Jan 012019
 

I shouted with all my heart. Really, really loudly. But the sound was still drowned out by the hundreds of other people around me, all doing exactly the same. Glow sticks were held aloft — each illuminated in the same beautiful teal-like color — and being waving frantically to accompany the wall of sound from the crowd as the song ended. I’m not ashamed to admit that tears came into my eyes.

Hatsune Miku had just finished singing Glass Wall, the lyrics to which never fail to move me, something I’m confident happens to most long-time Miku fans, and the concert that I’d dreamed of for years was living up to every expectation.

I was at Miku Expo Europe 2018 in London, and this is what it was like.

Hatsune Miku arrives in London

Six months before that moment, I’d managed to buy one of the limited VIP tickets to Miku Expo London. Like many other U.K. fans, I’d looked enviously at the international Miku Expo events, and had never timed my trips to Japan correctly to see a Miku concert there either. Six months was a long time to wait for my first Miku event.

Miku Expo London was held at London Olympia, which is not really a music venue; but it has the space needed to house such a large, energetic — and let’s face it, niche — crowd. Niche or not, Miku fans were out in force. From t-shirts and tables full of plushies, to classic Miku and Racing Miku cosplays, no-one was there by chance, or on a whim. It was especially wonderful to see a great mix of people, of all ages, there to welcome and celebrate Hatsune Miku coming to London.

VIP ticket holders stood in a special area right in front of the stage, giving a superb view of Hatsune Miku and the band. It’s a cliche, but there was a genuine feeling of togetherness. The waving of the glow sticks showed a crowd in unison, aware enough of their surroundings to be considerate; but otherwise entirely focused on the music.

Miku on stage

Miku the center of attention. It may sound strange to some, given it’s not an actual person on stage; but to everyone there, she was as real as the band members accompanying her. We responded to her, cheered her on, and screamed for more. Miku, through the music and animation, seemed to have actual character and soul. In an uncanny way, she almost appeared to respond as if the emotion from the crowd was giving her energy.

It’s an unusual experience. I didn’t really cheer for the band members, I shouted for the digital creation on stage. To be this invested, and this convinced by what we saw on stage, shows how much work has gone into making Miku move realistically, and emote in a way we can connect with. It’s a fascinating look at how digital characters are progressing, and what Miku may evolve into in the future.

This was my first time seeing an official projection of Hatsune Miku, and while those at the front could see the screen itself, and occasionally the projection leaked out onto the ceiling behind us, it didn’t matter. Miku was perfectly animated, and when entire stage became a star field, the screen was masked very effectively, and Miku took on a new level of independence on stage.

The show

How about the setlist? For me it was a great mix of classic and new songs, many of which will have been familiar to Project Diva players; but interestingly the arrangement may have been tailored to a U.K. audience. This was brought to my attention by a friend also at the concert, who had attended other Miku events before London, and upon listening to the original songs, several of the London versions certainly had a harder edge.

GHPZ’s Glass Wall, with its hard dubstep breaks, had real punch to it, as did Buriru’s Secret Police, and Yunosuke x Circus-P’s Cybernetic. It was the right decision, and these songs created a massive amount of energy in the crowd. There was also a huge response to Tell Your World, and The World is Mine, both featured at the end of the concert and in the encore.

Kagamine Rin and Len stole the supporting show with Jiizasu-P’s Remote Control — probably the most fun song of the evening. I’d have loved to hear Odds & Ends, but was happy to with Keano’s Glow, a stunning example of Hatsune Miku’s (and the Vocaloid community’s) musical versatility.

The only disappointment was the audio mix, which often saw the vocals drowned out by the band, an odd mixing decision given why we were all there. Some of the more popular songs were also unrecognizable at first, as the bass and guitars obscured the melody. However, all this may have all been down to the inevitably problematic acoustics of the venue, and even my personal position right at the front. These points did not detract from my enjoyment.

Come back soon

Yes, I really, really enjoyed it.

It was that moment in Glass Wall, a personal favorite, that had suddenly made it all real. The six month wait between buying a ticket and arriving at Olympia, plus the fact I was traveling the day after the concert, meant the excitement had been dulled by the passing of time and the intrusion of real life. But at that moment, cheering for Miku with other fans, glow sticks held in the air, I suddenly realized I was doing something I’d long dreamed of, but didn’t know if the chance would ever come. It was hard not to feel emotional.

Judging by the response on the day, London wants Hatsune Miku and Miku Expo to return in the future, and if you’re reading this and have not attended an official Miku concert yet, make sure you’re part of the next one — it really is everything you want it to be.

Jan 042018
 

The camera in the following review is currently available for order from Tokyo Otaku Mode, if you’re interested in exploring the world of photography and Miku in 360! → RICOH THETA SC Type HATSUNE MIKU on Tokyo Otaku Mode

I can’t really say it enough: I love Miku, and I also love technology. It’s probably the nature of Miku, being a vocal-synthesis software, that draws tech savvy people to to her. As such, I was drawn to the camera collaboration announced by RICOH, which brought Hatsune Miku to the world of 360 imaging. The result of this collaboration is the RICOH THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku 360 camera.

What is the RICOH THETA SC?

The RICOH THETA SC is RICOH’s “Standard Class” 360 degree camera, which brings 360 imaging and video to the masses at a reasonable price. It’s capable of capturing up to 1600 spherical images at max quality, or 63 minutes of 360 video at max quality. The only feature it lacks compared to the THETA S is the ability to live stream 360 video.

What is the RICOH THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku?

In celebration of Hatsune Miku’s 10th anniversary, RICOH introduced a limited special edition of the THETA SC, which comes bundled with exclusive accessories and editing software. It also comes in packaging featuring special artwork illustrated by fuzichoco.

Introduction video to RICOH THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku


With the introduction out of the way… Let’s get to opening the camera!

If you were lucky enough to pick up one of the limited number of cameras available at Magical Mirai 2017 (like this one!), or from the Black Friday sale last year, your camera came with a special canvas carring bag. But I think we’re all more interested with what’s inside!

Inside the bag you’ll find a sticker, a quick introduction book, and the box holding the camera itself. The artwork by fuzichoco is absolutely gorgeous!

A quick closeup of the box, before taking off the lid to reveal what’s inside…


 
The first thing you see is the bonus wool-woven camera sleeve, and the box housing the camera itself. After removing the sleeve from the box, and removing what’s inside, you’ll find an additional clip, along with dog tags with your unique product serial number. I was able to get unit #0062!

Now to open the box for the camera itself…

Along with the camera, you’ll find the original protective sleeve, a very solid feeling charging cable (it’s recommended to use only this cable for charging), and the user guide.


 
The camera feels lighter than initially expected, and has a turquoise colored “soft touch” plastic shell that feels very smooth, but may be prone to staining if you’re not careful. The unique serial number is printed on the bottom of the camera, next to the standard 1/4-20 camera mount. There’s 3 control buttons on the side: Power, Wifi, and Mode. The front face has the single shutter button, and also adorns an outline artwork of the original Hatsune Miku illustration by KEI, and the Hatsune Miku 10th anniversary logo.


 
A quick example of how the camera looks and feels in the hand when in operation. The hot-pink color for the power button is a nice touch! The camera ships with the battery almost drained, so I had to charge it for a couple hours before use…

The Special Miku THETA Editor App

Find Miku in our sample 360 photo!

Find the Miku! #miku360 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


Using the THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku requires the use of two applications. The first is the THETA SC basic app, which allows you to transfer and share photos from your camera, as well as control the camera remotely from your mobile device. The second is the THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku exclusive app, the Hatsune Miku themed image editor (found here). This app is designed to work only with images captured from the THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku camera!


 
It should be no surprise that this application came from a collaboration with Sorasu Software, the same developer behind the popular Mikuture AR photo application. It comes with a familiar interface, with many improvements to details such as pose navigation and masking controls. This allows many entertaining pose possibilities!

The sticker feature is also useful for “censoring” people with various (and humorous) Hachune Miku style faces. Two different Hatsune Miku models are available to choose from: The basic Appearance Miku (ApiMiku) model from Mamama, and a Snow Miku variant of the ApiMiku model.

Once you are finished editing the photo, you are given the option to share your photos online! Don’t forget to add the “#miku360” hashtag to your content, so others can also find and share!

The Verdict

The RICOH THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku is a great introduction to the world of 360 imaging for Hatsune Miku fans, if they have not experienced owning a 360 camera. Getting this camera might be a hard choice, however, for those that already own the normal THETA SC, or even the THETA S with its inclusion of live streaming functionality. If that missing feature isn’t a deal breaker for you, then we’re certain that you’ll find the use of this camera quite entertaining!

Our own personal gripes with the camera would have to be its poor image quality with objects that are far away, even with good light. Try to keep subjects of importance within 15 feet if you want them to be clear. It also does not like to be charged with most traditional USB chargers. It’s recommended to charge via a PC USB port, or with a charger rated at 1.5A or less power output.

Lastly, we’re excited to announce we’ll be using this camera during our visit to Snow Miku 2018 in Sapporo, where we plan to share many of our experiences in 360! Stay tuned!

RICOH THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku official page: http://miku.ricoh/en/
THETA Miku twitter: https://twitter.com/ThetaMiku
RICOH THETA SC Type Hatsune Miku on Tokyo Otaku Mode: https://goo.gl/iQi9v3

Jun 052017
 

We would like to thank our partners from the Chinese VNN team for helping us obtain this unit for review.

China’s Hatsune Miku fanbase has seen a surprising growth of attention over the years from various companies. These include companies such as SEGA, Sony, SCLA, and now more recently, Xiaomi. Xiaomi is ranked as one of the top manufacturers of smartphones in the world in terms of sales, despite selling almost exclusively in China. This is owed in thanks to China’s large population, and Xiaomi has seen Hatsune Miku’s untapped potential in the Chinese smartphone market.

Enter the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X, Hatsune Miku edition.

Xiaomi released the Redmi Note 4X series as a special “celebrity edition” of the Redmi Note 4. Each color represents a different celebrity, and Hatsune Miku was chosen to represent the color “Blue/Light Green”. The special edition packaging of the Hatsune Miku Redmi Note 4X offered extra bonuses, which included a power bank, soft touch case, and a special serial number printed on the back, all packaged in a specially designed box.

The first flash sale started on Valentine’s day, and reportedly sold out within 2 minutes of the sale going live. 2 more flash sales followed, again all selling out within a couple minutes each. That’s multiple thousands of units sold in mere minutes… Flash sales in China truly are scary!

The special edition package sold for the USD equivalent of $190, while the regular edition retails for an even more affordable $150. Both packages include a phone of the same specifications, sans the extra bonuses and serial number for the normal edition model.

 

We were able to obtain the special edition model, which we’ll showcase and review below. But before that, let’s look at what the phone has to offer for the price.

Features

  • Metal-body phone measuring 151 x 76 x 8.5 mm, 165g weight
  • MIUI 8.0 (Android 6.0.1)
  • 5.5″ 1080p IPS LCD Display
  • 3GB RAM, 32GB ROM
  • Dual SIM (NanoSIM/MicroSIM hybrid tray)
  • MicroSD Expansion (via hybrid tray)
  • Snapdragon 625 SoC, Adreno 506 GPU
  • 13MP Rear Camera, f2.0, Phase Detect Autofocus, Dual-tone flash
  • 5MP Front Camera, f2.0
  • Rear Fingerprint Reader
  • 4100mAh battery
  • IR Blaster

Special Edition Exclusive Bonuses

  • 10,000mAh Power Bank w/ Hatsune Miku Silhouette
  • Soft-touch Plastic Case w/ Hatsune Miku Art by iXima
  • Unique serial number printed on phone below Hatsune Miku (初音未來) logo
  • Card with QR Code for downloading special Hatsune Miku theme

Main Drawbacks

  • No quick charge support
  • Limited network support outside of China (Max speeds of HSPA+ (3.5G) in the U.S.)
  • No advertised scratch resistance (get a screen protector!)
  • Not running latest Android version (Yet)

Packaging & Hardware

The packaging of the special edition phone is quite large, as seen with my Hatsune Miku nendoroid for scale reference. Measuring 31 x 19.5cm, it’s quite a bit heftier than most phone boxes. But this is because of what’s found inside…

The packaging slides open from the middle to reveal a turquoise-colored inner box. Nifty! Now let’s open it by lifting from that bottom left corner…

My eyes are immediately bombarded with various hues of blue and green. The large portable battery can be seen on the left, the phone itself in the middle, and the case on the right.

A closer look to appreciate Xiaomi’s beautiful packaging of this phone and its accessories.

The power bank has that nice cold metallic feel when pulling it out of the packaging. Quality! The pack is rated at 10,000 mAh capacity, which is enough to fill the phone’s already large battery 2.5X. It has only one USB port, however, so don’t expect to charge multiple devices at once.

 

The phone case is made of a coated, hard plastic, giving it that smooth “soft-touch” feeling. It unfortunately seems to stain or scratch somewhat easily, despite taking gentle care. While it looks nice, don’t expect the case to stay that way if you set it down on rough surfaces, or keep it in your pocket with other objects. Underneath the power bank is a special card with a QR code, allowing you to download the special Hatsune Miku theme. The QR code only works on Redmi Note 4X devices, however!

 

Pulling out the phone itself, it has a premium feeling that one would not expect from a sub-$200 device. With that much metal, you would almost think you were handling a flagship phone… A matte-finish screen protector comes pre-applied to the white border display panel, which you can keep until you get your own set of protectors (highly recommended, as it reduces screen visibility greatly).

The volume rocker and power button are located on the right side of the device, and on the back you’ll find a bunch of factory stickers placed below the fingerprint reader and camera. The bottom white sticker is also covering the special edition serial number, so let’s get rid of that…

 

There, that looks better. I also took the liberty of applying a tempered glass protector. Be careful which ones you buy, most promise they’re compatible with the Note 4X, but are not properly sized. We picked up a set from Amazon, which was a good value, and highly recommended: http://a.co/cTJ1n6y

 

With the stickers removed, the phone’s special print number is revealed. Sadly no “39” on this one! The last item you’ll find in the package is a small white box containing a 5V/2A (10 Watt) charger, and a SIM tray ejection tool. Should you ever lose this tool, you can also use a thin paperclip. The tray can use either two SIM cards (one Micro and one Nano SIM), or one Micro SIM and one MicroSD card.

Software

The phone comes with Xiaomi’s MIUI 8.0 software, which basically features their own customizations on top of Android 6.0.1. MIUI ditches the app drawer found on most other phone’s skins, but this is typical of phones in the Chinese market.

The special edition version of the phone comes with the Chinese version firmware installed by default, and I faced some challenges flashing it to the global version ROM, but eventually had success without needing to unlock the bootloader! If you purchase the normal edition from various sources, it’s likely to already come with the global version firmware pre-installed, but this isn’t always the case. We’ll link a source for the regular edition Hatsune Miku Redmi Note 4X at the end of this review!

 

Installing the Hatsune Miku theme on the Note 4X’s global firmware is normally not possible, but thankfully it can be done by first registering a Xiaomi Theme Designer account. After that, you can install the theme’s zip file as a 3rd party theme (link at end of review). The result is a simply adorable user interface with artwork by iXima. The home screen, lock screen, dialer, system prompts and even charging screens are all skinned. As for the ringtone… We’ll leave that one as a surprise!

Performance, Features & Battery Life

Comparing to my usual daily driver, a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (high-end phone from 2014), I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the Redmi Note 4X. The Snapdragon 625 is an 8-core processor built on an efficient 14nm process. Coupled with 3GB of memory (1GB more than my Z3 compact), the phone showed no signs of slowdowns, and was able to keep most tasks running in memory without needing to reload. It also stayed very cool and never got more than moderately warm.

The network bands of the phone are fairly limited, especially when it comes to LTE bands (only 1, 3, 5, 7, 38, 39, 40, 41 supported). At best, you can expect limited HSPA+ (3.5G) support from GSM carriers in the U.S., like AT&T and T-Mobile (personally tested on T-Mobile, and works fine). To see if it works on your carrier in your country, check using this site: http://willmyphonework.net/

The phone handled photoshooting about as well as you’d expect from a midrange phone, and the phase-detect autofocus made focusing for shots a snap. Just don’t expect too much in low-light conditions.

The fingerprint reader was easy to set up, and responds to touch in under a second. It’s “always on”, and can be used to unlock the device even from sleep. You can also use it as a wake button (when no finger print is registered), or as shutter button when shooting selfies.

Battery life was phenomenal, and I’d often end two days of moderate use with over 1/3 of the battery left. Heavy users can easily squeeze out two days of battery, which is great, considering the phone does not support quick charge for its massive 4100mAh battery. It takes about half an hour to get from 0% to 25%, or nearly 3 hours for 100%.

For additional hardware review and benchmarking, GSMArena’s in-depth review of the Redmi Note 4 (with the same hardware) is pretty thorough, check it out here → http://www.gsmarena.com/xiaomi_redmi_note_4_snapdragon-review-1593.php

Where Can I Buy One?

Should you decide to seek the special edition for yourself, you’re on your own. Remember that all three flash sales sold out in minutes, and finding one will be difficult, and likely expensive. Flashing the ROM to the global version was also a tricky and dangerous task.

Luckily, we found a shop selling the regular edition in healthy quantities! It also comes with the global version firmware pre-installed, making setup extremely easy. You still get the light-green colored phone in a Miku-decorated box, but that’s pretty much it. It’s priced at $163, not including shipping.

Get the normal edition Hatsune Miku Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X here (select the “blue” version, and don’t forget that $2 off coupon button as well!)  → https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Original-Xiaomi-Redmi-Note-4X-4-X-3GB-RAM-32GB-ROM-Mobile-Phone-Snapdragon-625-Octa/2800188_32794267768.html

Download the theme zip file here (requires Xiaomi Theme Designer account to install) → https://www.dropbox.com/s/b1xrr7fqn074wzj/初音未来-1.0.0.3.mtz?dl=0

This review was self-supported and contains no referrals. If you enjoyed this review and found it helpful, you can show thanks by supporting us on our patreon.

Mar 262017
 

There are now two major standout events every year for Hatsune Miku fans to look forward to: Magical Mirai and Snow Miku. While Magical Mirai is enjoyed in a very specific location that may change from year to year, Snow Miku has been celebrated all over the city of Sapporo since her adoption as a Snow Festival mascot in 2010, and has even spread to neighboring cites!

Last year we only had a brief stay, and didn’t enjoy everything Snow Miku had to offer. But this year, we had the chance to explore all events and locations. They even included a stamp ralley event so you can mark the locations you’ve visited. Here’s our photo report of the event!

Collaboration Foods

Many of the small cafes and restaurants partner up with Snow Miku to serve unique food dishes. You could find dishes of all kinds: Drinks, pasta, curry, pancakes, all of which were delicious! My favorite had to be the curry and naan bread from the restaurant found inside the Sapporo Factory Atrium.

 

Snow Miku Sky Town

The Snow Miku Sky Town shop is established as a permanent store inside the New Chitose airport. You’ll find many collaboration goods, a life sized statue, a small Snow Miku museum display, and an Animate! store just around the corner with even more goods! These locations are likely where you’ll get your first few stamps when you arrive in Sapporo.


Continue reading »

Oct 022016
 

This year was the year of Hatsune Miku’s 4th Magical Mirai event, but it was the first time I attended one in person. Yep, despite the “event of all Miku events” taking place every year since 2013, I had never been to one before. After kicking myself over it for the past 3 years, I finally had the opportunity to go to Magical Mirai 2016, and I couldn’t be happier.

Hatsune Miku: Magical Mirai can be considered the true “Miku Expo”, and features an exhibition and concert events over the course of several days. It embodies and showcases the Hatsune Miku culture in ways that can’t really be experienced anywhere else. It truly is the event for Hatsune Miku fans to see.

I took some photos during my visit, and hope you enjoy them! Photos, however, just can’t give the same feeling of actually being there. If you’ve even considered it, I say go for it! Next year is also Hatsune Miku’s 10th anniversary, so we can only imagine what they will have in store.