A quick note: I was going to post this last week – however due to the Sendai Earthquake I’ve delayed it a bit. The Wiki page has most of the details, and it’s being updated on the go.
Miku’s Live Party 2011 has come and gone, and with it much anticipation and excitement. Those who’ve seen – and enjoyed – last year’s show were no doubt eagerly waiting for this year’s installment. For those who still haven’t seen it, and are waiting with baited breath, let me warn you now: I’m going to be ripping into this year’s show a bit.
You might find this strange; I’m sure my excitement leading up to 3/9 was pretty obvious, especially for those who follow Animated Meanderings on Facebook along with those who follow me on Twitter.
I feel it is actually quite natural for me to draw comparison’s between last year’s show and this year’s show – the 39s Thanksgiving Day concert had a big Wow-factor going for it; it was new, it was inventive, and it really blew me away. Of course, this year there was less of a surprise factor at work, so I was expecting to see at least some improvements over last year’s show.
There was a lot wrong with this show, with many many more negatives than positives – but be glad for those positives, because they actually salvaged the show to some degree. So bear with me while I bare my somewhat mixed feelings about Mikupa.
Zepp Tokyo, and numerous theaters around Japan, were pretty much filled to capacity, and the streaming show on Nico Nico Douga – at its peak – had over 160,000 viewers. And I believe the first negative thing many of them would be mentioning, and which most of my issues with this show center around, would be the projection method used this year.
Rather than stick with the transparent screen used last year, 5pb opted instead for the more traditional flat projection screen – a choice that almost immediately removed the “epic” factor and was probably one of 2010’s selling points. The screen itself was at the front of a huge box built in the middle of the stage, and you’ll be forgiven for likening it to a gigantic flat-screen TV. This resulted in me noticing a number of things:
The Vocaloids didn’t blend with the stage at all. Because the screen was black at all times, there was a jarring seperation between the Vocaloids and the rest of the stage around them. It seperated them from the band, it seperated them from the stage, and – they did this right last year – the Vocaloids themselves appeared to be floating in the air through-out the show. It absolutely ruined the immersion that was created in last year’s concert.
Because of the relatively small surface of the screen, the performances were also limited to a relatively small patch on the stage. Compare this to last year where Miku and the others has most of the stage’s width to move around in. It also reinforced the perception of a TV.
The stage itself wasn’t pleasing to the eye either, and the big box in the middle was only the start of my issues. Maybe I’m being a little harsh here, but it had the look of something very hastily thrown together. One of the band-members leaning his guitar against the side of said box only exacerbated the problem. It looked untidy, and very unprofessional.
My next issue was the band. There was a new group on the stage with the Vocaloids – and I might be considered a little unfair to say this, but they were just not on the same level. Last year’s band gave the impression of experienced professionals, doing something they love, and the guitarist in particular pulled off a couple of awesome riffs that only improved the song they were playing (Melt, SPICa and one or two others). This year’s band, by contrast, appeared more pedestrian, except for the guitarist – who I found immensely annoying; a pity, because the camera seemed to be spending more time on him than the rest of the band combined. He appeared to be spending a lot of his time waving his arms, jumping about, and trying to get attention to himself, capping it off with a very average performance in the end. This year’s rendition of Melt sounded very different. In a negative sense.
Last year saw 2 medleys during the course of the show – this year we had four. They serve a purpose in letting more songs get airtime, but having good songs shortened and cut off also serves to annoy a bit.
One of this year’s big killers of the show was the 30-minute intermission – which happened less than an hour into the show. There was an intermission last year as well – fair enough – but it was shorter, and the crowd got to interact with the producers. This year we were inundated with merchandising ads – for a full half-hour. I could practically feel impatience coming through my screen.
Okay, so it wasn’t all negative. A couple of things were done right, and I really hope this gets carried onwards to future shows – as long as they dump the box.
The Kagamine twins got a fair bit of extra time on stage – compared to last year’s short appearance – although Luka had a relatively short appearance – with most of her songs in a medley, something her fans won’t approve of.
The overall animation itself was fairly well done – with some improvement over last year. My one minor gripe last year was the hands that appeared a little lifeless … they had a lot more movement to them this year. We also got to see a lot of new costumes, and some pretty awesome costume changing sequences. Dancing and choreography was also very well done this year – along with the better animation movement appeared to be a lot smoother.
There was a lot of extra interaction between the Vocaloids and the concert-goers this year – with the Vocaloids being much more expressive, although there was some argument among fans afterwards, with some maintaining that the Vocaloids appeared lifeless compared to last year; once again I believe the method of projection was the deciding factor.
The crowd also got treated to not one, but TWO encore sequences. The entire ending sequence was very impressive – at the end of the encore all the Vocaloids appeared to wave goodbye to the fans, but it was a short while before Miku rushed out for a final appearance – starting to sing When First Love Ends – and stopping because she became overwhelmed with emotion. After some cheering by the crowd she started singing again, bringing a solid end to a show that’s going to be very hotly debated by the community and fans at large.
Taken in overall perspective, especially compared to last year, this show was disappointing. I’m wavering on whether to buy the DVD if it becomes available – a decision last year’s show made pretty easy. However, being a good and dedicated fan, I probably will get it. My advice to the stakeholders, though – would be the following (not that they would notice or care to listen, but I’ll put it down for posterity’s sake):
* Get last year’s band back. I liked them.
* Transparent screen. Please. If I want to watch TV, I can do it in my living room without spending a wad of cash.
* Try and get Kaito and Meiko in. They also have their fans, and they’re part of the Crypton Vocaloid family.
* If 5pb, Crypton and SEGA have differences, sort them out. I wager the fans don’t care about internal squabbles, and don’t want to be treated to the fallout.
Given the Vocaloids’ meteoric growth in popularity last year (the Facebook page, which had a few thousand fans this time last year, hit 20,000 in the 3rd quarter, and since then has rocketed to almost 110,000) – I think they’d be wise to give an ear to fans’ concerns.
Rather surprising, and something I haven’t mentioned yet, was the opening act – with singer Aizawa Mai appearing for two songs and an introduction. I’m not sure whether to take this as a good or a bad thing though. She was relatively warmly received by the crowd, but her appearance was also mentioned as a complaint by commentators. She also appeared a little overexcited, to the point where I was pretty much unable to make out a word she actually said.
For those of you interested in the concert playlist – much longer than last year’s – head on over and have a look at Vocaloidism’s take on MikuPa. Moetron also has some additional photos from the venue - but if you read down through the comments you’ll find a general trend of unhappiness. Sankaku Complex also ran a report on the epic amounts of rage running through 2-chan, with a follow-up later on reporting that 5pb’s CEO himself offered an apology for the quality of the show. Watchers aren’t having much of it, however – with some questioning how 5pb thought they could get away with this year’s show in the first place.
The concert is being repeated in Sapporo on the 3rd of May – whether that leaves 5pb chance to improve or change anything for the better is somewhat doubtful – but I hope the feedback from this year’s rather sad attempt will inspire them to outdo themselves next year. Assuming there is a next time.
I’ll finish off with Miku’s performance of Yellow by Livetune, which was arguably one of the highlights of the show