Hatsune Miku Retrospective: Lost History

“Hatsune Miku Retrospective” is a series of blogs relating to the like-named panel to be hosted at Anime Los Angeles 14. This blog “Lost History” is the first in the series and chronicles issues encountered in the research phase of the panel.

Preparing for my upcoming panel was quite a nostalgic experience.

I got to reflect on my decade of being a Vocaloid fan and look back at old videos and all of a sudden I am a freshman in college, Bleach had just come out and this viral video with a girl spinning a leek became a hit between my friends. There wasn’t a term for this at the time but I guess I can say ‘lolituma’ and ‘leek spin’ would become one of my first exposures to a “meme”. From this meme would spawn the infamous video by Otomania, Hachune Miku, and my first exposure to Vocaloid.

From there it was Miku Miku ni Shite Ageru♪, Po Pi Po, and the heyday of ryo (supercell). I became obsessed and we shared these clips and music videos with my friends at my college’s anime club. Back in the day, however, foreigners were not easily able to browse Nico Nico Douga so we mostly relied on YouTube reprinters to download these videos and re-upload them for western audiences.

Back in the day copyright enforcement was lax and no Vocaloid producer had signed up with any major record labels. With the previous sentence and this blog post’s title, you can guess where the rest of this blog is going. As copyright crackdown, almost every major Nico reprinter lost their channel and trying to get proper view counts for older Vocaloid videos before producers started cross-uploading to YouTube became very hard when researching for the panel.

It wasn’t just the Nico reprinters affected either. When Google implemented YouTube Red they failed to get many non-US record labels on board and many Vocaloid videos whose producers signed with Japanese record labels had their videos blocked abroad. Between Sony Music Entertainment Japan, EXIT TUNES, Inc., UMAAA, and other Japanese music labels many old Vocaloid videos, even official uploads on official artist YouTube channels have been blocked abroad.

Luckily there are ways to bypass these regions restrictions or we were able to get copies of the videos to use in our panel off of Nico Nico Douga but it has shown how the media landscape has changed over the years in the Vocaloid realm. From being ignored, finally accepted, to now rejected, over the last 10 years a lot of early Vocaloid history is lost.

As we now celebrate a decade of Hatsune Miku I think it’s important we reflect on the past and cherish this living history… while we still can.

Additional Reading: YouTube Red and Vocaloid @ VocaloidNews.net