Music to Write Realmgard to: Senbonzakura

“Thousand cherry blossoms
I can’t hear your voice
Indigo sky faraway
Shoot it with the raygun.”

In my post about Ieva’s Polka, I briefly mentioned Vocaloids, the Japanese vocal synthesiser software.

And, well, buckle up, because today you’re going to learn more about singing Japanese robots than you’ve ever wanted to know.

Quoth Wikipedia:

Vocaloid (ボーカロイド, Bōkaroido) is a singing voice synthesizer software product. Its signal processing part was developed through a joint research project led by Kenmochi Hideki at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, in 2000 … Each [different voice bank] is sold as “a singer in a box” designed to act as a replacement for an actual singer. As such, they are released under a moe anthropomorphism. These avatars are also referred to as Vocaloids, and are often marketed as virtual idols; some have gone on to perform at live concerts as an on-stage projection.

Full article here.

The short version: Vocaloid has existed in some form since 2000, was made publicly available in 2004, but didn’t really get hugely popular until 2007 with the release of the most recognisable Vocaloids, particularly face of the brand Hatsune Miku.

And, yes, that is a holographic singing robot performing live on stage.

Not to say that Vocaloid is a fad that has since come and gone, but I do sort of feel that they’ve gotten less popular than they were in mid-to-late 2000s and 2010s, though I could be way off base here and this my just be the result of me simply paying less attention.

There are some very good Vocaloid songs and some of them have impressive production values, though it’s always obviously that they’re singing robots rather than human voices.

Regardless, Vocaloid is still going strong, and that brings me to today’s Music to Write Realmgard to, a song originally written with Vocaloid software, Senbonzakura.

Senbonzakura means “One Thousand Cherry Trees” and is itself a fairly well-known term in Japanese. For example, one of the most famous kabuki plays is Yoshitsune Senbonzakura. Given that it’s a song about Japan, that connection may be entirely deliberate.

Now, the song is clearly about the modernisation and Westernisation of Japan, but I don’t have enough insight into the Japanese psyche at large to really understand if it’s Pro or Con, or if the lyrics really make sense — though part of that may just be issues with the translation:

Thousand cherry blossoms
I can’t hear your voice
Indigo sky faraway
Shoot it with the raygun

But, either way, it’s a catchy song.

Quoth Wikipedia once again: “Senbonzakura” (千本桜, lit. “a thousand sakura“) is a 2011 song written by Japanese vocaloid music producer Kurousa-P (黒うさP) released with the voice of Hatsune Miku. First posted onto Niconico, a video sharing website, the song quickly became viral and inspired multiple cover versions and other derivative works.”

It was also apparently the third-most popular karaoke song in Japan for the year 2012.

This is, as far as I can tell, the original version of the official music video of the song. It has 45 million views:

And this is the cover version by Japanese band Wagakki Band — which, incidentally, is almost what “Wagakki Band” means, though the literal translation is specifically more like “Japanese Musical Instruments Band.” It has 154 million views:

In fact, Wagakki Band’s first album was entirely Vocaloid covers. So, they’re sort of like the Japanese version of Korpiklaani, though they’re less “old people music with Heavy Metal guitars” and more “singing robots with Heavy Metal guitars.”

The Wagakki Band version isn’t necessarily better than the original Vocaloid versions, though the fact that they’re real humans singing with real voices and playing real instruments does avoid the Uncanny Valley aspect that Vocaloid’s can fall into pretty easily.

Also, the English translation provided on their video probably makes the lyrics the most comprehensible I’ve seen. Though I’m still not entirely clear on why we’re shooting the indigo sky with rayguns…

Follow me here so you’ll have plenty of warning when the singing robots rise up to destroy us:

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