24th March 2018: The day I saw Hatsune Miku (Madrid, Spain)

“Vocaloid Opera – The End” is an opera for an in the digital world. It was written by Keiichiro Shibuya and performed by Hatsune Miku. Hatsune Miku [初音ミク] is a vocaloid idol. In case you’ve never heard of vocaloids, the idea is a bit complicated. A voicaloid is a singing voice synthesizer software product, basically a computer-generated singing voice. The software was released in 2004 and it exploded with popularity in Japan. Hatsune Miku was given a humanoid shape when it was released in 2017 – and it was definitely a she. So, in a way, Hatsune Miku is a voice synthesiser with a cartoon-female-human form.

Yeah, weird. I have always thought so too. But it was dirt-cheap (8 quid), and there was a session at 18:00 on Saturday that I could attend without a late train back. So I dyed my hair purple (because no, I’m not showing up to a blue-haired character’s show in blue hair), got out my thick faux-fur-neck coat and off I went.

The show was being held at Naves Matadero is a former slaughterhouse turned arts centre. It has turned the buildings into theatres, showrooms and so on. As I walked around the area, looking for my theatre I saw a hell of a lot of families with kids under ten, there to see “the doll” or “the cartoons”. I’m not kidding, during the first ten to fifteen minutes of the show, about twenty families left (≧▽≦).

Entrance to the venue, showing the sign of Naves Matadero Nave 11 and Vocaloid Opera the end

“Vocaloid Opera – The End” explores the concept of an artificial being obsessing about death. The whole show is digital, just like Miku, as she wanders the world wondering about “the end”. She seems trapped in a surreal nightmare, with several scenarios that don’t make that much sense. Miku is followed in her trip by a plush rabbit (Alice much?), she talks on the phone and there is a multiple-eye monster around.

Booklet and ticket. Both read Vocalod Opera the end, with the dates. The booklet shows an image of Hatsune Miku, crying blood, the whole booklet is tinted yellow

The music has an electronic flavour, and at times repetitive. It’s loud and you feel it more than hear it. There warnings about bright and strobe lights all around and I understood why – the whole thing relied heavily on CGI and lighting. The chosen topic, along the images were claustrophobic, and I think that was on purpose – there are different “dying” options: drowning, gas masks, withering off.

The climatic “aria” peaks with Miku asking the spectator “Am I dead? Or just asleep? You decide. It makes little difference to me.” In the end, she is a human creation so, like humans, she will “die” sometime too (aaaaand I have opinions about this because I believe that some human creations transcend their authors). And a final downside: knickers. Seriously, what’s with Japanese people and knickers?! She’s a CGI doll – true, wearing CGI clothes designed by the former artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, but a CGI doll!

That was all that I did, but here are some pictures I managed to snatch a few pictures, including of the actual 3D rendering of Miku.

Picture of the composer, dressed in yellow

Life-sized sculpture of Hatsune Miku, wearing a chequered dress that shows her waist, and heels. Her hair is flying as she turns.