New year, new(ish) obsession
In the second half of 2020, a friend of mine found a new YouTube hole to encase himself in: the world of VTubers.
Virtual YouTubers are, by definition, online entertainers that use digital avatars. They’re streamers at their core, but we don’t see the real person. In their place is an avatar that was designed to mesh their real persona and the character they want to play. Think Apple’s animoji feature, except with far less limits.
But what is the appeal of VTubers, anyway? What is it about them that sets them apart? Why are people spending hours watching their videos? And why does a video of Gawr Gura saying “A” have millions of views? It baffled me the first time I saw it, but here are a few answers:
Endearing yet entertaining
The one requirement of every streamer is that they must be entertaining—and VTubers are just that. They play their games, they interact with their live audience, they do their thing (whether that’s singing, drawing or telling a story). But what makes VTubers particularly special to those that watch them are that they are endearing in their own right. They aren’t out there to pick fights or play pranks or hide beneath their avatars and the mystery of their IRL selves.
And honestly, that in itself is a welcome level of escape from the real world.
Fantasy and reality
Speaking of an escape, the fantasy of the VTuber is seen from the get-go: their avatars wear costumes fit to their character and, no matter how related it is to their real interests or personal stories, there is still that façade that we can all enjoy. It’s like finally having a conversation with our favorite cartoon characters.
But then there are those moments that VTubers share actual struggles, and that façade is shattered. And, from the conversations I’ve had, it’s these instances that really connect them with their audience. Some of them talk about their dark moments—losing a loved one, failing at a passion-turned-career, not feeling enough and just feeling untethered—and you’re reminded that they’re real people.
If I’m being honest, from the outside looking in, I’m a little jealous at the community these VTubers created online. They have such a sense of respect for each other and their chosen VTubers—and it’s not something I can say I’ve seen a lot of recently. Out of sheer curiosity, I asked a friend of mine what they look like IRL and he just told me that no, he isn’t interested to know; and he’s not the only one. If you want to dig around for their IRL selves, go ahead; it’s not some deeply buried secret. But no one is disrespectful enough to just slap it onto a comment on one of their videos.
They understand what they signed up for and there is a sense of contentment in that.
But who do we have our eyes on?
|Ninomae Inanis||Amelia Watson||Gawr Gura|
The other standouts from my inquiries include: Shishiro Botan, Hoshimachi Suisei, Shirakami Fubuki, Inugami Korone, Omaru Polka, Haachama, Momosuzu Nene, Hoshou Marine and Amatsuka Uto—all of whom I can’t say much about because my languages are limited (understatement).
I’m new at this, but I see the appeal. Now to check (again) if I’m a streamer-watcher…
Art Alexandra Lara