Huh? Bilibili announces “bullet chat” of the year

On 15 December, Chinese video and livestream platform Bilibili announced its annual “bullet chat” of the year. The comment of the year for 2023 is “Huh?” (“啊?”, lit. Ah?), an expression of surprise and disbelief. There have been 13.2 million “bullet chat” subtitles containing the comment up until the day of the announcement.

The word “huh?” is often used for videos of scientific and technological advancement, such as livestreamers performing unbelievable tricks. Vlogger Moxin’s calligraphy video of writing down the entirety of Li Bai’s poem “Shu Dao Nan” with one unbroken stroke was the video that earned the most “Huh?”s  in the past year.

It was the 7th time Bilibili announced a “bullet chat” comment of the year. The announcement this year was made jointly with Art Exhibit China and the Chinese Character Museum. The one-character comment had already made it into the museum as part of the folk customs displays at the museum focusing on the Chinese written language. On Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, the topic “bullet chat of 2023” (#2023年度弹幕#) ranked number 45 on the Hot Search list with 20.25 million views.

The “bullet chat” (弹幕, “danmu/danmaku” lit. “bullet screen”) subtitle comments originated from Japanese sites like Niconico. Commenters can project their comments as subtitles which fly over the screen of the video. The “bullet screen” literally means barrage or a rain of bullets as these subtitles resemble bullets from old school shooting games that fly over the entire screen in different colours. Bilibili is among the first of the Chinese video platforms to adopt this and has been known for the entertaining comments from its user community.

Past “bullet chat” comments of the year include “graceful” (优雅) from 2022, “This broke my defences/I’m overwhelmed” (破防了) from 2021 and ”my youth is back” (爷青回) from 2020. The “bullet chat” has become more than just comments but is a part of the videos, with a dedicated community expressing and exchanging their thoughts and feelings. Many of those past comments of the years have seeped into daily usage online and offline.Exhibiting the comment of the year at the Chinese Character Museum reflects how the internet culture shapes how we communicate.  With social media buzzwords getting more ready recognition from official sources and everyday usage, there might be a new kind of balance between “on trend” and “dated” for marketers trying to harness their power.


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