In case you're not in the know when it comes to Japanese vocal synthesizers, Hatsune Miku is a pig-tailed 16-year-old girl created to market a Vocaloid program, which is basically a piece of software that sings for you if you bash in lyrics and a melody. Pretty neat stuff. Putting a fictional face to a product is no big deal, it happens on the regs— Cap'n Crunch, for example—but it's very rare that those fictional characters become successful popstars, live-action holograms that perform "live" concerts, get sent into space, and have their outfits imitated at cosplay events all around the world. It's safe to say that Miku is one of the weirdest Japanese cultural exports ever.
Apparently, her takeover of these things by 'pretenders' has got the die-hard Miku fans a little peeved, so I spoke to a few of them to find out what the hype's all about.
RINGO HITOMI KANZAKI, CHILE
VICE: When did you first hear about Hatsune Miku?
Ringo Hitomi Kanzaki: I'm a fan of a J-rock band called An Cafe, whose singer's name is Miku, and when I Googled him the first thing that popped up was Hatsune Miku. After that I started listening to the music and searching for more information about the world of Vocaloid.
Were you already into cosplay before that?
No, not really. I'd always wanted to be a cosplayer because the anime conventions and events looked so fun, but I never really had the chance to make my own costumes. It wasn't until the 2010 FanViña's event that I decided to start getting involved in this world. My boyfriend and I searched through loads of potential costumes and I eventually decided on the gothic-style costume from the game Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA.
So is she your favorite character to dress as now?
Yeah, definitely. I just love the character, the colors, the music, the design of the costumes - everything.
What is it about her that is so appealing?
Her cuteness and the combination of the colors, her hair, and pretty much everything about her! But I guess the most awesome thing is the voice. When I listen to her I imagine a real singer - I just can't believe that she's artificial.
Is there a sexual aspect to Hatsune Miku at all?
No, she's so cute and innocent! I suppose quite a few otakus find sexual aspects to characters like Hatsune Miku, but they're wrong because that was never the original idea of the character.
Oh dear, dirty otaku perverts. From your Facebook photos it looks like you spend quite a lot of time dressed up like Hatsune.
Yeah, so far I've done three cosplays as Hatsune Miku. Two of them were at conventions and the last one was at a cosplay parade, where I won the first place prize for my costume. I'm now preparing my next Hatsune Miku cosplay with a team of Vocaloids. Other than that, I normally wear my cosplay outfits and wigs in my house and take photos of myself. It's so fun, I enjoy it a lot.
LAWLI ET - SINGAPORE
VICE: Hey Lawli. Which variation of Hatsune Miku is your favourite to dress up as?
Lawli Et: Oh, definitely the ∞ Module because I love the color of her hair. It's not the usual Miku color that you see everywhere. Plus, the amount of frills and laces are awesome. I'm a sucker for frills and lace, basically. I think the best thing about cosplaying as that version, though, is that I've never seen anyone else do it, so it's nice being the first.
Are you into the music too?
No, I'm not really a fan of Miku's music at all. It's usually the outfits from fan arts or the song artworks that appeal to me more.
Do you make your own outfits?
Well, that depends how complex the outfit is, the amount free time I have, my bank situation, and my sewing skills. I don't have a teacher, I pretty much learned all my tailoring skills from Google.
How often do you dress as Hatsune Miku? Are you a wear-it-round-the-house cosplayer?
Not that often, actually. It's more the fact that there are so many Miku outfit designs that appeal to me, but if there were no outfits that spoke to me, I'd rather not cosplay her. Also, you can easily spot, like, five Mikus walking around at events and conventions, which is kind of annoying. Regardless of whatever character it is that I'm cosplaying at the time, I always dress up for events, conventions, and photoshoots. I do love cosplay, but not to the extent that I actually dress in cosplay day to day.
Cool. What's the deal with Miku's leek?
I dunno, ask the person who designed Hatsune Miku.
I'm not that bothered, I guess I'll just accept it for what it is.
ESTHER - BARCELONA
VICE: Is Hatsune Miku your favorite character to cosplay as?
Esther: Yeah, definitely. I think it's an amazing cosplay to wear, but the only thing wrong with it is the weight of the ponytails. They make it a bit uncomfortable sometimes, but other than that it's great.
What are the best things about her?
Well, she's a cheerful character with flashy colors, which I think is cute. I'm also a big fan of music and dances from Japan, so I like her for that reason too.
Do you cosplay on a daily basis or just for events and conventions?
Usually I just do it for a conventions. I like to cosplay with other cosplayers because I love it when other people appreciate the effort that's gone into the outfit.
So you make your own Miku costumes?
Yeah, I do it myself. There's nothing like seeing a good self-created result.
Very true. What's your favorite variation of Miku that you've cosplayed as?
The Miku official suit is my favorite that I've cosplayed so far, but my favorite variation is the Heart Hunter suit. I'm in the process of making it right now, so I'll probably wear it for the next convention.
Lastly, what is it about cosplaying that appeals to you generally?
Personally, I like it because I enjoy searching for ways to make the clothing and weapons, starting from zero, looking for the materials and fabrics and stuff yourself. That way, when I wear my cosplays it's really satisfying. It's also special because you can reincarnate your favorite character for one day and nobody's surprised or shocked. You can dress up in clothes you like, with a hairstyle you like, acting as your character does… I think that's amazing. Of course, it's much better if you share it with others too. Another thing I like when I'm cosplaying is recreating or inventing scenes from a game or an anime and photographing them. I think it's cool to have nice photos and a good memory of the event.
YONOR - SINGAPORE
VICE: When did you first get into cosplay?
Yonor: I started cosplaying at the beginning of last year. I'd been interested in it since I was young because I'm a complete anime freak, so I'd always wanted to dress up. The thing is, I was quite fat back then. Although people say that cosplay is just about fun and that appearance isn't important, I couldn't get over it, so I decided to diet. Within a couple of months I lost the weight and finally decided to try out cosplaying my first ever character, Chii from Chobits.
That's cool. People should start using cosplay as a weight-loss incentive more.
Yeah, exactly! Talking about this, actually, I really must thank my photographer Xeno. I met him during my first cosplay and from that day onward we have been working together. I doubt I'd have improved so much from being a total "noob" without his help. He's really experienced in both cosplaying and photo-taking. Ten years ago he won the best male cosplayer award in Singapore and after that stopped cosplaying and become a photographer.
Awesome, I never knew cosplayers had mentors. What is it about cosplaying that appeals to you? Is it the escapism or just for the fun of it?
It's really just for the love I have for it. Of course, it is fun, but the most important thing is having love for the character you're cosplaying. Only then can you can do your best in portraying the character and look your best.
And what is it about cosplaying as Miku that appeals to you? Are you into her music?
Actually, when I first started I wasn't that into Vocaloid, but last year I came across this Hatsune Miku song called "Romeo and Cinderella" and I was totally amazed by the song. Slowly, I started listening to more and more songs and I now spend about three hours each day searching for new songs. I can tell I've become a total Vocaloid freak because I'm now spending more time listening to them instead of watching anime.
Does it annoy you that so many other people cosplay as Miku?
Nope, if they do a good job and put in the effort, it's fine. But nowadays lots and lots of so-called cosplayers pop up and some of them I really can't stand. Like, I saw this Miku cosplay once where the "cosplayer" used her real hair, which was brown and only shoulder-length. I almost fainted.
PHOTOS: JUAN SEGOVIA, BY LIM, J.J ANHIZ, XENO