IA’s Vocaloid Concert at Anime Expo Makes a Strong Case for Virtual Idols

IA
It’s been 4 years since Anime Expo attendees have been treated to the Vocaloid concert that was Mikunopolis. In that time, 1st Place Co. introduced a new Vocaloid named IA to the Vocaloid3 engine using the voice of one of my favorite J-pop artists: Lia, the vocalist behind such works as Clannad ~After Story~‘s “Toki wo Kizamu Uta” and Angel Beats‘ “My Soul, Your Beats”. Given my interest in Lia as an artist, you’d think this development would spur me to check out the Vocaloid scene in greater depth, but my interest in the Vocaloid scene never really budged from its initial levels of indifference. To me, the concept of the virtual idol was interesting, but not sufficiently interesting enough that I’d actively pay attention and seek out more Vocaloid music.

So another Anime Expo, another Vocaloid concert. Or so I thought. What I could not fathom was just how much things have improved since 4 years ago. 4 years is an awfully long time to get things right and for me to be more comfortable with the thought of a programmed hologram performing on stage. Between the technological progress with the holographic projection and my comfort level with virtual idol performances, IA’s concert was a blast. From the beginning of the concert, where images of galaxies, stars, and planets flew by until it settled upon Los Angeles, to the end of the concert, where IA dazzled us with her dance moves to convey her sweet and spunky personality, I found myself completely engrossed by what took place.

Every component that was involved in making this IA concert possible came together nearly flawlessly. Commenting upon the musical aspects of the performance is superfluous, but I will say that I enjoyed listening to most of her songs. Throughout the concert, energetic pop-rock songs were paired with such diverse genres as dubstep, rap, and punk rock. Generally speaking, my tastes were more in line with straightforward pop-rock fare rather than the overbearing dubstep (namely the Kagerou/Mekakucity Actors material). Although some of the genre combinations worked better for me than others, all of the songs performed during the concert matched IA’s idiom nicely and kept me rapt at attention the whole way through. I particularly enjoyed “We Gotta Run”, Teddyloid’s “Shooting Star” (at least, until the dubstep hits), and the chorus of “America” (appropriate since this concert took place on July 4).

Part of the enjoyment stemmed from the technical and dramatic side of the performance. While the graphical detail in the introduction was already formidable, the background special effects and IA’s choreography impressed the hell out of me. So when IA materialized in a ray of light, adorned by angelic wings, to perform “Inner Arts”, I found her dance moves to be decent, but nothing to write home about. Rather, it was the flurry of feathers that orbited around IA and responded to her actions that really caught my attention. In terms of special effect visualizations, the most dazzling set took place during her rendition of “We Gotta Run”, where we were treated to a seemingly chaotic display of symbols that still meshed with the song nicely. That level of integration was absolutely superb and my eyes drank up every bit of it.

The choreography was equally mesmerizing. Throughout the concert, I found myself entranced when she twirled around, her skirt and hair behaving as you might expect from a moving person. But the thing that struck me most was IA’s stage presence. It’s easy to think that stage presence is an innate quality forged from charisma; something you’re born with rather that something you can craft and mold. Yet here we are, facing a holographic projection that was programmed and choreographed so well that it was capable of commanding one’s absolute attention through its (her?) movements. Although the performance included 2 human dancers, none of them were able to distract me from watching IA dance and twirl. It probably helped having just one performer to focus upon because dealing with just IA made it a lot easier to connect with her character and allow us to take in IA’s full personality.

Unlike Mikunopolis 4 years ago, IA’s concert brought none of the confusion or the befuddlement. Perhaps we’ve turned a corner, both in the technology and the music and because of that, IA’s concert yielded an amazing experience. The attachment to the IA character was so great that when she bid the audience goodbye, there was a moment in which I felt wistful, where I hoped that I’d be able to watch her perform live again.

Setlist:
1: Inner Arts
2: Circuit Disco
3: We Gotta Run
4: See The Lights
5: Shooting Star
6: Children Record
7: Outer Science
8: America
9: Otsukimi Recital

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Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

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