The Popularity Boom of Virtual Idols in Japan

  • OTAKU
  • CULTURE
  • In Japanese pop culture, an “idol” is described to be an entertainment personality. Usually, these idols are marketed in such a way that they are known for their personality; may it be cute or cool. In Japan, being an idol is similar to being a role model for people to look up to; hence, they must uphold a good image of themselves to the public. Most idols in Japan have very few scandals and it tends to become a huge issue when an idol has a scandal. Most idols in Japan have a wide range of media personalities ranging from singing to acting and even hosting. Some examples of idols in Japan are AKB48, Momoiro Clover Z and Arashi.

    However, an idol in Japan is not only restricted for people in the real world. Japan is known for their creativity and innovativeness when it comes to technology. So it’s not surprising when the Japanese decided to come up with the concept of having animated idols. Animated idols have become a huge success in Japan.

    Virtual Idols

    Virtual Idols became a reality when “Kyoko Date” made her debut in 1997. Despite being virtual in nature, she was recognised as a talent by HoriPro agency. It was only 10 years later in 2007 that virtual idols started to become a huge hit in Japan. This is all thanks to the propagation of Vocaloid and their famous character, Hatsune Miku. Other Vocaloids also entered the scene after Hatsune Miku’s success such as Kagamine Len, Kagamine Rin and Megurine Luka. Since then, Vocaloids have garnered huge success having live concerts and even led to Hatsune Miku having a Late Night Talk Show interview with David Letterman.

    Anime Idols

    With the growing popularity of virtual idols in Japan, the popularity of anime idols is also slowly starting to grow. Anime Idols are very much similar to virtual idols and can be classified as a sub-genre. Anime Idols stem from anime series focusing on idols. Popular franchises of this type are “The Idolmaster” franchise, which is a simulation and rhythm video game created by the Bandai Namco Games. This franchise has also generated an anime series, audio dramas and radio shows.

    Another popular anime idol franchise is “Love Live! School Idol Project” which is a Japanese multimedia project developed by Dengeki G, animated by studio Sunrise and is under the music label Lantis. The project proved to be popular after releasing numerous songs and video albums which ranked high on the Oricon Charts. In 2014, Love Live! won the anime Work Award during the Animation Kobe Awards which is an annual anime event. Recently, Love Live! released a movie which grossed a little over 400 million yen during its opening weekend in Japan, making it reach number one in the box office in Japan. The Love Live! franchise has also released a rhythm game both in Japanese and in English.

    Despite the rise of these virtual idols, it all depends on the preference of the person. Some people that I have talked about with regards if they prefer virtual idols over the real idols as still in debate over that topic. Some non-Japanese people are still unsure on embracing the concept of having computer generated or 2D idols out in the market. However, a large amount of fans have started to embrace virtual idols around the world.

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    Vocaloid Digital Singers. Who is your favourite?