East VS West: Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku coming to America is big news, but just how big is it? Around the same time this character was announced for a concert at Anime Expo, a Toyota car commercial appeared with a rather strange concept:

I’m not sure exactly what their angle is. Even among people who are familiar with anime in the west, the number of people who are familiar with Hatsune Miku are even less. So how did this commercial come to be? Do they think that this virtual idol performing in America is big enough to take the country by storm? And of all things, why advertise through a Toyota Corolla?

Equally perplexing is this rendition of Hatsune Miku, “Americanized” so that it may appeal more to the western audience. The first thing you notice is that while they go for a more “realistic” look, they rob her of even looking Asian. They also gave the 16-year old character a boob-job:

This new and “X-treme” Miku appears to love tanning salons, curling irons, abusing eyeliner, and partying till the sun comes up. Even if I can look past all that, nothing can change the fact that X-treme Miku looks like a drag queen cosplaying as Hatsune Miku.

Just what is the reception to all this from the general public, if any? I have a hard time believing anyone who isn’t familiar with this character will care at all, and many who do know are livid about this representation of their beloved icon. Looks like a lose-lose scenario.


About Dae Lee

-Dae, aka Mizu -Writer, broadcaster, and podcaster on New School Kaidan

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  1. I’m not a huge Miku fan but I really am disappointed at how butch they’ve made her for the western market. I mean let’s face it, Toyota were appealing to a niche market with this advertising campaign. People who don’t know about Vocaloid aren’t going to care about this in the slightest so the decision to drastically revamp her image and alienate the minority that would care doesn’t make much sense.

    This seems like just another sad attempt to cash in on one of those “crazy fads from Japan”.

    • bluedarkness12

      I agree with you. I wonder who in public relations came up with this idea. This was not a well thought out plan at all. I am even saddened by the revamp visual look of her. Do they believe Americans will fall for anything on television when it is something foreign? They have the perfect idol but not the perfect agency for her lol

  2. The key reason why miku is so popular is because she’s cute. Now, imagine this ugly xtreme miku singing miku’s songs while swinging around a giant leek. Pretty horrifying image, eh? The voice wouldn’t match at all and the cuteness would be nonexistent. They completely westernized her image by giving it a comic book vibe, plus they tried to cover up the skin of her legs to appease the conservatives. Typical western bastardization of Japanese media.

  3. Hmm, more than vocaloid or Hatsume Miku I feel as though the advert is obviously a look to “the future” etc, so she is used because of what she is and her “futuristic” look and though as a character she is not know Worldwide most people would associate her with Japan strait away and it is perhaps that, more than who she actually is, that got her in the add……

    • Very well said. You’re comment is a much more practical explanation. When you put it that way, I can definitely see how Toyota’s marketing team may have approached the idea of including Hatsune Miku as a marketing ploy.

      Perhaps, they knew that not only is Hatsune Miku popular in japan, but she may very well be a recognizable icon amongst today’s generation. Toyota probably acknowledged this. Going into this ad campaign, Toyota may very well be attempting to capture a specific audience, not older generations who are oblivious to Hatsune Miku.

    • I was actually thinking about that after watching the commercial a couple more times haha. It’s a really good point– I agree that way more people would understand the “moving forward(with ‘big dreams’)” as a concept than recognizing the actual character, and the commercial makes a lot more sense that way.

      However (it’s my inner-cynic speaking), I have trouble giving the general public the benefit of the the doubt because I think it’s pretty subtle. Either way, it does open it to a bigger audience than I was initially thinking.

  4. Here’s a potentially horrifying thought; what if they actually have re-animated the live show to take into account Miku’s “x-treme” makeover?

    I’m only half joking here, it does seem like something that a corporate-type would think to do.

    • You know what would be great?
      Let McDonalds use Miku in their commercial and then on the concert they would have all the McD characters up on the screen dancing with her……

      Excuse me while I try to take contact with McD.

  5. What chu talking about. She looks gorgeous.

  6. The art is just an interpretation to make people have a “lol we’re bringing it do the west” feel. It’s a comicbook style, and not a lot of comic book girls are known for their petite shape. I’m sad that this picture is getting such a bad kick, it’s not even that bad of art. :C

    I doubt they’d actually change Miku for the actual concert, just a parody art to make people flip shits.

    • It’s not that it’s necessarily bad as a piece of illustration; the artist is Alvin Lee, who used work on Street Fighter comics (which are pretty awesome) for Udon before working full time for Marvel, which explains the comic book superhero style, but Miku ain’t a fighter or a superhero P:
      So my point of view is that it was a weird choice to begin with when they commissioned him to work on this project.

  7. But maybe they did know whta they were doing when they commisioned him, not so much to get a ‘hero’ theme but a more mature look.

    Like how some people don’t get the whole idol thing (i.e. dude why are you watching stuff with like 15 year old girls in bikinis etc) and so perhaps Toyota thought that they needed to change it to a more mature image so people would not go “dude why is this young anime girl driving a car? can she even do that?”

  8. It get’s better: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2011-07-07/contest-held-to-design-hatsune-miku-u.s-version
    What do you think the Americanized version of Miku should look like then? Afterall, the English (or Engrish?) speaking version of Miku is supposed to be coming out soon.

  9. Ms. Rika the Awesome

    She looks nice I guess. I mean I’ve always wanted her to come to the U.S, but changing her “Child Like” image is going too far. I can already imagine Rin and Len. -shudders- Just keep them the same and we Americans will continue to accept them.

  10. Haha, the asian Miku looks like 1sec before panty-shot xD I prefer the western, much more detailed. But asian has cute eyes and the mouth of western version looks just weird…

  11. Ps. ” The first thing you notice is that while they go for a more “realistic” look, they rob her of even looking Asian.”

    I think the asian versio doesn’t look asian either, but just a simplified cartoon character. and the western version looks just a little more like real life person.

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