The sayonara we never wanted to say: Kiryu Coco calls it a day

In the early hours of this morning, Hololive VTuber Kiryu Coco, the Internet’s favourite shitposting dragon, hosted a short, 11-minute stream in which she said she had an important announcement to share with everyone.

The announcement came seemingly out of nowhere for a lot of people, and it was clear from the moment Coco appeared on screen with a raspy voice, no background music and an uncharacteristic hesitance to her speech that something serious was going on.

Sure enough, it didn’t take long for her to reveal the truth, and rather tellingly she initially delivered the announcement through on-screen text rather than speaking it aloud: Kiryu Coco will be graduating from Hololive.

For those unfamiliar with VTuber and idol culture parlance, the term “graduation” is a euphemism used to describe when a performer is stepping down from their role. The word has been specifically chosen because in the original Japanese, the term has a somewhat “softer” meaning than another word which is sometimes used: “withdrawal”.

“Graduation” provides the feeling that the performer is moving on in a happy way, having learned something, developed close friendships and a plan to continue to maintain a good relationship with their management and peers. This isn’t always the case in reality, of course, but that is, at least, the intention behind the word.

It took Coco a good couple of minutes to be able to speak after revealing the news on-screen — perhaps partly to allow her viewers to take it in, and partly to compose her own thoughts. “Doing it in text was a good idea,” she admitted.

Kiryu Coco

Coco will be continuing to stream until July 1, at which point she will put on a final farewell stream. Once this is passed, her existing YouTube channel will remain online as an archive, but members-only content will “expire” after three months — the reason for this is that monetisation will be turned off after three months, and thus any “paywalled” content will disappear.

Interestingly enough, Coco’s announcement of this prompted a flurry of new memberships during the stream, presumably from people who wanted to catch this time-limited content before it expired — or just viewers who wanted to show their support.

“Regarding the reason for my graduation,” she explained, “the reason involves a lot of things… a lot of things I can’t talk about. So you won’t hear anything from me. I know that’s hard to accept.”

Naturally, speculation has been rife about the exact reasons for Coco’s graduation — and her audience has been fearing it would happen for some time now.

During a stream in late 2020, Kiryu Coco and Akai Haato acknowledged Taiwan as an independent country while looking through some of their YouTube stats on stream — YouTube lists Taiwan as an independent country in its creator dashboard.

This was a double whammy of things they “shouldn’t” have been doing — so far as Hololive parent company Cover is concerned, providing such a “behind the scenes” look is a no-no, and secondly a certain, loud portion of the significant VTuber audience in China don’t like it when you say Taiwan is a country. As a result, Coco and Haato were suspended from streaming for three weeks, and Cover issued an official apology to their Chinese audience.

Coco continued to receive harassment from Chinese Internet denizens after she returned, and a month later, Hololive dissolved its Chinese branch. While no official statements were given, the fan community believed that Hololive’s Chinese fans had delivered Cover an ultimatum: permanently fire Coco and Haato, or pull out of China altogether. And with Coco being one of Hololive’s biggest earners, chances are they took the latter option.

In April of 2021, Coco admitted on stream that the reason she hadn’t collaborated with the Hololive English girls, despite this being widely requested by both her Japanese and overseas fans, was because “they have to be this defensive, because you know the things that happened to me… so I won’t blame anyone if they don’t want to collab with me.

“I’m not gonna blame anyone,” she continued, “’cause if it was me in the Hololive EN and someone like me wanted to collaborate with me, maybe me or my manager would say ‘no, it’s too dangerous, don’t do that!’ I get it. It’s okay to be defensive because we’re working as a team. Don’t cry.”

Interestingly enough, Coco’s announcement comes just after she finally had her first collaborations with the Hololive English girls, beginning with an endearingly awkward Reddit Shitpost Review with an exceedingly nervous Calliope Mori, and following up with a Super Mario Party stream with both Calli and Kureiji Ollie from Hololive’s Indonesia branch.

Both of these streams were very well received, but in retrospect they can be looked upon as something of a “last hurrah” for Coco; it’s entirely possible that Coco had been quietly planning to step down for some time, and with that in mind she felt that she would finally be free to do all the things she’d always wanted to do. With Coco’s hesitance to speak further on the matter this is, of course, speculation, but it seems plausible.

“This is a personal request from me,” Coco added. “A very important request. Please don’t bring up my graduation on other Hololive members’ streams if they do not bring the topic up themselves. They all know I’ll be graduating on July 1. They’re all trying to take it positively right now, and of course they’ll all be continuing to stream cheerfully as usual, so please don’t go and ask them their thoughts on my graduation when everyone is just having fun. Absolutely do not go and do that on their streams. They’re all still trying to process this.”

With this in mind, it seems that other Hololive members knew of Coco’s decision well in advance — and that Coco’s graduation is not due to any ill-will between her and Cover, nor her and her peers in Hololive. Indeed, Cover’s press release on the subject seems to bear this out: they describe the situation as “honouring her wishes” and have opened an “extended period in which fan mail and presents for her will be accepted”. If you want to get in on that action, click here for official contact info before July 14.

The loss of Kiryu Coco is keenly felt by the entire VTuber community. Coco was instrumental in bringing widespread attention to the VTuber phenomenon — and particularly Hololive’s work in the field — outside of Japan. Coco’s deliberate inclusiveness to the overseas audience — including chaotic hopping back and forth between fluent Japanese and English with an endearing Texan drawl — helped lay the groundwork for worldwide branches of Hololive such as the Indonesian and English branches, and it’s fair to say VTuber culture wouldn’t have been the same without her.

“I have lots of unfulfilled dreams that will probably stay that way,” she continued. “But I’m being positive! You gotta stay positive, guys. I’m very… well… well, I’m still your cute-ass dragon, so no matter where I go, no matter which stage I stand on, I’ll still shine. My future is bright. That’s how it is. Thank you for everything.”

Thank you for everything you’ve done, Coco; you’ll be sorely missed.

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Pete Davison
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