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Mikunopolis In Los Angeles Limited Edition Blu-ray/CD Review

8 min read

MikunopolisIt’s one wild and crazy night in LA as Hatsune Miku has come to town.

What They Say:
On July 2nd, 2011, the internationally known Vocaloid Hatsune Miku performed at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. This marked her very first concert in the U.S. With 3D imaging created by SEGA and supervised by Crypton Future Media, the LA show was jam-packed with songs and dance numbers by Hatsune Miku and joined by Len, Rin, and Luka! Featuring the Los Angeles concert in its entirety, this Blu-Ray is contains live performances, your favorite songs from your favorite Vocaloids, and more!

This limited edition includes a CD of the concert and a double-sided poster!

The Review:
Packaging:
The packaging for this release is pretty nice as we get a solid digipak inside of a clear slipcover. The set has an additional piece of paper for the back which provides an English language look at the release, covering what Miku is a bit and where she performed and the full set list. We get a few good shots of the performers and a clear look of what’s inside the package and all its extras. The technical side is covered well and you know exactly what you’re getting with the show. The clear slipcover makes it easy to see the front of the case which is Miku performing in a full color illustration against a white background that has a strip through the miiddle showing some of the audience and stage. That wraps around the spin and to the back, which through the slipcover also lists the tracks for the concert. The inside of the case has more shots of the performers along the back under the discs and there’s more of the concert venue itself as well. The release also includes a double sided poster, one that shows off Miku the same as the front of the digipak while the back side is a different approach as it features more of the performer shots and a breakdown of the tracks with credits and the overall production credits.

A really welcome bonus here as part of the package is that we get the concert CD as well, which makes it really easy to take Miku on the go, which is what the fans of this concert will definitely want to do.

Extras:
The release does come with a cople of extras, including a cute four minute making of piece that shows the team arriving in LA that you can see being a big thrill for the Japanese fans as they bring in images of Miku into different locales. The setup and design of the theater is nciely done and seeing it all come together with the challenges that come from a virtual idol is interesting, though I’d love a far more technical kind of making of. And of course, there’s also a visit to the beach after taking time to meet the fans and you just have to love that they slid tha tinto it. Also included is a thirteen minute sequence that’s the opening act for the concert, which has to be strong to handle the throng of fans that filled the Nokia theater. Having a live lead-in show definitely was the right way to go and you can see how they built the energy nicely.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When it comes to taste in music, everyone has such varied ranges overall that it can be a dicey proposition to introduce someone to something new. I grew up at a time when disco was big, but my real musical discovery didn’t come until the 80’s with Motley Crue, Van Halen, Def Leppard and others. Try to imagine defending the 80’s as “real” music if you have kids these days and you’re hard pressed to. But with an earlier education in musicals such as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar and then plunging into the 90’s with the rise of alternative music stations, college radio and grunge itself, I found myself continually exposed to new things and finding facsinating things to get in touch with.

Of course, I was also introduced to anime in the mid 80’s and the first real one that I grabbed onto was Macross via Robotech. And that brought music to storytelling for me in a new way at an influential age and brought about the concept of idols for me, which thankfully really wasn’t in mainstream music in the US at the time. With Macross, I really got into it in both the English and Japanese versions, each having their own appeal. Add in the pop fun of things like Bubblegum Crisis, Project A-Ko and more, anime idol music has long been a staple of my anime diet. I made a lengthy excursion into J-pop and more “mature” artists in the early 2000’s as access to them through the Internet made it a lot more accessible, but the last few years has seen me fall further and further from Japanese music.

And that came at a time as we got the rise of the first virtual idol, Hatsume Miku. Miku’s a curious project that I’ll admit is purely Japanese in oh so many ways, one we saw way back in the early 90’s in anime with Macross Plus. So I certainly wasn’t surprised to see it not to see so many Japanese fans really get behind it moved from the small screen to other venues, including this 2011 performance recorded in Los Angeles to a very energetic and excited audience. Hatsune Miku as a virtual idol is definitely really interesting to watch, though I’ll admit the music doesn’t do much for me at this point in my life. The release thankfully subtitles the majority of the songs, but three songs are not subtitled out of respect for the original creators wishes, whatever that means. All it means to me is that they don’t want me to understand what’s being sung, so I can’t particularly bring myself to care.

With the twenty-four tracks that we get for this concert, we get to see the usual kind of range that you’d expect from a Japanese pop experience, which in so many ways really doesn’t diverge from Western pop stars when you get down to it with the younger performers. The ballads exist, including a rather welcome finale here that sets the right tone, as well as some very big pieces that draw in the audience in a significant way with their enthusiasm. Miku’s not the only performer as there are other virtual performers working along with her and I found those to be an interesting addition as they moved side by side and in tandem in obviously identical ways. But if you watch live action pop idols, you’ll definitely see the same kinds of things and you see them in a slew of recent anime series as well that focus around idols singers. Performance wise, this concert hits all the right notes and I can imagine that being in the presence of a virtual idol and a large crowd like this, as well as a very good orchestra working to support the lyrics, it’s got to be a fantastic experience.

And that’s what I find to be the most intriguing aspect of it. As I said, virtual idols are not new to anime fans and there is an appeal to it. The performance of Mikue and the others definitely goes beyond what I initially expected in some ways, though some of the flaws are evident as well in terms of quality of the visual presentation of Mikue when you really get up close with the softness of it. But it’s also easy to imagine that in just a few years, it will be just like any live action performer where the walkways will go out into the audience and the virtual idols will strut out there with them, allowing the audience to have a full three dimensional view of them and becoming even more engaging. And I suspect we’ll start to see, if we haven’t already as I honestly haven’t followed it closely, an attempt to reach out to English speaking fans more. There’s a good amount of English in this performance overall, but the desire to market this further will certainly hit and it just needs a certain bit more of polish in order to make that leap. And I can’t wait to see how mainstream American music handles such an invasion.

In Summary:
Concert performances are difficult things to bring into the home in a lot of ways and I own only a precious few myself, even from favorite performers as I find that it often doesn’t represent well. With Hatsune Miku, there’s definitely a curiosity factor to it and a whole lot of appeal in seeing the way the first American performance went, not only for Miku herself and any changes that might be made for this particular audience, but just the reaction and enthusiasm of the audience. Going by them, the concert is definitely an out of the park hit and the home video captures it well. The sound mixes here are spot on, though preference is easily for the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix, and the visual presentation does the best it can with how concert venue material can be in so many difficult ways. Fans of Miku will definitely love this presentation though as it hits all the right notes across the board, including some very high notes from Miku herself.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Making Of, Opening Act

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: April 16th, 2013
MSRP: $74.99
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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