Do you dream of having your original songs performed by internationally famous pop idols? Then welcome to the world of Vocaloid: computer software that allows anyone to compose songs through synthesized voices paired with anime-like avatars! Although originally intended for the professional music industry, Vocaloid has gained a devout otaku following since its initial 2004 release in Japan. Today, companies around the world are jumping on the bandwagon, localizing Vocaloid software and creating unique Vocaloid characters; but as with all things anime, none do it better than Japan. Keep reading for our list of Japan’s 7 most popular idols and where to get your hands on the best of Japan’s Vocaloid merchandise!
7 Most Popular Japanese Vocaloid Characters
Vocaloid’s anime-inspired singers skyrocketed the software into fame by seamlessly blending the cultures of music, tech and otaku. There are over 80 official idols available for “hire,” but many fans agree that these 7 Japanese Vocaloid characters stand out from the rest.
7. Lily (リリィ)
Based on the anime persona of her voice actress, Yuri Masuda, Lily’s sense of style, golden hair, and vibrant blue eyes have stolen the hearts of her fans. Her claim to fame is being the first Vocaloid character ever featured in a commercial music video. “Lily Lily★Burning Night” is Lily’s most popular song, and the first of hers to enter Vocaloid’s Hall of Legend.
Holding an ax in one hand and her stuffed rabbit by the neck in the other, MAYU is a Lolita fashionista with edgy yandere vibes. Having over 40 songs to her name, MAYU entertains a loyal fan base with her violent affection.
5. Rin & Len Kagamine (鏡音リン・レン)
Don’t be fooled by their almost identical appearance—Rin and Len Kagamine aren’t twins, but are female and male “halves” that share the same soul. Originally marketed as “two vocalists for the price of one,” super-kawaii Rin is nonetheless the more popular of the two. However, Len holds the unique achievement of being the first Vocaloid voiced by a singer of the opposite gender. Vocaloid producers wanting to add a touch of youthful charm to their upcoming hit need look no further than these two voices.
4. Kaito (カイト)
Initially labeled a “failure” in a male-dominated market, Kaito’s lack of software sales led to a trend in creating mostly female Vocaloid characters. However, following a collaboration video between Kaito and Miku a few years later, the blue-haired idol rose in popularity. Producers consider his voice one of the most flexible, even in his earliest version, when he debuted as Vocaloid’s first male character.
3. Gumi (グミ)
Said to be one of the most natural vocalists, Gumi has the most voicebanks of all the Vocaloids and even can sing in English! In a 2015 poll, her popularity came second only to the legendary Hatsune Miku. Though her cute appearance brings smiles to her fans, producers agree that it’s Gumi’s preppy voice that draws followers in the most.
2. IA (イア)
If there’s a Vocaloid idol who can rival even Hatsune Miku, it’s IA. Capable of mature, melodious tones and quick tempos, IA is equally revered for her mysterious and airy appearance. She became the first VOCALOID3 idol to reach over 1 million views on Japanese video sharing site Nico Nico Douga.
1. Hatsune Miku (初音ミク)
The heart and soul of Vocaloid, Hatsune Miku launched the voice synthesizing software from obscurity to worldwide fame. Today, Miku has become a touring holographic pop idol, the host of many video games, and even the official sponsor of the 2011 American Toyota Corolla. From being voted the #1 most-wanted vocalist at the London Olympic Games to starring in her own opera, Miku continues to redefine the pop idol image to the awe and adoration of her fans.
Top 6 Must-Have Vocaloid Merchandise
If you’re a Vocaloid fan ready to elevate your dedication to stardom, great news: Vocaloid encompasses a lot more merchandise than just software! Here are 6 must-have collectables that any Vocaloid groupie would be proud to add to their stage show.
Having the perfect outfit can make any singer’s performance shine, but you don’t need to be an idol to own a five-star wardrobe. Wear your favorite Vocaloid wherever you go, and tell “your world” that you are the ultimate fan! T-shirts are ideal conversation starters, and sure to connect you with other fans and new friends, too.
Also known as “hug pillows,” dakimakura have been adopted by the otaku community as an expression of dedication to a husbando or waifu. Vocaloid fans can purchase body-length pillows of their idol crushes, and take their snuggling experience to the next level with a dakimakura pillow heater—a USB gadget that imitates the comfortable temperature of a human body, fills your chest with fluttery feelings, soothes you to sleep, and makes all your fandom dreams come true.
Vocaloid figures primarily come in three distinct styles.
- Figma: Posable figures with interchangeable parts
- PVC: Fixed-pose figures boasting extreme detail
- Nendoroid: Chibi-stylized figures
Fifty to 100 new Vocaloid figures are released every year, so whatever your style, there’s sure to be a figure of your favorite idol tailor-made for your tastes. Vocaloid figures are among the most coveted and artistic collectables on the otaku market, and are the perfect memento to crown any fan’s collection.
While you’re waiting for “Snow Miku” season to arrive, you can beat the heat with a little help from your favorite Vocaloid idol. If you’d rather display your hand fans, they make beautifully stunning backdrops for the rest of your Vocaloid collection. Fans come in both traditional sensu (foldable) and uchiwa (rigid) designs, so you can pick a style that’s just right for you.
Vocaloid iPhone Cases
You take your iPhone (and your Vocaloid obsession) everywhere you go. Why not combine them with a Vocaloid iPhone case. From chibi to trendy, one special Vocaloid or a whole group of them, there’s a stylish case perfect for your persona. Don’t forget to set your ringtone to “World is Mine” to complete the look. (And be sure to check out more anime iPhone cases here.)
Admit it. You’ve always wanted to scoop up your Vocaloid heartthrob for a hearty hug. You can’t exactly snatch your favorite idol out of your computer screen, so an adorable Vocaloid plushie is the perfect alternative! Miku, of course, has plushies available for nearly all of her different appearances—from Racing Miku to Senbonzakura Miku.
Where to Buy Vocaloid Merchandise
Just as Vocaloid fans can find amazing performances from their favorite idols online, you can find the Vocaloid merchandise and figures you want at FROM JAPAN—the online proxy and auction service that delivers direct to your doorstep all the way from Japan. Shop now to start building a collection of memorabilia worthy of Vocaloid’s Hall of Legend!