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Since VOCALOID™ was first released, there have been some controversial issues that have sprung up in regards to it. While VOCALOID™ is not without criticism, these issues have become subject to much attention or outcry. The issues discussed on this page are particularly upsetting for VOCALOID fans at times as they are often used to question the validity of VOCALOIDs or the software itself.
Validity of workEdit
The VOCALOID software is regarded as a virtual instrument in Japan, while overseas (outside of Japan and its neighboring Asian countries) VOCALOIDs are sold as virtual singers. This small difference in classification can be a controversial issue in the VOCALOID fandom; for example, it brings about the question as to whether Miku can be called a "singer" when she is just a synthesized vocal or an "instrument".
This, in part, has led some music fans to ask if music utilizing VOCALOID is real music when the vocals are not real and if the software is on par with real singers. The VOCALOID2 software was often commented to be far from perfect and was noted to be far from being a top rate singer due to its limitations. At times media will often also fail to report VOCALOID correctly, leading a general confusion as to what VOCALOID is. Some reports label it as a "game" based on Project Diva, others a "band" based on the concerts, and some mistake the PVs for part of an anime. Furthermore, because of Miku's fame there is also a tendency for some reports to presume all VOCALOIDs sing in a similar tone or pitch of voice to Miku. This renders all VOCALOIDs judged based solely on one vocal, causing further confusion.
During his tweets, GazettE's Aoi questioned if VOCALOID and such virtual singers should be compared on the same level when producers and bands such as his own exist. Criticizing the VOCALOID songs and questioning if they were even real music led to fan outburst.
Generally, VOCALOID producers regard their work as "real". Many famous song writers have gone onto other works beyond VOCALOID.
VOCALOID and politicsEdit
Miku was also the subject of one of the most controversial uses of the legal agreements of any VOCALOID producing studio from the Democratic Party of Japan, whose running candidate, Kenzo Fujisue, attempted to secure the use of Miku's image in the Japanese House of Councillors election of July 11, 2010. The hope was that the party could use her image to appeal to younger voters. Although Crypton Future Media rejected the party's use of her image or name for political purposes, Fujisue released the song "We Are the One" using her voice on YouTube, by simply replacing her image with the party's character in the music video.
Another political issue that has haunted VOCALOID is racism. Generally this comes mostly from the Japanese VOCALOID fandom, although it is not absent from the overseas fandom. Some producers like SolPie and VOCALOIDs like SeeU have failed to completely establish themselves because they were Chinese or Korean, as when they uploaded their work onto Niconico they were met with hate or flame. Some producers have managed to tolerate it, but others have been put off venturing into Japanese websites for it and instead use other websites like YouTube or CreCrew.
The racial intolerance issue has also been extended to VOCALOIDs. While SeeU is largely popular in the Western fandom, she received a negative reception from Japanese fans. Her voicebank has had little use in Japan, despite Yamaha's advertisements and the inclusion of a Japanese voicebank.
Legality of Producer worksEdit
Plagiarism and other forms of copyright infringement have caused both drama and serious consequences for those involved. Plagiarism and copyright infringement often overlap each other; it is only partially innocent when it affects the individuals who are unaware of what they or anyone else has done. Some specific cases of plagiarism or direct copyright violation, however, have become particularly famous.
Examples of direct violation of this level issue are the numerous Lady Gaga covers that use as background music her song "Bad Romance". This is one of the most common occurrences of this level of act, and even when granted that the uploader acknowledges the owner, some labels such as Sony Entertainment have been known to defend their property and pull the video. Karen-T, Crypton Future Media's own label, tends to only pull PVs and videos that have been re-uploaded from their original source.
Usually, when fans commit acts such as the usage of illegal VOCALOIDs, other VOCALOID fans may drop the license holder an alert of what videos the user has uploaded. The result may be that the entire uploaders account ends up being removed or closed. Cover songs, therefore, are dangerous grounds that easily violate copyright without care, and even experienced users, such as Giuseppe, have been a target for such acts. However, not all copyright claims have proven to be genuine with some false claims made every so often. For example, SEGA has been known to claim copyright on certain songs such as "World is Mine" even though their copyright of the song is only via the Project Diva games. This does not mean that the uploader was not in the clear, as Japanese producers rarely give permission for their works to be re-submitted outside of their own account and the vast majority find it upsetting.
Some YouTube reprinters also claim their re-submission, usually done without permission, help promote the VOCALOID artists despite upsetting them in the process. Regardless of circumstances, the main issue has always been a result of the fact that VOCALOID itself is a commercial product and open for anyone to use as they please and despite there being licensing agreements in place there is little studios can do to prevent this from occurring.
Yunomi-P was subjected to hate after being forced to admit plagiarism when VOCALOID fans began to notice works by the artist were often from other sources. The stress and drama surrounding the event caused the artist to retire from VOCALOID illustrations. Songs where Yunomi had done the illustrations were targeted by trolls and anti-Yunomi messages. Karen-T also was forced to remove some songs from their listings such as Magnet while the issue was resolved. In January 2011, Japanese boyband KAT-TUN were forced to admit plagiarism against their song "Never×Over~「-」Is Your Part~", after the producer of the song admitted it was influenced by the VOCALOID song "Dye" produced by AVTechNO, after fans expressed their outrage over the similarities of the two songs. AVTechNO went down on record as stating that the band was not at fault and it was the producer of the song who committed the plagiarism.
Often, the drama is uncalled for and unnecessary. Yunomi's plagiarism, for example, was not a direct violation of copyright material as the images were used mostly as source material or were already from stock images, the use of which is common in the art world already. KAT-TUN's indirect violation resulted in both the songs "Dye" and "Never×Over~「-」Is Your Part~" receiving a particularly large amount of attention, with "Dye" itself receiving a previously unseen amount of views on Nico Nico Douga and Youtube.
The song known to VOCALOIDs fans as "Secret" is an example.Originally it was stolen from the account of Ryuuuu by aRth (who stole many other songs from Ryuuuu and other Producers). However, aRth's act of stealing the song results in Ryuuuu's otherwise previously unknown song receiving much fame and attention on a song that otherwise may not have had the attention it had.
Pirated versions/illegal modificationsEdit
- Main article: POCALOID
One of the most common concerns for any software is pirated versions. It has been proven over the course of time that there is little that can be done to prevent software from being cracked by software crackers and the ensuing impact on legitimate copies of the software.
The main concerns about illegal software versions are normally as followed:
- Harm to user computers: Torrents can at times contain Trojans and viral software inflections. When a user downloads pirated versions of software from sources other than the legitimate source, they do not know what they are downloading and if it is safe.
- Scams: There are cases where voicebanks sold over the internet are advertised as legitimate, but when later inspected, are actually cracked copies.
- Lack of technical support: There is no technical support offered for illegal versions of software such as Vocaloid.
- Legality: The act of software downloading is considered an act of stealing; therefore, people can be held accountable for their actions. As such, illegal versions of VOCALOID™ do not comply with the end user agreements of VOCALOID™.
- Publishing: Work published that utilizes illegal versions of software can lead to shame within the music industry and destroy producer reputation. In the case of the Japanese, shunning is a common reaction; however, this doesn't always work.
- Support for further development: It is only financially feasible to update software if it sells. Piracy can at times take away potential sales from the software.
- Capabilities: Sometimes the capabilities of pirated versions are different from those of legitimate versions of the software. Sometimes they contain unsupported functions, altered interfaces or "bug fixes" that can interfere with software updates or functionality. One of the most common function removals of illegal VOCALOID is the security measures put in place within the software.
- Software conflict: Lastly, illegal versions of a software are known to at times cause conflict with legal versions of the software.
These concerns aside, there is often little overall difference between the illegal versions of software and legal versions. However, due to the moral implications behind support of illegal Vocaloid, it is often shunned within the Vocaloid fandom. The illegal version of Vocaloid has also been known to have been sold as its legal counterpart, so buyers of Vocaloid need to check their software sources when purchasing Vocaloid to ensure they are purchasing from a legal vendor.
The studios are concerned about illegal software because of the loss of potential customers; there will always be users who are unwilling to ever purchase the software as long as illegal "free" versions exists. The impact of the loss of sales can potentially hurt Vocaloid development; the sales expectancy for vocal synthesizers is often as low as 1,000 units. If the software fails to sell, then there is less of a chance that the studio or company behind the software will produce more. For some studios this is an important issue, as the financial support they give to producing software is based on the success of previous releases, and less sales result in less money for the next vocal.
The use of illegal and legal versions often is determined by cultural trends, with some cultures being more likely to download pirated versions than others.
Within the Vocaloid fandom, there is support for alternative software such as UTAU as a legitimate method for producing works, rather than use of illegal VOCALOID™ software.
During the development of Ruby, Syo spoke out about his payment and involvement of her production. He noted he had worked on Ruby for 17 months mostly alone, taking 10 hours out of his school time a week and was only offered 1/4 of the minimum wage amount, plus a bonus if she sold well. He noted the fact that others will steal his work bummed him out.
Cross-synthesis ("XSY") was first introduced for this engine, but was limited to a set few VOCALOID packages. XSY between two VOCALOIDs or two languages were not programmed into the feature's capabilities.
The software can be, however, modified to allow XSY to occur between any VOCALOID of any language, creating a "Frankenstein-esque" vocal with a mixture of both voicebanks' traits. The resulting vocal can often sound very different in comparison to the products used to make it, making it difficult to tell which two were used.
While a number of fans do not see XSY modding as harmful, several VOCALOIDs do not share the same licensing as each other. An example of two VOCALOIDs with different licenses are Hatsune Miku and IA. As a result, problems are caused when a producer publishes their work, as any work produced using modded XSY will not comply with the End User Agreement license of VOCALOID.
The issue with XSY modding is often overlooked and producers have been known to publish works using modded XSY on sites such as YouTube or Nico Nico Video. Not all producers see it as destructive, compared to issues related to general pirating, because XSY modding does not affect the sales of VOCALOIDs.
Most of the faults with XSY modding are caused by the mathematical equations used to render the results. When two voicebanks not designed to be used together for XSY are used, the softwares calculations cannot handle them so well. These are due to the technical differences between the vocals, such as extra phonetic data, differences in phoneme usages and set up. Whereas in the case of vocals set up to compliment and work well together (Example being Megpoid V4 Native and NativeFat) the results are higher in quality. This is also why in the modified version of XSY vocals such as V3 Megpoid and Megpoid V4 are not set up to XSY with each other. No matter what, the results of mixing the V3 and V4 versions is impossible to get quality results out of due to Megpoid V4 having increased triphones amount and vocal differences.
XSY of vocals between languages (such as English x Japanese) can produce unintelligible or low quality results, as the sounds were not designed to be combined. However, it is noted that the method can produce entirely new sounds for use, for example, mixing V3 Megpoid - Native and Megpoid English can be used to make the Megpoid package recreate other languages more easily.
Due to the differences between any Vocaloid, quality is almost always lost due to this and this means the mixing of two voicebanks not intended to be used together in XSY almost never produces high enough quality results to warrant the modifying of the vocal. As confirmed, mixing two vocals can at times produce a result that is the equivalent of an entirely new voicebank and the greater the differences between the voicebanks the more different the result is than vocals set up to be used with it. Effectively the potential tones the User has access to is double by just mixing two vocals, producing two possible variations in addition to the original two voices. The main attraction to XSY modding therefore falls upon the results that XSY itself offers, making a few voices produce many results.
Regardless of the advances that XSY modding can offer, producers should be aware that works published using the altered software violates the End User Agreement.
As with any part of Vocaloid, job plug-in support gave way to unsupported plug-ins being made. For example, one of the more common plug-ins are language conversion based and many perform basic executions like transforming English phonetics to Japanese and vice versa, a practice that already occurs within the Vocaloid fanbase without such plug-ins. Many of these Job plug-ins are harmless and often are just made to make life easier for users by speeding up the process. Though in the case of phonetic conversions even with supported plug-ins such as Maika's Spanish to English plug-in are not perfect and can even be bested by vocals of that language.
As with any unsupported adaptions of Vocaloid or its functions, users should be aware of devious practices such as hidden Trojan files within the download, though this does not mean all are designed with malicious intent.
Another form of illegal VOCALOID usage is the act of creating an entire new voicebank from existing ones or claiming to create a new product without creating a licensing agreement with Yamaha in the process. This latter issue is much rarer than illegal downloads as it requires the re-recording of entire vocal banks. To date this has yet to be a serious problem. All groups or parties claiming to have done so have proven to be hoaxes, either created using UTAU or XSY modding.
Vocaloids are created using a developers construction Kit or "Dev Kit". It was confirmed without the access code, the Dev Kit can only pack/unpack the script - a full working Vocaloid voicebank is not possible.
Controversy has been caused by users breaking the Vocaloid licence agreement. As explained by the End-User license agreement, a User is responsible for their own actions, and any misconduct will fall solely upon the actions of the user. For example, despite the existence of pirated versions, it is the user who chooses whether to buy legal Vocaloid, download illegal Vocaloid or not get a Vocaloid at all. If the user allows another to use their software or hardware for any of these acts, the user risks being held responsible, as they allowed permission of their sources to be used in the first place. One of the most notorious cases of user misconduct in the overseas fandom came from a producer known as "Planty-P".
Planty-P was an infamous producer who had a questionable reputation among overseas Vocaloid fans, owed to past controversies. The most serious of this, had been releasing the details of how to get hold of a trial version of Anon & kanon, despite the package not being released yet nor the trial having been declared free for distribution by the developers. Despite his reputation, he wanted to aid promotion of several projects within the overseas community and had a small following of fans as a result. This allowed him to gain a position of respect and trust despite the more questionable actions he had been known for.
The controversy which caused him to leave the community was "Stella". Stella was announced as an upcoming private Japanese Vocaloid being produced by the team PL Tech, for the charity "Americans for the Arts Foundation". It was stated that Stella was private because the expenses needed to release her as a commercial Vocaloid were too great. She had three 'voicebanks' listed: "core", "sun" and "moon".
Over time suspicion grew that Stella might be a fake; a turning point in public view occurring when a discrepancy was spotted in one of her demos, revealing the videos to be doctored. On 19th of Jan 2015, Planty finally confessed that Stella was a fake, leading to large amounts of vitriol within the community. Within hours of the confession it was revealed Stella was created using questionable methods.
Three elements made Stella controversial:
- Parties involved; The scale of trust involved between the project and its members. Three others were involved with PL Tech, who all stated they were in the dark regarding Stella's origins. These members worked on Stella on the basis of trust and friendship with Planty, causing large emotional fallout among the group when the illegitimacy of the project was revealed. The fact that he used the name of a well known charity to promote her development was considered a direct attempt to mislead individuals, as well as the forged emails provided to 'prove' her legitimacy. At the time Planty was also involved with the promotion of an UTAU known as "Jewel", a tribute to Ring Suzune, which also became caught up in the controversies. The sudden news of what happened with Stella led the team behind Jewel to overhaul large parts of their project to distance themselves from Planty, including renaming the character.
- Intentions of Stella; Stella was made by XSY modding. Consequently, any work that had been produced using her was illegal. Planty's aim to sell albums containing Stella's "voice" for charity would have been a breach of the licence agreement, regardless of transparency. The monetisation added to the seriousness of the situation, and Planty's charitable intentions were bought into question.
- Stella's "development"; Though two of the vocals were revealed eventually to be XSY, the third he stated was made using a Vocaloid Dev kit. He declared that he acquired them from a group called "VIBE" and Bplats, Inc., as he had additionally claimed to have aided in the development of the XSY function. VIBE was forced to speak out, stating that Planty's connection to them was fabricated. The team expressed frustration at Planty's statements, and worried that his lie may have put their own project in jeopardy. They confirmed they had not passed over a Dev Kit to him and the 3rd vocal was yet another XSY modded voice result.
Also, investigations by fans during and before the event revealed he hung around illegal vocaloid release sites, so it was presumed his Vocaloid were not necessarily all legal, if any at all. In addition, due to comments made at the time by himself on the Vocaloid wikia, his copy of Rana was also suspected of being illegal. This makes the situation even further problematic as published work did not naturally comply with the End-User agreement. Even if XSY modding was allowed, he would have not been in a position to be legally sell the albums regardless unless all copies of his vocals were legal versions. With doubt of their authenticity, his finical gain from possibly non-legal copies of software would have been dubious as well.
Some of his practices were known before the event, but were not really brought up until after and had no connection with the events at the time. The events brought scrutiny upon his actions, as a result, every action he had ever been known to have made was reveal and exposed. Even though Planty's actions did not lead to criminal charges against him by any legal authority, the subsequent reaction from the Vocaloid community made it impossible for him to continue under the name "Planty-P". Planty is not a isolated case, though it highlights the potential and consequences of fraudulent practices within the fanbase.
It is also important to note that his confession, Planty mentioned he was aware that he was breaching the licence agreement and was aware of the immoral nature of his actions.
Other cases have existed in other areas of the fandom besides Planty. For example, a number of producers in the Japanese fandom have been driven out of the Japanese community due to the large bulk of trolls and harassment that followed the unveiling of their practices, as well as forced removal of work(s). The issue went to the point it was impossible for them to return even under a different name, if discovered and have even ended careers of illustrators and musicians.
Singing vocal clonesEdit
One of the earliest concepts behind VOCALOID™ was to produce a vocal so near-perfect that there would be no need for the original vocalist. Alternatively, there is the temptation to publish a song while crediting the provider, rather than the Vocaloid, as the singer.
According to Crypton, because professional female singers refused to provide voice samples, in fear that the software might create their singing voice's clones, Crypton changed their focus from imitating certain singers to creating character vocals. This change of focus led to sampling the vocals of voice actors and the Japanese voice acting agency Arts Vision supporting the development.
Similar concerns have been expressed within the other studios creating VOCALOIDs, with Zero-G refusing to release the names of their providers. Miriam Stockley - who provided the voice for Miriam - remains the only known Zero-G voice provider who receives acknowledgement on the VOCALOID product page.
For more, see this page on Wikia Answers.
The agreements of the VOCALOID™ license prohibit users from producing works which are considered degrading, are aimed at undermining individuals, or are controversial, but this does not stop users from doing these things.
The result is that some songs, such as "Wash My Blood", become subject to outcry for their lyrics or subject matter. In the aforementioned song, Luka is often perceived as a nun who broke her vows and had sex, then aborted her unborn child. For some cultures, this is simply unacceptable behaviour, making the song controversial if this is taken as the interpretation.
The concern of the misuse of vocals in this way was raised by Miriam Stockley in regards to her Vocaloid Miriam and its release, noting that there was little that could be done once a vocal is in the hands of producers.
Voice recording competitions were held to find and select voice providers for certain VOCALOIDs such as Aoki Lapis and Merli. Each competition has its own set of rules and voice providers were either picked by the companies or the fans.
In July 2014, a voice provider competition was held for Chinese VOCALOIDs Yuezheng Ling and Zhanyin Lorra. The first round of the competition was for Ling and required a speech and a singing file to be sent in by email to Shanghai HENIAN which would later be uploaded to Ling's official Weibo account. Fans were able to vote on their preferred voices here.
In August, the six finalists for Ling and additional four contestants for Lorra were revealed. From then on, fans were to vote on the contestant based on the sound of her voice to suit the VOCALOIDs. In September, three finalists were revealed for each VOCALOID and they were recorded as sample voicebanks to demonstrate how they sounded in the VOCALOID3 engine. These samples were uploaded onto Ling and Lorra's official website and allowed fans to vote on the voicebank they preferred based on the short Molihua clips. However, due to the samples being labelled with the name of the voice provider, this caused a large number of unfair votes. Some of the voice providers were already well known and popular within the Chinese fandom which lead fans to automatically vote for them due to their popularity status. Even more, certain fans used multiple IP addresses and notified other people to vote for their choice, many of which complied.
At first, Shanghai HENIAN caught this behavior and reverted the votes down to even and fair numbers, but the fans continued to "spam vote". After the first try, Shanghai HENIAN made no additional attempts to fix the issue. Not only had the company noticed this problem, the "winning" contestants also caught the situation and asked that fans should vote solely on how the competitors sounded and not by their fanbase. However, this request was ignored.
Toward the last week, the top two contestants for Lorra, Gui Xian Ren and Xiao Lian Sha, had evened out, with Xiao Lian Sha pulling ahead. On the final day of the competition, Gui Xian Ren received a high amount of spam votes and won. For Ling, QI Inory had over 100,000 votes at the last week, with the other two having much less. On the final day, Yu Wu Yue Shan gained over 100,000 votes as well and temporarily pulled ahead, but lost when QI Inory gained another 100,000 votes and became the winner for Ling's contest.
Lucía and LUANEdit
Lucía and LUAN were a pair of Spanish VOCALOIDs unveiled, produced, and programmed by the known VOCALOID artist Giuseppe. Giuseppe was previously involved in the development of several VOCALOIDs from different companies.
Lucía was first introduced in March 2016 as a potential upcoming Spanish female vocalist with two concept designs by Riisago and AkiGlancy (aka. EmpathP). However, Giuseppe could not release her commercially due to the lack of support from other VOCALOID companies and his inability to pay for the VOCALOID license.
When her demos were showcased, they received criticism. Most of the comments from Spanish speakers noted that the voice of Lucía was too similar to the VOCALOID3 Clara, particularly in her lower notes which lead to several complaints about the lack of diversity in Spanish voicebanks. Other comments claimed that she was too "flat-toned" and that the voice was "quite generic". However, the most notable criticism was about her thick European Spanish accent. When Bruno, Clara, and MAIKA debuted, the Latin American VOCALOID fandom brought discussions about the strong accent these libraries had and asked for VOCALOIDs with a more Standard Spanish accent. Lucía was also a heavy Castillian accented vocal, resulting in a general sense of discomfort expressed by both users and fans.
Giuseppe unveiled a new male Spanish VOCALOID named LUAN in July 2016 through a demo of his beta voicebank online. The voicebank was intended to have a soft, mellow singing style and a particular, androgynous sound to increase his versatility. However, the demo instantly drew a large amount of criticism. This was predominantly due to the sound quality: the particular timbre that was compared to Clara's voice again. More tension was caused when the voice provider was confirmed (via leaks) to be Akuo, a VOCALOID user with a divisive reputation within the Spanish fandom. In consequence, comparisons with Lucía were made and some users felt the pair were worse than Clara, Bruno and MAIKA, being too robotic and/or produced to a mediocre standard.
Much of the criticism towards LUAN was not well received by Giuseppe and he lashed out against Spanish fans, insulting their taste and credibility. Though Giuseppe had a history of negative opinions regarding the community (leading to a questionable reputation amongst some fans), this was the first time he had directly insulted VOCALOID users. These comments were later deleted, along with LUAN's demo and all related social media accounts. Giuseppe revealed he would not be releasing the vocals and had withdrawn from VOCALOID as a whole, resulting in the closure of all related social media accounts under his name.
Some producers treat VOCALOIDs like they are dolls, and believe that they can make a VOCALOID do anything they want.
As noted by Crypton Future Media in regards to their Project If..., releases presented as young children risk becoming subject to pedophilic sexual portrayals. In particular, AH Software's first three VOCALOIDs and their VOICEROID products caught attention and were accused of being aimed at the lolicon fandom.
The elements in Hatsune Miku's design were commonplace in the early days of VOCALOID and owe their birth to the numerous derivatives of Hatsune Miku and other Crypton Future Media VOCALOIDs; however, it was not found to be associated with VOCALOID prior to Miku's release. The overall layout of Hatsune Miku's boxart has been largely referenced within the Japanese culture and is often easily noticed. KEI himself has been fully aware of Miku's fame to the point that he has parodied his own artwork of Miku from time to time.
The design influence of Hatsune Miku led to other cultural sources referencing the design. One example is Kasane Teto, an UTAU, being one of the most easily acknowledgable example of this. Her success to pass as a Vocaloid during an April Fools' joke was partly owed to how similar in design she appeared to existing Crypton Future Media Vocaloids, though that was not the sole factor in this. Furthermore, mascots of other music related software and hardware have been created based on the popularity of Miku's own design, such as FL Chan who owes her character creation to Hatsune Miku's popularity.
Her design also influenced other Vocaloids. For example, cyber-style clothes, as seen on the Crypton Future Media VOCALOIDs, were implemented onto Gackpo's design in accordance with their belief that this was a popular element of the current VOCALOID design. Macne Nana was created as a "sound princess" for the Mac computer; her working name was actually "Macne Miku" and she took influence from Miku herself.
Despite its influence on popular culture, by 2010, Miku's mascot was the source of some controversial opinions within the fandom, causing incidences of possible influence to be met with dispute and at times negativity.
In 2012, a Chinese virtual singer concert hit a particular point by Miku fans for a "Miku-esque" appearance of the main singer Dong Fang Zhi Zi. The conclusion was made that she was an attempt to 'cash in' on Miku's popularity by borrowing elements from her design and using the same virtual diva concept. This caused a negative reaction from Miku fans, and videos of the singer received several thousand "dislikes". This proved that singers who are similar to the point where fans believe they are 'ripping off' Miku are met with controversial outcry. However, designs are not restricted to post-Miku designs, but other pre-Miku designs on occasion are brought up.
However, this is not always a common reaction as many companies use "Formulas" within their products, these are based on the popularity of certain trends from popular culture. "Formulas for success" are found in books, movies, games and television already and are also often applied to something to allow the developers time to focus on other aspects of the end product without having to worry about the consequences of experimenting with unknown or complex elements.
As VOCALOID becomes increasingly more popular, more VOCALOIDs are made, and therefore finding new and unique designs becomes more difficult for studios. Therefore, the creation of VOCALOIDs whose designs resemble other VOCALOIDs may occur more often. Some cite CUL and Big Al as such an example.
In May 2015, Stardust's unveiling lead to concern over her similarities to Hatsune Miku. This lead to her clothing being redesigned. Her signature hairstyle, the quad-pigtails, was kept but worn in a different way.
Despite the fact that artwork, also, has no effect on VOCALOID vocal performance, there are many who judge a VOCALOID upon their initial release getting excited or not based purely on design. Therefore, there is also a risk of a VOCALOID being judged by vocal performance based on the design, with fans downgrading VOCALOID vocals they like because they dislike the design. VOCALOIDs who have been effected by this include (but not restricted to) Sweet Ann, Megpoid/GUMI and Bruno.
Most VOCALOIDs had pale skin pigmentation during both the VOCALOID and VOCALOID2 era of voicebanks. The lack of multiracial representation within English VOCALOID mirrored issues throughout the creative industry, and Western music's treatment of non-white artists as a whole.
For Japanese VOCALOIDs, the lack of representation is partially due to the lower level racial diversity within the country, with 98.5% of the population being Japanese. This results in a lower demand for racial diversity within Japanese media.
The skin colour of a Vocaloid has influenced fan's reception. Some fans responded positively to VOCALOID Merli upon her design unveiling because she was "the first VOCALOID with dark skin". Clara and Bruno were originally going to be released with darker toned skin, however after a competition to pick new designs, Bruno and Clara are now depicted with paler complexions; despite there being a variety of choices put forward. The result was based on a majority vote.
Another concern falls onto avatarless Vocaloids, where the potential for racial diversity is often unused. In the case of Leon and Lola, despite being confirmed in 2009 that their vocals were both provided by black vocalists, they are still commonly depicted as white. Their most popular designs before the reveal were both white, falling into the stereotypically blonde-haired, blue-eyed archetypal Westerner seen in Japanese media. This in spite of Leon and Lola being marketed as soul singers, a genre featuring predominantly black artists.
When RUBY's character design was revealed on July 4, 2015 at Anime Expo, Syo stated that PowerFX had gone against his wishes. He and Natasha Allegri worked on a final design for nearly a year, however, Anders relayed to them that PowerFX wanted a new illustration to appeal to their EDM audience. Syo stated he had been promised control over the design and was shocked to see a new illustration premiered at Anime Expo. The image was concealed from the developers until launch.
Anders, who acted as a relay between PowerFX and Syo, countered this, saying that he had not promised Syo complete control over the design. When Syo asked if his friend would be allowed creative input, Anders said: "I can't say that she will have the final say, but she can certainly come up with ideas for the design and if they're good we'll use them." This conversation occurred during December 2013, when Anders was communicating with Crypton about RUBY. After it became apparent Crypton would want more control over the design than they were comfortable with, Anders suggested moving to Zero-G or PowerFX because he believed they would offer them more freedom. Anders asserted that no promises were made and no contracts signed beyond NDAs.
PowerFX revealed they never received Misha's design or knew it existed. An email sent by Bil Bryant indicated that he had not seen Syo and Misha's concept until after Anime Expo. On July 7, Bryant stated that he had not been aware that Misha was Latina and wanted to be portrayed as such, nor that Syo had been promised input on the design.
The art that appeared was commissioned 6 months before its unveiling. PowerFX officially stated that only one artist was requested and paid to do artwork. The aim was to appeal to digital music makers and EDM producers while not totally alienating the existing user base.
After negotiations, the miscommunication between PowerFX and the developers was resolved. Misha's design would appear on RUBY's software installer and boxart. Misha stated that they believed that Anders had not intentionally misled any of the parties. She revealed that early whitewashing accusations were due to miscommunication, as they had never clarified that RUBY was supposed to represent her ethnicity.
A similar miscommunication occurred when RUBY's boxart was revealed. Once again, RUBY's team stated that the boxart PowerFX used was not the design they had created or intended. It was discovered that PowerFX had never received the boxart that the team designed due to the team members' miscommunication, each believing the other had already sent it to PowerFX. When PowerFX did not receive the boxart they had agreed to, they created their own. This contained factual errors and poor design, leading to fan outcry.
VOCALOID CHINA cast controversyEdit
During VOCALOID3's early days, a contest was launched to determine the design of the first Mandarin-Chinese capable VOCALOID. Five characters (Yayin Gongyu, Ling Caiyin, Yayin, Chou, and MOKO) were chosen, redesigned, and repurposed as VOCALOID characters and supporting members. In 2017, Aya, the original designer of Yayin (now Yuezheng Longya), posted her experience with the contest. She mentioned that when Shanghai HENIAN announced the VOCALOID CHINA characters, she was unaware of the new biographies. While there was an email, there was no contract and she never heard what happened to her entry until SHN made the designs public. There were no discussions about adding new backgrounds nor about having Yayin and Ling Caiyin (now Yuezheng Ling) become siblings. It is unknown if the other winning participants had similar experiences.
YANHE and Zhiyu MokeEdit
YANHE's voice was recorded prior to the choosing of an avatar and was intended to be the voicebank for VOCALOID CHINA PROJECT's runner up, Zhiyu Moke. YAMAHA became suspicious when money lent for the project disappeared and it was found that the president of Shanghai HENIAN Information Technology Co. Ltd. (SHN), Ren Li, had spent the funds at a brothel. YAMAHA removed the rights to all of the VOCALOID CHINA cast members and SHN was left with no other choice but to host a second design contest to find a new character for their completed voicebank. This caused an outrage from Chinese fans as they assumed the original cast members were to become VOCALOIDs after Luo Tianyi in addition to a lack of a proper explanation for the second contest. As a result, the fans shunned YANHE as they believed that she was replacing the original VOCALOID CHINA cast, which hurt her initial sales and reputation. The VOCALOID CHINA PROJECT cast members were unable to become VOCALOIDs until early 2014 when SHN repurchased the character rights from YAMAHA and ended collaborations with Bplats, Inc. to develop Chinese VOCALOIDs on their own.
Later in 2014, Flexin, a Chinese MMD user, tried to alert the rest of the Chinese fans about what happened behind the scenes. At Ren Li's request, SHN responded to Flexin with a lawsuit and claimed he was spreading false rumors. In the end, Flexin withdrew his statements and kept silent about the controversy. Other fans who discovered the controversial secrets avoided speaking about it due to SHN's reaction to Flexin.
When Ren Li "resigned" as president (in truth, he was fired for his actions), news of what had happened was able to be spoken and it was revealed by G.K., a former worker for SHN and member of Vanguard Sound.
Zhang Chuchu marketing controversyEdit
On May 13, 2017, Shanghai Wangcheng hosted a panel to introduce their newest VOCALOIDs Zhang Chuchu and Yuecheng. During the panel, several models and performers were wearing lolita-styled outfits that "Chuchu designed for Xin Hua" and were produced by Neverland. Neverland was informed by Shanghai Wangcheng that Chuchu would be described as a Neverland intern designer in her manhua. Neverland was interested in this concept so they provided Shanghai Wangcheng the lolita-styled costumes for the panel only. Shanghai Wangcheng selected some of these outfits for the panel, but displayed some of the unused costumes on Weibo without Neverland's permission and without crediting them, breaching their agreement. Instead, these posts credited Chuchu for the designs. Neverland no longer has any notifications from Shanghai Wangcheng again.
Product results and expectationsEdit
A cause for controversial concern is aimed at individual vocals. Some a product of myth or bias, the Vocaloid can be misjudged by large audiences if misconception or opinion is taken too heavily as fact.
The quality of a Vocaloid is complex to determine. "Quality" within Vocaloid is affected by a number of factors.
It is important to remember that Vocaloid itself was designed to be used by professionals; as a result, even the lowest quality vocal is considered by synthesizer standards to be a HQ product. The engine itself, however, can have impact on the vocal, and not all vocalists are suitable for the engine, as Gackt was warned when he made his first recordings. In addition, compatibility with the engine version can also render a vocal able to excel in unexpected ways. Despite its lower quality, the original Kaito product was very flexible within the VOCALOID1 engine, allowing it to excel despite being lower quality than Kaito V3.
Regardless of all these factors, lack of technical "quality" does not always mean a Vocaloid is more useful or reliable than it's more technically advanced competitors.
The following are a few (but not all) examples of possible contributors to quality:
- Style: Prima was built for opera, and when used to sing in that genre will excel over a Vocaloid not built with this style in mind. This means Prima produces, for her purpose, a high quality result. Using her for Soul, would produce a much lower quality vocal as she does not have the capabilities required for that genre.
- Vocalist: Professional vocalists often produce higher quality results than voice actors (with exceptions). For example, Gackt would be able to give samples with more confidence than an amateur singer such as Haruna Ikezawa. This is due to issues such their training or experience singing, with affect their capability to match pitch, tone or sound.
- Version: The original VOCALOID engine is more limited than later versions of the software. Its vocal range capabilities were smaller and it had a larger amount of digital noise. the original Kaito vocal results of lower technical quality than the KAITO V3 package. The same is true of Megpoid and V3 Megpoid - Native, wherein the "Native" V3 update is much higher quality than the original Megpoid vocal. Updates to the engine add new functions, as well as often improving existing ones. Older vocals may not have access to them, even if they are imported into the newer engine. This is not to say that a vocal does not experience any difference once imported into a newer engine; Vocaloid2 vocals imported into Vocaloid3 displayed a large quality jump, though some experienced errors they did not possess before, such as Sonika.
- Script: Prior to VOCALOID4, problems with English vocals were reported. This is owed to the fact the standard English script produced in the pre-VOCALOID, contained errors. This was the script sold with every Vocaloid Dev Kit up until VOCALOID3, therefore every English vocal produced using this script was sold with certain errors built in. Both Ruby and Cyber Diva were created using different scripts, both intended to improve on the standard English script offered by Yamaha with the Dev Kit.
- Pitch: Pitch layering also adds to the quality of the product by giving a strong voice to build the vocal upon. The layers of pitching are divided into at least two known types: stationary and articulation. The number of pitches per vocal varies; Maika has 6 pitch layers in total, whereas other vocaloids have only 2. The way the pitches affect the performance and quality of a voicebank is related to the synthesis engine itself, and the mathematical interpolation and extrapolation processes used to reconstitute the full range of the voice. In theory, with more pitch layers, the voicebank should behave more closely to its voice provider, although doing this also increases the filesize and computational resources needed for the voicebank. Most English vocaloids pre-VOCALOID4 were confirmed to have only 2 layers of articulation, the total layers of pitching for Yohioloid was confirmed to be 3.5. In addition to the number of layers, it is important to note that a Vocaloid will end up sounding off pitch if just 1 of these layers is incorrect, in the same way an incorrect data input of just 1 variable can deviante the whole result of a regression model. A known example is Lily's VOCALOID2 vocal, which had one of her pitch layers too high. As a result, Lily's VOCALOID2 voice was entirely off pitch. This was later corrected with V3 Lily.
- Phonetic data: In addition to what sounds are recorded via the script, which phonetics are constructed for the voicebank are also a factor. Phonetic data is recorded when the vocalist reads their respective language's script, but some advanced samples may have to be constructed by merging two or more samples together. Compared to pitch, these do not have an impact on the entirety of the voice, but do have an impact on constructed words. The construct samples are normally the "diaphonetic" and "triphonetic" samples. Prior to Vocaloid3, only diaphonetic data was included in vocals and the engine did not factor in triphonetic sounds. These were introduced in Vocaloid3 and resulted in a higher quality voicebank, because they smoothed out the vocal results. This became a major factor in why there was a quality leap in Vocaloid 3 vocals over Vocaloid 2 ones. As noted by Internet co., Ltd, however, an increased amount of them does not necessarily result in a higher quality vocal. Triphonetic data does not always require new recordings and it is possible to construct them with previous recordings.
It is important to note that certain aspects are not a result of the vocaloid's quality. Unfortunately, quality myths among the fans or users and have been known to cost a vocaloid sales. These include:
- No matter how good the Vocaloid is, if the user cannot use the vocal well, the results will be low quality. Likewise, an extremely skilled user can make a vocaloid sound higher quality than it is.
- If the user tries to make the vocaloid do something it wasn't built for, this reduces the quality of the vocal track. This is mentioned in Style, but also applies to things that are outside Vocaloid's domain, such as basic speech or forcing a Vocaloid to sing in a language it wasn't built for (particularly if there is a large phonetic difference between the two).
- In addition, even though the user may enjoy the way a vocaloid sounds, this does not always mean the vocaloid is high in quality. Appeal falls purely down to a individual's opinion/taste, and many enjoy the robotic sound of low technical quality. The Kagamine Vocaloids are a notable example VOCALOID2 vocals with quality issues. These vary between the poor "Act1" package to the high quality "Append". Despite these problems, they remain very popular, with many fans that enjoy their quirks.
- See also "Languages".
One of the oldest controversies in vocaloid stems from the language the vocaloid sings. Some fans report adoring or disliking vocaloids based on how this fact alone. This can be because they feel certain languages have more appeal, or because they are native speakers. The result is that entire sections of the Vocaloid library of voicebanks have been ignored due to their language.
As mentioned previously in "Quality", this has spawned many myths. The story of why these myths exist is not short.
The issue with languages began in VOCALOID2. During the VOCALOID2 era, the franchise became popular due to Hatsune Miku's fame. Vocaloid became associated with Japanese culture, and due to the overwhelming popularity of Miku, the focus shifted away from the previously dominant English vocaloids. Despite having more vocals released for the English version at the time of her release, and having done well for themselves, Miku was a record breaking vocal selling an unprecedented amount of units. This was never beaten by future Vocaloids from Japan, but the next few releases benefited from her popularity. Her success also resulted in the VOCALOID vocals Meiko and Kaito being "forgotten".
By the time fans became aware of there being other vocaloids beside Miku, Rin and Len, their popularity already dominated the community. Though Meiko and Kaito were able to find their place with the growing Japanese fanbase, there was only a few able to use the English vocals. Even in the West, most English speaking fans were not aware that English speaking Vocaloids existed, due to Miku's overwhelming presence.
When finally the English vocals began to receive interest again, there was a mixed reaction. Since Western fans had never been able to "hear" what Vocaloid's pronunciation sounded like due to the language barrier, their was some shock at English Vocaloid's unnatural nuances. Often they were branded as "Low quality" when compared to the Japanese vocaloids, despite most fans not being bilingual or able to compare. However, most Engloids were of a good technical standard. For example, Sweet Ann and Prima produced high quality singing results, and were voiced by professionals. However, English Vocaloids did contain errors that Japanese Vocaloids did not. They were developed with an incorrect script sold by Yamaha with the English language Dev Kit. English is also a far more complex language to synthesise, making it much more difficult for programmers to produce natural sounding results.
Japanese fans of English vocaloids expressed different opinions. For example, Tonio was praised for having a "beautiful" voice by Japanese speaking fans, whereas some Westerners felt his voice was "ugly" due to its deepness. Japanese producers did not hear the same clarity issues with voices such as Big Al or Sweet Ann and felt both were fairly clear. At the same time, some Western fans felt that all English Vocaloids were unclear. Equally, the prevalence of subtitles in Japanese Vocaloid songs was a result of Japanese speakers having trouble understanding the Vocaloids in their native language.
In the case of Megurine Luka's VOCALOID2 voice, some users felt her Japanese voice produced better singing results than her English voice. This was partly owed to Luka going on sale with sounds missing, resulting in the English voice being low quality even compared to some other English vocals. Some fans felt that the Japanese Luka vocal was better at producing English results than Luka English, although this was phonetically untrue.
This is not isolated to just English Vocaloids. However, the English version was most criticized amongst English fans. The English language itself also has a reputation for being one of the most difficult to recreate in synthesizers due to its lack of distinction per sound, resulting in a great deal of variation and complexity. For instance, it is possible to find a voice unintelligible for its accent alone if the listener is not used to it.
As other Vocaloid languages entered the market with VOCALOID3, users began to be able to hear some of the problems repeated in other languages that plagued Japanese and English, as simple factors such as the VOCALOID engine noise were heard across all versions. In addition Vocaloids like Oliver and Avanna gained popularity and many Japanese vocals like Gumi and Miku were given English voicebanks As a result, the overall attitude towards the English version had improved by VOCALOID4.
Bias towards languages is also brought up in regards to Spanish vocals. Since you can get a "decent" level of Spanish from Japanese vocals in contrast to making them sing English, some Spanish fans did not see the point of Spanish vocals being produced. In contrast to the structural gap between English and Japanese, using Japanese vocals for Spanish is much easier, due to similarities in basic word construction. However, using a Spanish voicebank for Spanish produces better results than using a Japanese one.
A large majority of Western fans who are interested in vocaloid are also fans of manga and anime, so the Japanese vocaloids often appeal more to them. As a result, English vocaloids are often given manga-style alternative designs by fans to make them more appealing to the general community.
Although this can affect how a vocaloid is recieved, a vocaloid is not low quality because it was released for a particular language.
There is an ongoing debate regarding the realism of Vocaloid vocals. As mentioned previously in Singing vocal clones, one of the earliest controversies associated with Vocaloid was their potential to replace voice providers. Companies such as Crypton Future Media have deliberately avoided realistic recreations of their voice providers for this reason. "Realism" has become a subject of discussion among producers and fans alike.
As mentioned in Languages, it has often been incorrectly quoted by fans that there is an "English Vocaloid engine", or a "Japanese Vocaloid engine", etc. In reality, all languages are built upon a shared engine. Deficiencies in realism are typically caused by the assets used with the engine and the resources they draw their results from, such as samples. The idea that certain languages are less realistic is quite controversial among fans, as it has been used to dismiss large areas of Vocaloid as "less realistic". The reasons behind this are highlighted in Languages.
The main points of contention with "realism" result from subjectivity. Each listener judges realism with different criteria in mind, leading to differences in opinion. The merits of voice acting versus recording the provider's natural singing is also a common subject of debate. There are already a few examples of Vocaloids that use both approaches; IA and IA ROCKS, Tone Rion V4 and Yumemi Nemu, Galaco "Red" and "blue", Fukase "Normal" and "Soft".
"Realism" shares similar problems to the term Quality, as mentioned in pitch, if a layer is off it impacts the quality and realism of the vocal. Poor quality often leads to a dip in realism. Tonio is capable of sounding distinctly like his provider, leading to a notably realistic result. For comparison, the sample package "Classic vocal", also released by Zero-G, offers a chance to hear the provider in his raw singing state. However, while the traits of the provider are clearly heard within the software, there are a large number of technical issues with the voicebank library which can degrade the quality and impact the realism of the result. This leads to Tonio being comparable to one of the most realistic or one of the least realistic VOCALOID2 vocals, depending on the example of usage.
Studios are not without fault and sometimes have made claims about their products, which often are true, are not always as good as they seem.
One VOCALOID who was a subject to controversy claims was SeeU. In the early VOCALOID3 demos, SBS Artech claimed you could use SeeU's voicebank to create English, even though it was set up for Korean and had no support for using it to make English. They even went so far as to label her a "trilingual" VOCALOID, even though with only two voicebanks she was bilingual. Upon inspection of the voicebank, some producers discovered that SeeU had several English phonemes that were not needed for Korean and SBS were again heavily criticised for both the claim inclusion of phonetics SeeU didn't need. Inclusion of unneeded phonetics is nothing new as every English VOCALOID2 after Prima's release (with the exception of Luka) was given the rolling r phonetic data "R" because Prima couldn't do opera without it. Despite this, this led to jokes about SeeU being made for "Konglish" rather than "Korean" and as of note, criticism for the focus on her English capabilities against the Japanese capabilities she was given thanks to an additional Japanese voicebank.
Eventually SBS Artech addressed the language issue by confirming that they would make an English voicebank and stated the reason for the past claims was they wanted to release her with an English voicebank but also wanted to meet the VOCALOID3 release. In the end they did not have time to make a English voicebank and included the phonetic data to allow SeeU to create English as most sounds for English were already in the Korean language. Despite this, as many pointed out, the way the language is structured and the fact she is largely not smooth results in English that is either choppy/broken or odd sounding thanks to a Korean accent. They then confirmed an English voicebank that will allow her to fully do English.
SeeU was not the only vocaloid to be criticized for this. SONiKA was also noted for having a remark about with editing how she can be made to sing other languages. This is true for any Vocaloid vocal, though she was criticized for having it on her product page when no other Vocaloid had mentioned this at all.
MAIKA also, due to a custom dictionary, was released with the 16 sounds missing from Spanish that would allow her to sing in Catalan. However, these allowed her to also sing more closely to other languages such as English, Portuguese and Japanese. However, she will not sound like a native speaker.
There has been some noticeable concerns with the information on Megurine Luka from the Mikunopolis website;
- On the Mikunopolis website Luka's profile contains the statement; "In the past, creating songs with English lyrics had always been somewhat awkward, but Luka is able to sing both in Japanese, English or a mix of the two - a worldwide virtual singer". While it is true it had always been awkward to use a Japanese VOCALOID for English, there had always existed native English capable VOCALOIDs so the English language had always been easy to access.
- As mentioned on Luka's product page, she has a number of issues with her English voicebank that leave some English speakers questioning her English capabilities overall. So ironically while she had the best English level of any Japanese based VOCALOID at the time of her release, just how much lack of awkwardness there is to her vocal results is questionable.
- Luka was aimed at the Japanese speaking market and was originally not intended to be a world wide release (hence the lack of an English interface).
- "The Kagamine twins are well known for their very clear and precise vocals". Considering their history of lack of clarity and/or pronunciation problems, as well as Act 2 of the software missing a pronunciation entirely, this is a little bit of an exaggeration on the webhost's part. Also the statement, "Just with a few tweaks here and there they could sing almost any other genres as well," is somewhat questionable due to their reputation of requiring previous experience to use and often at times needing more than just a few tweaks to make them work.
Both GUMI and MAYU had a song where they sung in "English" using their voicebanks ("Fly Me to the Moon" and "Dreamin'", respectively). Except, both were using a Japanese voicebank to sing in English. The original "Fly Me to the Moon" demonstration was more welcomed with Megpoid than the second version done for her V3 update. Back then, many fans were interested by her more accurate English pronunciations than past Japanese VOCALOIDs, as a common western practice was to use Japanese VOCALOIDs for English because some fans preferred their vocals over what the English vocals offered. However, by the second time the demo appeared it was questioned why Internet Co. was persisting with the same demo song when it's also possible to do a version with Japanese lyrics. For MAYU's demonstration, English fans have also complained that they can barely understand MAYU's "English".
Some argue that showing a demo with the VOCALOID being forced to sing in a language they were not designed for is a bad demonstration of the VOCALOIDs capabilities, since it can generate a wrong impression of the real strengths and weakness of the voicebank, either making a voicebank appear more flexible than it is in reality. It can end up showing some flaws that aren't present in its original language as the voice is pushed away from its natural "safe zone". This wrong impression can be worse if the listener isn't a native speaker, or at least someone with a deep knowledge of that language.
This is particularly notable as the Producer of the song must be adapt with phoneme adaptations enough to manipulate the vocal to mimic another language. Demo makers such as Giuseppe have been known to be able to make Vocaloids sing in several languages they were not built for.
Other issues fall upon the tuning of the vocal. In regards to demos created by producers such as Cillia, the way they tune their vocals results in an unnatural portrayal of the vocal. It is not always possible to hear the VOCALOID's true traits for this reason. Other producers have a habit of using the wrong pitch as was heard in a few of Lily's V2 demos because producers are accustomed to using other vocals like Hatsune Miku.
- Zettai Ryouiki - Pixpedia's Article (English)
- TVTropes: Zettai Ryouiki
- VOCALOIDs Unofficial illustrations