Header Image drawn by the very Ninomae Ina’nis herself!
Fairly recently, a new branch of Hololive, a Vtuber agency, has debuted. Its name is Hololive English (commonly shortened to Hololive EN). The branch consists of 5 members who, as you might expect, are all able to speak English fluently. Some even have an additional language under their sleeve with German and Korean. Although, that isn’t to discount those who speak Shark, Bird, or other such, shall we say, unorthodox languages.
They themselves aren’t the subject of this article though. Instead, I want to focus more on the community around them and how they could affect the rest of Hololive as a whole. Think of this as a sequel to The Soul of An Online Community. The relevant portion you need to know is where I talked about the transition from past to modern (online) idol culture. Today, I’ll be talking more about culture and in particular culture clash. In this case though, it isn’t what you might expect.
When you read “culture clash,” you might have made a reasonable assumption that this was about Japanese vs western culture. I thought about that for a while but concluded that wasn’t the case. Instead, the clash I refer to is:
Contemporary Streaming Culture (CSS) vs Virtual Idol Streaming Culture (VICS)
Before we continue, let me clarify these terms. The former refers to the contemporary Twitch or YouTube livestreams. You can see how this isn’t region specific as there are a number of streamers from a variety of countries. Universally, the attitude of Chat as a collective entity of viewers is, more or less, uniform. That attitude being: casual and “memey.” There will be several off-topic comments, intentionally provocative messages, and repeated jokes amidst the neverending flow of chat. That’s just how it is, especially since CSS is so huge. You’re bound to have a few bad apples.
VICS is very similar. *The chat has a casual atmosphere too, but I’d posit there are a handful more rules than CSS. The following is taken from Watson Amellia’s description:
To help everyone enjoy the stream more, please follow these rules:
- Be nice to other viewers. Don’t spam or troll
- If you see spam or trolling, don’t respond. Just block, report, and ignore those comments.
- Talk about the stream, but please don’t bring up unrelated topics or have personal conversations.
- Don’t bring up other streamers or streams unless I mention them.
- Similarly, don’t talk about me or my stream in other streamers’ chat.
- Please refrain from chatting before the stream starts to prevent any issues
As long as you follow the rules above, you can chat in any language
4-6 in particular are what I find the most unique to VICS. 3 might be considered unique in the fact that it’s explicitly stated, but I find that it’s an unwritten rule in CSS. Although, under that umbrella does fall personal conversation, including replies to other users. 4 would logically seem to be an unwritten rule as well, but I don’t find that to be evident. The mention of other streamers in CSS isn’t usually reprimanded at the very least. 5 is a continuation of 4 and so we can move on to 6: a rule that is undoubtedly unique to VICS. Many people who watch and are a part of VICS don’t even know the rule and that it’s applicable to many Virtual Idol Streams, even outside of Hololive.
*Different people will have different rules and the extent to which they enforce them is a personal choice. Expect variance.
**Please note that VICS refers only to Virtual Idols in particular, not the umbrella term of Vtubers.
These are all written rules though. Culture clash doesn’t just entail that people don’t read rules: it’s a matter of differential values. This is why I don’t refer to Mori Calliope’s recent Superchat debacle as an example of the possible oncoming culture clash. To summarize what happened with her, individuals who donated had their names read aloud at the end of the livestream. Trouble came in the form of purposefully sensitive names. Now, an intermission between the end of the stream and the reading of superchats occurs to screen what’s read.
Surprisingly, as unfortunate as that is, I’m not that concerned. Fellow Hololive member, Subaru, has a very funny clip from an older stream where her chat did similar things but with in-game names. Granted, the names in Cali’s cases may have been more off-limits, but unless the wider media preys on those moments, I believe she’ll be safe even if she accidentally does say something bad. Similar to a “Gotcha!” moment more than anything.
No, a closer example to what I think of when I say culture clash is what happened with Amelia’s stream. In CSS, a channel who is currently live can officially raid another livestream. This entails the sending of viewers from one channel to another. It’s not bad in and of itself and there does exist precedent in the recent VICS past. The bad part is the loss in ability to manage your chat once that raid happens. If you’re the raider, you can only communicate through chat which is being flooded. If you’re the raided, there’s a strong chance these new viewers aren’t aware of your rules and customs and from there chaos ensues for a short while.
Don’t interpret this as a slight towards Amelia. In fact, how she gently reprimanded her chat afterwards was perfect. It wasn’t a scolding, it was a reminder, and that’s exactly what should be done. So long as they can talk with their chat and correct them, the risk of culture clash is greatly minimized.
I noted CSS before to be “memey.” In Hololive EN, this is okay since it’s expected to a certain extent as well. Furthermore, it can be mitigated quickly and fairly easily, but ONLY within Hololive EN. Once EN’s chat begins to drip into Japanese, Indonesia, or Chinese, streams, it’s very difficult to calm down because of the language barrier. Some will get by with their English and assuage an excess of meme comments while others will have to wait for a fan-translator to convey their feelings. Or, in the worst case, their thoughts will never rise to light if they’re not popular and don’t have viewers who are able to translate.
The worst case is only a hypothetical and a very exaggerated one at that. Memes create popularity and will drive translations so it’s far-fetched and I acknowledge that. Still, it’s not impossible, especially given the fact that memes don’t need to be streamer specific. Recall Ars Almal, the first Virtual Idol I ever watched. A meme took root in which viewers called her Big Face in reference to her model. From then on, the meme of Big Face can be applied to any other Virtual Idol model that has a Big Face.
Let’s carry on with that example to see how a language barrier can be so damning. Even if they’re able to assuage it in one instance, that doesn’t stop the meme from spreading. More and more viewers will come and send memes and the Idol would have to address it ad infinitum. This is expounded by how viewers who can’t comment in Japanese [or whichever language the stream is in] will fall back on well-known memes in order to be part of the community or just plain get attention. The Idol, if they don’t have a strong understanding of English, will only be able to read English comments like Big Face which will become extremely old and annoying fast.
Another obvious difference is in the divulgence of a Virtual Idol’s identity. I’m not talking about doxxing personal information, but revealing past occupations. I’ve noticed some people think it’s not a big deal when information is circulated. Even information that’s more- recent… I won’t say much more on the matter than that, when looking at the past, it’s best if secrets are kept that way, even if they’re public secrets. Unless a person divulges that information themselves and explicitly gives the okay, it’s best to keep quiet. Otherwise, I feel uncomfortable even writing about it. No examples here.
There’s something to be said about Hololive EN’s portrayal as idols. I’m not entirely sure what they are yet if I’m being honest. Are they idols or are they Vtubers without the idol connotation? It’s best to put that question on the backburner and let them decide. Perhaps the old concept of idols has been left behind and a new one has been embraced in full. Should that be the case, the gap between CSS and VICS will be smaller. We shall see.
My last reservation shouldn’t be taken as seriously as the rest. Or, perhaps that isn’t the correct wording… Let me say it as simply as possible then. Best not to overcomplicate it:
I’m afraid of VICS branching out too far; of becoming too popular.
I’m afraid of VICS reaching people who don’t like anime.
These, more than anything I’ve said, are opinions. My opinions. I think that VICS is an easy target for people who don’t like anime to prey on and I’m afraid that getting too popular will lead to a toxic environment. At the same time, it’s a selfish fear because I don’t want chat to be overly crowded. I love that viewer interaction and with current viewership, it’s already hard to maintain. I need to get over that though and trust the Virtual Idols I love can maintain a community despite everything.
Should anything else interesting arise, I’ll be sure to write about it. It’s not everyday you witness an apparently global phenomenon arise and be able to write about culture clash and shock. Otherwise, I’ll keep uploading translations of Sister’s Claire’s videos for the foreseeable future. That’s all from me!
Last edit before releasing. Please Read: There is a lot of drama right now in the Hololive Community. I refer you to Hololive’s official statement about Akai Haato and Kiryu Coco. I will also point out they released an additional statement exclusive to their CN audience whose bullet points can be found here: Reddit. I have nothing to add to this. I can only express how unfortunate it feels, and how my despair is negligible compared to the individuals who are receiving such an excess of hatred and malice. Even more drama comes in the forms of more copyright issues, of which no one in Hololive will likely escape. Please, as I have said many times before, keep supporting who you watch. Be there when they come back.