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UNOFFICIAL HATSUNE MIX Review: Charming and Spontaneous Vocaloid Filled Adventure

Unofficial Hatsune Mix is a manga primarily centered on Hatsune Miku, one of the original Vocaloid voice synthesizer programs. The Vocaloid program allows its users to synthesize singing through the input of lyrics and melody. The distinct voice a song will take depends on the specific Vocaloid selected for the song. There are many Vocaloid singers; some of the more well-known ones are Hatsune Miku, IA, Megurine Luka, Gumi, and Rin and Len Kagamine.

Fans of Vocaloid over time have developed the personalities and characteristics for many of the Vocaloids. Thus, they are used as characters in the manga despite having no official or canonical depictions. Furthermore, that is why ‘unofficial’ is included in the manga’s name as it has been officially stated that there is no continuity for the Vocaloids outside of already provided basic information such as their age.

Story

The story of Unofficial Hatsune Mix is presented as a collection of unrelated short stories about Hatsune Miku and a few of the other Vocaloid characters. Every chapter stands as an individual, and is part of the merit of the manga’s story. The standalone nature of every chapter allows for a creative freedom and spontaneity.

While there is a loose chronological structure in place — for example, Luka only makes appearances in chapters subsequent to her introduction — the back story, tone, and setting can vary wildly from bit to bit. In one chapter, the characters can all be mermaids, and in another, Miku can serve as the new teacher for a class composed of some of the other characters like the Kagamine twins.

It is part of the manga’s appeal that it is formatted in this fashion, and it also ensures that, to a certain extent, there is likely at least one thing in Unofficial Hatsune Mix that is appealing to them. While the stories themselves are typically fairly light-hearted in nature, the tone of the series has a wide spectrum. One story is as banal as the cast making chocolate for Valentine’s Day. A couple of the others are much different.

In one such chapter, one of the members of the cast is terminally ill and her brother dismays over the continuation of her existence through attempting to preserve her voice. While one chapter involves the making of a commercial, another has a Vocaloid questioning her raison d’être as she does not enjoy singing, though she believes that is a Vocaloid’s purpose.

The formatting of the story is never confusing either, as its nature is established promptly at the manga’s beginning. Each chapter is able to aptly serve as a self-contained story while sometimes subtly contributing to the loose overarching plot. The manga’s disjointed nature adds without taking away, allowing Unofficial Hatsune Mix to appeal to a broad range of emotions and ideas throughout its story.

Source: Dark Horse Comics

Source: Dark Horse Comics

Characters

The main cast for Unofficial Hatsune Mix is comprised of many of the earliest and most famous Japanese Vocaloids. Naturally, the cast is headlined by the eponymous Hatsune Miku. Other members include the Kagamine twins, Rin and Len, Meiko, Kaito, and Megurine Luka.

Fans of Vocaloid will likely find some pleasure in how parts of the fandom are sometimes invoked in the manga. Miku is often accompanied by a leek, Kaito displays his love for ice cream several times, and Len is depicted eating bananas several times. Furthermore, fandom depiction of the characters is reflected in the personalities of the Vocaloids in the manga.

Still, the nature of Unofficial Hatsune Mix does not allow for much more than characterizations for the cast. The standalone and disjointed nature of all the chapters in the manga does not allow a proper continuity from which to develop the characters further. Therefore, the little growth the characters experience through their trials and tribulations are, by nature, forgotten at the chapter’s conclusion and the characters can more easily be characterized by single trait stereotypes.

Art

The manga has the neat aspect of being illustrated by KEI, who was responsible for some of the earlier Vocaloid designs, such as those for Miku, Rin, Len, and Luka. While his watercolor-like style and simple but appealing designs offer much to the manga, his mandate on depicting the Vocaloid cast as they were originally shown offers another level of appeal.

The art lends itself well to the qualities of Unofficial Hatsune Mix, though it stands that there is nothing truly spectacular about the art as well. With regards to the layout and composition of the panels, they can be described as, at best, uninspiring. The format allows the story to be delivered in a straightforward, if unimaginative, manner.

Of course, the manga is primarily intended to be a parody and comedy manga, so it does not seem appropriate to weigh too heavily on the art itself. It ultimately functions well and is able to distinctly depict the cast with a range of expression that does not intend to stretch itself beyond the scope of the work and never needs to.

Overall

Unofficial Hatsune Mix is as advertised, a collection of self-contained stories that follows the adventures of Hatsune Miku and those around her. The story’s format works for the manga as a whole, even if the stories are necessarily kept simple and relatively inconsequential as a result. Some are silly glimpse of the day-to-day, while others are insightful vignettes into the minds of the cast.

The cast and art, like the story, is catered to the manga’s genre, comedy and parody. Though this is ultimately for the best, it does prevent any substantial or notable accomplishments in any of these areas. All of them work well enough for what they are needed for and nothing more.

Unofficial Hatsune Mix is not a groundbreaking achievement in the medium of manga, but it never strives to be. What it does try to be, a charming adventure with Vocaloids as the focal point while containing several nods to the fandom, it does modestly well. It was entertaining enough for even an outsider looking in, such as myself, to enjoy the Vocaloids’ silly misadventures.

2.5 out of 5 stars

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cover image via

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  1. Best of 2014 Review Wrap-up: Jay | Another Castle - 12/17/2014

    […] UNOFFICIAL HATSUNE MIX  Review: Charming and Spontaneous Vocaloid Filled Adventure […]

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