Here in the west a lot of people get introduced to Vocaloid as “holograms,” because that’s the thing that got a lot of press when the Miku Expo concerts started in 2014. The hologram performances headlined across multiple news sites following the Late Night Show with David Letterman guest appearance, and it’s there that it gained a fair amount of initial attention from American audiences.
However, it’s worth noting that a lot of these spontaneous articles written for American audiences previously unfamiliar with Vocaloid (and the entirety of anime/manga culture at that) employ many culture-shock-based attention tactics and furthermore fail to portray what exactly Vocaloid truly is (not an anime, not a game, not just music, but all of these forms and more, with unique alternative collaborative production techniques, in the interest of furthering technology and art through specific ideas, etc. etc. etc……it gets very complex, and proves very difficult to define shortly in simple terms). Some even make it out to be something to be laughed at (”how could anyone spend money to see someone that isn’t even there? it’s foolish and pointless!”) or even something to be feared (”oh god, robots are even starting to replace artists! it really is the robot uprising! technology is evil black magic!!!!”).
The truth is that the concerts are in actuality a derivative, or adaptation, of the internet-based ‘performance’ through PVs that really make up the core of Vocaloid content. Concerts, holograms, games– these were all only possible BECAUSE of the success of the internet-based creative community that Vocaloid has built (mainly through niconico). The holograms are not the original act, but rather a result of thousands of individual acts that Miku and friends have played throughout the online world for years.
For example, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has many successful film adaptations, but its original form is a book series. The films ARE very popular, and it’s very possible to see most/all of the movies without reading a single book, but the books still remain its core, original, genuine form. In a similar way, the holographic Vocaloid concerts are real-world and theatrical adaptations of Vocaloid’s online PV-based presentation. The concerts generated a lot of new attention and definitely served to give people a new perspective and take on the Vocaloid “performance,” but they are not to be (mis)understood as its original form.
It is only until fairly recently that we are able to see our favorite Vocaloid characters brought into the ‘real world’ with holography to stand face-to-face with the fans who worked so hard to make Vocaloid’s success a reality. The holograms were a possibility because available modern technology was capable of it and could be used in this way for a unique take on concert performance art. Vocaloid can seem confusing and as such, intimidating at first, but in truly having the will to pursue learning about it, you really learn to love it. It is really such a blessing of passion– Vocaloid means so much to so many people, and the way it’s been able to help people realize their dreams and bring them together is genuinely one of the most incredible things I have ever been blessed to be a part of.