Digital diva Hatsune Miku makes her U.S. debut at this weekend’s Anime Expo

June 30, 2011 | 12:10 p.m.
hatsune2 Digital diva Hatsune Miku makes her U.S. debut at this weekends Anime Expo

Digitally animated singer Hatsune Miku performs in Tokyo earlier this year. (Sega/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s strangely fitting that the biggest guest at the 20th annual Anime Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend won’t physically be present. Japan’s virtual pop star Hatsune Miku — the petite “android diva” created by Crypton Future Media in 2007 through a combination of holography, computer animation and computer-generated vocals — will appear in concert at the Nokia Theatre on Saturday in her first “live” performance in the U.S.

hatsune3 Digital diva Hatsune Miku makes her U.S. debut at this weekends Anime Expo

Digitally animated singer Hatsune Miku (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

Real musicians, including J-pop band Nirgilis, trio Kalafina and actor-singer Vic Mignogna, are also slated to perform as part of the Anime Expo festivities, which run Friday through Monday. But Miku, with her turquoise, ankle-length ponytails, impossibly slim figure and large eyes, perfectly embodies the fantastic creations the convention celebrates: beloved characters who exist only as images on film, computer data or drawings on a printed page.

Functioning much in the same way that San Diego’s Comic-Con International does for comic book enthusiasts, Anime Expo, the largest gathering of its kind in North America, offers fans of the vibrantly styled art form the chance to shop for videos, books, toys, T-shirts and other merchandise, attend panels and show off elaborately styled costumes at a special masquerade ball.

“The masquerade is always one of our premiere events,” said Marc Perez, chairman and chief executive of the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the nonprofit that manages the expo. “The amount of time people spend on a single costume is often astronomical. And when four or five individuals form a troupe to present a skit, it can easily involve several thousand hours: a very significant investment of time and passion.”

Attendees also will have the opportunity to see several features for the first time. “Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing,” a film based on the fantasy-adventure series “Last Exile,” will have its premiere at the Expo, and three other features will receive their U.S. openings: Hirotsugu Kawasaki’s “Onigamiden” depicts a war between oni (demons) and humans in medieval Kyoto, while “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya” comes as the follow-up to the offbeat series “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” about a high school girl who wields enormous power over the space-time continuum; “Mobile Suit Gundam 00 the Movie: Awakening of the Trailblazer,” is the latest installment in the long-running giant robot franchise.

moonsailors Digital diva Hatsune Miku makes her U.S. debut at this weekends Anime Expo

Suzanne Beaudoin, left, and Jennifer Sothy pose as Sailor Moon and Sailor Chibi Moon at the 2010 Anime Expo Masquerade. (Stefano Paltera/For the Los Angeles Times)

In addition, Warner Bros. will premiere the English adaptation of “Supernatural: the Anime Series.”

Other Expo highlights include a music video competition and a trivia contest, classes in Japanese and a charity auction to benefit the Japanese Red Cross in its work for victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

There are also plans for topical panels examining issues such as piracy. Although anime and manga enjoy a growing audience in America, especially among tweens, teens and twentysomethings, piracy has become a serious problem, cutting into sales of titles on disc and in print.

“The fan base for anime continues to grow; Anime Expo and other conventions continue to grow. But I think anime and manga are struggling the way music did in the ’90s,” Perez said. “Individuals have a great appreciation for the content, but it’s often easier to acquire that content illegally than legally.”

For information on programming and ticket prices, go to

— Charles Solomon

[For the record, July 2, 2014: A previous version of this post incorrectly spelled Beaudoin and Sothy’s last names.]


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11 Responses to Digital diva Hatsune Miku makes her U.S. debut at this weekend’s Anime Expo

  1. Jack Meoph says:

    Yeah it’s easier to get them illegally, because the companies in the US that distribute the material do nothing but dub or translate, then double the price. They add nothing to the content, which is all created in Japan, or some other Asian country.

    • Tmiller says:

      I got a solution. Don't buy anime.

    • Guest says:

      I agree anime is overpriced compared to "normal" US TV shows… however, using a couple of random "current" releases:
      HOTD (High School of the Dead) if purchased in Japan, Volume 1 Blu-Ray (comprising 2 episodes) is currently $71.47 (cdjapan) while the entire series (Episodes 1-12) dubbed into English is currently $38.99 on Amaz**.com
      The movie Evangelion: 2.22 is $70.86 in Japan while available for $16.99 in the US.

      BTW, "…the content, which is all created in Japan, or some other Asian country." is kinda the point, otherwise it wouldn't be "anime" to the purists, t'would be cartoons :)

    • rikki says:

      MSRP for Japanese DVDs or BDs is typically set at $75-$90, and it's common for them to only put 2 – 3 episodes on a disc. So you've got it reversed there.

      It's easier for US fans to get things "illegally" because Japanese pirates upload what they record off TV the same day it airs. English speakers can then slap on a translation and put it out months or years before a licensor does anything.

  2. That guy says:

    >Buying anime

  3. AJS says:

    Piracy is what is causing anime to die in all English language companies. ADV Films, Geneon, Central Park have all closed down due to piracy and Bandai have laid many people off due to low sales, even Bang Zoom! the dubbing company will stop licensing anime if they sales do not pick up.
    Do you really want anime to die?

    Then stop pirating it and put your hand in your pocket for once. No doubt you pirate PC, PSP and DS games too. $30 which is £18 in UK is a bargain for a complete season. Piracy is wrong and is a crime. If you want these industries to die then keep on going and ruin it for the rest of us.. Piracy in the US doesn't just affect the US, it also affects licensing in Canada, UK and Australia too.

  4. animefreak says:

    If you don't want to buy full price, you can go to iTunes and download for just a few bucks. I'm sure that you can watch some of these shows for free exclusively through YouTube (under an official license), Joost, and Hulu. Heck, you might even view them at their website. Just remember, you like them, you buy them. THAT'S how you keep Anime alive and they will give you more.

  5. ash2theb says:

    AJS comment "Piracy is wrong and is a crime." Really. . .What happen to the first amendment. Does anyone study US history(tea party) and laws any more, Man are school system must be really bad if thats the case. I agree with you "anime freak" solution that should be tried." If you don't want to buy full price, you can go to iTunes and download for just a few bucks. . . you might even view them at their website." A simple solution without all that name calling and who should be blame next, is just waste of time. I used to watch all my anime on Netflix. which open to many more genre.

  6. life-long-animefan says:

    Anime is NOT overpriced, when you compare the value we get for a whole series in a box-set to what the Japanese pay for, one disc at a time, in their own country! The prices we pay today are NOTHING compared to what it cost to get anime from Japan 20 years ago! I remember paying a hundred dollars for a Japanese VHS of "Laputa, Castle in the Sky", and that came without dubs or subs! If the so-called fans love a series or movie, they should have the decency and integrity to pay for it! Buy the DVDs or pay through Netflix, whatever, just do it legally.

  7. life-long-animefan says:

    Whether you buy a pirated US movie in a swap meet, or download an anime from some fan-site, both are acts of theft! The writers, directors, animators, actors, and in anime, this is all doubled when you count the US production teams working hard to bring it to the fans, all deserve to be paid for their efforts. And guess what? If the studio that financed the movies & anime in question don't make any money, they can't afford to make more anime, simple as that. These greedy, juvenile, morally-bankrupt, thoughtless faux-fans of today are ruining it for everyone! Honestly! Take pride in your fandom! Support it with your devotion and your purchases, or it will disappear completly one day.

  8. Pete says:

    A lot of people are ignoring some of the truths of fansubs. First off, 99.9% of the series fansubbed are not available in the US. Secondly, when they *DO* become available the fansubbers and most of the people out there stop distributing them. You will always have a small percentage that will distribute them but that's how it is with anything, anime or not. Thirdly, most of the people who bootleg the series that have been picked up in the US were probably not going to put money down on the official versions even if there was never a fansub or a pirated version. Finally, a lot of these companies put themselves at risk when they pick up multiple series at once without looking to see if there's an audience for them. This is part of what caused the manga company Tokyopop to get into such financial straits- they took on more licenses than they had audience for. The same thing happens with anime companies as well.

    I'm not trying to condone the acts of piracy that happen but a lot of people are ignoring the obvious fact that most people seeking bootlegs had no intention of buying a legit copy even if it was the only copy available.

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