|Unofficial Hatsune Mix
|Staff: Kei (Story and art)||Release Date: August 27, 2014
|Publisher: Dark Horse Manga||Rating: 14+
|Format: Paperback Manga||MSRP: US$19.99|
Hatsune Miku- Probably one of the only computer programs to ever become a popular singing idol, appearing in Japanese commercials and her own video games. Step aside Bieber, Miku fever is very much a thing. But unlike Bieber, Miku and the other Vocaloids (Len, Rin and Luka) have a huge fanbase which have spawned merchandising and cosplayers. Naturally, a manga release would be on the horizon. This is the perfect example of a fanon. When the fans put so much life into a character or plot, that creators have no other option than to make it canon. (More emphasis on this can be read about in my fiance’s article on Fanons). As the Vocaloids originally started out as nothing more than a vocal program with an image, fans soon came up with fanfics and fan art; even creating Miku’s signature love of leeks. This is a running theme in Unofficial Hatsune Mix. That being said, let’s take a look at how this manga holds up as a reader who refuses to be part of the fandom due to the sheer amount of Hatsune Miku fanboys.
The manga plays up to Miku’s fanbase and popularity, leaving very little in the way of the story, or lack thereof. It is fairly obvious it’s taken inspiration of the yonkoma – a four panel manga chapter. Each new chapter tends to be a different situation with the featured protagonists. K-ON! and Azumanga Daioh are two mangas known for this style and are quite well received due to the laidback tone of the yonkoma format. Despite each chapter being different, both K-ON! and Azumanga Daioh have a linear narrative of a girl band in their every day high school life and a child genius fitting in at a high school, respectively. This really can’t be said for Unofficial Hatsune Mix. The narrative lacks fluidity, merely showing the Vocaloids in various situations, which until mentioned in one of the chapters, becomes very confusing. There were times, mainly where back story is concerned, where Death Note seemed simple compared to it. The chapters do offer some laugh-out-loud moments which are genuinely funny, but often times it feels like it’s trying too hard to be a yonkoma-style manga because that’s what seems to be what is popular right now, which unfortunately works against it a number of times.
Art wise, it is faithful to how the Vocaloids look. There’s no guessing who’s who from the art; you can tell straight away. It’s well-drawn, knowing when to add the right amount of detail to reflect the mood of the chapter should it need to, such as more comedic expressions on the light hearted chapters and more detail in the surprisingly darker ones. What truly stands out about the art, however, is the absolutely stunning illustrations at the start and end of every part. Aside from the few aspects that stand out, nothing else can be said regarding the remainder of the book; it is the generic manga drawn style.
In regards to characters, each of the Vocaloids has their own personality. Miku is the main character (obviously). She falls into a typical anime character archetype: goofy and dumb one moment, but somehow incredibly wise the next. It becomes rather inconsistent, though it’s nothing new to anime and manga characters. Then there’s the twins Len and Rin – Rin is a bit more abrasive than her sweet natured brother who is slightly underplayed. The final Vocaloid, Luka, leaves little impression. She could have been far more interesting if she was used more and had time to grow as a character. Additional characters, known as Onee-chan and Onii-san, are not part of the Vocaloids, but are around to make an appearance every now and then. Onii-san suffers the same fate as Luka (blandness and not enough screen time), while Onee-chan was thoroughly enjoyable. Although she’s the stereotypical older sister with anger and drinking problems, she still offers funny moments, such as the chapter where the Vocaloids think she’s been dumped but in fact, she was involved in a scam. While the characters were amusing at times, they need far more depth to become likable and identifiable.
Unofficial Hatsune Mix lives up to it’s title: it’s a mixed bag. Some elements are good, some are pretty bad. Overall, it feels more like an advertisement for the Vocaloid brand. (Hell, there’s even two chapters dedicated to the PSP games. REAL subtle…) As a reader who was never engaged in the Vocaloid fandom to begin with, it came across as unoriginal and did not convince me to jump on board the Vocaloid hype train. However, I firmly believe the fans will get a lot out of this. So in the end, it all depends on whether or not you’re already into the Miku fever.
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