Apr 25, 2019
LunaPrecure (All reviews)
I thoroughly enjoyed this interpretation of the Crypton Future Media idols: Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin, Kagamine Len, Megurine Luka, Meiko, and Kaito. For those who are new to the Vocaloid franchise―DO NOT read this manga before you play the Project Diva games. There are many inside jokes and references that might seem confusing if you're new to Miku and her friends' adventures as voice-synthesizer idols.

• I read the Dark Horse publication of Hatsune Mix and the back of the book introduces the manga to those who have vaguely heard of Hatsune Miku. DO NOT listen to the misleading synopsis on the back of Dark Horse's omnibus! KEI's doujin-like interpretation of the characters are for those who already are attached to the characters and have pre-formulated opinions of them and their relationships! The Vocaloid canon is very similar to the canon of the Touhou (東方) games; all of the official character personalities are based on fan interpretation.

• The stories are told through short stories, erratic humor, and referential mayhem―causing many Japanese and otaku-based paroxysms to appear along the way; examples being things like itasha, daifuku, and even several nods to Hatsune Miku being Sega's cash-cow with the profitability of her merchandise. The meme-heavy, internet-based humor is faithful to many of the music videos that the Vocaloid franchise has released in the past like ggrks-ググれカス- ("Go Google It").

• Although KEI is a famous designer in the Project Diva sphere―I had issues with the way that the art looked in the first few chapters. The characters had large, black, beady-looking eyes and I was not a fan of it AT ALL. Towards the middle of the book, the art improves. The characters retain a more normal look and have a cute, sparkling, child-like glimmer in their expressions; and the panel layout later becomes smooth and less jarring.

• The stories were nice, laconic, and often heart-warming―like the Valentine's Day chapters. Additionally, lesser known Vocaloids like Gackt's and Kentaro Miura's love-child, Kamui Gakupo, and the famous fan-derivative, Yowane Haku (a depressed version of Hatsune Miku), both make cameo appearances in this book! As a huge fan of the "Voiceroids" (another name for unofficial Vocaloid characters), I absolutely adored the scene where Meiko goes out to drink and sees Haku at the bar!

• Overall, Vocaloid is special franchise that is not understood by the majority of people who only see Hatsune Mike's rise to fame as a weird Japanese icon that has a fixation with leeks; but underneath its veneer of superficiality there is a dedicated fanon (fan-canon) that has many different interpretations of characters that are teased in Hatsune Mix; personas that range from angsty and edgy to playful and silly―streaming together in an incredibly large pool of meta.

• The relationships between characters are teased but never explored, often left to the imagination... or a well-written fanfiction. In KEI's interpretation of Miku and Luka, there are even nods to them having romantic feelings for each other, something that has been quietly speculated about since Vocaloid's sudden burst of popularity in the 2000s. Despite my praise of the manga version, I still believe that stories of the Vocaloids are best told through musical interpretation. I believe that Hatsune Mix deserves a 6/10 because of its respect for the characters and the plethora of enjoyable references in lieu of Project Diva and the many fan interpretations that have followed.