VTubers have become internet sensations across 2021. There’s one group that reigns supreme: Hololive. With over 50 creators under their banner, here’s how the Japanese company broke YouTube, and the internet, with their idols.
Everyone knows the household names in online entertainment, from Felix ‘PewDiePie’ Kjellberg to Jimmy ‘MrBeast’ Donaldson. However, a number of these online stars are becoming increasingly ‘virtual’.
The VTuber craze has taken YouTube by storm, and one company is at the forefront of it all: Hololive. The Japanese talent agency is home to over 50 creators, and all of them are taking the internet by storm and breaking records. And, VTuber-mania doesn’t look like slowing down soon.
What are VTubers?
VTubers are a relatively new phenomenon when it comes to the internet. Short for “Virtual YouTubers,” they are online entertainers and idols. However, unlike your usual streamers, they use a virtual avatar as their ‘camera’.
The trend spawned out of Japan in the early 2010s, but didn’t really take off until Kizuna AI’s creation in late 2016. Considered the first VTuber in history, Kizuna broke the expectations of who streamers are, and brought virtual reality into entertainment in a big way.
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After that, VTubers exploded globally. At the time of writing, there are over 10,000 known VTubers. There are also talent agencies housing these VTubers, the biggest of which is Hololive.
Some of the world’s biggest streamers, including Pokimane and PewDiePie, even cashed in on the craze in the peak of its mainstream popularity in 2020. However, even since then, the industry has only continued to boom, becoming one of the most popular trends on YouTube with billions of views per month.
The rise of Hololive in 2020
Hololive is an arm of Cover Corp, a Japanese start-up created by Motoaki ‘Yagoo’ Tanigo. Often referred to as the father of VTubers, Yahoo started exploring the concept of these virtual entertainers in 2017, inspired by vocaloid idol Hatsune Miku.
After debuting Tokino Sora in September 2017, Hololive slowly expanded from there. One VTuber turned into two, and then all of a sudden, there were dozens of creators under their banner by the end of 2019.
Expanding into China, Indonesia, and English-speaking nations across 2019 and 2020 turned Hololive from a niche Japanese group into a truly global experience. While all of Hololive’s Chinese VTubers have since “graduated” (codeword for retired) due to controversy, it did its job of bringing virtual entertainment into the foreground.
2020’s expansion into the Western market saw the rise to the trend as we know it today. Hololive English’s first five VTubers — Mori Calliope, Takanashi Kiara, Ninomae Ina’nis, Gawr Gura, and Amelia Watson — took over YouTube, leading to a complete craze in September.
There’s no exact answer as to why VTubers exploded in popularity. The use of a virtual avatar may be one side of the story, giving previously-camera shy personalities a way to express themselves. It’s also just different from your regular online entertainer business.
The VTubers themselves are immensely successful. Eight out of the 10 highest-earning YouTube stars (based on Superchats, the platform’s donation system) are VTubers. Collectively, 30 million subscribers follow Hololive VTubers, and that number only grows when you consider other talent agencies.
The future of Hololive and VTubers
With a wider Western audience getting involved with VTubers — whether it be new talents like those under Hololive, or already established streamers like PewDiePie making the switch — the future for VTubers looks even brighter in 2021.
Hololive’s rise on YouTube isn’t ending here either. The group has put out a second set of auditions for English VTubers in February 2021, and their grand plans for expansion don’t stop there.
What this year will bring for Hololive remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure — VTubers are here to stay.
List of Hololive VTubers
Subscriber numbers correct as of February 14, 2021. Italicized = retired.
|Tokino Sora||Hololive Generation 0||7 September 2017||654,000|
|Roboco||Hololive Generation 0||4 March 2018||536,000|
|Sakura Miko||Hololive Generation 0||25 December 2018||868,000|
|Yozora Mel||Hololive Generation 1||13 May 2018||430,000|
|Shirakami Fubuki||Hololive Generation 1||1 June 2018||1,250,000|
|Natsuiro Matsuri||Hololive Generation 1||1 June 2018||830,000|
|Aki Rosenthal||Hololive Generation 1||1 June 2018||434,000|
|Akai Haato||Hololive Generation 1||2 June 2018||1,020,000|
|Hitomi Chris||Hololive Generation 1||3 June 2018||Deleted|
|Minato Aqua||Hololive Generation 2||8 August 2018||1,060,000|
|Murasaki Shion||Hololive Generation 2||17 August 2018||636,000|
|Nakiri Ayame||Hololive Generation 2||3 September 2018||710,000|
|Yuzuki Choco||Hololive Generation 2||4 September 2018||525,000|
|Oozora Subaru||Hololive Generation 2||16 September 2018||736,000|
|AZKi||Inonaka Music||15 November 2018||324,000|
|Ookami Mio||Hololive Gamers||7 December 2018||586,000|
|Nekomata Okayu||Hololive Gamers||6 April 2019||872,000|
|Inugami Korone||Hololive Gamers||13 April 2019||1,330,000|
|Hanasaki Miyabi||Holostars Generation 1||8 June 2019||54,500|
|Kagami Kira||Holostars Generation 1||9 June 2019||54,000|
|Kanade Izuru||Holostars Generation 1||22 June 2019||80,600|
|Usada Pekora||Hololive Fantasy||17 July 2019||1,250,000|
|Uruha Rushia||Hololive Fantasy||18 July 2019||954,000|
|Shiranui Flare||Hololive Fantasy||7 August 2019||510,000|
|Shirogane Noel||Hololive Fantasy||8 August 2019||856,000|
|Houshou Marine||Hololive Fantasy||11 August 2019||1,090,000|
|Yakushiji Suzaku||Holostars Generation 1||7 September 2019||Deleted|
|Arurandeisu||Holostars Generation 1||8 September 2019||78,500|
|Yogiri||Hololive China Generation 1||27 September 2019||Deleted|
|Rikka||Holostars Generation 1||20 October 2019||111,000|
|Civia||Hololive China Generation 1||1 November 2019||Deleted|
|Hoshimachi Suisei||Hololive Generation 0||1 December 2019 (was previously independent)||756,000|
|Astel Leda||Hololive Sun Tempo||7 December 2019||65,400|
|Kishido Temma||Hololive Sun Tempo||14 December 2019||50,600|
|Yukoku Roberu||Hololive Sun Tempo||24 December 2019||129,000|
|Amane Kanata||Hololive Generation 4||27 December 2019||674,000|
|Kiryu Coco||Hololive Generation 4||28 December 2019||991,000|
|Tsunomaki Watame||Hololive Generation 4||29 December 2019||751,000|
|Tokoyami Towa||Hololive Generation 4||3 January 2020||507,000|
|Himemori Luna||Hololive Generation 4||4 January 2020||464,000|
|Spade Echo||Hololive China Generation 1||30 January 2020||Deleted|
|Doris||Hololive China Generation 2||3 April 2020||Deleted|
|Rosalyn||Hololive China Generation 2||5 April 2020||Deleted|
|Ayunda Risu||Hololive Indonesia Generation 1||10 April 2020||376,000|
|Moona Hoshinova||Hololive Indonesia Generation 1||11 April 2020||490,000|
|Artia||Hololive China Generation 2||11 April 2020||Deleted|
|Airani Iofifteen||Hololive Indonesia Generation 1||12 April 2020||302,000|
|Tsukishita Kaoru||Hololive TriNero||29 April 2020||Deleted|
|Kageyama Shien||Hololive TriNero||30 April 2020||81,600|
|Aragami Oga||Hololive TriNero||1 May 2020||79,400|
|Yukihana Lamy||Hololive Generation 5||12 August 2020||531,000|
|Momosuzu Nene||Hololive Generation 5||13 August 2020||475,000|
|Shishiro Botan||Hololive Generation 5||14 August 2020||670,000|
|Mano Aloe||Hololive Generation 5||15 August 2020||Deleted|
|Omaru Polka||Hololive Generation 5||16 August 2020||570,000|
|Mori Calliope||Hololive Myth (English)||12 September 2020||1,100,000|
|Takanashi Kiana||Hololive Myth (English)||12 September 2020||801,000|
|Ninomae Ina’nis||Hololive Myth (English)||12 September 2020||798,000|
|Gawr Gura||Hololive Myth (English)||13 September 2020||2,220,000|
|Watson Amelia||Hololive Myth (English)||13 September 2020||1,010,000|
|Kureiji Ollie||Hololive Indonesia Generation 2||4 December 2020||418,000|
|Anya Melfissa||Hololive Indonesia Generation 2||5 December 2020||236,000|
|Pavolia Reine||Hololive Indonesia Generation 2||6 December 2020||283,000|