It’s well-established that the Vocaloids are characters in their own right. But what are they, really?

As explained previously, the Vocaloids are the second generation of a voice synthesizer program by Yamaha. Voice synthesizers do not usually become very popular. And yet here we are, with Vocaloids being a worldwide sensation on par with Anime in general. Talk to any Anime fan about Vocaloid, and they’re almost certain to know what you’re talking about.

And yet, what are the Vocaloids? Hatsune Miku, the most popular Vocaloid of the second generation, has no actual defined personality. Unlike other cases where the author is god and anything he says is rendered canon, the Vocaloids were left to the fans to define, and the result was spectacular.

From this empty template, fans made up personalities and fiction to match the songs they had created, even creating songs around these personalities. None of it was canon, but that didn’t matter. The fans wanted it, and that was the only thing Vocaloid needed to become what it was, what it is.

Hatsune Miku's Original Illustration

Hatsune Miku's Original Illustration by Kei Garou.

To the fans, it doesn’t matter if the Vocalists are empty shells left for them to fill – fill it they will, and with great enthusiasm. Such spirit is remarkable and rarely found in Western Culture, where fanon is considered “Breach of Copyright” and any fan works are best kept to yourself, lest you get sued for all your precious monies.

Creating a personality for a Vocaloid is all fine and dandy, but how do you get people to listen to the songs you make with the Vocaloid? The answer lay in Japan’s version of Youtube, Nico Nico Douga. With the help of Nico Nico Douga, the popularity of Vocaloid skyrocketed and it became an internet phenomenon overnight. With this, Vocaloid became well-known amongst the netizens of Japan, some of whom would eventually purchase Vocaloid to try making their own songs.

This brings us to perhaps the largest Vocaloid success story to date, Supercell.

Ryo, the sole person in charge of music production, uploaded the song “Melt” onto Nico Nico Douga. This song now has over 5 million views, a runaway success. This was followed by the songs “Love is War” and “World Is Mine“, both of which also amassed a huge number of views.

It was clear that Vocaloid would be a large part of Supercell’s future.

Even after Supercell recruited vocalists, they continued to use Vocaloid and would release many albums containing Vocaloid songs, or consisting solely of Vocaloid songs. This was noticed by future artists, who would also release some songs for free before then selling albums and singles.

The best selling release for Supercell however, is “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari“, the ED theme for Bakemonogatari. It’s quite impressive that a band that started out with music releases on Nico Nico Douga would end up releasing one of the most memorable ED themes for any anime, and certainly a fitting ED theme for an anime like Bakemonogatari.

Since then, many artists such as AVTechNO! and wowaka both seem to be following a similar path.

In the end, the Vocaloids are everything and nothing at once. Without people to use them, the Vocaloids would never be noticed, never be anything great. But once someone uses them, their true potential can be realized – they can be rock stars, they can be divas, they can be anything you want them to be. That is the true beauty of Vocaloids, and that is something that can never be found anywhere else. Completely and utterly unique.