Hatsune Miku: Mikubon
Shounen – 4-koma, comedy
1 Volume (complete)
St. Diva Academy: a place where singing is a cornerstone of the curriculum. Unfortunately, as Miku and Rin know, there’s the whole “learning” aspect of school that’s no fun! Meanwhile, there’s a brilliant but eccentric scientist who has to deal with his troublemaking assistant…
Let’s make this easy for many of you: do you like Vocaloid? Do you even know what it is? If no, then you have no reason to buy this manga.
So does that mean Vocaloid fans should buy Hatsune Miku: Mikubon?
Mikubon is split into two storylines: the adventures of Miku and friends at school, and the adventures of Hachune Miku, a crazy but amazing scientist’s assistant. Chapters between the two alternate (Movements for the school comedy, Negis for the science lab).
Let’s start with the so-called “Miku in Wonderland” segments. Despite the name, Miku, Rin, and Len are all friends attending the same school. (It was only revealed later that Rin and Len are in middle school, Miku in high school.) So right away, we’re not really Wonderland-ish. The very first of the 11 chapters should be disregarded; it’s set in a different timeline than the others. (Too bad, as I liked this setup better.) Here, Meiko and Kaito are upperclassmen, but they are teachers starting in 2nd Movement. It was an unexpected change that completely threw me.
Anyway, Kaito and Meiko are genuinely concerned about Miku’s and Rin’s futures, as most of the Movements are about how dumb and/or inattentive these two students are. Miku, for instance, falls asleep while getting yelled at for falling asleep; Rin announces to everyone she’s copying Len’s homework. As for Len, he doesn’t have a clear role in the story. He is either being pushed around, playing the role of common sense, or stymied by the beings known as girls. Luka, meanwhile, is the school’s idol who definitely isn’t as much of a perfect lady as she seems. Plus she obviously has an interest in Miku. Then there’s the vice principal (or maybe she’s just a teacher later?) Ann who dresses up as everything from a nurse to a satyr to a dominatrix.
Why? Who knows.
Don’t know who Ann is? That’s another reason not to buy Mikubon. If you would have rather seen Neru, Gumi, or even Lily, then you’re going to be disappointed. (Teto makes a quick appearance as a student.) If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, again, pass on Mikubon. This manga is obviously catered to the otaku Vocaloid crowd. While I am not a die-hard fan, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the community.
Then the Hachune Miku chapters just completely threw me.
While Movement’s Miku was a bit of a charming ditz, Hachune Miku in the Negi chapters is a “screw it, I do what I want” type. She’s an assistant (along with Rin and, to a lesser degree, Len) to a man known only as Professor. I have no idea who this character is based upon. Anyway, Negi stories follow a typical pattern: the Professor invents something, Hachune Miku uses it, chaos erupts. Meiko and Kaito drift in occasionally along with some police officer bear who has embezzled money.
Uh, a little help here? Anyone?
So… that’s the whole manga. If this description sounds good to you (like, you’re so excited to see Hachune Miku), I’m going to set you up for another disappointment: the comedy isn’t very good. Sure, there are some funny ones, but when punchlines include:
“What the heck is white chocolate?”;
“Let’s play baseball… Isono!”;
“Would you accept some… foreign aid?”;
“It’s not singing she’s bad at… it’s singing lessons!”
I just don’t know what I’m missing. I mean, is Miku being able to sing outside but not in the classroom that funny? I think I’ve heard of Isono, but why does “foreign aid” make Miku spit out her drink? They’ve never heard of white chocolate? Any good jokes about “arm bears” or Miku not wanting to be alone with Luka just get lost in the pile. The humor is just too hit-and-miss with stretches of more misses than hits. You might as well go listen (or download) songs about Miku and Luka obsessing over Rin, dancing samurais, or a brother with a sister complex for free or cheap instead of trying to decode the humor in Mikubon.
In addition, a lot of the stories felt like they didn’t have to star Miku and her friends. This is especially true since I didn’t recognize recurring characters like Ann and the Professor. Some of these could have easily been from an Azumanga Daioh doujinshi with Miku as Osaka and Rin as Tomo, but I didn’t want Azumanga Daioh Lite. If you want to see a lot of jokes about negi, road rollers, or ice cream, prepare to be disappointed. Instead, we get typical jokes about bust size or characters being a blabbermouth. The Hachune Miku chapters are actually funnier (Miku summons Godzilla in one), but they don’t really seem Vocaloid-ish. Really, either storyline could have — and probably should have — featured new characters. A 4-koma about a crazy scientist and his even crazier assistant(s) or a traditional school slice-of-life comedy both could have been serialized on the web or in a magazine.
As you might expect in a 4-koma, the art is simplistic. The manga does open with several pages of cute full-color art. Most are done in the Hachune Miku style; this isn’t surprising since the duo behind Mikubon are most known for their “Ievan Polkka” music video. The color pages are a cheery way to open up the book. Once beyond that, Movement art is done in a chibi style, but Negi art is pretty much full-out comedy with goofy faces. Other characters are typically drawn as humanoid blobs, which works fine in a manga like this. The few who were actually drawn in detail made me wonder if I was supposed to recognized them. There’s really not much to say, as I don’t have a problem with it considering the format.
If you read my review of Unofficial Hatsune Mix, you will know the translation left much to be desired. (That’s putting it mildly.) Well, I can see shades of the same issues here.
Honorifics are used. Hachune Miku’s boss is known as “Professor”. The opening Osaka accent is like a hip-hop or Jersey accent. No translation notes are included, which is a big disappointment in the “Isono” example above or even explaining who’s who in the author notes. I didn’t like the way a lot of the asides were translated. In one example, to me, Rin seems surprised, but Dark Horse has her cheering. Vocaloid involves a lot of Internet culture, and Dark Horse also includes a lot of lingo I was not familiar with. (I didn’t know what b-boying or knedding was. I’m getting old.) A few of the lines feel like they were rewritten, as they just don’t seem to match the art. Without the original, though, this is only speculation.
Hatsune Miku: Mikubon can safely be skipped for everyone but die-hard fans. Even then you are better off supporting Ontama by buying “Ievan Polkka” or any of their albums instead of this lackluster manga. If you do understand the in-jokes, PLEASE explain them to me!
Dark Horse also published Unofficial Hatsune Mix.