Hatsune Miku: Acute
KurousaP / WhiteFlame (original song), ASAHINA Shiori (art)
Shoujo – Drama, romance, tragedy
1 Volume (complete)
Miku, Luka, and Kaito were the best of friends. When the girls realized they both liked Kaito, the two swore to never their feelings to him. But as Kaito and Luka head off the college, Miku feels increasingly left behind. When emotions burn like fireworks, what will happen at the end of this twisted love story?
Okay, I’m not really going to avoid spoilers for this review. That’s because Hatsune Miku: Acute is based on this popular Vocaloid song:
It can also be played in some of the Project Diva games, but if you need a translation, here you go. (It’s not perfect, but it also translates the in-between sections.)
There are also plenty of subbed versions and covers on YouTube as well.
So, if you’re interested in Acute, I’m going to assume you’ve seen watched at least one of these videos. Also, “Acute” means the song, and Acute means the manga. (Note the “Hatsune Miku” part was added to the English version’s title to help attract attention from Vocaloid fans.)
Now, Vocaloid lyrics are often abstract or borderline nonsensical, so it is often up to personal interpretation as to the true meaning of the song. “Acute” may not tell the whole story, but the general idea is pretty straightforward: Miku, Luka, and Kaito are friends now in a love triangle. Reading between the lines, Kaito seems to be dating Miku, but he’s also been seeing Luka. This knowledge eventually leads Miku to her breaking point. In my opinion, Acute is quite a different take than what I had pictured in my head. Obviously, the song had to be expanded upon in order to create a full narrative, but the manga is definitely not just a play-by-play of “Acute”.
Acute is broken up into four chapters, one narrated by each character before showing the final events of the story. In the opening chapter, Miku makes Luka promise that neither will confess so that they can stay friends forever, but she discovers that her two older friends have been dating behind her back. Kaito still carries scars from his childhood, and although he loves Luka, he agrees to Miku’s proposal to sleep together once as a memory. Then Luka and Kaito become increasingly disturbed by Miku’s behavior, but they resolve to get “their” Miku back.
Acute paints Kaito and Luka in a far more sympathetic light than the original song. So good news Kaito fans: he’s much less punchable in this song! However, this comes at the expense of Miku. I’m not saying that swinging a knife is the answer to someone cheating (it’s absolutely not), but “Acute” Miku’s rage was understandable. Acute has her going off the rails long before her final breakdown. By extension, Luka is more of a tragic heroine than waiting mistress. Yes, Luka shouldn’t have broken the girl code and snuck around her best friend’s back, but she blames herself for the entire situation. It’s a bit bizarre to have Luka martyring herself considering both she and Kaito are single, consenting adults. The other Luka knows she’s lying and is probably being lied to but continues the relationship anyway; this Luka panics as Miku invents a relationship with Kaito.
Yes, that’s right. Invents. Again, “Acute” Miku is a woman scored; Acute Miku is a crazy hookup. It really changes the dynamic when cheating is not a central part of the story. I always felt like the song’s titled referred to all three characters having shallow feelings, not being able to like each other in the “right” way. But the darker elements in Acute are far more centered around Miku, and even the ending isn’t nearly as tragic as the original song. I can imagine the difficulty in preserving the dark elements in a full-length manga while also trying to make the characters tolerable and/or likable. But I wish Kaito and Luka kept more of their selfish “Acute” selves instead of focusing so much on the shoujo-filled “true love” aspect.
I had never heard of Asahina before, but I assumed she was a doujin artist. Before Acute, she did publish a multi-volume manga adaptation of a novel. As such, she isn’t just someone coming off of artist alley like a lot of these publications. Acute looks like an actual volume someone put out instead of a glorified entry into a manga contest. Asahina doesn’t try to overload readers with too much dialogue to pad the story, a pitfall many authors fall into in short series. Crazy Miku is also fully represented here in a variety of styles to show her slow descent. My favorite symbolism is when the strands of her pigtails blow in the wind at pivotal moments, unraveling like her state of mind. Another time, we see her shadow as she chats with Luka. It’s a perfect metaphor for someone who is only a shadow of her former self. But I must add two notes: Asahina seems to love big hair and blushing. Big hair on every page, blushing on almost every page — it gets a little tiring in such a darker manga like this.
As with some other Dark Horse manga, I was worried this manga would be unnecessarily altered. Hooray, it isn’t! The song lyrics are written to be a bit poetic, but a couple of times I laughed since they sounded… well, like faux-Shakespeare or Middle Ages fantasy: “my now-rusted heart, which springs forth with vengeful vigor I thought not possible, cannot be stopped”. Doesn’t that sound like something a Thor-like character would say? “I have arrive with VENGEFUL VIGOR!” Or maybe it’s an ability in an RPG: “Level up! Learned ‘Vengeful Vigor’: ATK rises after being healed from critical HP'”.
I enjoyed the manga (more than I thought I would in fact), but I don’t know if it really felt like “Acute” to me. The manga definitely has shoujo manga’s fingerprints all over it. I guess how well you will like Acute will depend on how sympathetic you are to Miku versus Luka/Kaito in the original song.
Some of Kurousa-P’s works can be purchased through Amazon or iTunes, but “Acute” is not currently available. The song has a sequel titled “ReAct”. Dark Horse has published several other Vocaloid manga.