“Even if she doesn’t actually exist, the love for her that sprouts in your heart is real.”

“Ai” is a pretty common name for models in Japan, and not just because it’s short and easy to remember. In addition to being a woman’s name, ai is also the Japanese word for “love,” so the flowery, feminine feeling it conjures up is one more way to catch the attention and affection of prospective fans.

For example, here’s Ai Satsuki, the newest model being promoted by Japanese publisher Shueisha.

But while Ai’s name was given to her by Shueisha, the publisher didn’t make that decision just because they hope people will fall in love with her, but because her images are generated by AI. Ai made her professional debut this Monday, appearing in the latest issue of Shueisha’s Weekly Playboy magazine. A separate entity from the American Playboy magazine), Weekly Playboy is best known for its gravure photo spreads focusing on models in swimsuits, lingerie, and other revealing outfits,

▼ In its announcement tweet, Weekly Playboy describes Ai as being “stuffed full of men’s ideals” and asserts that “Even if she doesn’t actually exist, the love for her that sprouts in your heart is real.”

Despite not having a physical form, Ai is officially listed as being 157 centimeters (61,8 inches) tall, as well as being born in Tokyo and enjoying playing video games as a hobby. Along with her appearance in this week’s Weekly Playboy, Shueisha has also released 50-page digital image album for Ai titled Umaretate (“Just Born”), featuring images not included in her Weekly Playboy spread, through its Weekly Playboy Gravure Japan website here.

“AI gravure models? What do you think?” asked Weekly Playboy in its tweet, prompting responses including:

“No scandals. No scheduling problems. No talent agency problems. No appearance fees. Sounds good.”
“I want Weekly Playboy to photograph real people.”
“Eventually, I think people will come around to appreciating AI gravure models.”
“She’s cute!”
“I hope this is a one-time thing, and doesn’t take page space away from real gravure models.”
“When are we going to see an Ai Satsuki video?”
“She’s cute! Following her account and going to keep an eye on what she does next.”
“If you put out a physical copy of her photo album, I’m buying it.”
“Things are going to get tougher for 3-D women.”
“AI gravure photos are beautiful, but I prefer real ones. Actual idols have daily lives and life experiences, and I think that’s what makes fans really feel attached to them and want to help them succeed.”

The last comment touches on a characteristic point of gravure idol marketing in Japan: the idea that by purchasing merchandise, attending paid-ticket meet-and-greet events, and otherwise financially supporting their favorite idol, fans are actively supporting her professional aspirations. That unique sense of satisfaction plays a big part in cultivating high-spending superfans, and whether or not a photo-realistic but AI-generated model can form the same emotional connection may be the determining factor in whether or not Shueisha, and other publishers too, press forward with AI gravure models.

Source: Weekly Playboy Gravure Japan (1, 2), Twitter/@shupure
Top image: Weekly Playboy Gravure Japan
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!