Move over real-life YouTubers getting rich. Japan has Vtubers (virtual YouTubers), and a talent agency managing the humans behind those avatars has produced one of the youngest billionaires in the country.
Shares of Japanese entertainment startup Anycolor Inc. jumped eightfold since going public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange a few months ago in June 2022, making it one of the best performers on the market and valuing the firm at about 370 billion yen ($2.5 billion). The 45% stake its 26-year-old founder, Riku Tazumi, owns is now worth $1.1 billion, even after the yen slumped to its lowest level in decades against the US dollar, as per a Bloomberg report.
In a year when global investors have shunned high-growth names trading at lofty multiples, Anycolor’s stellar performance stands out. The firm’s fruitful debut suggests market confidence in Japan’s ability to monetize its devoted anime and pop-idol culture and turn those intellectual assets into cash cows. Anycolor currently manages about 140 creators, and each works on a different animated character for YouTube.
Anycolor founder Tazumi set up the Tokyo-based firm in 2017 at the age of just 21 years, when he was still a university student. Then named it Ichikara — which literally means “from scratch” — and wanted to use anime as the gateway to becoming a next-generation entertainment company that wouldn’t be “bound by the traditional framework of the industry,” Tazumi wrote on the firm’s website. Ichikara was later renamed Anycolor.
As per Forbes, Ichikara is considered an industry leader in the world of VTubers, online entertainers represented by digital avatars. Its online content service promotes about 100 virtual characters, whose real-life creators are managed by the company.
“Talent agencies have traditionally been an extremely strong business within Japan,” as per Masahiro Hasegawa, an analyst in Tokyo. “People are betting that this is the next generation of such businesses,”
the report mentioned.
Numbers Show The Popularity
In its first earnings release last month, Anycolor reported its operating profit almost tripled to 2.1 billion yen for the three months through July 2022, from 842 million yen in the same period last year. Sales for its global service in English — used by viewers both at home and abroad — doubled to about 1.6 billion yen from the previous quarter. Anycolor shares soared 46% in the following three days.
The firm’s popularity is reportedly driven by virtual characters performing on YouTube under the brand name Nijisanji. These VTubers, or virtual YouTubers, usually play online video games while actively interacting with those watching their live-streamed shows. It’s analogous to game streamers on Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch, but on a different platform and with the appeal rooted in anime.
The report mentioned that VTubers don’t require the high costs associated with throwing big offline concerts or performing on TV shows that regular pop bands do. The company reported an operating profit margin of 36% for the July quarter.
Some are reportedly questioning the quality of the VTubers’ videos, saying it isn’t on the level of top-tier Japanese animations or music labels. But boosting it would be costly, Hasegawa said.
On the other hand, China’s Bilibili Inc., a provider of online entertainment including VTubers, saw its shares go on a huge surge during the pandemic’s boom before plummeting more than 90% as the global economy soured and losses mounted. The company, which may be forced to delist from the Nasdaq due to US-China tension, this month added a primary listing in Hong Kong, as per Bloomberg.
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