In the ever-expanding landscape of content creation, VTubers are making a solid case for their alternative entertainment online.
The internet, as progressive and proficiently paced as it is, can be a relatively slow burn from time to time. While even the most trivial and mundane can go viral in an infamous by-the-second increment, not everything will catch on—no matter how hard one tries. Even in most strokes of genius or consistent exploration of the online medium, replicating something that is trending or memorable is pretty much like catching lightning in a bottle. Content creation, no matter what the virtual discipline or focus, is a lot of hard work after the initial stroke of luck. Consistency, quality, and persistence are the main factors that stack up to the success on YouTube or Twitch, or even on social media such as Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
That said, a lot of those you spend an inordinate amount of time watching were no overnight success stories. Save for a fortunate few, most of these virtual luminaries have really taken the time to zero in on their pursuit of passion before growing it into the followed point of interest on your timeline. From the bloggers of yore, Instagram influencers, to TikTok stars, a lot of permutations have peppered the internet since then, whiling their time in their carved out corners online. Here, there exists a steady democratizing of the landscape for everyone to express their full potential.
Now, while it’s not entirely a new thing, a new segment has emerged from the very distinct and diverse space of YouTube. Now, it is time we get acquainted with their animated counterparts, VTubers—and fast, because though years in the making, they’re making quite the imprint on the internet.
The Future Of VTubers
Without having to subscribe to the physical restrictions and real world limits, which is something that is oddly very timely amid the pandemic, VTubers or Virtual YouTubers are poised to be the next big thing in content creation and live streaming. With everyone compelled to stay indoors for what is close to a year now, avenues such as gaming and live streaming have become everything from a hot topic conversation, offshoot of entertainment, and for some, a viable source of entertainment.
What may look like a cross between traditional anime and artificial intelligence (AI) on the surface level eventually becomes an entrancing, if not enchanting gateway to an entire community that pretty much does everything their real-life contemporaries do. Unlike their human counterparts, VTubers in their eye-catching and hypnotic avatars make optimal use of technology and innovation to not only blur the reality with the virtual, but also further the possibilities of content creation.
In what can be considered as an art form in itself, especially with the amount of work that goes behind these animated alter egos, this is a serious consideration into the ever-expanding digital realm. Widening the gap and allowing more spaces to exist in and well, escape, these motion-tracked personalities are that link between the present and the future. Inundated by so much content saturating our consciousness on the daily, VTubers are slowly and surely cutting through the noise, making a solid case for alternative entertainment online.
On the internet, there is room for everyone to be who or what they want to be—that’s what the free world is for. This time, however, that painstakingly processed avatar of yours can be your animated daydream come to virtual reality. Besides, didn’t we all want to be cartoons at some point?
What Are VTubers Capable Of?
Pretty much anything you can do, if not more so when rendered in 2D and 3D. Whether it be singing, dancing, fan interactions, language lessons, or even game play-throughs, the possibilities are endless. In fact, some VTubers have widened their horizons, becoming tourism ambassadors and virtual extensions of brands.
When Did VTubers Become Popular?
The exact genesis of VTubers remains a serious discussion within the community. Some would point to UK-based Japanese vlogger Ami Yamato as an early proponent, being the first well-known personality using a virtual avatar in 2011. However, unbeknownst to many, everyone’s beloved Barbie has had a hand at this digital movement, with her early foray into vlogging around 2015.
However, this peculiar phenomenon first started to find footing and legitimacy with the virtual creation and cornerstone that is Kizuna A.I., who made her debut in 2016, introducing herself as a Virtual YouTuber, which eventually was truncated into VTuber. With her astronomic rise in the digital space, many would argue that she was the one who gave rise to the possibility of VTubing.
Where Did The Community Of VTubers Originate?
As it traces its foundations as a concept in anime and AI, the first known clusters and subsequent booming of VTubers as online celebrities began in Japan. With the likes of early assimilators such Kizuna AI, Kaguya Luna, Mirai Akari, Nekomiya Hinata, and Siro, the VTuber community would exponentially grow in an average of six months in 2018. With the accreditation of agencies such as Hololive Productions and Nijisanji, the reach of VTubers widened, making the business more credible.
Today, VTubers have become extremely popular in the United States, Japan, Indonesia, China, and even in the Philippines.
How Does One Go About Being A VTuber?
Capturing the hearts of millions on YouTube, real-life identities of VTubers remain to be a well-guarded, highly elusive secret. Likened by many as modern-day unicorns, these contemporary characters have actual people behind them, giving them a voice, a heart, and a life. Similar to the motion capture technology of CGI-heavy films such as Lord Of The Rings, Avatar, and Avengers, the VTuber is outfitted with a motion capture suit where the trackers map out shape, proportions, and motions to be rendered or live streamed.
A seamless hybrid of AI and human touch, VTubers are controlled by free will and min with the help of software such as FaceRig, VRoid, and Live2D.
Who Are The VTubers You Should Be Watching?
Without you noticing it, these digital darlings have probably popped up on your timeline or algorithm-dependent explore page. While some have most likely given into curiosity, them being dismissed in the sea of stories online is also a possibility one cannot discount. But if you were to start diving deep with the community of VTubers, the aforementioned Japanese OGs is always a great place to start stanning and simping.
Riding on this wave of bits and bytes, you can also consider the likes of Gawr Gura, Watson Amelia, Mori Calliope, Pokimane, CodeMiko, Takanashi Kiara, Ninomae Ina’nis, and even pioneering YouTuber, PewDiPie has done a reverse and rendered himself as a VTuber. Not to be left behind, there is also Kaheru of Genshin Impact dub fame, arguably the first known Filipino VTuber.
VTubers have impacted the music industry as well, with the likes of League of Legends champion and rising indie musician, Seraphine, and the K-Pop girl group, aespa, working with both human and virtual members. Let’s face it, the future is truly upon us.