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These often also have impacted a Vocaloid or Vocaloid itself, others impacted a producer or a company involved with the incident. With no way to ignore the situation due to its level of involvement, it becomes part of the history of the Vocaloid, the Vocaloid software, a producer or company. These events are recorded on this page, covering all known facts and issues on these incidents, some details of which were not widely available at the time of the event or were lost due to the overwhelming reactions at the time.
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 works involve a meticulous amount of work, tuning and tweaks to singing vocals, often involving and requiring highly technical skills and experience that simply cannot be dismissed as a lazy work or illegitimate music (as compared to common uninformed complaints against the nightcore type of music, for example). This is the reason why there are major protests whenever someone of notable significance criticizes VOCALOID works in general.
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 reposted by other accounts 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.
The MikuHatsuneVEVO channel on YouTube was an example of copyright infringement and was one of its most notable cases. The channel managed to gain notability and was verified as a legit channel, and was established in 2015. This allowed it gather views and act as an official channel for VOCALOID uploads, even when it's uploads had examples of misleading thumbnails, titles, characters and/or vocals in those videos. As a consequence, it allowed a number of viewers to believe that this was the official Miku channel. However, it had nothing to do with any related parties to VOCALOID or Hatsune Miku, such as Crypton Future Media or YAMAHA, and had no permissions to upload songs from producers.
Users who knew the channel was not official have tried to report the channel, even Crypton Future Media tried to report the channel themselves, but YouTube refused to remove it. This was a result of YouTube's notable issues with its copyright system which often allow abuse. This prevented the official license holders and developers of Hatsune Miku from taking down illegitimate channels and videos. The consequences of this situation was that the channel was allowed to remain and could even claim ad revenue while it was functioning, presuming that the owner allowed this. Yet, none of the ad revenue would return to the accounts of the actual producers and developers who had claims over the songs shown in the channel. Essentially, the channel was in a position in which it could steal money from the true owners of Hatsune Miku and the song producers if it desired, though it is unknown if it did. Its existence also prevented the verification of the actual official channel of Hatsune Miku 'HatsuneMiku' from being verified, even when Crypton had a link to the 'HatsuneMiku' channel on most of their websites that feature Miku.
The videos it processed did not seem to be problematic and its upload of "Ievan Polkka" gained more views then any other upload of the song, including official ones. However, while many of those watching it were unaware of the issue with the channel, eventually it uploaded a video which left no doubts on it not being the real official channel. The channel uploaded a video with the title 'Miku Hatsune - Sand Planet ft. Nikki Minaj', which included a reuploaded subbed video, and a recording of Nikki Minaj rapping to the song. However, the song was not official and Nikki Minaj had nothing to do with its existence. This gave the opening for further copyright claims against the channel that never existed before and finally allowed its closing, as well as becoming an obvious give away on the copyright infringement of the channel.
The channel was eventually removed in June 2018, finally allowing the official channel, 'HatsuneMiku,' to be verified.
Note: "VEVO", as seen in the title of the channel, is also the name of a legit company that uploads videos that existed between 2009 and 2018. Videos related to the services and company of VEVO carry 'VEVO' in their titles. The status and usage of 'VEVO' in the 'MikuHatsuneVEVO' name and if it had any impact on the channel, for or against its continued existence, is currently unknown.
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. KARENT 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.
POCALOID and 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 - illegal download links can at times contain malware or viruses. When a user downloads pirated versions of software from unknown sources, they are at risk of being infected.
- Scams - There are cases where voicebanks sold over the Internet are advertised as legitimate, but are actually cracked copies in disguise. Buyers of VOCALOID need to check their software sources when purchasing the software to ensure they are purchasing from a legal vendor.
- Lack of technical support - there is no technical support offered for illegal versions of software such as VOCALOID. Users of POCALOID and other such software would have to seek technical support themselves, which can be difficult to acquire.
- Legality - the act of piracy is considered a form of theft; 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 often takes away potential sales from the software, having a negative effect on its future development. 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.
- 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 versions of VOCALOID is the security measures put in place within the software.
- Software conflict - 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.
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 the VOCALOID software legally, pirate the software, or not use it 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.
Planty-P and Stella Edit
One of the most notorious cases of user misconduct in the overseas fandom came from a producer known as "Planty-P", who had a questionable reputation among overseas VOCALOID fans owed to past controversies. One of these was distributing links to the cracked trial voicebanks 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.
In January 2015, Stella was announced as an upcoming Japanese VOCALOID being produced by the team PL Tech, for the nonprofit organisation Americans for the Arts. 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, known as "core", "sun" and "moon".
Over time suspicion grew among fans that Stella might be a hoax, with a turning point in public view occurring when a discrepancy was spotted in one of her demos, revealing the videos to be doctored. On January 19, Planty finally confessed that Stella was fake, leading to large amounts of vitriol within the community. Within hours of the confession it was revealed Stella was created using XSY modding. Consequently, any work that had been produced using her was illegal. Though two of the vocals were initially revealed to be created using XSY, the third Planty 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 third vocal was yet another XSY modded voice result.
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 brought into question.
The scale of trust involved between the project and its members was initially high, though three other members involved with PL Tech 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.
Furthermore, investigations by fans during and before the event revealed that Planty frequented websites involved in the distribution of illegally cracked VOCALOID software, leading fans to question whether Stella's voice was formed using such voicebanks or not. Additionally, due to comments made at the time by himself on the VOCALOID wiki, his copy of Rana was also suspected of being illegal. This makes the situation even further problematic as any published work would not have complied with the End-User agreement. Even if XSY modding was allowed, he would have not been in a position to commercially release his works if they were created using pirated software.
Some of his practices were known before the event, but were not touched on until afterwards, and had no connection with the events at the time. Even though Planty's actions did not lead to criminal charges against him by any legal authority, his reputation as a VOCALOID producer was tarnished. 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 in his confession, Planty mentioned he was aware that he was breaching the licence agreement and was aware of the immoral nature of his actions.
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. In some cultures and religions, abortion is a taboo which is largely frowned upon, 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.
Lucía's demos were met with generally negative reception from the Spanish-speaking fandom, with many fans feeling that the voice of Lucía was too similar to that of the VOCALOID3 Clara, particularly in her lower notes; this led to several complaints about the lack of diversity in voicebanks of the language. 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 Castilian accent these libraries had and desired VOCALOIDs with a more Standard Spanish accent.
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, as with Lucía, LUAN's audio demos were also widely panned by the fandom. This was predominantly due to the sound quality, with fans again comparing the voicebank's to that of Clara's. More tension was caused when the voice provider was confirmed (via leaks) to be Akuo-P, a VOCALOID producer with a divisive reputation among the Spanish-speaking fandom. Consequently, comparisons with Lucía were made, and some users felt the pair were worse than existing Spanish VOCALOIDs and were produced to a mediocre standard.
Much of the criticism towards LUAN was not well received by Giuseppe and he lashed out against critical 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 posts. Giuseppe revealed he would not be releasing the vocals and had withdrawn from the VOCALOID fandom 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, Xingchen'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.
There are also concerns mentioned in VOCALOID and politics, which at times impacts the portrayal of Vocaloids.
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 of Latin American descent and wanted to be portrayed as such, nor that Syo had been promised input on the design.
The art that appeared was commissioned six 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 as their training or experience singing, which 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 six pitch layers in total, whereas other Vocaloids have only two. 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 two 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 one of these layers is incorrect, in the same way an incorrect data input of just one 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 VOCALOID3 vocals over VOCALOID2 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 doesn't know how to 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. Therefore it is not always easy to judge a Vocaloid only by being based on songs that producers have produced in the past. This has been a common mistake made by fans listening to VOCALOID music.
- 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, despite things such as optimum Tempo or range, this doesn't also stop a producer venturing out of these ranges. For example Utatane Piko is not a lower pitched male vocal, his lower ranges are considered more lower quality. Yet, there are some who like this lower result despite quality loss, even with other vocaloids like VY2 who could do the same song better. This is attempted by producers of any skill levels.
- 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".
Quality, either way is just one of many factors to take into account and may not be the most important of all. While not Vocaloid, a classic example of lower quality vocals versus higher is exampled by software Chipspeech. Chipspeech is a HQ product but its vocals are based on dated pre-2000s technology which produces a "LQ" result compared to many of the modern vocal synthesizers. These vocals are often still sought after despite being LQ because of their robotic slurs, crunchy sounds and broken phonematic constructions give unique results that producers of music can use to recreate certain sounds. From booming effects to static based sound. If one compared Otto Mozer to a Vocaloid vocal like Kaito then they may feel uncomfortable lisening to Otto Mozer compared to Kaito based on his deep dooming and otherwise inhuman vocal. But this may be just the sound someone wants for a menacing or unsettling song as Otto Mozer can do this particular sound without work, however Kaito may need serious manipulation to do the same effect. The Vocals are provided as a tool, a means to an end; what that end is may not fit every tool.
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. Some of it is linked to issues expressed in VOCALOID and politics while others are independently forms reasons.
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 during 2008, it was also discovered there was an entire category of Vocaloids most Japanese fans didn't know existed, namely the English vocaloids, which they dubbed "the Engloids". However, there was only a few able to use the English vocals due to the language barrier, preventing high level usage in Japan and "Engloids" became a selective interest among its fans. Even in the West, most English speaking fans were not aware that English speaking Vocaloids existed, due to Miku's overwhelming presence until roughly a year later in 2009 when Megurine Luka became the first Japanese vocal with an English voicebank. This brought English vocaloid to attention both in Japan and overseas.
When finally the English vocals began to receive interest again in 2009, 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 the two languages and therefore lacking the knowledge to know if this was true or not. However, despite the assumptions of English speakers, most Engloids were of a good technical standard. For example, Sweet Ann and Prima produced high quality singing results, and were voiced by professional singers in the music industry, compared to Hatsune Miku or Kagamine Rin and Len who were voiced by voice actresses and therefore being amateur singers at best.
Some myths about English Vocaloids, actually were true, as it was known that the English Vocaloid script did contain errors that the Japanese Vocaloid script did not, having been corrected several times throughout time. However, English vocals were developed with an incorrect script sold by Yamaha with the English language Dev Kit that was not corrected until 2010 and was not instantly made available upon doing so in addition. English is also a far more complex language to synthesise, making it much more difficult for programmers to produce natural sounding results and the sheer size of the voicebank (being 5x the size of a Japanese one) means quality checks are often harder to make and take longer since every combination possible has to be examined.
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 and is still cited as the reason many Music videos have subtitles with the lyrics of the song repeated on them. Years later when Kizuna Akari was released it was confirmed that VOCALOID produced weak consonants in general, consonants often are a large contributor to the clarity of synthesizing vocals.
In the case of Megurine Luka's VOCALOID2 voice, owed to Luka English going on sale with sounds missing, there was an issues in the English voice and it was 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. The lack of these sounds mostly impacted the precision of the language and did not limit her ability to sing in English. A lot of this had to do with the slightly sharper sounding results of the sounds of the Japanese vocals. Since Japanese has far less need for blending, it made her appear clear against her smoother, softer English vocal with its missing sounds, even though it encountered problems with using the Japanese voicebank for English and the sounds produced by the Japanese vocals were neither as smoother nor as precise as many considered them to be.
This is not isolated to just English Vocaloids and has since been expanded upon to the other non-Japanese 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.
The Addition of new languages in VOCALOID3Edit
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. The attitude improved to non-Japanese vocaloids thanks to the introduction of 3 new languages. The new languages in turn contributed in addition to the attitude to English vocals, Vocaloids like Oliver and Avanna gained popularity and many Japanese vocals like Gumi and Miku were given English voicebanks. By VOCALOID4, the overall approach many fans had toward non-Japanese Vocaloids which much more positive overall. However, there is still a great reluctance towards Vocaloids in non-Japanese languages.
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, any Vocaloid not from Japan risks gets being subjected to bias regardless of what language they sing by the fans who came into Vocaloid from anime and manga. Other languages have been forced to adopt more anime-esque designs to appeal to the fans, such as Zero-G and PowerFX vocaloids, or even Bruno and Clara due to their initial reactions. However, this can be counterproductive as the most common consumers of Vocaloid sales are producers such as EDM musicians, to which such designs aren't necessarily appealing.
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.
The reactions are not always straight forward and can be political based (see again VOCALOID and politics). Of the bias towards Luo Tianyi is that because she uses Japanese technology instead of Chinese, some reported feel she is not supportive of China, so despite being Chinese she received criticism because of it. SeeU was also a victim partly of politics being Korea and Japan.
One of the issues with languages is that there can a tendency to treat or think of Vocaloid language development as though they are a separate engine to each other. At times you will see references to the to the "Spanish Vocaloid version" of the engine for example. This gives the impression at times that each language has its own separate engine. In reality, they all used a shared engine, both voicebanks and interface are separate aspects of Vocaloid. The engine looks up each individual Vocaloid with their own details and then pulls data from their plug-in details.
There is also the note that there is no real unified version of each language and while all Vocaloids are created from a Yamaha Dev Kit, studios tweak things to their own needs. Even within VOCALOID2, there was know to be several versions of the Japanese script; the original script, Hatsune Miku's, Internet co's and the VY series. So in this case there was at least 4 versions of "Japanese" in VOCALOID2. The Kagamine Rin/Len act2 and VY1 vocals also saw their "Vocaloid library database plug-in" (shortened to "voicebank") overhauled for improvements adding further to this. Each change made impacts the Vocaloid and its ability to recreate its intended language in a different way and some are better or worst changes for different reasons. These changes are not always shared among Vocaloid studios and each studio has its own workings that it uses for creating a language. For this reasons at times voicebanks in reality are not a unified development entirely and only major overall developments such as the addition of triphones in VOCALOID3 see any universal change within a language. So there can be dozens of variants on a language for this reason, yet habit leads all to be grouped together regardless of their differences even though within each language things such as clarity or realism can be very different between two voicebanks of a similar nature.
The engine can be changed for this reason and impact all vocaloid. To create a different engine for each language would not be cost effective and Vocaloid is designed so its various elements can be replaced, such as the user interface, without this having greater implication on the overall engine.
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 and given the right circumstances, it is just as capable of producing the same amount of realism in all languages it can recreate. Deficiencies in realism are typically caused by the assets used with the engine and the resources they draw their results from, such as samples or the way each voicebanks database assembles the words themselves. 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. A change of how a database is set up can improve languages as was demonstrated by VY2 and later repeated with Cyber Diva.
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 (natural tone) and IA ROCKS (voice acted), Tone Rion V4 (voice acted) and Yumemi Nemu (natural tone), Galaco "Red" (natural tone) and "blue" (voice acted), Fukase "Normal" (natural tone) and "Soft" (voice acted), Yuzuki Yukari V4's "Jun" (natural tone) and her two extra vocals "Onn" and "Lin" (both are examples of voice acting). Therefore, without each version of Vocaloid lies a variable amount of realism across all voicebanks naturally even within the languages and among each voicebank itself.
The subject of debate also extends to the portrayal of Vocaloids as characters and how they match their voice providers voice. For example, Kagamine Len is male, but was voiced by a female voice actress. For this reason one of the notable traits of both Act1 and Kagamine Rin/Len V4 English voicebanks for his character is that at times they produce results that are notable to sound "feminine" instead of "masculine". It was also noted that during the VY2, only true male vocals were referenced when producing VY2, as both Len and Ryuto were voiced by females, they could not produce satisifactory masculine results at all and were not taken into account for VY2's production. Another similar idea, Otomachi Una could be said to perhaps not be a good portrayal of her characters, since she was voiced by an adult and her character is 11 years old. In comparison to Oliver or Kaai Yuki, both child vocals, Una can sometimes fail to match the softness that comes with a child vocalist. The clause for concern in such cases is simply that when pitched a better representation of each case, the more realistic portrayals, they don't fairly match.
"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, making a vocaloid intention to sound like the provider fail to do so. Poor quality often leads to a dip in realism in addition. 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, at the same time 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.
Realism is also not always the sought after result and songs like Secret, Sad Machine and Appetite of a People-Pleaser are examples of songs wherein realism isn't the goal of the vocal as the Vocaloids don't sound like they usually do.
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.
Due to a custom dictionary, MAIKA 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.
Petitions and their impactEdit
galaco was first referred to as a VOCALOID when the VOCALOID Shop's competition for VOCALOID3 voicebanks was launched. Anyone who met the requirements to "win" her was issued an expiring code when the competition ended. The activation code for galaco originally expired on January 31, 2013. Throughout October 2013, re-issues of her codes were made, however, it was impossible for those behind her to release a non-expiring code. The vocal finally expired on October 31, 2013 and galaco NEO was released in August 2014 to replace the vocal. Throughout the ordeal, the team behind her were working to release an official version.
Panicking overseas fans started a petition during the events to prevent "the deletion of Galaco". By the end of the petition's lifespan, it had gained over 9,000 signatures. When galaco NEO released, some of those who took part of the petition celebrated their efforts to "save galaco" even though the petition had no impact on its development at all. Furthermore, the petition was mostly signed by overseas fans and not by the Japanese fans, who were the target market.
So far in the entire history of VOCALOID, no petition had ever successfully impacted VOCALOID development or led to one being developed as a result of a petition. In cases such as galaco, the petition gathered mostly panic-stricken fans who didn't know much about the situation and signed because they feared galaco was to be permanently deactivated and were unaware of a replacement in the works. However, petitions don't always get any attention at all. When LEON, LOLA, and MIRIAM were being retired, fans created petitions for them to be updated, however, these petitions struggled to get even 150 signatures in comparison to galaco's. The reasons for this is the result of bias in favour of Japanese VOCALOIDs over English ones as mentioned in the languages section.
- Zettai Ryouiki - Pixpedia's article (English)
- TVTropes: Zettai Ryouiki
- VOCALOIDs Unofficial illustrations