Way back when I was in college, I was interested in making electronic music, and being that I did not and still don’t have any musical talent to speak of, I figured the easiest way to do it would be via computer. I had a copy of ReBirth for drums and a MIDI controller that I could use for basslines, my roommate played the guitar so I could ask him for samples, but one thing I didn’t have was vocals. While I might have been able to fake some sort of musical ability with instrumentals, there was no way I was going to embarrass myself by trying to sing. One day, while reading the news from that year’s NAMM on Harmony Central, I learned that Yamaha had developed voice synthesis software intended to provide musical vocals. They had a couple of voices, and I listened to the samples; one of them was of a voice called “Miriam” singing old traditional songs like Auld Lang Syne and Scarborough Fair. They were interesting and innovative in an academic sense, but they were still rather rough and being a broke student, I couldn’t buy the software anyway, so I quickly forgot about them and the whole enterprise and went back to doing my homework.
Fast forward years later; I’m out of college, I’m buying figures, I see a ton of people talking about some young green-eyed girl in dire need of a haircut. Wondering what anime she was from, I Google her name and find out that she’s from “Vocaloid.” How curious, I think, that an anime was named after voice synthesis software. Then I find out that she’s not from an anime at all; Yamaha made a mascot character to ostensibly represent one of their voice packs and it succeeded beyond their wildest expectation. I’m not certain if this whole phenomenon is an ingenius example of marketing or a demonstration of how simple it is to get money from anime fans.
Normally I talk a bit about a character’s background and personality when I write about a figure, but as a character developed solely to pitch a product, I’m not aware that Miku has either, so I’ll dispense with that and go straight to the figure. Miku comes from Max Factory and is sculpted in 1/7 scale and is about 22 centimeters tall. She comes with no accessories so getting her ready for display is as simple as sticking her onto her base and putting her on a shelf. That sort of simplicity is refreshing, given how many loose parts from other figures I have rolling around on my desk.
I like the paintwork on her clothing a lot; she’s got a simple charcoal, black, and green color scheme with something of a satin finish on her socks and blouse. The green necktie gives some vibrancy to her simple, achromatic dress, and overall the effect is quite striking.
I’m less enthused about her hair. I don’t particularly like translucent hair – Alter’s first KOS-MOS figure originally showed opaque, Carolina blue hair, but the final product had translucent hair and I didn’t like that change. Miku’s hair isn’t quite translucent – it’s far too thick – but it has a strange glossy tone that is strongly reminiscent of solidified Daiki gel. That reminds me, I ought to think about picking some of that stuff up from Amiami while they’re doing half off on overseas shipping; it looks like good stuff and I bet I can find all sorts of things to do with it.
Miku is a skinny girl and her body proportions are a bit unusual even by anime standards. Her shoulders are thinner than her head, and her waist is thinner still. The flare of her blouse and skirt contrasts with the slenderness of her upper body. The flatness of her eyes, her antenna-like hair, and her reed-like limbs and long torso all combine to give her something of an insect-like appearance.
Max Factory, Good Smile Company, and Volks have all released figures with similar poses: stance spread out with feet canted in, hair splayed out, and torso leaning backwards. Of these, I like the Max Factory version the best by far; the GSC one is aight but I don’t care much for the sideways D mouth, which is sort of the default mouth shape for this sort of girl character, and the Volks one looks okay as a thumbnail but looks rather more horrifying up close, not to mention that it appears that someone has snapped poor Miku’s neck; I’ve seen pictures of lynched people whose heads are positioned like that.
MF Miku has a bit more personality. She’s got a confident stance with a cocky, showy backwards lean, a mysterious smile and a sideways glance to go along with her mantis-like body build. I don’t plan on getting more than one Miku figure and I wanted one with her in her familiar outfit, and so I think that Max Factory’s version was the right choice for me.
I was looking at the figures that I’ve preordered and I noticed that I don’t have a single Good Smile Company figure in that list. Miku’s sort of become the poster girl for Good Smile Company, with GSC’s logo being on the back of this box. I checked how many Miku figures GSC has put out: 21! Then again, I suppose nobody can blame them for milking their best cow, since other manufacturers have their pet characters as well, like Griffon and Kanu, Alter and Nanoha and Fate, and Kaitendoh and Tamaki.
No idea what this is supposed to be.
I have to include a pantyshot, don’t I? Yep, they’re white.
I’ve got no better place to mention this, so I’ll just say it here: screw you, University of Kansas basketball players, for screwing up my bracket. Way to go, guys.
I wonder why her vest is fringed with zippers? That looks like it could be uncomfortable.
You know, I wonder why more companies haven’t tried coming up with cute anime girl products to pitch their products. Like the National Football League, for instance; they play a preseason game in Japan every year, they could come up with some sort of manga with a mascot girl to explain the rules of the game to young adult Japanese males who might otherwise have no interest in watching American-rules football. Or take Microsoft; why not develop an official 360-tan character? They could have an animated version of her on the desktop to greet you in a squeaky synthesized Vocaloid voice whenever you powered on your console, perhaps even parsing the player’s gamertag so that someone with the handle “LBJ23” might be cheerfully met with an exuberant “Konbanwa, Erubi-sama!” Perhaps a little chibi version of her could be animated on the bottom part of the dashboard depending on what games you’ve played recently, so if the last game you played was Madden NFL, she could be playing catch with the gamer’s 360 avatar, or if you played Halo 3, she could be running around with an oversized MJOLNIR power armor helmet with holes cut out for her twintails to poke through (she’d have to have twintails, of course). Or somesuch.
When one is reviewing a Vocaloid figure, it’s almost compulsory to include a music video. I went to Youtube to check out some of Miku’s music and I found it to be quite difficult to listen to, so instead I’m going to just put up one of my favorite songs here instead. Robert Randolph & The Family Band is one of my favorite musical groups and the only group I’ve ever listened to live; they tour often and if they do a concert near you, I’d encourage you to check them out if you like rock and funk music as they do a very energetic and entertaining show. What does this have to do with this review? I haven’t the faintest clue.
Incidentally, this recording comes from the band’s show at Asbury Park. The Internet Archive’s Live Music Archive has the whole set available for download for noncommercial use.
This is figure review #100! I got here faster than I thought I would.