Article: Miku Hatsune - Birth of a virtual idol
From songstress to superstar
The first signs that Miku Hatsune was likely to be more than just a "toy" for a handful of budding musicians sprang from the hugely popular Japanese video-sharing site (and home of anime fans aplenty) NicoNico Douga. This Japan-o-centric equivalent of YouTube is the home to many talented individuals, who love nothing better than to work on their own creations (be they original animations or songs, artwork based on existing anime, or simply humorous mash-ups of airing series in the form of so-called MADs), and with that in mind it is perhaps unsurprising that they leapt upon Miku Hatsune as both a character and a singer who didn't demand huge hiring fees, putting their artistic minds to work to create everything from a Miku Hatsune-based version of Ievan Polkka (if you ever wondered why you see Miku holding leeks so often, this is why) to recreations of classic anime songs all the way through to brand new animations and tunes.
This flurry of activity created a snowball effect of sorts, as more and more people were introduced to Miku Hatsune and the concept of Vocaloid, in turn driving more and more people to work on their own creations and artwork and creating some new stars in their own right into the bargain. Before anyone knew it, Miku was turning up anywhere and everywhere amidst the Japanese otaku community, and it became very clear that this virtual girl had transcended her role as a mere tool into the realms of a fully-fledged idol.
With such burgeoning popularity, it was only going to be a matter of time before Miku's creators capitalised on this success beyond the sphere of selling Vocaloid2-based product, and so in late 2007 Miku got her own serialised manga - Maker Hikōshiki Hatsune Mix. This manga (still running in Japan) is both written and illustrated by Miku's original character designer, Kei, and features all of the various Vocaloid characters in some decidedly surreal and humorous environments. This was closely followed by a second manga serialisation titled Hachune Miku no Nichijō Roipara!, written and drawn by Ontama as a comical four-panel manga series.
Miku still hadn't forgotten her roots however, with numerous musicians employing her to provide vocals for CDs, and by August 2008 an album of songs named Re:package, performed by Hatsune and penned by a couple of artists known as LiveTune, was released, breaking into the top five of the Japanese album charts and selling more than 20,000 copies in its first week alone.
Miku gets her game on
From manga and anime appearances (more on those later), Miku also found her way into the world of video games, from modest beginnings as a character in 13-sai no Hello Work DS on Nintendo's current handheld console and her costume showing up as downloadable content for online multi-player golf game Pangya through to a game of her very own.
That game is Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA on the PlayStation Portable, which makes full use of Miku's character to create a (by all accounts) highly addictive rhythm game. Created by Crypton Future Media, who were largely responsible for Miku's creation as a tool in the first place, the title also allows you to import and create your own tunes, acting to all intents and purposes as a PSP equivalent of Vocaloid2 in this regard.