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How Did A CGI Anime Character Named Hatsune Miku End Up Performing On The "Late Show"?

If you haven't heard of vocaloids yet, get ready.

Posted on October 9, 2014, at 12:41 a.m. ET

This is Hatsune Miku. She's a "vocal synthesizer software" and she's hugely popular.

To keep things simple, let's refer to Hatsune Miku as a "her," but make no mistake, Hatsune Miku doesn't actually exist. She started as the mascot for a piece of software put out by Japanese software company Crypton Future Media. Her name means "The first sound from the future".

The first "Hatsune Miku" software released by Crypton Future Media in 2007.

Crypton Future Media licenses her out to whoever wants to work with her. The company hired manga artist Kei Garō to draw the cartoon to go with the voice synthesizer, but aside from that, it's the Hatsune Miku fan community and the artists that use her software that come up the bulk of her work.

"Right after the release what happened was — on that first day even — right after the release, people were already making and uploading their music," Crypton Future Media's CEO Hiroyuki Itō told BuzzFeed News via a translator. "It started to expand very fast and the popularity raced."

Hatsune Miku is a "vocaloid," and there are a bunch of them.

A vocaloid is the banner term for a Yamaha singing voice synthesizer. Think of one of those funky text-to-speech functions but with the additional option to put notes into it like a keyboard. Like Hatsune Miku, there are avatars and personas for the other vocaloids. There are even a bunch of fan-made vocaloids with their own personalities made by fans.

This is the most popular Hatsune Miku song on YouTube currently.

View this video on YouTube

The song is called "World Is Mine" and it was done by a producer named ryo. He's a member of Supercell, an 11-member J-pop group. And when "World Is Mine" was released it hit number 7 in the US and worldwide iTunes store. But all kinds of producers have released music featuring the software though, including Pharrell Williams.

You can really make Hatsune Miku sing anything though.

View this video on YouTube

YouTube is the real source of Hatsune Miku's explosion in popularity. Crypton Future Media estimates that Hatsune Miku creations have pulled in almost 88 million views on YouTube, but that number constantly changes. If you can figure out how to program it, you can make Hatsune Miku sing it.

She's been in a bunch of video games too.

Hatsune Miku has popped up in a bunch of music and rhythm-based video games. The first one was put out by SEGA. It referenced the fan community and their contributions to the character.

"The concept was that the music and the clothing created by fans would be incorporated into the game," Itō said. "You basically hit buttons to the rhythm of the music."

Hatsune Miku performs live.


The above photo was taken at the Hatsune Miku performance during MTV's Japanese VMAs in 2014. The first Hatsune Miku live performance was at a Japanese arena in 2009. She played her songs live to a crowd of 25,000 people. She only played two songs.

"The reactions were the same as if it were a human," Itō said. "We've had a few interviews and the feeling we perceive is that there seems to be a lot of fear and concern going on about technology but Japanese culture doesn't have that so much."

This is what it looks like.

There have been Hatsune Miku concerts all over the world. Hatsune Miku performs with a band and a team that's in charge of the 3D projection of the character on stage. It works similarly to the way the band Gorillaz perform.

"It started out as a promotion, but from there it went into a real concert production and got bigger and bigger," Itō said.

This summer she opened for Lady Gaga.

In April, Lady Gaga announced that Hatsune Miku was going to be opening for her for the first month of Gaga's ArtRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball.

"It wasn't really different than a concert of a really big star elsewhere — a human singer," Itō said. "Even people who go to a Lady Gaga concert have probably not seen her before on stage real."

There is tons of Hatsune Miku cosplay.

There's a nearly infinite amount of Hatsune Miku fan art.

And there are all kinds of Hatsune Miku merchandise.

In 2011, Toyota even used her to advertise their new Corolla.

She's reached such a level of popularity that her team decided to hold a Hatsune Miku Art Expo in New York City for a few weeks this month. They booked two New York City concert dates, as well — one of which is already sold out. And then they were approached by producers for Late Show who decided to have her on the show.

So now, she's become the first vocaloid to meet David Letterman.


And the reactions online have been pretty interesting, to say the least.

holy shit at Hatsune Miku being on letterman tonight WHAT

Little Comet@RIBSOUTFollow

holy shit at Hatsune Miku being on letterman tonight WHAT

8:57 PM - 08 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I'm not sure if watching this miku/letterman train wreck will be a great end or a terrible end to my birthday


I'm not sure if watching this miku/letterman train wreck will be a great end or a terrible end to my birthday

8:54 PM - 08 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I can't believe Hatsune Miku is on Letterman


I can't believe Hatsune Miku is on Letterman

12:34 AM - 09 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I think I was mostly excited just to see a really old white man say Hatsune Miku

P5 Protagonist@GakoTheChefFollow

I think I was mostly excited just to see a really old white man say Hatsune Miku

12:37 AM - 09 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite




12:34 AM - 09 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

You can watch Hatsune Miku make history with the first-ever vocaloid performance on late night television here:

View this video on YouTube

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.