‘Like family’: Japan’s virtual YouTubers make millions from fans

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Mayu Iizuka sheds her soft-spoken personality and starts cackling, screaming and waving wildly in a makeshift studio in Tokyo as her avatar appears on a livestream before hundreds of fans. Virtual YouTubers like Iizuka, who voices and animates a character called Yume Kotobuki, have transformed a niche Japanese subculture into a thriving industry where top accounts can rake in more than a million dollars a year. The videos are designed to make fans feel they are interacting directly with their favourite animated idols — with viewers sometimes paying hundreds of dollars to have a single comment…

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