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First Tone: Time Names Hatsune Miku As Influential Character

Hatsune Miku Miku Expo - 20140917With the year quickly coming to an end, Time Magazine has started the build-up to its celebrated Person of the Year award. As part of the processions, the publication released its list of the 15 Most Influential Fictional Characters of 2014.

While the list includes obvious favorites like Stephen Colbert and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, a couple of Japanese favorites managed to make their way into the ranks.

Virtual diva Hatsune Miku captured 8th place, ranking above Marvel Comics’s Thor and Indian anti-public defecation mascot Mr. Poo. Time cites the idol’s recent US appearances, with include her appearance on Letterman, as reasons for her inclusion in the list.

The full blurb is as follows:

The computer-generated Japanese musician, whose “singing” comprises many short samples of actual human voices, not only launched a debate about the nature of artistry and performance (Hatsune Miku means “first sound of the future” in Japanese), but also performed via holograph at Madison Square Garden on Lady Gaga’s tour and on The Late Show With David Letterman—all without having a body.

Hello Kitty, Sanrio’s adorable mascot that adorns everything from T-shirts to Swarovski crystal, captured the bottom slot. According to Time, she was included partly due to the kerfuffle that arose around Hello Kitty’s status as a feline.

The full quote is as follows:

What does it mean to be human? It’s a question philosophers have debated for millennia—and the Internet debated this year, thanks to Hello Kitty (who turned 40 this year). According to her official bio, which went viral in August, the iconic toon is not actually a cat; she’s a human girl who lives with her family in suburban London. That revelation made waves on social media, forcing parent company Sanrio to clarify that Hello Kitty is actually an anthropomorphized animal, like Mickey Mouse.

For those curious, the full list is as follows:

  1. Elsa
  2. Kim Kardashian
  3. Star-Lord
  4. Stephen Colbert
  5. King Joffrey
  6. Maura Pfefferman
  7. Katniss Everdeen
  8. Hatsune Miku
  9. Annalise Keating
  10. Thor
  11. Rust Cohle
  12. Mr. Poo
  13. Amy Dunne
  14. The Mother,” a.k.a. Tracy McConnell
  15. Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty’s inclusion should surprise nobody, at this point. The character, despite her Japanese origins, is a fixture in American pop culture, and has been for many years. Her face adorns everything, from T-shirts, to toys, to high-end jewelry. She’s been loved and lampooned, and has a following that most characters could only dream of.

Hatsune Miku, though, is a truly intriguing addition to the list. The digital diva’s been a long-time favorite of anime fans, though she’s been little more than a fleeting curiosity in the general public. Middle America really only got its first experience with Miku this year, when Crypton Future Media began to take its first steps out of the comfort zone.

With the Lady Gaga concerts and the appearance on Letterman, Crypton brought Miku, as a character and a musical force, to audiences that may not have even entertained the very notion of a virtual musician. Her presence in the top-15 list is an important one, in that regard. It’s a sign that Hatsune Miku, while not exactly a household name, has made an impact in the cultural consciousness of the mainstream.

About the author

Samantha Ferreira

Samantha Ferreira is Anime Herald’s founder and editor-in-chief. A Rhode Island native, Samantha has been an anime fan since 1992, and an active member of the anime press since 2002, when she began working as a reviewer for Anime Dream. She launched Anime Herald in 2010, and continues to oversee its operations to this day. Outside of journalism, Samantha actively studies the history of the North American anime fandom and industry, with a particular focus on the 2000s anime boom and bust. She’s a huge fan of all things Sakura Wars, and maintains series fansite Combat Revue Review when she has free time available. When not in the Anime Herald Discord, Samantha can typically be found on Bluesky.

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