Empress Michiko delights Japanese internet users

Japan boasts having the longest existing monarchy in the world. Even though both the Emperor and Empress are very-well respected and they are kind of a taboo topic for the media if they get too critical, the Imperial Family only plays a ceremonial role in Japan. That is, they do not make any government-related decisions. People’s opinion on both the Emperor and Empress are very positive and pretty much whatever they say or do will be spread and commented by the media or forum users. This time, Empress Michiko became a trendy topic in Japan after showing she’s well updated on Japanese pop culture, particularly about the “digital idol” Hatsune Miku.

The beloved Emperor and Empress of Japan

The beloved Emperor and Empress of Japan

While visiting an exhibition called “LOVE exhibition” at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills, Empress Michiko surprised everyone when she immediately seemed to recognize who Hatsune Miku was. 「これがミクちゃんですか」 Is this Hatsune Miku?, was what the Empress said, as the Asahi Newspaper reports, generating a lot of positive impressions and thoughts on Twitter.

You might be wonder how come this is a big deal, so first let’s talk more about who Hatsune Miku is. Hatsune Miku is a fictional character created for a music synthesizer program (Vocaloid) first released in 2007. She is 16 year old and cute. Youth + kawaiiness is a WIN combination in Japan. What Hatsune Miku’s program does, basically, is have a synthesized robot-like voice sing any song you write or want. Many users of this program started uploading their own Hatsune Miku’s songs to the very popular Japanese video website, ニコニコ動画 Nico Nico Douga, where she quickly became popular. Later, Sega and Crypton Future Media (the creators of Hatsune Miku) would release “Project DIVA”, a music videogame in which players must “support” Hatsune Miku in her singing pressing a sequence of buttons while she dances in beautifully animated videos on the background. This game has been so successful it is a staple of most game centers with a music games area. It also boosted the creation of hundreds of different Hatsune Miku’s merchandise. Hatsune Miku was well received by the Otaku (anime, manga, game lovers culture in Japan) community and she’s the image of many Family Mart products and Domino’s Pizza, for instance. Just google her name and you’ll find thousands of videos, fan art and more.

Copyright of Crypton Future Media Inc.

Copyright of Crypton Future Media Inc.

But it doesn’t stop there, as the number of fans kept exponentially increasing, the Project DIVA series was taken to the next level through all-digital, animated live concerts. That’s right, no actual live singing, just an amazing display of holograms, animations and lights. Believe it or not, the concerts were such a big success, they even toured cities outside Japan. By the way, this summer (Aug 30th) she will perform in a concert to be broadcasted simultaneously in many venues worldwide.

Hatsune Miku's concert. No copyright infringement intended.

Hatsune Miku’s concert. No copyright infringement intended.

Naturally, there is basically no connection between Hatsune Miku and Empress Michiko, right? I mean, Empress Michiko also has an unusual background for an Empress in Japan; she came from a non-royal family, decided to breastfeed her children (something considered too mundane for the Imperial Family to do), visited several countries together with her husband Emperor Akihito and more, while symbolizing 大和撫子Yamato nadeshiko, a woman with the traditional feminine virtues of old Japan. But now, otakus too will remember her, especially because of the way she referred to Hatsune Miku, using the-ちゃん –chan suffix, which pretty much makes everyone think she is treating her as if she were an actual person. Whatever was going through Her Majesty mind, her knowing who Hatsune Miku knows proves that she really does her best to stay updated on Japanese Culture. Hooray for her!

Eduardo H.
Sources:
Netizens Impressed that Japanese Empress Michiko Knowleadgeable about Pop Culture – Japan Daily Press

皇后さま「初音ミクご存知だったのか」 ネットユーザー「お言葉」に感動、歓喜

ANIME NEWS: Hatsune Miku to perform in theaters worldwide Aug. 30 – Asahi Shinbun

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Classic Japanese Videogame Ports: Sonic CD

The lot of us who grew up playing videogames have certain nostalgia for old school Japanese games. Now that almost everyone has a smart phone, many Japanese videogame companies are porting their classic games in hopes of quick profits. Unfortunately, like the quality of most Japanese games nowadays, these ports usually suck (gotta be honest here guys). Control schemes of classic consoles like the Super Famicom and Sega Genesis do not translate well into a touch screen; furthermore, a lazy emulation process often results in choppy frame rates, tiny unreadable text and an all-around bad experience—I mean, nostalgia can only go so far to get us past these problems. Because of this, it is always exciting when at least one classic game gets it right. Case in point: Sonic CD for iOS.

Sega had ported games to iOS before—Gunstar Heroes, Phantasy Star—but they suffer from the smart phone dilemma, mainly, choppy frame rates and terrible controls not designed for a touch device. One fan confronted the problem though: not wanting to see a favorite franchise get butchered by bad emulation, during his free time Christian Whitehead secretly began re-engineering Sonic CD for the smart phone generation. Through reverse engineering Whitehead dissected the game and designed a completely new engine (the Retro Engine Development Kit) with iOS in mind; naturally, this engine avoids the problems of bad emulation and runs at a brisk 60 frames per second.

Community buzz about his work was so loud that Sega quickly contacted him and hired him to port the entire game to iOS. And to sweeten the deal, new content like achievements, leaderboards, extra characters and time attack modes were added. So successful was the re-mastered port (it won numerous awards and averages a 93% rating on Metacritic) that now Whitehead is re-mastering other games (The original Sonic, currently. Apparently the iOS version is of much higher quality than its Xbox Live counterpart—better than a console port!) as well.

What’s most important though, is that this shows that indie developers can have a great impact on the industry, all the more so now that entry into it has in a way been ‘democratised’ by the explosion in tablets and smart phones—anyone, never mind small budgets (and thus maybe even getting past giant publishers too), can code a game for these platforms. And if big budget developers pick-up on these trends, like Sega did with the Whitehead case, then all the better. Japanese companies should follow such examples; they need the fresh thinking of indie developers because they certainly aren’t doing much of anything these days!

And now, for some pictures:

You won't need to buy one of the worst console add-ons ever made to play one of the best Sega games ever made anymore

From now on you won’t need to buy one of the worst console add-ons ever made to play one of the best Sega games ever made

Brand new splash screen

Brand new splash screen

Touch to play!

Touch to play!

Check out the new game modes

Check out the new game modes

Actual gameplay. Oh, and did I mention the game costs only 200 yen?

Actual gameplay. Oh, and did I mention the game costs only 200 yen?

For more of Christian Whitehead’s work visit his website at http://www.christianwhitehead.com.