Ring Suzune and the Disappearance of Vocaloid Next
June 9th, 2017
In early 2011, the “Everyone’s Vocaloid Project” contest was held by the newly-formed company Vocaloid Next. It was a contest where people sent in potential designs for two unnamed (at the time) VOCALOID voicebanks. Later, in May of 2011 at the event VOCALOID Festa 02, the winning designs and names of the two VOCALOIDs were revealed. Ring Suzune and Hibiki Lui were their names, and development on Ring had begun either by the time of the reveal, or some time after, with MiKA of Daisy×Daisy being the voice provider. Hype for Ring started to grow fairly quickly.
Ring had been set to be released on the 12th of December in 2011, and it was confirmed that she would be for the now (at the time) VOCALOID3 engine. Multiple demo songs exhibiting her voicebank were posted around the time her release date was announced, and hype for Ring continued to build. Unfortunately, Ring never actually ended up releasing on the announced date, presumably because Ring’s quality was not yet at a satisfactory level. Vocaloid Next eventually decided to continue with Ring’s development, to improve upon her voicebank.
Later that year, demo copies of Ring, which were said to only last for a month, were given to 18 groups of people which had participated in “Vocaloid Network,” a small-scale fan event. The trial voicebank was also supposed to be given to anyone who was interested, but she was never given to anyone outside of the groups from Vocaloid Network.
In 2013, Vocaloid Next’s website disappeared, making the status of Ring’s development completely unknown, and a release very unlikely. Nobody has heard anything from Vocaloid Next about Ring since their disappearance.
So, what happened to Vocaloid Next, and how would anyone get their hands on a copy of Ring now that they’re gone?
Nobody knows what happened to them for sure it seems, as even contacting YAMAHA, the company who owns the rights to the VOCALOID software and oversees all development, has only given really vague answers, saying things like how the voicebank could not be released because of “many obstacle[s].”
How informative. Thank you YAMAHA Customer Support.
I’ve seen some theories online about what happened to Vocaloid Next. Some of the ones I’ve seen are a bit lame, but some are still worth taking a look at, I think.
One of the theories I’ve heard is that YAMAHA randomly pulled Vocaloid Next’s funding, which makes sense if you take into account how they kept pushing Ring’s release back. YAMAHA might’ve thought that they’d never end up actually finishing in a reasonable amount of time, continuously pushing her release date back.
Another theory I’ve heard was that Ring actually had been finished and ready for release, but YAMAHA decided that she was not high enough quality, and either YAMAHA forced the project to come to a stop, or Vocaloid Next themselves gave up. This one seems a lot less believable to me as YAMAHA has approved comparatively very low quality VOCALOIDs for sale, such as the English VOCALOID SONiKA, who is muffled and muddy, has pronunciation issues, was suspected to be recorded on a webcam microphone, and even has audible Skype blips in her recordings. I don’t know how someone looked at SONiKA and said “Yes, this is good. Let’s submit it for approval to YAMAHA, and then slap a U$50 pricetag on it.”
Now that we kinda maybe have an idea of why Vocaloid Next disappeared, let’s talk about something that’s more important―finding the voicebank. There’s one main way that I think would be the most feasible way of getting Ring’s voicebank.
As I mentioned earlier, 18 groups of people received copies of a trial of Ring’s voicebank. We don’t know everyone who has a copy, but one person we know that for sure either does or did have a copy is ShachihokoP, a Japanese producer. He produced at least two songs using Ring’s trial, “The Frozen World” (氷の世界) and “Village Girl Dreaming” (夢みるむら娘). He even made a blog post (in Japanese) where he talked about receiving the trial. While some of the people who owned this demo might not have kept their copy after the trial period ran out, especially if the trial was actually in digital format, contacting some of the people who are known or suspected to have owned a copy would probably be the most likely way we’d be able to get a copy of her voicebank.
Another way we could get a copy, although more unlikely to work, would be to contact someone who we know was an employee of Vocaloid Next. The only two people we know of that were for sure part of the project would be Suzuki Ryūji (鈴木龍道氏) and MiKA from Daisy×Daisy, although it’s likely that MiKA does not have a copy as she only provided the voice for Ring and was otherwise uninvolved in the development process. We don’t know what Suzuki Ryūji’s position at Vocaloid Next was, and for all we know he could have next to no direct involvement with the actual development process.
For anyone who is interested in this, here's the Lost Media Wiki page. It has some different information than what I have here.
Please do not contact anyone who is suspected or known to have a copy of the voicebank or some other knowledge unless you or someone you know is able to speak Japanese at a reasonable level. Do not use a machine translator such as Google Translate or Bing Translate. People with known involvement who can speak English or other languages at a near-native level are exempt from this, though contacting them in Japanese if it is their native language is still preferred. DO NOT send death threats to, witch hunt, or harass anyone over Ring’s voicebank as this would likely destroy any chance of actually finding a copy, similar to what happened with "Me and My Friends.”