[VTuber] thread: These cosmic and eldritch entities are delivering... comfy vibes?

MrBlarneyMrBlarney Registered User regular
edited February 28 in Social Entropy++
VTubers are online streamers who present themselves in the form of animated avatars. Everything that your typical YouTube or Twitch streamer does, you'll also see VTubers do.

Gaming streams? Of course.
Chat streams? Yep.
Art streams? Indeed.
Singing streams? Lovely.

So there's really not much different between virtual streamers and other traditional streamers in the activities they perform. There are cases where streamers have switched between virtual and real modes, or who stream in both modalities. But one benefit of the virtual streaming mode is that the virtual avatar allows for a streamer to have a distinct break between the performance they put on stream and the rest of their life they have off-stream. It can provide a mask to let those that would otherwise be too shy or afraid to stream to be able to connect with others. A VTuber avatar can allow for an escape from the ordinary and a gateway to the fantastic. This thread is here to primarily share the fun that can be had with this growing form of entertainment. Welcome to the rabbit hole, and enjoy your stay.

If you're coming into VTubers in the English-speaking world, it's probably going to be through one of the following three groups: Nijisanji, hololive, or VShojo.

One of the two major Japanese-based VTuber agencies, Nijisanji made its mark as a major force in establishing the current formula for VTubers: entertainers who broadcast live-streamed content using 2D avatars. The agency hosts more than 150 talents across their domestic and international branches. While the number of "livers" (that's live-ers, not the bodily organ) within the organization may seem intimidating, the large number of streamers also presents an incredibly diverse variety of styles and interests for anyone to find a favorite. Notably, while most popular groups are generally composed of female-presenting avatars, Nijisanji has a large contingent of male streamers under their umbrella, a number of whom are among their most popular talents. The (re)launch of a dedicated English-speaking branch from May 2021 presents an easy entry point into the group (though there are a lot of talents to pick from).

The other major Japanese-based VTuber agency is hololive, and is arguably the agency with the largest international reach. Overseas clip translation and the opening of their English-speaking branch in September 2020 established hololive as many international viewers' reintroduction to VTubers outside of Kizuna Ai. (Kizuna Ai is the first major VTuber, who shaped the modern idea of a virtual streamer, and is the origin for the "Virtual Youtuber" name.) The "idol" moniker given to their talents might bring to mind singing, dancing, and variety shows, but most of hololive's talents are not particularly different from other VTubers in what their general activities look like. (That said, hololive does tend to have a higher emphasis on music and performance than most other groups.) The "idol" label does mean that they play things a bit safer than other major groups, but it also makes them a gentler starting point if you're getting familiar with what VTubers do.

Side note: while hololive is most-known for their female streamers under the hololive name, the agency also has a male streamer branch, holostars. As of July 2022, holostars has also opened up an English-speaking group of male VTubers.

VShojo is an English-based collective, and the newest agency among the top highlights, having been established in November 2020. However, the agency carried a lot of presence straight from its inception, as most of its founding talents were already known from their independent VTubing activities and close associations with one another before the group was formally announced. As of July 2022, VShojo has also added Japanese-speaking talents to their roster. The VShojo members usually livestream on Twitch, with their YouTube channels generally focused on archives and clips. VShojo also has a bit of a reputation for being quite a bit spicier than the two other Japanese-based agencies highlighted above.

There are dozens of VTuber groups out there beyond the three groups above. To briefly summarize a few select groups:
  • JP: Brave Group produces multiple VTuber subgroups, the largest of which is VSPO!, whose members are focused on gaming and eSports.
  • JP: 774 (nanashi) inc. is an assembly of multiple groups, which included Animare (animal-themed avatars), HoneyStrap, and Sugar Lyric (both demoness themed groups).
  • EN: Prism Project, Phase Connect, and Production Kawaii are comparatively new groups (all debuting their first talents in the first half of 2021), but are notable for being English first, reflecting a growing interest in VTubers in the West.
Established companies have also debuted their own VTuber talents. Square Enix has a major part in producing virtual idol group Gems Company. Sony Music Entertainment Japan has a rapidly-growing VTuber agency, VEE. Anime streaming service Crunchyroll has a VTuber channel for their mascot Hime. Even anime series Oshi no Ko has put one of its characters, MEMcho, in a number of promotional videos using a VTuber avatar.

Even beyond smaller groups and individual corporate VTubers, there are thousands of independent streamers who choose to present themselves with a virtual avatar. While there are still costs to be had in avatar artwork, model rigging, and software, those costs are not so insurmountable that VTubing is limited to an exclusive group. It is increasingly becoming just another style for content creators to put a face forward to their audience. Many artists for VTubers have created avatars for themselves and stream as VTubers in their own rights.

For the spotlighted groups, you can find links to their group pages in the introductory paragraphs above. But there are way too many other individuals and groups to link more comprehensively without the post getting too bloated or inevitably leaving some notable VTuber out. (I've already had to make some editorial decisions on who to highlight above.) There is a Virtual YouTuber Wiki on fandom.com, but that's a jungle to navigate.

For the most part, discovery comes from word of mouth; in this thread, we're mostly sharing streams and clips of our favorite talents -- not just from the major groups, but from smaller groups and indies. Stream links and clips are an invaluable resource for VTubers outside of the major groups to get discovered and gain visibility to a larger audience. Post your favorite indie, and maybe you'll give them a much appreciated new viewer to enjoy what they do.

You might also try diving into holodex.net, which provides a directory to current and upcoming VTuber streams. While it started out as a hololive-centric resource, it now covers Nijisanji and many smaller-group and independent VTubers on the YouTube platform. It's also a useful resource for those who are well into the VTuber rabbit hole, for watching multiple streams at the same time, such as during collaborations.

Minimize discussion of VTuber identities - In many cases, the Vtuber character exists as a separation between the streamer's front-facing entertainer persona and their private life away from the screen. Other VTubers will retire a persona to take up the mantle of a new character, as is often the case when someone joins a VTuber group or changes groups. A general rule of thumb used by the community at large is to spoiler any discussion that connects an individual talent to their alternative faces. While there are different degrees of secrecy in the connection between a streamer's multiple roles (with a few exceptional cases where there's little to no barrier), it's still a good rule to follow in general, as different people interested in VTubers will have different levels of engagement and desire in that kind of information. If you're interested in a talent's work at large, that's research you can put in on your own time.

Keep content VTuber-relevant - It's a VTuber thread, so this point can feel a bit obvious. But in keeping within the ideas of the previous point, some content creators produce non-VTuber work that is disconnected from their VTuber content. Certainly, it can feel exciting to share all that a content creator is producing, in all its forms. However, there are likely more appropriate contexts for their non-VTuber output than this thread, so think about its relevance before you post. (If a content creator uses the same name and persona for VTuber and non-VTuber work, it's much closer to being fair game for this thread.)

Source your translations - A lot of the most prominent VTubers hail from Japan, and so naturally stream and post on social media in Japanese. If you're posting a translation of a VTuber tweet, try to source your translation. This is especially important if you're relying on a machine translation: while services like Google Translate and DeepL have made great improvements in recent years, they still have lapses in context that can mislead or misinform. In addition, different clippers and translators have varying levels of individual proficiency with the languages they're going between. Citing your sources can be useful so that an appropriate weight can be put on how valid the translation is.

Avoid spreading unconfirmed rumors - Entertainment and being in the public eye brings with it the potential of unwanted drama, whether you're behind a virtual avatar or not. So if you want to discuss something of a serious nature, double-check that you're taking from reliable, and ideally, direct sources. Serious news is already tough enough to deal with on its own, but having it come from a place of uncertainty or rumors can bring about an needless and unnecessary rise in emotions. Remember that there are real people behind the avatars that have lives beyond the content that they put out!

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