One of the most important Japanese entertainers of the 21st century is calling it a day, and she isn’t even technically real.
Virtual YouTuber Kizuna AI will go on “indefinite hiatus” following one last, livestreamed concert tonight at 7 p.m. Thousands of viewers are expected to log on to watch the digital character, sporting her trademark pink bow, perform a set of upbeat pop songs. It’s their last chance to spend time with a creator who, over five years, delivered a new kind of online content geared toward digital natives.
Kizuna AI, created by entertainment company Activ8 and voiced by actress Nozomi Kasuga, pioneered the art of VTubing. This corner of online content — defined as any creator using an avatar to represent themselves on screen — has been growing rapidly in popularity. A 2020 trends report from YouTube stated that VTuber videos received 1.5 billion views per month, while virtual idols in China alone grossed $547 million in 2020, with a massive growth forecast in that market alone.