Digital diva Hatsune Miku makes her U.S. debut at this weekend’s Anime Expo

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It’s strangely fitting that the biggest guest at the 20th annual Anime Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend won’t physically be present. Japan’s virtual pop star Hatsune Miku — the petite “android diva” created by Crypton Future Media in 2007 through a combination of holography, computer animation and computer-generated vocals — will appear in concert at the Nokia Theatre on Saturday in her first “live” performance in the U.S.

Real musicians, including J-pop band Nirgilis, trio Kalafina and actor-singer Vic Mignogna, are also slated to perform as part of the Anime Expo festivities, which run Friday through Monday. But Miku, with her turquoise, ankle-length ponytails, impossibly slim figure and large eyes, perfectly embodies the fantastic creations the convention celebrates: beloved characters who exist only as images on film, computer data or drawings on a printed page.

Functioning much in the same way that San Diego’s Comic-Con International does for comic book enthusiasts, Anime Expo, the largest gathering of its kind in North America, offers fans of the vibrantly styled art form the chance to shop for videos, books, toys, T-shirts and other merchandise, attend panels and show off elaborately styled costumes at a special masquerade ball.

“The masquerade is always one of our premiere events,” said Marc Perez, chairman and chief executive of the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the nonprofit that manages the expo. “The amount of time people spend on a single costume is often astronomical. And when four or five individuals form a troupe to present a skit, it can easily involve several thousand hours: a very significant investment of time and passion.”

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