Miku Hatsune’s popularity among figure collectors is ascendant, and though it seemed like she would have to share the 2011 hobby spotlight with Tamaki Kousaka and Super Sonico, most of Sonico’s figures won’t be coming out until next year and many of this year’s Tamaki figures are manifestly forgettable, leaving no competition to contest Miku’s prominence. From her humble origin as an image character of a niche software package, she has become a titan of commercialization, appearing not only in her own games but also games such as Pangya Fantasy Golf and the PlayStation 3 port of Idolmaster 2, becoming the mascot of Good Smile Racing, and selling Toyota automobiles. And of course, she’s gotten figures – not just numerous figures, but a numerous variety of figures. A few years ago, one could justifiably complain that Miku figures all looked alike – Good Smile Company’s Miku looked very much like Volks’s Miku which looked very much like Max Factory’s Miku. However, in recent times, figure makers have offered new takes on the Vocaloid mascot, casting her as a sort of warrior clad in robotic armor and as a pit crew worker. Even more conventional takes on the character, such as Good Smile Company’s Lat-type figure and Max Factory’s Tony Taka-designed figure present distinctive poses and facial expressions. The latest Miku figure to be released is perhaps the most distinctive yet, but whether that’s a good thing is debatable. Let’s take a closer look at it.
Miku Hatsune is, of course, the most well-known mascot of the Vocaloid voice synthesis software. The most familiar version of Miku has her wearing a blouse and skirt ensemble akin to the archetypical Japanese school uniform, but Miku Append retains only her green eyes and hairstyle, exchanging her seifuku-inspired clothing for a more futuristic and more revealing outfit. Her hair is typically colored in a lighter shade of green, and she discards her unique gunmetal-and-black tones for a starker black-and-white color scheme.
This figure is manufactured by Max Factory, and though she’s nominally listed as 1/8 scale, she’s considerably smaller than most 1/8 scale figures. The figure itself is about 17 centimeters tall from feet to the top of her head, and about 30 centimeters tall overall.
Despite her small size, she still effects a striking visual presence. Everything about this figure is intended to deliver a sense of weightlessness and tranquillity. A pylon made of transparent plastic suspends her in midair and though it wobbles a bit, I had no problems suspending her upside down with adhesive tape and dumping water on her, so I think the strut is stable enough.
Perhaps the most eyecatching element of this figure are Miku’s twintails, which sweep upwards in a majestic arc. Their opacity fades to transparency towards the tips, accentuating her futuristic look. The rest of her hair is colored in a pastel sea green color, anesthetizing rather than stimulating, complementing her placid expression.
Though her outfit is not particularly ornate or complex, it still generates a great deal of visual interest, perhaps because it is difficult to classify at first glance. Indeed, the promo photos made it ambiguous as to whether anything covers her crotch, but in person, it’s easy to tell that she’s wearing a sleeveless leotard. Analogous to original Miku’s necktie, a sliver of her suit floats in front of her, revealing her navel and a swath of skin that plunges far down her torso, adding a spicy sexiness to her look that some may welcome and that others may find crass or gratuitous. Her waist is encircled by a sort of mechanical belt which offers a modicum of modesty and provides a convenient attachment point for her pylon, and her ensemble is completed by gloves which sheathe only her middle fingers and by thigh-high socks which leave her feet bare. Her bare feet make a strong impression on me, and I’m not entirely certain why, but for some reason, they seem to give her an ineffable, meditative, almost transcendant look that I can’t quite explain.
Although Miku Append is not a large figure, there are some remarkable details, including the tattoo on her left arm, which writes her name in letters that are a fraction of a millimeter in height. Similarly, there is writing on the sides of her leotard that is not legible by eye but is readable through a macro lens.
Despite the dynamic lift of her hair and her ethereal pose, Miku evinces a strong sense of serenity. From the front, the downward positioning of her fingers and toes give a feeling of inertness, with almost no tension evident in her body posture. Her expression also appears languid and distant, almost otherworldly.
From the side, the apparent verticality of her pose gives way to a more dynamic look, thanks to the strong arch of her back. The femininity of her body is also more noticeable, particularly in her small and pointed breasts and narrow waist. From this angle, her eyes are often partially obscured as well, giving this figure a slightly different feel.
Which brings us back to her face, which is almost certainly the most controversial aspect of this figure. The design of her face strongly differs from other figures of Miku; indeed, it departs from conventional anime-styled design. Her head is wedge-shaped, almost cat-like, giving her a disturbingly inhuman look, particularly viewed straight-on. Her chin is prominent and pointed, emphasized by the strong rake of her jaw. With her sharp features and steady gaze, it’s no wonder that the reaction to this figure is equivocal.
I think this figure is best viewed from an angle and a bit from above; such a viewpoint masks some of the more contentious aspects of her face and also reveals the sexy curve of her back.
A curious aspect of this figure is a hinge where her pylon slots into her belt; this lets you pivot the figure horizontal if you so desire. I have no idea if the hinge is strong enough to support her weight for an extended period of time, though, and my guess is that it isn’t.
Miku Append made her debut a while ago, and anticipation amongst figure collectors built up as she was exhibited at successive conventions, but now that she’s released, her welcome hasn’t been as warm as expected. Though I like this figure, I can’t say it’s a flawless figure; her triangular face is the chief concern, and while I don’t dislike it, I can understand why it could dissuade some collectors who might otherwise purchase this figure. Her small size is also a bit disappointing, though not entirely unexpected because VN02 Miku was also rather small. However, unlike mecha Miku, Miku Append was relatively inexpensive, at least by figure standards.
I think Miku Append has a lot of things going for her. For one, her design goes against convention and it’s difficult to see Miku Append having the same sort of mainstream success and crossover appeal that the regular Miku Hatsune has had, and that’s something that I approve of. For another, her design is considerably more erotic than the regular Miku Hatsune’s design, and that’s also something I appreciate. And I like the sci-fi, futuristic elements of her look, which are quite unique. Finally, she was a lot of fun to photograph – a lot of work, but a lot of fun, and a photogenic figure tends to rise in my esteem. Not everyone will like this figure, and justifiably so, but I like Miku Append, more than I thought that I would.