Virtual YouTubers in 2020: Cautious but optimistic

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  • Post last modified:05 August 2020
Virtual YouTubers in 2020: Kiryu Coco

Since 2016, we’ve seen how “Virtual YouTubers” redefine the platform in Japan, and now four years after, we saw the boom of YouTubers, leading the way to its localizations in Korea, China, Indonesia and even India.

I’m still watching a few vlogs, but most of the time I spend my mobile data watching VTubers. Or Michael Reeves. Sometimes Lilypichu. But more on Michael Reeves. Maybe Davie504 too.

In the virtual tube, you can see a milder, virtual Keemstar, some virtual gamers, virtual pop stars, virtual illustrators, et cetera.

By this time, I’m turning into a VTuber otaku, given that there won’t be any cosplay events in the next year or so due to COVID-19.

My understanding of Virtual YouTubers: By tribes, lone wolves

As much as I’d love to talk about VTubers in general, there’s a LOT to talk about. My definition of VTubers will stem from five groups: Hololive, Nijisanji, other agency-handled personalities such as Kizuna Ai, Mirai Akari, Kaguya Luna, the other oyabuns, etc., UniVirtuals and other independent creators like Pochi-Goya, AI Angel or even Ami Yamato who started vlogging through a virtual persona as early as 2011. Oh yes, we even have R-18 too.

While UniVirtuals is not an agency like Hololive and Nijisanji, I understand that it’s a community of independent English-speaking/understanding VTubers spearheaded by Miya Kimino through the hashtag #UniVirtuals.

My appreciation of Virtual YouTubers: I laugh, I press like

Like most of you, I got introduced to Virtual YouTubers like Kizuna Ai, Kaguya Luna and Mirai Akari the first time I watched them. Eventually, I saw Tsukino Mito.

I don’t understand what they’re talking about, so it’s worth noting that there are fans who are eagerly subtitling their videos or placing their highlight videos.

Over time, I saw the rise of this form of content creation, but not without some behind-the-scenes drama, which are too many for me to share, like the issue with Kizuna Ai, and then the Game-Bu.

Kiryu Coco

It’s just in this year that I went back into consuming VTuber content, probably because of my friends on Facebook sharing VTuber stuff, like Korone and Okayu being so cuddly to each other. Would you believe that it’s around March when I start watching Kiryu Coco?

Grass.

From the lol, then warau (www), and then kusa (草), and then grass. I learned how the language of laughter evolves. This time, I learned it from a VTuber.

Coco is a genius. She doesn’t mind talking smack about her fellows at Hololive, she doesn’t mind making fun of her show to the point that she herself makes fun of it, she knows how to interact with the audience very well, and she’s the only VTuber who thought of streaming at 6 in the morning, Japanese time.

Best of all, she’s bilingual. She eventually gets a worldwide audience. She does not speak more English though, and for a good reason.

Shirakami Fubuki

What I appreciate about Virtual YouTubers these days are their voices, how they share content, how they make their viewers laugh.

Let’s take for example Shirakami Fubuki. She always make videos of her singing to any kind of meme song. I learned more about Scatman John from her.

Scatman John’s “Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)” is a 90’s Eurodance track that got into the hit charts in Japan in its debut. Just like Russia’s Vocalis, the song rose to meme status after so long.

Ayunda Risu

Since I’m biased with Hololive, I’d also like to talk about Ayunda Risu, one of the three new Indonesian VTubers representing Hololive Indonesia. She is a cute, fluffy cinnamon roll who speaks in three languages. Also, she’s scared of dogs but not Korone.

So what’s in it for Virtual YouTubers in 2020?

with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we are at home doing our own stuff. That also means that we keep ourselves glued to the screen for entertainment to kill our boredom.

Entertainment is much valued these days, and Virtual YouTubers are helping in this content economy.

Hololive and Nijisanji has been competing for so long – both have branches in Korea, China and Indonesia. When Nijisanji got its lineup of YouTubers from India, Hololive claps at them by announcing an audition for English-speaking YouTubers, perhaps taking courage from Coco.

Concerns over how some fans act

As we discuss this, I’d like to put on the table some concerns over how some fans treat VTubers.

Attacks by “fans”

One time, Hololive’s Tokoyami Towa got attacked with hate comments after a conversation of hers with some male people on Discord got broadcasted, which is why she took time off. Take note that Hololive treats itself as an idol agency, so I am presuming that private conversations are illegal.

Another Hololive idol, Minato Aqua, enjoyed playing with a pro gamer – a rare occasion, if you ask me – so much that she got attached with hate comments as well, prompting her to apologize in public.

Can’t we have our own VTuber group too?

In the past few days, I initiated discussion regarding a possibility of VTuber groups in the Philippines. Statistics posted by YouTube channel Virtuals Translated show that the US, Indonesia and the Philippines are the top three countries which watch the said channel’s translated, fan-made videos.

Take note that it’s the statistics for the said YouTube channel alone, but it does suggest the audience that VTubers capture over time. I once confused this as Hololive’s statistics (comprehension 100 lol).

Setting that aside, there’s this fear that having a Hololive branch in the Philippines will lead to a fate similar to MNL48’s. People in the comments over the post are begging not to have a Hololive branch.

I turn to my colleagues to shed light on this.

Reikisha (who did the review for Murasaki7) told me this: “You know what it’s like to be in MNL48 hell, right? Last time I heard a member got auto-graduated because some stupid flexed that he had sex with his girlfriend who is an MNL48 member.”

I replied in confirmation: “That actually happened – not auto-grad, more like TERMINATED.”

“Scandals like that might ruin Hololive PH and smear the agency’s name as a whole. […] Having purist idol fans in Japan is nothing compared to having fans who are just toxic in general. (It) would be great if their 1st batch of non-JP or ID VTubers can handle the heat like Coco.”

To which I say, “Coco can handle it, she can grass the hell out of the ANTI.”

How VTubers sustain themselves?

I’ve spent hours watching a few VTubers, and I think there are factors that makes a VTuber successful.

Good backstory

Many VTubers have their great backstories, but I find this one from Nijisanji Indonesia amusing: Her name is Azura Cecillia.

Let me share her description from the VTuber Wiki:

She is a soldier on her planet, her race is “EON” which is one race that resembles shape and features to humanoid.

She came to earth because she has a mission to gather information on humans, the method is to communicate with us, therefore she became a vtuber. She hopes to be able to communicate with us, and most importantly she wants to protect her planet and earth.

On her planet she usually spends her time with training or fighting on the battlefield with her beloved weapon. Since arriving on earth she found very interesting entertainment, namely video games.

Her actual age on her planet is not actually 22, but she just converted it to the earth version.

Imagine being a soldier in your planet but you play games to continue practicing your soldier skills. Good.

Good content

Popular Virtual YouTubers know how to produce content. For example, if you’re good at changing slides for your streams, you can be like PowerPoint Tenshi Amane Kanata, or like Usada Pekora who created a Trap House in Minecraft.

Good creative taste

Some Virtual YouTubers like Pekora or Oozora Subaru have good taste in the creative side of things – Pekora’s BGM for her Minecraft streams is something I listen to frequently – a novelty – while Subaru’s visuals are done by her Shigure Ui-mama which are well-thought.

Constant support from the fanbase

When Kiryu Coco temporarily lost her livestreaming rights, she did not stop her morning AsaCoco Live. She continues to do her morning routine, and when she got the rights back, fans flood with super chats.

As with any form of live streaming show, it takes two to tango: Don’t forget your fans, and the fans won’t forget you. Coco makes her viewers feel special, so much that it’s a running gag that AsaCoco is a literal drug and the viewers are addicted to it.

Knows more languages

Kureha Kurono is a virtual Youtuber based in Japan, and through her journey, she learned to sing in lots of languages – like Filipino. By knowing languages, you will get the attention of more people.

Another case in point are the several translators who either contribute to the subtitling of their videos or uploading clipped highlights which they have subtitled. They are responsible for the globalization of VTubers, and I am thankful for their service.

Some of them even translate on the spot:

We have Filipino VTubers

Before I let you go, we have the likes of Kaheru (or Kahel, Filipino for orange), Tapsi or even Neun, all either native of the country or fluent in Filipino.

As far as I can see, we have not yet seen the full potential for Filipino Virtual YouTubers to flourish, but with the right amount of talent and resources, we can see someone rising from the rest.

It will all be just for making memes though. Or is it? We’ll find out in the next few years.