KITEC’s Star Hall was packed with youngsters buzzing with excitement. Almost all were armed with glow sticks, and several came in cosplay. The lights dimmed, music struck, and everyone screamed at the top of their lungs to welcome ... a hologram.
“Standing” on the stage was Inori Yuzuriha, the lead singer of Egoist, a band on the Japanese anime Guilty Crown.
Projected as an animated holographic image, the anime character looked like it had stepped out of the screen and into our physical world, although the visual quality is still a far cry from what you’d see in 3D movies. Inori was about the height of an average adult (those who didn’t get good seats had to stand on tip toes for a glimpse), with flowing pink hair and red eyes.
She delivered hits such as Departures, The Everlasting Guilty Crown and Namae no Nai Kaibutsu, danced around and chatted with the audience in a giggly, fragile voice. “Nice to meet you all,” she attempted in Cantonese. Fans roared their approval. Near the end, she even sang Beyond’s 90s hit, Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies (海闊天空), which was the unofficial theme song for last year’s Umbrella movement.
Inori isn’t the first virtual star to stage a live performance in Hong Kong. Vocaloid Hatsune Miku sang for a crowd of over 5,000 fans at the same venue three years ago, but Inori was able to be a lot more interactive because she is voiced live by 21-year-old Chelly, who has been the “mysterious singer” behind Inori since she was 17.
“Because I sing backstage and my fans can’t see me, I’m more at ease,” Chelly told Young Post after the concert. But like any pop star she still has her hurried costume changes: she has to wear similar clothes as Inori so the movements of her body and clothing can be detected by motion capture technology and mimicked in real time by Inori. “From where I stand, I can still see the audience, even those at the very back, so I can wave to them like in any live performance.”
Nobody knows what the singer really looks like – she only reveals her lips and hair in photos she posts on social media. Even during the interview, Chelly didn’t show herself, and answered through the Inori-hologram, avoiding personal questions.
Having been chosen out of 2,000 girls by songwriter Ryo to be the voice of Inori, Chelly enjoys the privileges of being a celebrity who gets to keep a normal life. As she tours the Peak and enjoys seafood, nobody can tell her apart from other tourists.
Her fans don’t mind her mysterious identity. “I’m curious to know who she is, but it’s not that important,” says Brian Tang Man-chun, an 18-year-old at the concert. “I’ll like her no matter what because I like her songs. They’re so full of emotion. And I like the way Inori feels for the main character in Guilty Crown.”
Virtual concerts are not just for anime characters, either. On May 10, Digital Domain, the American visual effects company behind Iron Man 3 and the X-Men franchise, brought Taiwanese pop diva Teresa Teng back to life for a virtual concert for 7,000 fans at the Taipei Arena in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of her passing. Two years ago, the virtual Teng appeared on stage to sing three duets with Jay Chou during the Mandopop star’s Opus world tour.
The mainland is also catching up with the technology. This year, China Animation Character Company is organising a concert in Hong Kong for its own virtual character, Violet.
Imagine Dragons and Maroon 5, who are scheduled to be in Hong Kong around the same time, may be up for some tough competition.