Published on October 22nd, 2014 | by Christian0
Miku Expo 2014 – New York Review
Hello! It has been an awfully long time since I posted any updates on the site. Mostly this has been because I was without any permanent home for the summer, bouncing between a sublet and staying with friends while we finished closing on our new home. Now I have a dedicated office for the first time in… well forever, so I am looking forward to getting back to writing. Since this site is already secretly (not so much) a Hatsune Miku fan site, and also because I was just in NYC for Miku Expo this past weekend, I thought I’d start there.
The Art Exhibit at Wallplay
My first stop was the art exhibit at Wallplay conveniently located near Chinatown where I had just been eating way too much chow fun and little fried shrimps with mayonnaise and walnuts. We spotted the giant Miku on the outside of the gallery from across the street, and for a minute I was reminded of being in Japan where it is not unusual to see anime nonsense plastered all over a street corner. The gallery itself was small and featured a selection of artworks featuring Miku and her vocaloid compatriots, in addition to a lifesized Miku statue that was surprisingly not creepy at all. What did give me the creeps was the middle aged Miku fanatic with waist long white hair and a fanny pack upstairs in the merchandise shop, but maybe that is only becasue I became acutely aware of my own status as a 31 year old grown man who goes nuts for a j-pop cartoon. Was I looking into the future? If so, I hope I age more gracefully than that guy did.
Overall the gallery and merch shop were nothing special. It was awesome to see something I love making a bold and popular (judging by the crowd in attendance) appearance in the heart of NYC, but it didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to make my rounds of the place, look at the art, and decide I didn’t want to buy any merchandise – which at that point was mostly sold out anyway. I was hoping there would be smaller, nicer prints of the artwork in the gallery, but all that was available were large posters for $25. The other goods I might have bought were already sold out, and included the Halloween Miku Nendoroid and some tote bags, so I wound up leaving after snapping a few bad pictures without having bought anything.
Even though I didn’t buy anything there, they still managed to sell me something by having this Deep Sea Miku figure on display. I made a mental note to check the online prices later, and having done that now I’m looking to add it to my collection at some point. They also had the 7th Dragon Miku on display which I passed on earlier this year, and while it was far more impressive looking in person than it looks online (which many figures are), the amount of shelf real-estate that figure consumes is enough to keep me from buying it short of some incredible deal. I did find it somewhat odd that they would display figs in the merch shop that weren’t for sale at all or in some cases long sold out, but it was nice to see them anyway.
The Concert at Hammerstein Ballroom
Later that day it was time for the main event. We found the venue located across the street from Penn Station, with a line of people out the door slowly making their way through security. My guess would be that the majority of the crowd were teenagers or younger, some accompanied by their parents, but overall there was a wild assortment in attendance. Some people were in cosplay, including a really great looking Miku in her Clover Club outfit and a real life sibling trio dressed up as Rin and Len who were accompanied by an adorable tiny Luka.
Our seats were in the second balcony, and while initially I was worried that we wouldn’t have a great view of Miku and friends my doubts were assuaged when the show started and Miku appeared on stage for Sharing the World. Upon seeing her I immediately turned to my companion and said, “HOLY SHIT MIKU IS AWESOME!” She looked AMAZING. If I had to complain about one thing though, it’s that because we were dead center on stage at about a 25 or 30 degree angle, the projector that produces Miku was directly behind her abdomen most of the time, resulting in a bright spot that made it impossible to take photos of her. In any case, any photos I would have taken would have turned out trash compared to the large quantity of live Miku footage available on youtube. I suggest you check it out.
The show was a spectacle with great music, tons of lasers, pyro, dynamic backgrounds, and of course incredible looking vocaloids with awesome dance moves. Although Miku and friends didn’t have as many costumes as they do in their games, there was still a pretty good assortment of outfits including one of my favorites: the Colorful x Melody outfits for Miku and Rin. The majority of the songs performed featured only Miku, but all the major vocaloids made an appearance in at least one song, and in the case of Kaito, thankfully only one song because KAITO IS GARBAGE. I cannot understand why the crowd got so excited when he appeared on stage, and why anyone would bother to bring additional blue glowsticks just for Kaito. Anyway, I was really happy to see some of my favorite Rin songs: Melancholic and Kokoro, and I could have watched Luka perform Luka Luka Night Fever forever it was that amazing. Len showed up for Fire Flower and some other song I can’t quite remember (he’s not my favorite), and Meiko who I’m also not crazy about showed up for Piano Forte Scandal which was the absolute best possible song for her short of the duet On The Rocks which would have redeemed Kaito somewhat.
The crowd, obviously, was going completely ape shit, with people screaming themselves hoarse shouting “MIKU!” at the top of their lungs while thrusting glowsticks in the air. It was super positive and high energy, and while initially I was surprised to see parents getting really into the show also, I soon realized that this was a show where fun had no pretense. You don’t need to belong to some special clique or be a super fan or have had been there before it was cool to have a good time at a Miku show. There is absolutely no bullshit posturing or implicit requirement that you only enjoy the show ironically for fear that someone might see you genuinely having a good time (which would just be so uncool). It was actually just a fun show.
I was skeptical about how good the show would be, from a musical perspective, but those doubts were also quickly erased by the incredible technical ability of Miku’s live backing band and the perfectly mixed sound levels. Everything sounded wonderful, though I will say that some of the songs which featured English language vocals sounded less than great due to the inadequacies of the vocaloid software and also some less then spectacular vocal tuning. Some vocaloid songs feature incredibly realistic sounding vocals (Mitchie M’s work comes to mind). I suspect that with a little work the English vocals could get there, or that maybe with more listening I would have a better time keeping track of the lyrics in a song like Sharing the World, but having Luka sing Just Be Friends in English did the song no favors. I was excited when I first heard Miku singing in English a few years back, and while I think it’ll help her reach a wider audience, I’d much rather just keep up my Japanese studies and learn the songs in their original language. That’s my only gripe with the show musically, though, it was otherwise one of the best concerts that I’ve ever been to.
So yeah, Miku Expo 2014 was rad. I highly recommend checking out future Miku Expos if they are in your area or within reasonable travel distance. I don’t think I would travel overseas for a Miku Expo, but if it were a matter of flying somewhere in the continental United States to see a Miku show I would absolutely do it. If I’m lucky they’ll just have it in NYC or LA again soon.