Miku Is Fun to Write About

The other day I read that Miku pitch from that Idea Channel show (which hangs with the PBS tag) and I was like, yeah another show mining eyecatching fringe otaku taglines. After watching it, though, it’s actually an honest investigation from a music perspective. Too bad it’s so short that you can’t really get much out of it.

I guess it’s not unlike console gamers and their alleged alligence to certain platforms, or lack thereof. I buy consoles purely based on the software. That’s why I own a 3DS. But I also buy consoles based on other considerations too, which is why I have a PS3. This multiplicity in terms of how and what makes sense to spend money on is something I believe most folks share, given that they have enough resources to consider different means of rationalizing their spending.

Do we treat these idols the same way? Identity aside I think the way we derive enjoyment from popular entertainment isn’t unlike the way we derive enjoyment from, well, consoles, which are also pop entertainment channels. In that aspect maybe Miku is just like one of the other typical, flesh-and-blood idols. In that aspect maybe it really is all about the music (software) for some people sometimes. But of course, the hardware matters too…

Rather than Lana Del Rey, I think someone like Shokotan is probably a better comparison. But then again how many top 10 Oricon albums did she sell versus Miku… Well, the comparison sticks for either one of them. The hardware will appeal to somebody, the software, who knows?

Clearly, Miku addresses a big lack of appealing hardware of a certain type. And by 2012 terminology, what I mean by hardware is more like ecosystem. And I’ve written some on that already.

I think for every Sharon Apple reference made for Miku, rather to think of it as some kind of silly “old school nod,” I think of it as an itch that is unscratched for ages. I’d go even as far that when Priss and her Replicants a few years prior, or even in Gibson’s Neuromancer line of novels, this itch was already a thing. Miku happened to scratch that itch. Perhaps not applied head on, she does help relieve some of that energy people have in terms of creating and projecting and identifying with some thing they want to be creating/identifying/etc.

Which is all to say, as an idol, Miku is for real. It’s just that it is we who write her story. Kind of like an open-source idol of sorts, and the repository is made of memes and moonrunes.


4 responses to “Miku Is Fun to Write About

  • Martin

    I agree that the vid should’ve been longer. I was all geared up to spend several minutes wincing at the same old cheap jokes, preconceptions and inaccuracies but it was actually very wll-handled and raised some valid points that I’d love to see expanded on, either there, here or elswhere.

    There are so many trains of thought leaving this particular station, but the first that I can think of off the top of my head before I turn in for the night is that, against Lana Del Rey, Miku’s easier to accept in that her persona is knowingly fabricated so, in a weird kind of way, she’s more ‘honest’. More importantly though, I think that in terms of Miku vs Lana, it’s a case of pop star pretending to be non-manufactured (something we’ve seen countless times before) versus virtual pop idol (which hasn’t really happened before).

    That is to say, virtual idols have cropped up in books and movies but this is the first time that such a character has found ‘fame’ in the real world. Interestingly, a science & tech monthly that I’ve subscribed to for years did a feature about virtual reality and part of that article focused on the evolution of virtual idols in Japan. Sadly that particular issue was back in the mid 90s so I threw it into the recycling bin years ago, but suffice to say that the general concept that created Miku has been stewing away for a number of years…I suspect it wasn’t until 1. the voice synth technology was good enough and 2. the internet provided enough exposure that it took off like it has.

    The techology in that article talked about the marketing angle but also the CG artwork and animation…and this was over a decade ago! I think we’re going to see a lot of surprising (and possibly weird) developments riding off the back of the whole vocaloid phenomenon that has nothing to do with voice synthesisers and music composers. If Gibson were writing Idoru today, I wonder how different it would be…I’d love to find out what he thinks of it.

  • omo

    Didn’t Gibson tweeted about Miku some time ago? LOL.

    The authenticity issue is pretty interesting, but my handle on it would be retreading what I’ve already written repeatedly about participatory culture.

  • Vendredi

    Like I’ve commented before, Miku’s “open-source” idol model strikes me as actually having pretty pre-modern roots.

    What are mythology and folktales if not shared characters that people weave various tales about? Mass education, mass religion, and mass literacy may have sent the habit into dormancy for a while, but in the same way, I think the popularity of “participatory” characters like Miku is precisely because that itch has been unscratched for so long, like you said.

  • omo

    I’m thinking that there were some issues with your pre-modern concept that probably is sidestepped by the fact that today people do have a common understanding (mass education/religion/literacy). In as much as you could say fictional characters exist and stories were enjoyed since times pre-pre-modern, it doesn’t really say to me, idol. Invariably you can’t have idols without something like religion, after all.

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