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Nihonsei: Vocaloid

Ohayou minna-san! NIHONSEI is proudly presenting the latest craze in Japan today! Real Japanese idols are so yesterday. Virtual idols (mainly Virtual Divas) are the latest fan favorite these days. So what the heck am I talking about? It's Vocaloid and read on to find out more about it.

Vocaloid is a Voice Synthesizer application developed by Yamaha Corporation and its initial release was on January 2004. It boast a library of sample vocals that can be arranged to form an actual voice we recognize. The main idea is you enter lyrics and some melodies and the program will synthesize it to produce a song.

The first voices released were Leon and Lola, both made by a third party company named Zero-G Limited. Later on, Miriam, was released based from he voice of Miriam Stockley. All three voices provide English vocals for the Vocaloid program.

Eventually, another third party company, this time Crypton Future Media, developed two Japanese singing voice packages. They named it Kaito and Meiko and were voiced by Naoto Fuuga and Meiko Haigou respectively. An anime inspired art was included in Meiko's packing which became a huge hit. Kaito on the other hand was not popular among the consumers and was deemed to be a failure.

On January 2007, Yamaha released an updated version of their software named Vocaloid 2. With a reconstructed synthesizing engine that provided faster and clearer processing of the software. Users of NicoNicoDouga started posting videos with songs created by the software.

With the success of Meiko previously, Crypton Future Media created a new character voice package named Miku Hatsune. The data for the voice was created by sampling the voice of Saki Fujita, a Japanese voice actress. Unlike general purpose speech synthesizers, the software is tuned to create J-pop songs commonly heard in anime, but it is possible to create songs from other genres.

According to Crypton, a popular video with a comically-altered Miku holding a leek, singing Ievan Polkka, presented multiply possibilities of applying the software in multimedia content creation. As the recognition and popularity of the software grew, NicoNicoDouga became a place for collaborate content creation. Popular original songs written by a user would generate illustrations, animation in 2D and 3D, and remixes by other users. Other creators would show their unfinished work and ask for ideas.

Miku's first appearance in an anime is in episode 13 of Zoku Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei in which she (and other Vocaloids) auditioned to dub Otonashi Meru's voice. For online multiplayer games, the Japanese version of PangYa started a campaign with Hatsune Miku on May 22, 2008 in which she is included as one of the characters. Her first appearance in a video game is in 13-sai no Hellowork DS (Job Placement for the Age of 13) for the Nintendo DS where she is included as one of the characters. Miku Hatsune also star in a video game of her own, Miku Hatsune - Project Diva on the Playstation Portable (PSP) in Japan. In Tales of Graces (Wii), she is a downloadable costume for one of the characters.

On April 30, 2010, Miku received an update that consisted of six new Miku themed voicebanks: Soft, Sweet, Dark, Vivid, Solid, Light. The software was named Miku Append.

After Miku Hatsune was released, Kaito was re-evaluated and now many users prefer him with his friendly, tender, strong voice. A story was made in NicoNicoDouga where Miku sang a "A Request from Miku Hatsune" where she was asking the whereabout of Kaito. Four hours later the song "An Answer To Hatsune Miku" was posted where Kaito was saying he was eating an ice cream. Miku and Kaito were established as partners and were used in some duet songs.

A demand for a male voice surfaced, so Crypton hired Asami Shimoda to record two voice banks, a male and a female, and created the twins Rin and Len Kagamine.

Crypton created a third installment which they named as Megurine Luka, a moody yet husky female voice ideal for jazz music provided by Yū Asakawa. Luka was the first Vocaloid that contained an English and Japanese voice bank, making her the first Bi-lingual Vocaloid, whom Crypton envisioned to trancend borders and break the cultural barrier.

Miku Hatsune, The twins Kagamine and Megurine Luka perfomed a "live" concert entitled Hatsune Miku's 2nd Anniversary Live, which was held last August 31, 2009 at Club Studio Coast, Shinkiba, Tokyo, Japan. A live band was on stage and the virtual idols were projected in a large screen.

Will virtual idols replace the real thing? Are we seeing the future of entertainment that was envision before in the movies like S1m0ne?


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