To many strangers, the lucrative Vocaloid scene in the Japanese internet community probably seems incomprehensible. To them, a sold-out concert of 25,000 featuring a virtual idol with a strange and often emotionless synthesized voice is nothing short of bizarre. To this puzzling fandom I can offer you with no clear explanation. Like various other memes, the Vocaloid 2 series – beginning with Hatsune Miku – just exploded onto the scene out of nowhere. Supported by a host of talented illustrators, musicians and composers, Hatsune Miku is not only a legitimate music idol with a portfolio of albums being sold, but also the icon of a vast wave of merchandising.
The company who tapped into the Vocaloid goldmine with the most success is undoubtedly Good Smile Company. The nendoroid and figma incarnations of Miku has flew off the shelves in its initial release and even its re-releases. Similarly, the 1/8 scale version of Miku was also met with considerable success from the meteoric Vocaloid hypewagon, and as I will argue in this review, it is a success well-deserved.
Two words: TWIN TAILS, TWIN TAILS, TWIN TAILS! Miku’s already logic-defying hairdo is taken to the next level in Good Smile Company’s figure. The two massive ponytails billow to each side in a way that can’t quite be explained by motion or gravity (I suppose if she just entered a zero gravity environment, her hair might be explained). Her green flowing locks almost seem like a pair of oversized appendages with long, curved fingers. As a result, the figure really has a unique presence on the shelf. It feels a lot larger than it actually is despite Miku’s rather slight figure.
Miku stands with a relaxed pose with her weight on her right leg and her body slanted towards her left. Not a fancy pose by any means, but a pleasant one nonetheless. Her grey-coloured top is reflective, making the well-sculpted folds and crimps of her clothes highly visible. Multiple tones of gray and teal highlights make up the colour of her high boots, above which lies her skirt, barely below the panty-line, as per the standard of bishoujo figures. Her skin tone is wee on the pale side in keeping with the original illustration. Unfortunately, with all the green about her, her skin may appear to possess a slight green tone sometimes. The display base is of a hexagonal shape with only one peg attached to Miku’s right foot, allowing you to swivel her around to an angle of your liking.
All in all, we’re off to a good start. The GSC Miku looks not only accurate, but aesthetically pleasing thanks to her big hair and shiny top, despite the slight problem with the paleness of her skin. But will she hold up under a closer inspection?
Since Miku’s hair make up for so much of the figure’s mass, the most pressing questions regarding the details of the figure lie here. To this end, Miku succeeds admirably. Not only is the hair painted in multiple tones to create the illusion of volume, the complex structure of the hair also creates natural shadows underneath which is very impressive to behold. As a result, the two massive pigtails do not feel like two oversized lumps of plastic glued onto her head, but rather they have a look of vitality to them.
Miku wears a simple expression in this figure. Her large emerald eyes are adorned with a pair of thin green eyebrows. There is, however, a slight problem with her face that may not be immediately apparent. By this I am referring to her mouth. From most angles, the mouth looks like a generic open-mouthed smile. But when viewed from a lower angle, you will see a row of white teeth obscured by her upper lip. Now, I am not implying her smile is by any means unsightly. I am merely expressing disappointment at the difficulty in making out he teeth, which adds a significant boost to the charm of her face – a regrettable case of wasted potential.
Miku’s costume is also another point of interest, at it is deceptively complex. The jagged green edges of her top were executed very clearly, as is the case with her headset and square ribbons. The various markings are also present, from the little symbols on her skirt, to the line patterns on her boots, and to the panels on her arm warmers. The buttons on the arm warmers on printed. Like the vest, the green rims on her skirt, boots, and arm warmers are painted neatly with no signs of messy blots painted outside the designated lines.
The figure’s great treatment of details even extends to her fingernails, which are neatly painted green – an impressive feat considering how minuscule they are.
Now, if you follow the Miku fanon, you would know her panties are of the striped variety. And if that bit of detail means a great deal to you, I regret to inform you that her panties are in fact white with a small green ribbon in the center. Why GSC made this curious omission I cannot say, though I doubt they were ignorant of this detail. While on the topic of her nether regions, the figure itself can be displayed without the skirt simply by popping off the top half of the figure and removing the solid skirt piece. Not that it makes much of a difference – the skirt is barely there to being with.
It’s been more than a year since the release of this figure in September 2008. Since then, figure prices have made a considerable leap. Gone are the days when you can get a decent 1/8 scale figure for around 5500 yen (which was the price for this particular figure) – now the standard lies in the 7500 yen range. The GSC Miku was a spectacular deal for its original price. It’s simply a great-looking figure of a great-looking character. However, you will be hard-pressed to find her at the original price today. Regardless, she is a great buy even if you have to shell out money in the 7000 yen range. Keep a lookout for her in local stores or conventions for a decent price.
To those missed out on the chance, fret not. Max Factory is rolling out its own shinier version of Miku this November, while GSC is also releasing the “World is Mine” version in the same month. Furthermore, the much-anticipated Black Rock Shooter figure (also of Vocaloid fame) should be shipping out around the same time, and a sci-fi version dubbed “VNO2” of the virtual idol was displayed at Wonfes 09. Clearly, GSC and its entourage of figure-making partners are hungrily digging into the Vocaloid goldmine. These new choices are certainly flashier and fancier, but let’s not forget the original Good Smile Company line of Vocaloid figures and toys that arguably catapulted celebrated virtual idol into the wide market. Regardless of what succeeds it, the GSC 1/8 scale Hatsune Miku has certainly cemented herself as a significant player in the Bishoujo figure scene.
Vivid and fantastic hair
Clean execution of details
Pale skin may possess a tinge of green under certain circumstances
Teeth are indiscernible from many angles