Last night, virtual idol Hatsune Miku made her mainstream American début on Late Show with David Letterman. The polygonal pop star served as the show’s closing musical act, as she performed Sharing the World.
The overall presentation is what one would expect. Miku, presented on the stage, bounced and performed with her touring band. The song was punctuated by a polite applause, and a quick joke by Letterman, as the show closed out.
On a technological level, Hatsune Miku’s performances are a marvel. The fact that a crowd can construct, rig, and break down a 3D projector as needed is impressive enough. The ability to display a kinetic character with enough detail that the show itself is believable with that equipment is nothing short amazing.
But that’s not why we’re here.
Anime fans on social media were generally on-board already. They were buzzing about how Miku was “killing it” on-stage. The reactions from the house audience, though, told a completely different story.
As I mentioned in a previous update, this is the oldest audience that Hatsune Miku has performed for to date, with the average viewer being older than 45. The show was an absolute wild card, in that regard, since this audience was the least likely to know what the hell a “Hatsune Miku” is, let alone why they should care.
And, if one looked closely, we saw this reflected in the attending viewers. At various intervals during the song, the camera pulled back to show a wide-angle shot of the stage, which gave a view of the in-studio viewers. Amid the folks sitting still and watching politely, one could spy a number of attendees exchanging confused glances, or leaning to trade remarks with one another.
“It’s like being on Willie Nelson’s bus.”
Letterman’s closing quip seemed to encapsulate the audience’s general reaction. Amid the applause and a few enthusiastic cheers, there was a strange stillness in the reaction, like people didn’t know how to react to what they saw.
Mainstream entertainment outlets seem to have really embraced the general awkwardness that could be felt through the performance. The Wrap noted that the performance was “unusual” and “weird”, as The Hollywood Reporter called the show “baffling” and “head-scratching.” Tech Times noted that Letterman may not have been the best venue, and that Crypton may have been better served with Jimmy Fallon.
Outside of the major entertainment publications, the reaction was generally positive. Mashable claimed the appearance made “late-night history”, while Fuse remarked “what a time to be alive.” Kotaku’s coverage boldly proclaimed that Hatsune Miku “dazzled” Late Night, as The Mary Sue stated “I have seen the future and it is bubbly.”
World Is (Not) Mine
Looking at the situation critically, there should be little surprise that there’s such a firm divide of opinion on Hatsune Miku’s performance. She’s the product of a subculture. Her looks, her character, even her personality were pretty much created with anime and idol fans in mind. To expect the masses to flock to what is essentially a live-action cartoon is a bit misguided,at best.
Regardless, though, Miku’s appearance on Letterman can’t be called anything less than a success for all parties involved. Hatsune Miku and Crypton Media gained valuable exposure by performing for an estimated 2.3 million viewers. Letterman undoubtedly pulled in a massive audience outside his usual demographic, which should create an interesting spike in next week’s numbers. Fans across the country were able to see the virtual idol in a “live” performance on a major TV network, and non-fans got to see David Letterman do his best to interact with a nonexistent pop star.
Perhaps I’m being a bit snarky about Letterman, though. I really have to commend him for going along with the idea of hosting a virtual diva on the show. He handled it as well as he could, rushing up to congratulate Miku and the band after the song finished up. He was accommodating, and did what he could to warm the crowd up.
Given how things could have gone, it’s good to see that Letterman handled things like a class act. Hopefully, Miku’s next hosts will be so accommodating on her next major appearance.