Voicing a Concern
A VTuber’s voice is everything. While a VTuber’s illustration can be idealized, their voices often can’t be, so these people can often struggle with being self-conscious of their voices. Big names in the scene like Tokoyami Towa, Selen Tatsuki, and Zentreya have all expressed serious self-doubt about their voices, but their fans support them regardless.
No one knows this story better than Kimie—after decades of harassment, VTubing was what gave her voice back.
“I’m still pretty new to the scene, it’s only been a year for me,” Kimie starts. She’s a gaming streamer with well-rounded tastes. “I mainly play FPS games – pretty much Apex currently, but I also play a variety of other games, like Phasmophobia- honestly, you name it, I play it… Minus League of Legends. I don’t touch League.”
Falling Down The Rabbit Hole
A VTuber’s journey speaks volumes – what made them want to embody anime characters on the internet? What drew Kimie to the VTubing scene? “So, I don’t know how long ago this was, but it was when Kizuna Ai first made the YouTube scene. I was like, what is this? This is weird. Why is there an anime girl moving and talking like a person? I thought it was really cool.”
Initially, Kimie was aware of VTubers, but was hesitant to have anything to do with them. “It was one of those things where I knew of them, but I didn’t want to be involved. I knew of Hololive and others, and I knew of VTubers through Kizuna Ai, but I didn’t watch any of the content – I didn’t want to be a part of it, because at that time, everyone around us was getting sucked into the VTuber rabbit hole.”
That reluctance gave way when Kimie understood the technology more. “I think the first part that got me into VTubing was the tech. It was as soon as I knew how accessible the tech was – easy to learn, easy to use,” she explains. The barrier of entry felt low to her, and she was interested in just messing around.
“I would find hair, I’d find different clothes, I’d find different body types, things like that. Then, ’cause it was fascinating to me, I ordered a Leap Motion to get my hands moving – and then from there, I thought, ‘Yo, I want to try to do full body tracking.’ It was really cool. The tech behind it just fascinated me.”
Though Kimie didn’t realize it at the time, she grew enamored with the idea of making an idealized version of herself. Of course, she was also enamored with the other benefits. “You know, any chance for me to be a cute anime girl on the internet, I’m gonna take it – right? That’s the dream.”
Finding Friends and Family
It wasn’t long before Kimie found herself in the VTubing community – mostly by accident. “You know what’s really funny is that I never considered content creation. That wasn’t on my mind at all. I streamed for the sake of myself – there were times where I would think, ‘I wish I recorded that’. Like ‘I popped off’ or ‘that was so funny’. I didn’t think that I would actively want to make content and come up with stuff and keep people engaged and stuff like that,” Kimie explains.
“I was just going to be a girl with an anime avatar streaming games that I like to play with my friends.”
Before being a VTuber, Kimie had streamed on Twitch before – but never with any consistency or passion. “I always wanted to do streaming. I had been streaming before, but I wouldn’t stream using my face – it would just be gameplay. Then a friend said that I didn’t have to share my face, that I could just have a model represent me.”
Somehow, that made all the difference. “I don’t know what it is, but when you see your avatar interact like you – do everything that you’re doing, speaking when you speak and stuff like that, it’s different.”
“When I first started, I didn’t have many people that watched me – I had like maybe two or three if I was lucky. Then I started streaming more because I was really enjoying streaming with my model, and then I started getting traction which gave me a community. That’s honestly been like the main reason why I keep doing it – because I really love the community that’s been created just from me streaming. People actually enjoy me playing games, which is still really mind-blowing to me.”
More than anything, it is this found family that made Kimie comfortable in the scene. “When I’m having really hard times, I literally open up my VTubeStudio app on my phone, and my VTuber smiles at me and it makes me feel so good. And I feel so happy because it just reminds me of like, you know, all the really nice people that I’ve met in the supportive community and how people genuinely do like you. ‘Cause if they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t be there. It’s a really nice reminder.”
Hiding In Plain Sight
It was really important to Kimie that she was comfortable in the scene – because for decades, she wasn’t. “Yeah, I’m old. I’ve been playing games for a very long time, since I was like seven or eight years old. Pre-internet times, guys, dial up only became a thing when I was young. I’ve been playing online for so long, and being a girl on the internet is… it’s not that bad nowadays, but back then, in the nineties, it was a very rare thing.”
“So, I was scared to speak – I would get… stupid attention. Unwanted attention because I’m a girl and because I’m British and I sounded different,” Kimie says, echoing many women’s experiences.
“Then I had an ex-boyfriend that was from North America. A lot of the times when I would speak in my regular voice, he would make fun of me. Like he would imitate me or imitate the way I pronounce things. And that… truly shut off any British that I had left in my voice for online.”
Kimie would go on to change herself to protect herself from the harassment – without even meaning to. “All I would hang around with would be NA people, so I started subconsciously picking [the accent] up. I didn’t actively try to, but if that’s all you hear constantly, you start picking it up.”
“When I entered the VTubing community, I told people that I’m actually from the United Kingdom and they’re like, ‘well, why do you not have an accent?’ And I said I do—I do,” Kimie says. This has come up enough times that she made a TwitLonger clearing up the misconception about her voice.
“It’s just, um, my brain just automatically switches depending on who I hang out with. So, if you put me in front of a British person, I will start speaking normally. If you put me next to an American person, I will start speaking, you know, American, and I can switch instantly. I have no control over it, like my brain just automatically does it,” Kimie explains. Indeed, during our interview, Kimie was reflecting my American accent until this moment, when she became conscious of it.
“I’ve been trying, and it’s really difficult to break a habit that you’ve done for about 20 years now, but people started encouraging me to speak normally, saying that they won’t judge. Sometimes my British accent comes out when I pronounce certain things and my chat’s like, ‘No, no, no, it sounds really nice. Speak normally, we want you to not have to hide [it].’ And it’s really nice to hear that. Um, really, really nice.”
“So, it’s still a journey and it’s still a work in progress, but I’m trying to force my brain into… thinking that it’s okay to speak normally. Cause people won’t make fun of me or judge me, or you know, give me unwanted attention or harass me because of my voice,” Kimie says, with a deep sigh of relief.
“It’s just… nice to be accepted for who I am, be it American Kimie or British Kimie. I guess it’s the acceptance; the support [I receive]. I genuinely feel comfortable. It’s been a very, very, very long time since I’ve been comfortable and accepted into a community.”
We would like to extend a kind thank you to Kimie for taking the time to answer our questions surrounding a topic so close to her heart.
Banner Photo: Screenshots from Karamomo Kitchen’s VTuber Showcase