At the beginning of 2020, YouTube’s recommendations led me to discover a girl named Ars Almal. Little did I know that I would be stepping into an entirely new world I was yet unfamiliar with: the world of VTubers and idols.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of virtual youtubers. Kizuna Ai’s popularity soared years ago and I’d say that her name is pretty well known even now. Since then though, I never thought much of it. When I saw Ars, I just figured that another person was using a virtual avatar. It wasn’t that weird. Many streamers use (or have used) face tracking software to function identically to facecams without giving away what they themselves actually looked like. So, what’s the difference? What’s this culture I’m talking about?
Well, she’s not just “another person” using a virtual avatar. She’s part of a company that uses virtual avatars. To be even more specific, the company is actually an idol agency called Nijisanji. Are you keeping track of everything?
Nijisanji 「にじさんじ」consists of quite an extensive amount of idols: male and female. To take a peek at the cast, check out their site or watch their official music video. It’s actually mind boggling. I doubt I’d be able to name even 10%.
That said, there may be a reason for it. There’s actually another company called Hololive 「ホロライブ」Can you guess what they are? Yep! Another idol agency that uses virtual avatars! You can check out the cast here: link.
Hololive and Nijisanji idols also have crossover streams sometimes. So far as I know, it’s not a business move (Though the companies may have to approve? The idol industry is scary. More on that later). Some people are just friends with each other and happen to be in different companies. There are also a bunch of other idol agencies besides those two that I don’t even know of. My limited knowledge of Japanese hampers me, but I’m learning, and sometimes watching them does help.
Do I have a preference between either companies? That’s really tough to answer. If forced to choose though, I think I have to say Hololive. There’s a select few that I just love to watch, regardless if I can understand them or not. So, for some recommendations:
She’s just a ball of excitement. She does in fact have a unique dialect which I adore as well. Whenever I watch her, I fee; that she’s genuinely having fun. Moreover, the viewers aren’t just along for the ride. She interacts with her chat a lot and even tries to communicate with her foreign audience.
She’s always so relaxed that I feel comfy too. Even her outfit matches that comfy vibe she exudes. Moreover, her voice is really pleasant to listen to. Okayu often collaborates with Korone so their dynamic together is amazing. I’m sure you could tell by the previous video, but here’s another that shows how close they are.
Coco? She’s a bit different. She’s more lewd, vulgar, and satirical. One of her weekly shows is a news program where she goes over some Hololive stream fails and funny moments so that everyone can laugh together. Her grasp of the english language is really good (probably fluent?) and likes to curse. I’ll put two videos below that hopefully captures who she is.
Nijisanji also has some members I absolutely love too!
Ugh. I talked about in my Waifu article how I loved deeper voices. Ange’s voice? Nothing more needs to be said. Watch the video.
I’m gonna talk about all four of them together because their dynamic is amazing too. Since they’re all really close friends in real life, they’ve developed a sort of family structure, parents and children. They have no problem joking around and naturally mesh. I’ll put two videos here for them too because I can’t do them justice with just words.
I mentioned before that the idol industry is a bit scary. That’s not a lie or overblown. At the end of the day, these personalities are treated as idols and they have to follow certain rules: legal and cultural. I forget this a lot as a foreign fan and there’s a dark side to the fanbase. They can be demanding at times or wary of female idols having boyfriends. It sounds absurd even as I write it, but it’s true. That’s why I hope that if you find a VTuber you enjoy, please support them, especially when they’re at their worst.
[It’s for that reason that Coco is actually really great. When she makes fun of mistakes, she does it so that the community treats it as what it is: a funny accident. That’s the brilliance of her satire.]
One last thing before I send you off. Very recently, an idol named Chinami Achikita has recently graduated. If you don’t know, graduation in the idol industry means that they’ve moved on from being an idol. To be honest, I don’t know much about her. I don’t believe I’ve ever watched a video with her in it. Nevertheless, I wanted to mention her because I want to wish her good luck in her future endeavors. When she graduated, she opted to delete all her videos and now only one music video remains, swayed last minute on her final stream to keep it up.
Despite not knowing her, I found this to be really saddening. Maybe it’s just because of my personal values, but the deletion of all that work and having no footprint is tragic. I hope her fans remember her and the entertainment she provided. A prayer that she moves on to bigger and better things.
Hopefully you’re able to enjoy the world of VTubers and Virtual idols now. It’s a wild ride but a pleasant one nonetheless. Go forth to find a personality you love and report back! I want to hear who your favorite personalities are!