Friday, July 17, 2015

Q Attack, Round 16 - Are Vocaloids the Future of Otaku Culture?
Tiger and Rabbit are fans of Vocaloids, purchasing everything from music to games and even anime, but how far does their love go? What exactly is a “Vocaloid” and are they the future of Otaku culture? Tiger and Rabbit answer these questions and so many more in the latest installment of Q Attack.


Rabbit: You know, we’ve seen and done a lot of different things.

Tiger: Like what?

Rabbit: We’ve gone to anime and game conventions, been to a few Las Vegas shows, attended various concerts from classical to J-Pop, watched a live D&D game at a performing arts theater, and many other things.

Tiger: Yeah, it’s been a fun ride but why bring all this up?

Rabbit: There’s one thing that I still would love to see live and in person.

Tiger: And what’s that?

Rabbit: See a Vocaloid!

Tiger: But we’ve seen a Vocaloid, even messed with it a bit.

Rabbit: How rude!

Tiger: Wait, what?

Rabbit: Why would you mess with one? That’s just mean.

Tiger: *shakes head* I’m confused, are we even talking about the same thing here?

Rabbit: I’m talking about seeing a Vocaloid live in concert, what are you talking about?

Tiger: I was talking about the voice synthesizer program.

Rabbit: I guess we should clarify what a “Vocaloid” really is.

Tiger: At its core, a Vocaloid is a software program that allows the manipulation of a synthetic singing voice that was created with the use of vocals from a real singer or voice actor. It’s basically a singer in a box for people who want to create their own music even if they can’t sing themselves. Using this software, a person can input melody and lyrics, change stress of pronunciations, add effects like vibrato, and change the tone of the synthetic voice.

Rabbit: But everything changed when they started using human personae to market the programs. Thus, characters like Hatsune Miku were born! Now they are full blown brands with music, manga, merchandise, and even pizza faces. My favorite has to be Megurine Luka, she’s so pretty.

Tiger: Just to clarify, you know it’s not a real person right?

Rabbit: She’s real enough, I mean I listen to her songs and I’ve seen her concert performances.

Tiger: But those songs were written by a lot of different artists who just happen to use its voice for vocals.

Rabbit: Her voice.

Tiger: It’s not a real person!

Rabbit: She’s right there on the TV screen singing World’s End Dancehall, in English no less!

Tiger: Which was completely created by wowaka!

Rabbit: ^starts to cry^ You’re so cruel! This is just like that time when Tink was dying and you wouldn’t clap.

Tiger: Because Tink is a light they shine on the wall.

Rabbit: ^bawling^ She almost died because of you!

Tiger: Alright, alright… I’ll clap next time we see Tink. Are you happy now?

Rabbit: And take back what you said about Luka.

Tiger: Fine, she is a real… thing. Can we continue?

Rabbit: I don’t think you are being sincere but fine, go ahead.

Tiger: Vocaloids have become much more than a singing synthesizer computer program. I just purchased the graphic novel, Kagerou Daze, which is written by Shizen no Teki-P AKA Jin. The story is about the Mekakushi Dan, a group of teenagers with eye-related powers. It started out as a Vocaloid series of music videos, called Kagerou Project, on Niconico but now encompasses light novels, manga, and anime. The anime Mekakucity Actors is pretty awesome too, we saw it Sakura-Con 2015.

Rabbit: ^rubs forehead^ That's really confusing.

Tiger: Kind of like the band EGOIST.

Rabbit: Oh right. EGOIST is made up of Ryo from Supercell and Chelly. They created the band for the anime, Guilty Crown. Chelly provides the vocals under the persona of Yuzuriha Inori, the heroine of the show, because EGOIST is also the band in the anime.

Tiger: You know, I miss the days were you could assume that a singer was a real live person and that the band you were listening to wasn’t fictional.

Rabbit: Kind of confusing, yeah?

Tiger: No kidding. Anyway, we are getting off track again. So Vocaloids like oldie Hatsune Miku and popular IA have really cemented their place in geek culture.

Rabbit: It’s true that the Vocaloid character novels have exploded in Japan, forming its own genre separate from light novels.

Tiger: I’d argue that Kagerou Project is the flag of the current Otaku generation in Japan.

Rabbit: Makes us sound old when you think we’re of the Gundam generation of Otaku. That’s Gen Two for those who aren’t familiar with the Otaku Generations.

Tiger: Hey, we like some Gen Four stuff too… sort of.

Rabbit: You hated The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Tiger: I just didn’t get it. I really didn’t. This is why I don’t like calling myself an Otaku. I’m a gamer; I think that’s pretty apparent to most people. I can talk about them a lot. Anime and other Otaku related topics I have a harder time with. There are just so freaking many of them. And then there’s the themes like moe or harem. And the tropes! There are just too many things to wrap my mind around. Video games are so much easier to keep track of.

Rabbit: So true. Plus, the delay of anime and manga getting to the U.S. doesn’t help either. We hear people talking about popular shows only to find out that they’re streaming them and it will take months if not a year or so to get an official version here. I know how you are with your physical media.

Tiger: Yeah, I don’t stream anime at all, when would I have the time? So I’m definitely behind the eight ball on what’s popular and trendy. Though, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. So… uh… what was the question for this Q Attack?

Rabbit: Huh?

Tiger: It was your turn to pose the question.

Rabbit: ^scratches head^ I… uh… forgot?

Tiger: *Chases Rabbit around the room* How could you?! You little rascal, get back here so I can bop you on the head!

Rabbit: Threats of violence aren’t very encouraging!

Tiger: Okay, okay, we can salvage this somehow so we don’t waste anymore time. Sit down and let’s finish this.

Rabbit: ^cowering in a corner^ I don’t believe you.

Tiger: I promise I won’t do anything to you… for now.

Rabbit: Fine, so what’s the question oh wise and sadistic kitty?
Tiger: *rolls eyes* Do you think Vocaloids are the future of Otaku culture?

Rabbit: Oh, nice save there. Hmm, let me think about this for a minute.

Tiger: Well, I don’t think they are or maybe I hope they aren’t. Trying to keep up with all of the different Vocaloids out there is hard and confusing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan, I have my favorite bands and producers, but Vocaloids taking over Otakuland? I’m not so sure about that. They are popular and will remain so but I think the traditional anime, manga, and light novels will keep their popularity. Either way, it’s all about the quality of the work  and a great story with well-written characters will always drive popularity. Maybe I’m just being my usual stubborn self, but I miss the old days of going to a store and buying a CD or popping in a video game and playing it without ten thousand day one patches. Now, everything is connected to the internet, I stream my music from a cloud, and the bands I listen to are made up of virtual characters. My head can’t take anymore, so no, they aren’t the future. Because if they’re the future, then we’re obsolete. And as much as I love the sound of Vocaloid music, I’d take a real human like Chelly any day of the week.

Rabbit: I actually think they might be the future of Otaku culture. I can definitely see the appeal. You have these personae that not only can you interact with via video games but you can also read about their daily lives, listen to their music, and even see them perform live. Plus, you can even have them sing your own songs; that’s pretty powerful to me. There’s a strong enough illusion that they are real, but unlike real celebrities, you won’t see them screwing up their lives or doing something you dislike. Vocaloids feel very “Japanese” to me, in a lot of aspects even though they have ones for other countries. Just think of the monetary value they have too, like with Kagerou Project. Jin started with creating music with these personae but now they have a light novel series, manga, anime, and a metric ton of other merchandise that they’re involved in. Talk about brand power.

Tiger: You do realize that a tonne or metric ton as you call it, is actually smaller than a short ton, also known as a U.S. ton?

Rabbit: ^sticks out tongue^ Geez, it’s a figure of speech. But no, I didn’t know that and I have no need to know that information. Why do you even… you know what, never mind. Anywho, with Kagerou Project representing the current teenage Otaku Generation, you don’t have to wonder if Vocaloids will be sticking around for a while. I also saw an article stating that over half of the top 20 karaoke songs that teenagers sing are from Vocaloids. They’re prevalence in Japanese culture, especially for teenagers, shows that Vocaloids aren’t the future; they’re the present.

Tiger: Speaking of present, maybe you should take the time now to work on your memory. You’re starting to lose it; maybe I need to put you in a care home.

Rabbit: Hidoi yo!

Are Vocaloids the Future of Otaku Culture?

Tiger     vs     Rabbit

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