In 2010, a Japanese visual novel developer hit upon advertising their games on YouTube by having an anime character promote their products in 3D-animated sequences. Other Japanese companies followed suit on this breakthrough. But it was not until 2016 when another character, Kizuna AI, debuted and popularized the phrase “Virtual YouTuber” or “VTuber.” Kizuna’s YouTube videos where she covers songs, plays videogames and discusses with her audience via web-chat pushed the phenomenon to the point that at present there are over 10,000 VTubers. And now the streaming giant Netflix is entering the fad, fashionably late, with its own virtual character to promote their anime content.
The Verge tells us that Netflix has launched a Virtual YouTube character to play the role of the streaming platform’s “Anime Ambassador.” Teased since last week, the VTuber debuted Tuesday, April 27 in a video sequence that is familiar to fans of the VTuber corner on YouTube. The character’s name is N-ko Mei Kurono, and she is a silver-haired anime girl in a black dress with the Netflix N logo and sheep horns on her head. That is because she, like many other VTubers, is a half-animal hybrid; in her case, a “sheep-human from California.”
N-ko (short for “Netflix-child” in Japanese) is created much like Virtual YouTubers in general. Her form is a 3D digital avatar animated on computers, which is then animated by a live actor wearing a motion-capture suit whose movements the avatar follows, while a voice actress provides the voice. In-character, N-ko describes herself as the Netflix Anime Club manager, tasked to promote the service’s anime library of series and films, some of which are Netflix-exclusive, on their official YouTube channel. Besides shilling Netflix anime, N-ko will also feature videos of herself doing other stuff VTubers are popular for, to generate fan buzz for herself as well.
The introduction of N-Ko Mei Kurono as a VTuber Netflix anime ambassador can only come at the right time for the streaming juggernaut. Netflix has already announced no less than 40 individual anime titles being added to their library this 2021. They range from new seasons of existing anime shows, an anime spinoff for “The Terminator,” and the “Sailor Moon Eternal” anime films that released in Japan earlier this year. There is speculation on whether or not N-ko might collaborate with existing VTubers, many of which have large YouTube fan-bases.
Image from official Netflix website