Virtual idol

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Base Info
Term Virtual idol
Origin Japan
Related Articles Idol, Net idol, VTuber

A virtual idol (バーチャルアイドル) is a general term for a virtual character/image that is created by means of CGI, and does activities similar to those of real-life idols, whether in the real or virtual world. The term has had different meanings through the eras.


Virtual idols, which are made through illustrations, music, animation, computer-generated imagery, among other things, imitate real idols in virtual acting activities through virtual environments such as the internet or in the real world, but they themselves don't exist in physical form. Due to the nature of being both a fictional character and an idol, not only can their creator or copyright holder produce albums, music videos, or photobooks, in the vein of traditional idols, the character is also shaped through games, animation, and interviews with the creator. In other cases, doujin created by fans has the potential to counteract the enrichment of the character, and enhance the interactivity between the fan and the character.

Term history and development

The term "virtual idol" was coined in Japan in the 1990s, but there have been similar characters that fit that concept before. Lynn Minmay from Macross was the representative "virtual idol" of this period: the songs from the anime were released in an idol album under her name, and entered the Oricon charts. These characters, which were conceived before the concept, were generally referred to as "precursor virtual idols".

With the development of technology, virtual idols continued to evolve into various forms, the interactivity also became stronger, and the definition of the term was also updated: from virtual idols based on 3DCG imagery, virtual idols based on web activities, virtual idols from games, all the way to idols based on music production software. Hatsune Miku was the first virtual idol to hold a concert using holographic projection technology, and concerts were held in many countries.

Among them, technological progress was important for the creation and development of virtual idols, such as 3D modeling, voice synthesis and holographic imagery. All these provide the necessary material conditions for building virtual idols. In addition, the development of the nijigen culture also provides a broad market for virtual idols. Some media believe that the popularity of virtual idols is because they are not "problematic", don't get involved in any scandal, and satisfy a person's sentiment of perfection.

Other meanings

On an idol character project based on voice actors, the characters themselves are fictional, but because the voice actors behind them became an important medium of interaction, it was questioned whether these characters could be counted as virtual idols. Regardless of the outcome of the debate, these projects are often described using "idol seiyuu" or other terms, instead of "virtual idol".[citation needed]