Are Hololive VTubers idols or not? Shirakami Fubuki, Tokino Sora discuss

Andrew Amos
hololive group photo at holofes 1st ver 2020Hololive

Hololive is the world’s biggest VTuber agency, but some see their stars as streamers while others vow to call them idols. So what title do they actually give themselves? Shirakami Fubuki and Tokino Sora discussed this, and it’s really up to the individual.

Hololive is the biggest name in VTubing, but what definition this lends is up in the air. The term ‘Virtual YouTubing’ is self-explanatory ⁠— virtual people on YouTube ⁠— but what do they actually do?

Given how the space has developed in the five years since Hololive started, it’s hard to say. VTubers are prolific everywhere across seemingly all mediums: playing games, performing music, or drawing art. 

There was a push though, in Hololive’s infancy, to appeal to idol culture. The Hololive talents have featured in a number of promotions across the years. While the title was always thrown around internally, YAGOO said, it didn’t really become real until 2019.

It really sunk in for the first time when fans flocked to Akihabara for their collaboration with atré, their faces plastered everywhere across the iconic shopping district.

“We were showcased in an amazing place that collaborated with lots of big anime. I couldn’t believe it. It made me realize how much we’ve grown,” Fubuki said during Hololive’s fifth anniversary broadcast.

“There were lots of shots of us on the building. It kind of felt like we were actually there in Akihabara,” Sora added.

This raised a big point within Hololive though ⁠— the talents themselves were becoming virtual idols in a sense. They had a huge following, fans would go across the seas to take part in any promotion, and it was only getting bigger.

The atré collaboration solidified that: “We were finally being recognized as idols. Up until that point people were questioning if we weren’t just comedians but we were finally able to say ‘yes we are idols,’” Fubuki said.

This was by design, according to YAGOO.

“This was designed with the idea that we could gather all the members at the time together and see if we could make it feel like an idol group. We got someone who specialized in that particular style to design the artwork for us.

“This experiment showed us quite clearly that our fans wanted the idol element. It also gave me the confidence, or rather showed me that it was the right move to try and develop Hololive into an idol group as we grew. This was when it became clear like ‘maybe we can actually pull it off?’”

From there idol activities ramped up. Talents weren’t just streaming on YouTube. They were performing solo concerts, attending conventions and festivals, and growing a bigger brand off-stream rather than on.

For someone like Tokino Sora, who wanted to pursue this life, it was an amazing feeling. She reminisced about her first solo concert back in 2019, packing out a venue for the first time.

“So there was the concert hall and we had people come in and we held the concert. The venue’s max capacity was 700 people right? They said that fitting all 700 people in there was a real challenge. They could only seat 700 people max. If you get that many people in there, for like the whole venue, you’d end up trying to squeeze them in just to shut the doors.

“I remember going ‘this is like a mosh pit!’ It was a sight to behold, them pushing at each other like that. I couldn’t help but worry. It’s still incredible to have that large of an audience. It was so awe-inspiring though ⁠— to think I started a couple of years back with just 13 people.”

Tokino Sora on 1 million youtube subscriber streamYouTube: Tokino Sora
Tokino Sora had big dreams of performing on stage as an idol, and achieved it at Hololive.

It was a bit different for Fubuki though in her first concert: “Back then I was really bad with the whole song and dance thing. During that time, instead of doing idol activities, I wanted to focus on my hobbies. Everyone calls me [an idol], but it never really stuck to me in a sense. 

“When I performed in the concert, everyone was like ‘wow Fubuki is a real idol now!’ That’s when I started thinking that. It all happened because the concert made me feel that singing, dancing, and meeting with my fans was fun and worthwhile. We all gradually became idols.”

It all came to a head at the first holoFes in January 2020 where every member got on stage. holoFes was a big affair as the talents trained for months, getting choreographed dances and learning new songs. They even picked out their own outfits.

That was a daunting task, but it paid off big time.

“Having all of Hololive perform in a single concert was a first, and we were unsure if it was even possible to pull off ⁠— like would everyone be able to perform and all that,” Fubuki explained. “All of us went to have dance lessons together, singing lessons too. 

“Among all those happenings the most memorable thing I remember from the concert was when we got our idol outfits. There were a lot of design patterns for the idol outfits. We’d choose what fits us the most and request accessories we’d like to have on our outfits, and they’d make them. A lot of thought went into those outfits, so we were quite happy to reveal them.

“Right now we have a lot of people who got to know Hololive because of this concert, and are fans of ours to this day. This concert really did put us in the spotlight.”

While Hololive was pushing to be an idol agency for some time, there was a change of direction in 2021. After the success of all branches with streaming, YAGOO and COVER Corp gave talents more choice.

Instead of forcing them to perform in idol activities at the 2021 Bloom concert, the talents could opt in or out. This allowed some to focus on becoming a virtual idol, while others could hone their streaming craft. 

“We wanted to respect each idol’s vision, whether that was to work solo or to focus on their non-idol activities like streaming,” YAGOO said. 

“For this concert, in particular, we chose the members who wanted to go ahead with idol group activities to be a part of it. We released original songs every week for the nine weeks leading up to the concert, making it possible to hold it as our very first concert with all the original songs.”

Talents like Takanashi Kiara have spoken about this more recently too ⁠— Hololive is not ‘just’ an idol agency. It is so much more, and at the end of the day, the stars can choose whatever they want to become.