Aesthetic Proximity and Performance Among “Hatsune Miku” Cosplayers in Japan

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 303
Oral Presentation
Alvaro HERNANDEZ HERNANDEZ , Kobe University, Japan
“Cosplay” is an activity popular among Japanese youth where somebody dresses-up, in the most of the cases, as a fictional character. I focus on those cosplay based on the character named “Hatsune Miku”, a voice synthesizer presented as a female fictional character developed by “Crypton Future Media”, under the concept of a “virtual idol”. This synthesizer uses the “vocaloid” technology developed by Yamaha Corporation and is used to “sing” the songs produced by her users. However, unlike many other popular characters, Hatsune Miku is characterized by her lack of a narrative. Nevertheless, instead of lose “reality” because of this “lack”, is precisely thanks to this characteristic that she has the versatility of appear in many media (mainly User Generated Media) and be used freely in many different ways, becoming a perfect icon of the “Participatory Culture”, as imagined by H. Jenkins (2006). The particular kind of reality that supports her success as a “virtual idol” can be described following the “character-kyara” theory proposed by G. Ito (2005). In my study I analyze the role of this kind of reality among Miku’s fans in Japan, departing from Ito’s theory of “Kyara”. However, while Ito’s theory is centered on iconic futures of Japanese comic books (manga), I will adapt his theory into a wider use of the “Kyara”, and particularly its performative use in the cosplay. For this aim, I will move from the textual iconicity focused by Ito, towards the idea of “aesthetic proximity” as proposed by Sandvoss (2005a, 2005b) in the study of fan affectivity, and therefore, focusing not on the “visual” but on the “aesthetic” dimension of popular culture. As a result, my aim is to present an example of how character`s “reality” is built through social practice in the particular case of contemporary Japanese cosplay culture.