Princess Jellyfish aired in Fall 2010. Exactly five years ago. In the years since then, we’ve had exactly SIX full josei* TV anime series: Chihayafuru (2011 & 2013), Bunny Drop (2011), Kids on the Slope (2012), Natsuyuki Rendezvous (2012), Uta Koi (2012), and Polar Bear Cafe (2012-2013). NOTICE THAT NONE OF THOSE AIRED IN 2014 OR 2015. It has been two years since a josei anime last aired (unless someone can correct me).
But the drought has ended - WE HAVE A NEW ONE COMING THIS WINTER 2016: Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū. Be sure to watch it! Spread the word! If you get an official stream, watch the heck out of it! And on a side note, it looks like it could be really interesting; it’s historical and focuses on drama more than romance. And the original manga won some awards - which is probably the only reason they’re willing to adapt it, tbh. But the point is to support it, even if it’s not 100% perfect, because that raises the chance of more josei anime in future!
*For those who don’t know what josei refers to: it’s non-yaoi manga/anime blatantly targeted to adult women. Of course, anyone can enjoy anything, and there are many similar stories targeted to other demographics, etc., etc. But it’s important to support josei anime - anime that sells itself as just for women. It has a reputation of not being very popular and being harder to sell, and when certain demographics and genres don’t sell as well, they tend to make less of them in the future.
And support josei manga in English too. We don’t get much that isn’t primarily romance/smut.
This is my piece regarding “Sand Planet” being Magical Mirai and Miku’s 10th theme song as well as the whole Vocaloid is dying thing. It’s gonna be long so under the cut~~
This year is mark the 10th year birthday for our lovely elextric angel, Hatsune Miku. 10 year may be a short time from adults view, however for a fandom filled with youngsters it is a long time, long enough to turn a baby into a boy/girl a teen into a full fledged adult. It is a happy occasion of course, but the team behind Magical Mirai unexpectedly chose a rather bleak song for the theme, or Is it?
The theme song, Sand Dune/Sand Planet is made by Hachi (Kenshi Yonezu), while the duo task and Utsushita at Minakata Kenkyuujou are in charge of the MV. If you were already in the fandom around 2009-2011, you might remember this combination through Persona Alice, Clockwork Works, World’s End Umberella, Sajou no Yumekui Shoujo, and Wonderland no Hitsuji Uta (plus Koi to Byounetsu if you count their non-vocaloid stuff). A combination that people hadn’t seen for nearly 7 years (6 if you count KnB). If you ask me whether they’re popular back then, the answer is yes. Minaken’s MV was considered really professional looking despite done by mostly 2 guys (Hachi also helped from time to time), coupled with Hachi’s fairy tale like songs, made their works feels like something out of Ghibli movies. Nowadays they’re the combination that usually seen with nostalgic gaze just like many other songs from that era.
Unlike the previous Magical Mirai theme, Sand Planet was bleak, no flashy spotlight, and bubbly happy Mikyu like 39Music or Hand in Hand, just Miku and few hooded people walking on and abandoned desert. The lyrics too, while the previous themes are all about the fun and togetherness in Vocaloid community, Sand Planet is about an end and farewell. Such bleak theme made people wonder why this was chosen as the theme for Miku’s 10th birthday. Some even goes as far as accusing Hachi used Crypton’s good will (for commissioning him to make the theme) to spite the community. But is it really the case?
Vocaloid’s decline has been a long discussed subject, since as early as 2013, and many producers has provided their opinions mostly through their twitter/blog or on bolder side, through song. Many people connected the decline with the change of landscape in the community. The next sections we will go looking back at some little historical tidbits.
In 2013, OwataP (a long time producer, best known for Benzene series and Rin-chan! Nau!) and Mienohito (a long time popular PV maker) uploaded a song called The End, the song expressed his frustation at the change in Vocaloid community, he feels that the nature of Vocaloid commu has been heavily leaned towards commersialization instead of as an outlet to show one’s expressions and talents. Although OwataP didn’t give any clear indication in the lyrics, Mienohito used Jin, whose popularity was unprecedented for a vocaloid producers like charting in Vocaran for months, album charting on oricon, LN adaptation, Manga adaptation, and even anime adaptation! despite his relatively short reporteire, as example that a company (1ST PLACE) backed Jin in order to make their product (IA) popular. Naturally Jin’s fans are unhappy and attacked the two, at some point HobohinichiP (another long timer) made a song to defend them which kinda made the fire bigger, though OwataP and Mienohito later apologised and took down the song (OwataP later reuploaded the song without PV). After that fiasco, Mienohito went on hiatus for few months and OwataP focusing more on his Let’s Play videos (he still upload Vocaloid songs from time to time). During the short time (yes, the drama was actually short…a week or two), there are some producers who indicate that they agreed with the duo about the massive change in Vocaloid community landscape, though not openly express it like HobohinichiP.
in July 2015, an Utaite Kouhey (fairly popular singer known for various HOT BLOODED SCREAMING type of covers) uploaded a video talking about the change and decline. His video was quite long but basically also talking about the change of landscape, similar to OwataP’s, and how it caused people to left the fandom. It caused some people as they noticed there has been some sort of stagnation in the fandom after Jin left. 2 months later, cosMo (very popular and long timer Producer, known for Disappearance series) uploaded the REAL Disappearance of Hatsune Miku, despite the title, this has nothing to do with his previous song. The song is quite different from Kouhey’s and Owata’s. While cosMo acknowledged there are change (and decline/stagnation), through the lyric and some tweets, he told the listener that it is something to be expected from a fandom (particularly for a creative fandom). A new challange for everyone to tackle in order to survive. He didn’t blame anyone for leaving and pursue their own careers, as he’s aware that he too was using vocaloid as stepping stone.
Now fast forward to 2017, what exactly is Crypton’s reason to use a song as bleak as Sand Planet as theme song for Miku’s 10th birthday? Or is it really Hachi just spiting at the community?
The answer lies within the 2nd Miku 10th birthday compilation album, Re:START. I’m not talking about the contents as we barely know the contents, rather the title. Re:START is used as the title, and remember Exit Tunes’ Miku 10th birthday album title? Vocalohistory. Unlike the Kaito and Meiko 10th birthday album, the album title neither made allusion on their color or pun on their name (Elegant REcorD/Meikonic and Glorious Blue/Kaitonation) rather they put a contrasting title theme. Vocalohistory was a 4 disc compilation popular Miku songs from 2007 to 2016 plus a new song by cosMo, Ima made mo、kono toki mo、kore kara mo―/Always was, Always is, Always will. The song just like the album is telling about someone’s journey in vocaloid community, mainly cosMo’s own journey (the lyric and parts of melody are full of references to cosMo’s older works) and how he hopes Miku will continue to accompany him. We still don’t know much about Re:Start aside 40mP song which also carries similar message (except with less personal flair and emphasize to the future). Sand Planet is at heart carries similar message, except Hachi emphasize at facing the current reality something that 40mP (he’s not particularly bold type) avoid and cosMo already say his share in different song.
Then let us go back to earlier questions: Is Vocaloid dying? More Stagnation than dying. Whether it will actually die is up to the people. You know the drill. Is Hachi spiting on the community? How the Producers there thinking? No, the producers are most likely already aware of the situation they already did what they can do but as usual, they cannot do it themselves. Do crypton know the song will turn dark? They know, Hachi’s track record in truly happy song is short compared to his darker stuff (to the point I was surprised he got to do BokuHero OP). In fact they intentionally ask him because of that.
What is the theme for this year’s Miku anniversary? The end and a new beginning… Rebirth. Is Sand Planet fits the theme? It fit quite well, a bit too well. Albeit, emphasizing on the current condition so it look bleak.
tl;dr this year’s Miku’s birthday theme is End point & Re(new)start… Pun intended. It is fine and dandy to look at the past with nostalgic eyes but do not let the past holds you, accept the current reality about how the old era has come to an end and how the community has changed, and move forward and do what you can (both as fan an as creator) to improve the current condition. It is up to you who are still being part of the community to shape the vocaloid fandom, just like how the people from the old era did. Miku and other Vocaloids will always be there.
EXTRA: How to break the stagnation?
As Producers/other content creators: … Just do what you’ve been doing creating contents. Though, following trend is nice, sometimes it’s fine to do something different. But you should still remember to do just whatever you find fun.
As fans: Miku is nice isn’t she? I love her too. But it will be nice to see and support the people behind her songs too. Even if just a simple fav/mylist or leave some comments, I’m sure they’ll be thrilled. Of course, if at some point you like their works enough and have some extra money you can buy their stuff too. Not just the major label stuff, their indie/doujin works are good too.