3rd gen vocaro fans01

Last month, we posted an article capturing the changes in anime art style over time. These adjustments in overall style can come on so slowly, but when laid out side-by-side, they become so blatantly apparent, it’s amazing that such a large breadth of drawing styles could all come under the umbrella of Japanese anime. It would seem that with every passing decade there comes an attraction to a different art style.

In the special interest magazine, Febri volume 19, there is an interesting report called Portrait of a Modern Otaku, which classifies these trends in popular Japanese anime according to “generations,” starting with Space Battleship Yamato and all of its fans falling into generation one. Generation two is represented by Gundam, while fans born of Evangelion and erotic dating simulators belong to generation three. Today’s twenty-somethings likely identify with the fourth generation of fans frontlined by The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. And finally, the youngest bunch, teenagers and below are classified together with none other than Kagerou Project.

But wait. How could it be that an offshoot of Vocaloid, the computer voice simulator, is the poster child for this most recent generation of otaku? The development of Vocaloid fandom itself, holds the answers.

The real rise in Vocaloid’s popularity began in 2007 with the introduction of Hatsune Miku, though the software existed years before. Songs like Melt and The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku led to the character, Miku, becoming the axis of Vocaloid fandom, and people first falling into the series for more than just its capabilities as music-making software adopted the perspective that Hatsune Miku and Vocaloid are synonymous. According to Febri’s article, these people belong to the first generation of Vocaloid fans.

The appearance of second generation fans corresponds with an increase in the number of songs with a story to tell. Some of the most popular works from this generation include Daughter of Evil, sung by the character Kagamine Rin, as well as Prisoner, a duet using the singers Rin and Len. Multiple Vocaloid characters were used in these songs, to build a conflict and create various perspectives within the narrative.

At present, we’re experiencing a rise in the third generation of Vocaloid fans, to whom the music is secondary to the narratives created by the characters. The best example of this is Kagerou Days, which started in 2011. It began as a series of songs by the composer Shizen no Teki-P, but has since spread to other media and exists as a manga and short novel series called Kagerou Days. An anime is also in the works.

Of course, the music has not fallen completely from popularity, and today’s upbeat Vocaloid rock songs still garner a lot of attention, but compared to the 1,800,000 books sold of Kagerou Days, the music which first facilitated creation of the series is somewhat dwarfed by the popularity of its derivative works. Vocaloid character novels have become such a large corner in Japanese bookstores, that they have been established as their own genre, separate from light novels.

For people who were introduced to Vocaloid with Hatsune Miku, it must be difficult to envision anyone other than the teal-haired teen wonder as the face of the franchise, but the fact of the matter is that Vocaloid fandom has evolved to the point where Miku has dropped to number three in Vocaloid’s online popularity polls. A majority of the people who responded to the most recent survey were between the ages of 12 and 18, and with their fresh view on the franchise and love of complex rock pieces, the voices of Gumi and IA have rocketed to the top. Vocaloid is no longer just about the music, it’s about the narrative created using the characters as a template. And this, dear readers, is how Kagerou Project has made itself the face of this generation of anime otaku. It’s more than just an offshoot of some popular synthesized song lyrics, it is a story with a young but dedicated fandom that has grown to incredible proportions, large enough to overshadow such popular titles as Madoka and K-On and become the representative piece for young Japanese otaku.

Source: Excite News via Jin115 (Japanese)
Image: Amazon Japan