wired mind of William Gibson, this has felt like a long time coming as thousands of fans(and curiosity-seekers- for sure) nearly packed the Los Angeles NOKIA Theater for an evening with the otaku world’s digital darling & friends. From the line stretching incomprehensibly outside, to the brilliantly colored array of glowing sticks, leeks, bolos & more, it was a welcome only Lynn Minmei could appreciate. Still shaking off the reverberations post Saturday night’s event has given me quite a bit to consider.

The introduction by the ever-charismatic Danny Choo, along with a rhythm primer in the form of Danceroid was an interesting taster for what was ahead. This early on should have proven to be an important litmus test of an audience perhaps not as familiar with the Akiba-kei atmo that was to come. Seeing as how the show itself had little to no time to prepare, this was very much a straight-from-Japan production, with little to now caveats to newcomers. Something that I personally find to be particularly important for what I’ll cover in a bit.

Mostly cribbed from the already popular concert format in Japan, the crowd was treated to a dazzling mixture of live accompaniment (featuring most to all of the original musicians also featured in the 39s Giving Day dvd- and also including a full string section not included on this popular disc.) as the aqua-haired one shelled out one popular track after another. All the while fully complimented by the crowd’s rhythmic use of glow, which was also heartening to see last throughout the entire performance. (I must admit here that this was something of an odd concern for the US audience, and their prolonged reaction to such a concept.) Having been seated in the Loge, with a fully panoramic view of the show from the stage to the orchestra, including the crane camera, and between the HD screens capturing visual highlights from a combination of cameras. The audience’s familiarity with many of Miku’s fan & artist-made hits like World Is Mine, Popipo, Sound, Romero & Cinderella, and many others (altogether I wish she had performed Miracle Paint somewhere) was indicative of just how widespread the open-source phenomenon has grown in merely three short years. And the welcome appearances of Megurine Luka, Rin & Len Kagamine among others, only raised the roof even further. And while the holographic projection bouncing off the near-transparent screen positioned at center stage at times showed its limits whenever Miku danced a little further to each edge, with this came a sort of charm that can only be had by those with an understanding of the show’s brief life on the road.

 

The Light & Cyberization Show:

Which brings me to a tiny nugget of history to help put this into some manner of context – As a small child, interested in the new technologies that were seemingly sprouting out of the ground in the early 1980s, one of the genesis sparks of inspiration for all this perhaps is thanks to travelling laser light shows that would come to the local fair every year. It was essentially a laser painting show set to music that took place inside an inflatable dome where patrons would pay their admission, settle themselves into one of the many offered cushions to lie on the floor, and enjoy 15-20 minutes of dazzling arrays of light, and animation set to tunes from artists such as Missing Persons, Thomas Dolby among others. As primitive as that may sound now – it went a pretty long way toward inspiring what became computer generated art & animation, not to mention music videos. One could also venture that without this simple trend, many of the Macross ’84 movie’s fun concert scenes would not have the sort of evocative punch that they do. It’s the mark of an era, I suppose, but it also informs decades of the development in how live entertainment was changing, and possibly even hinting at where lovers of the musical arts were going to split.

Because also growing up in this time period, it was quite the popular notion that the steam-gathering trend of analog-to-digital music was something to be feared, and even dismissed in the music world. Being a child fan of artists such as Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Giorgio Moroder,YMO and Soft Cell, it was not uncommon to hear someone jeer about the artificiality of synthesizers, and that it was killing the spontanaeity of music. And while there was some grain of truth to this argument, it also undermines the other side, which is that it took human effort and ingeneuity to create the sounds coming from these bulky boards that at times required multiple machines, intense worry of breakdowns, and unerring nerve just to get through a show. Eventually this dismissive argument was to haunt many future forms of music and performing, to interesting results.=- Which is also what makes Miku’s live accompaniment such a fun & necessary element. (Akitoshi Kuroda on guitar, Shingo Tanaka on bass, Shin Orita on drums, and Jun Abe on keyboards- not to mention the mentioned addition of a string section. Very nice.) For studio musicians, there is a great deal of heart to the performance that could easily also been pre-recorded. Being an amateur musician with a love of new tools, experimentation merged with the use of the traditional, this show was something of a welcome stew of varying elements that despite the at-times middling nature of some of the songs, functioned as more a promise of possibility rather than what it was.- Which is essentially how I feel about the show as a whole.

Hoping that I didn’t lose anyone, perhaps it’s best for me to get to the DNA of this for finality’s sake- Why is this LA show so significant, and what is the prime implication of VOCALOID, Miku and shows like this?

 

The Toppling Of The Ziggurat: The Democratization Of Pop & The End Of Idol Thinking:

Well this has quite the rabbit-hole answer really since it boils down to the very concept of the idol singer, and what a virtual idol entails. Being that we’re in not only an age of close-to-realistic character animation, as well as a possible age of open source pop culture, we are perhaps witnessing an idea that can grow beyond the confines of the otaku, and into something altogether new. With YAMAHA introducing the versatile VOCALOID software at this year’s NAMM show, the timing seems just right for a great risk to be taken as the old model of media distribution reaches its inevitable death rattle. The single idea of taking a spanish software, and expaning it into a brilliant new model for music making, and marketing is nothing short of a genius idea that works multi-fold when considering the overpopulated, and at times troubling world of the Japanese idol-singer. A life fraught with endless competition, questionable talent, even more questionable management, health-endangerment, sameness, as well as fan pressure to maintain a fantasy image- Well this is the ideal scenario as VOCALOID, mixed with this form of marketing and fan driven mythology puts the entire idea of a musical superstar to task by calling them out for what they are- Often interchangeable, derivative, fleeting, not to mention disposeable muses for a culture industry allergic to change, let alone ideas.

Just think of it. To paraphrase Miles Dyson: This is an idol who never gets tired, never freaks out, never comes to work with a hangover. She knows the show must go on, and can change costumes within a split second . And the best of all, the songs are only as great as two main factors, the fans making the songs, and the band playing by her side. The very presence of Miku is something of a brilliant antithesis as she herself is capable of everything an idol is expected to fulfill, without the excess baggage and expectations. She can literally be anything the people want without breaking a sweat.

And to introduce such a splashy reception in the west is something of a promising start to what one hopes is the beginning of something very special, not only for the japanese, but for generations long in need of a realm where dreams are shared, and expanded upon, rather than spoon-fed. And judging from the night’s impressive crowd, that longing may finally bear fruit.

 

Eve, Sharon, Rei…your songs grow ever closer…

Bridging The Gap: Pre-Con Thoughts 2011

 

The second hand is growing louder, and fellow fans from all over are prepping for another go-round of that hallowed ritual that is Anime Expo weekend. For more than a fair share of years, the Independence Day weekend has also been synonymous with several things for me; overwrought preparation, space-making for colleagues & friends, panels, cosplay, meetups, artist alley, extended question and answer sessions, movie premieres exhibit hall hijinks, karaoke, beverages at inhuman prices, disorientation, loss of voice, exhaustion, etc. But this year, it all comes with a twist. And no, I’m not merely speaking of the inclusion of the risky AM2 venture beginning simultaneously a mere 30 miles away. That’s right, for my focus seems to be set in areas perhaps unsurprisingly not as related to anime as some would hope. And yet strangely, 2011 seems to be a full circle affair- if even at an artistic interest level.

For those unfamiliar with my fandom background, it all came round for the long haul after a sibling started bringing anime on VHS home in the late 1980s-early 90s, when at the time, personal interests were largely in the areas of reading, film, and most starkly, music. And we’re talking about being exposed to a world of sound that wasn’t sold at the local K-Mart. Having begun a dabbling in the avant garde, industrial, gothic & punk worlds, this was something of an exploratory period where as much as the sounds implied some not so safe notions, it suddenly felt as if the world had a great deal to offer rather than the usual servings dished out upon tables the mainstream over. It was the beginning of a much more macro vision of the world outside with sonic influences from anywhere including the middle east, jazz mixed with classical, accidental distortion, guitar crunch, pounding beats & enka-like vocals. No limit was the game, and it was nothing short of exciting. This even led to my own personal pursuits & hobbies regarding making music of my own. So it was perhaps this yearning for something new-mixed with a love of classical myth-telling that enamored me to anime in the first place.

Something that perhaps many are tiring of me saying on these pages. But it’s true. Anime to me exists as a sort of hybrid medium that straddles the worlds of the tangible, and the intangible. And just the right mixture can evoke some great catharsis for those willing to dive in. When meshed in the right notation, it can provide a high better than any illicit narco. For me, the Diet, is in that search. It’s that colorful equivalent to spending a few hours in a local used record store, musing over which artists to take a chance on, as well as partake of some old favorites.

So when I look at the events I’m considering for the weekend, perhaps it’s fitting that my core concentration seems to be aligned back into the worlds of musical expression, and the evolutionary possibilities therein.

Kalafina

Seriously. There was no way I was to let this one pass me by. And yet by all means, the younger, more pretentious me would probably have balked at the very idea of a handpicked femals vocalists handling a barrage of pre-packaged,  proto-goth opera tunes complete with glammy guitars. But to be honest, the Kalafina sound has been in the development for years in Kajiura‘s music. In many ways her sound has been the saving grace of many shows, so the very idea of catching this sound in full bloom seems irresistible. While in some respects, there is a part of me that may not be as wild about the more J-pop elements, there is something incredibly evocative about Kalafina that in a way seems like the perfect mix of the last twenty years of my music-loving life. So the live idea is a tiny step into the unknown for one more used to the more rough and tumble live club shows complete with alcohol & unruly front-row anarchy. One shall have to see.

MIKUNOPOLIS (Hatsune Miku LIVE)

Now if the younger me had seen the older me doing this, I believe an ugly split would likely ensue if not for one simple conceit: the real-world proliferation of the ever-inspiring anime concept of the virtual idol. Mesh this with the powerful VOCALOID software platform, and one has a potentially big moment for both the way not only US anime fans regard the music business, but in the very idea of the pop star in itself. Having a few years for YAMAHA’s signature aqua-haired muse to become something of an online legend, so in many ways, the internet phenom has been building up to this moment. And a part of me has been longing for this idea to come to some kind of evolutionary fruition. Now granted, Miku is far from attaining anything resembling a personality, and it is still kind of a downer that we’re essentially watching a projected image moving in sync to a live band. But the very idea that she has made it stateside, and with the promise of exposing even more fans to the phenomenon, as well as the software, and it’s easy to see why I would be excited. Miku is something of an icon for the further democratization of the music industry, and that’s a glowing plus.

As an added bonus:

AX Idol favorite, Stephanie Yanez is also to be performing alongside two other pals at both shows!

In a move that has only made life all the more surreal, Yanez recently teamed-up with local favorite, Po Lo(a cool guitarist, and buddy that seems to pop up everywhere. Any Ken Tanaka fans out there?) & the schizodelic electronic stylings of the one and only NVR-NDR. To describe NVR-NDR is near-impossible, even for me. Just imagine if your local arcade suffered an overdose of DJ Sharpnel & 8-Bit daydreams, and exploded, leaving nothing more than Amiga-pixeled clouds capable of causing some inexplicable fits of hallucinatory dancing. This project is also known for creating the Combo Attack podcast’s theme music, by the way. Handling both conventions, this unique trio is bound to make a fascinating splash this weekend. And in preparation, one may need protective gear.

Now it wouldn’t be Anime Expo if I didn’t indulge in the weekend’s primary attraction. And judging by the current schedule, it looks like I may be able to make a run to check out the Izumi Matsumoto panel if all goes well. Personally speaking, this is what this weekend has always been about. Whether it is to meet friends from around the world, to cosplay the latest icons, see some great new stuff (New Last Exile?- I so wish..), or just enjoy the company of a legion with similar passions, it can’t be denied that this is the core time to give thanks to those who have imbued us with so much. With both AX & AM2 on the path, things are guaranteed to be challenging- but perhaps this is the kind of test that fans need right about now.

Hatsune Miku’s US Debut inside TinierMe

From the Anime Diet News Desk—Tuesday, July 20, 2010

(Editor’s Note: the Press Release and pictures have been updated)

Today, Hatsune Miku, the Japanese Volcaloid Virtual Idol with multiple albums and projects currently in the works, will be making her US debut inside the virtual world known as TinierMe, which has been in the US and international markets since October 2009. TinierMe has paved the way for her entrance into the US market through a partnership with Crypton Future Media to bring the project to the US audience.

A much more detailed history of the Vocaloid program, developed by Yahama, as well as the origin, projects and performance of Hatsune Miku, can be found here.

The official press release is as follows:

Hatsune Miku is Coming to America

TinierMe launches campaign with Crypton Future Media and Japan’s favorite virtual celebrity


San Francisco – July 20, 2010:

News Facts:

  • TinierMe, the virtual world focused on Japanese animation, today announced a partnership with Crypton Future Media featuring virtual vocalist Hatsune Miku.
  • TinierMe will sell virtual items, outfits and accessories based on multiple renditions of the character, allowing you to “become” Hatsune Miku.
  • TinierMe will also sell outfits and accessories based on her friends: Megurine Luka, Kagamine Rin, Kagamine Luka, Meiko and Kaito.

  • There will be an ongoing concert on a special stage within TinierMe throughout the campaign where the newest Hatsune Miku songs (released on July 7, 2010) can be heard. Also, fans can connect and chat with other Hatsune Miku fans around the world.
  • Album covers from titles released by KarenT have been made into virtual collector’s items and will be distributed for free during the campaign. There are over 100 different virtual album covers to collect!
  • The campaign starts today and runs through the end of November 2010 with multiple Hatsune Miku releases throughout the period.
  • To learn more about TinierMe, create your own Selfy, and check out the initial-release Hatsune Miku items go to http://www.tinierme.com. TinierMe Hatsune Miku images can be found at: http://www.gcrest.com/release/tinierme/100720.zip.

How TinierMe Works:

  • TinierMe is a virtual world where you can create a customized, tinier version of yourself – letting you play and communicate with others online.
  • With a focus on Japanese anime, TinierMe lets you have fun, get to know new people and indulge in Japanese culture.
  • Anyone can sign up for free and choose an avatar – called a “Selfy” – that can be customized into any style you can imagine.
  • Selfys can be taken anywhere within the dynamic world of TinierMe so you can interact with other Selfys through online events, chat, games and community forums.
  • TinierMe is free-to-use and includes:
  • Selfy Town – A place to show off your unique Selfy and interact with others from around the world
  • TinierMe Games – A forum to play and challenge others to original games including multi-player card games, interactive challenges and brain teasers
  • Selfy Shop – Make your Selfy your own with clothing, costumes, accessories, home furnishings, ChibiPets (and ChibiPet accessories) – everything you’ll need to participate in TinierMe in style
  • Forums/Groups – Participate in in-depth interaction and discussion on everything from Japanese culture and anime to movies and TinierMe tips. You can also create a group to start a discussion on a topic that matters to you with like-minded individuals

Quotes:

  • Attributable to Masaru “Nogi” Ohnogi, CEO, GCREST American, Inc.

“TinierMe is able to develop content, not currently available in the U.S. market, based on some of the most engaging elements of Japanese culture. We hope to bring Japan and the love for anime to the world and the Hatsune Miku campaign is a major step in that direction.”

  • Attributable to Kenji Inoue , MediaPhage Division, Crypton Future Media

“We’d like Hatsune Miku to reach a wider audience and would like her voice to reach the world, so we decided to collaborate with TinierMe, a growing site from Japan that is actively being developed overseas.  Of course, we also couldn’t ignore the very high quality of TinierMe’s graphics and their cute Selfy avatar!”

About TinierMe:

TinierMe is a fun virtual world based on Japanese anime. With users around the world, the site lets you build a tinier version of yourself so you can chat, play and create online. TinierMe includes: Selfy Town, a virtual world; Selfy Shop, where you can get everything you need to create and build your character; and Tinier Games, a place to play card games, interactive challenges and brain teasers with other users. TinierMe lets you experience Japanese culture and escape from the doldrums of the real world through your imagination and creativity. GCREST America, Inc. is the company behind TinierMe, and is a fully owned subsidiary of GCREST, Inc. in Japan. To create your Selfy and join the fun, come to www.tinierme.com.

Copyright © Crypton Future Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright © GCREST America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Don’t you know Sci-Fi often predicts the future?

From Ascii.jp via ANN

Robot Sings, Youtube Piano – seeing music of the future at CEATEC

Through iPhone application Request, one can make HRP-4C Robot sing Hatsune Miku songs.

Ray’s Take: God damn it! That’s their first step of taking over! Instead of working under the disguise of a military program, they pretend to be stupid virtual idols and fembots! At the beginning of the last century, flying and going into space used to be Sci-Fi (not Syfy) elements. Look how far that has gone! Don’t you know? Remember in Macross Plus, Sharon Apple ended up taking over SDF rebuild? Man oh man nobody ever listens…

Lol. XD

I actually hope Chobit and Multi caliber girl robots are possible…

Anime Diet Radio Episode 40 – Satisfaction Guaranteed [Possibly NSFW]

som-ona-hole-1.jpg

That’s right. Anime Diet Radio celebrates its 40th episode with…something to help along that midlife, or quarterlife, crisis–at least for some otaku. Let’s just say that 2D marriages may in fact become more “real” with these “cool devices.” That’s the subject of one news item–we also talk about Marvel and Madhouse’s ventures into a Wolverine and Iron Man anime, and also Hatsune Miku coming alive (or is she?). Finally, our roundtable wraps up the con season with some thoughts about how cons might be improved in the future. We especially welcome comments about this subject in the comments section!

We recorded so much material for this episode, the outtakes reel is nearly 20 minutes long! We share some stray thoughts about Anime Expo and other convention memories, the war between comic book and anime geeks, and, most of all, additional material about the SOM devices from News Item 3. Download it from the website, for all of you iTunes and feed listeners.

Show Order

  • (00:00) Intro
  • (03:02) News 1: Marvel Anime
  • (14:02) News 2: Hatsune Miku Comes Alive!
  • (19:14) News 3: SOM Guys Have All the Luck
  • (29:33) Mailbag
  • (35:20) Roundtable
  • (54:13) Conclusion

Outtakes Reel Order

  • (00:00) Comic Book Fans vs Anime Fans
  • (02:18) Memories of AX: Morning Musume and Mana
  • (06:56) Picture Taking Policies at AX
  • (08:22) Director Apologies for Endless Eight at Otakon
  • (09:34) The SOM Website and Commentary

Show Notes

  • –OP, ED are from CANAAN.
  • –You can look at the Wolverine anime trailer here [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLYjywXyyDI], and the Iron Man trailer here [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4Q7xgxDJh4].
  • –The announcement about the Hatsune Miku concert is on ANN [http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2009-07-31/hatsune-miku-virtual-idol-to-perform-in-live-concert].
  • –Psst…the SOM Japan website is here [http://www.somjapan.com/us/index.html]. That will explain everything you need to know. Sankaku’s article is here [http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2008/12/07/som-eroge-dutch-wife-interface-works-with-cross-days/].