VTubers have become internet sensations across 2021. There’s one group that reigns supreme: Hololive. With over 60 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, the VTuber takeover 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 with 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.
After that, VTubers exploded globally. At the time of writing, there are more than 10,000 known VTubers. There are also talent agencies housing these VTubers, the biggest of which is Hololive. They are very much aligned with traditional entertainment agencies, especially idol ones who have people audition for specific roles in groups.
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, YAGOO 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.
The Council expansion in 2021 with five new English idols only cemented Hololive’s place at the forefront of internet fandom.
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 — seven of them are signed by Hololive.
Collectively, 50 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 making the switch — the future for VTubers looks even brighter in 2023.
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 December 19, 2022. Italicized = graduated.
|Tokino Sora||Hololive Generation 0||September 7, 2017||1,040,000|
|Roboco||Hololive Generation 0||March 4, 2018||885,000|
|Sakura Miko||Hololive Generation 0||December 25, 2018||1,630,000|
|Yozora Mel||Hololive Generation 1||May 13, 2018||783,000|
|Shirakami Fubuki||Hololive Generation 1||June 1, 2018||2,040,000|
|Natsuiro Matsuri||Hololive Generation 1||June 1, 2018||1,310,000|
|Aki Rosenthal||Hololive Generation 1||June 1, 2018||721,000|
|Akai Haato||Hololive Generation 1||June 2, 2018||1,400,000|
|Hitomi Chris||Hololive Generation 1||June 3, 2018||Deleted|
|Minato Aqua||Hololive Generation 2||August 8, 2018||1,710,000|
|Murasaki Shion||Hololive Generation 2||August 17, 2018||1,070,000|
|Nakiri Ayame||Hololive Generation 2||September 3, 2018||1,350,000|
|Yuzuki Choco||Hololive Generation 2||September 4, 2018||929,000|
|Oozora Subaru||Hololive Generation 2||September 16, 2018||1,410,000|
|AZKi||Inonaka Music||November 15, 2018||697,000|
|Ookami Mio||Hololive Gamers||December 7, 2018||1,050,000|
|Nekomata Okayu||Hololive Gamers||April 6, 2019||1,520,000|
|Inugami Korone||Hololive Gamers||April 13, 2019||1,910,000|
|Hanasaki Miyabi||HOLOSTARS Generation 1||June 8, 2019||134,000|
|Kagami Kira||HOLOSTARS Generation 1||June 9, 2019||77,100|
|Kanade Izuru||HOLOSTARS Generation 1||June 22, 2019||206,000|
|Usada Pekora||Hololive Fantasy||July 17, 2019||2,110,000|
|Uruha Rushia||Hololive Fantasy||July 18, 2019||1,470,000|
|Shiranui Flare||Hololive Fantasy||August 7, 2019||942,000|
|Shirogane Noel||Hololive Fantasy||August 8, 2019||1,590,000|
|Houshou Marine||Hololive Fantasy||August 11, 2019||2,230,000|
|Yakushiji Suzaku||HOLOSTARS Generation 1||September 7, 2019||Deleted|
|Arurandeisu||HOLOSTARS Generation 1||September 8, 2019||177,000|
|Yogiri||Hololive China Generation 1||September 27, 2019||Deleted|
|Rikka||HOLOSTARS Generation 1||October 20, 2019||222,000|
|Civia||Hololive China Generation 1||November 1, 2019||Deleted|
|Hoshimachi Suisei||Hololive Generation 0||December 1, 2019 (previously independent)||1,660,000|
|Astel Leda||Hololive Sun Tempo||December 7, 2019||217,000|
|Kishido Temma||Hololive Sun Tempo||December 14, 2019||129,000|
|Yukoku Roberu||Hololive Sun Tempo||December 24, 2019||277,000|
|Amane Kanata||Hololive Generation 4||December 27, 2019||1,270,000|
|Kiryu Coco||Hololive Generation 4||December 28, 2019||1,420,000|
|Tsunomaki Watame||Hololive Generation 4||December 29, 2019||1,310,000|
|Tokoyami Towa||Hololive Generation 4||January 3, 2020||1,160,000|
|Himemori Luna||Hololive Generation 4||January 4, 2020||874,000|
|Spade Echo||Hololive China Generation 1||January 30, 2020||Deleted|
|Doris||Hololive China Generation 2||April 3, 2020||Deleted|
|Rosalyn||Hololive China Generation 2||April 5, 2020||Deleted|
|Ayunda Risu||Hololive Indonesia Generation 1||April 10, 2020||778,000|
|Moona Hoshinova||Hololive Indonesia Generation 1||April 11, 2020||1,240,000|
|Artia||Hololive China Generation 2||April 11, 2020||Deleted|
|Airani Iofifteen||Hololive Indonesia Generation 1||April 12, 2020||663,000|
|Tsukishita Kaoru||Hololive MaFia||April 29, 2020||Deleted|
|Kageyama Shien||Hololive MaFia||April 30, 2020||213,000|
|Aragami Oga||Hololive MaFia||May 1, 2020||171,000|
|Yukihana Lamy||Hololive Generation 5||August 12, 2020||1,080,000|
|Momosuzu Nene||Hololive Generation 5||August 13, 2020||1,000,000|
|Shishiro Botan||Hololive Generation 5||August 14, 2020||1,280,000|
|Mano Aloe||Hololive Generation 5||August 15, 2020||Deleted|
|Omaru Polka||Hololive Generation 5||August 16, 2020||1,050,000|
|Mori Calliope||Hololive Myth (English)||September 12, 2020||2,170,000|
|Takanashi Kiana||Hololive Myth (English)||September 12, 2020||1,440,000|
|Ninomae Ina’nis||Hololive Myth (English)||September 12, 2020||1,490,000|
|Gawr Gura||Hololive Myth (English)||September 12, 2020||4,250,000|
|Watson Amelia||Hololive Myth (English)||September 13, 2020||1,720,000|
|Kureiji Ollie||Hololive Indonesia Generation 2||December 4, 2020||1,220,000|
|Anya Melfissa||Hololive Indonesia Generation 2||December 5, 2020||590,000|
|Pavolia Reine||Hololive Indonesia Generation 2||December 6, 2020||723,000|
|IRyS||Hololive Project: HOPE||July 11, 2021||904,000|
|Tsukumo Sana||Hololive Council (English)||August 22, 2021||399,000|
|Ceres Fauna||Hololive Council (English)||August 22, 2021||668,000|
|Ouro Kronii||Hololive Council (English)||August 22, 2021||828,000|
|Nanashi Mumei||Hololive Council (English)||August 22, 2021||766,000|
|Hakos Baelz||Hololive Council (English)||August 22, 2021||661,000|
|La+ Darknesss||Hololive Generation 6||November 26, 2021||876,000|
|Takane Lui||Hololive Generation 6||November 27, 2021||657,000|
|Hakui Koyori||Hololive Generation 6||November 28, 2021||779,000|
|Sakamata Chloe||Hololive Generation 6||November 29, 2021||954,000|
|Kazama Iroha||Hololive Generation 6||November 30, 2021||654,000|
|Vestia Zeta||Hololive Indonesia Generation 3||March 25, 2022||640,000|
|Kaela Kovalskia||Hololive Indonesia Generation 3||March 26, 2022||533,000|
|Kobo Kanaeru||Hololive Indonesia Generation 3||March 27, 2022||1,750,000|
|Yatogami Fuma||UPROAR!!||March 29, 2022||95,200|
|Utsugi Uyu||UPROAR!!||March 29, 2022||74,500|
|Hizaki Gamma||UPROAR!!||March 30, 2022||100,000|
|Minase Rio||UPROAR!!||March 30, 2022||96,300|
|Regis Altare||HOLOSTARS English TEMPUS||July 22, 2022||213,000|
|Magni Dezmond||HOLOSTARS English TEMPUS||July 22, 2022||182,000|
|Axel Syrios||HOLOSTARS English TEMPUS||July 23, 2022||176,000|
|Noir Vesper||HOLOSTARS English TEMPUS||July 23, 2022||193,000|