Yuri recently played host to a Questions and Answers session where she read some questions to the Phase-Connect CEO Sakana, with Lumi acting as a co-host for the event. For over two hours, Sakana fielded a variety of questions, ranging from his management style, his opinions on the VTubing industry as a whole, while also offering tips for aspiring VTubers.
Sakana was asked about the challenges he faced when he first formed Phase-Connect, and his answer might surprise more than a few people: because they were new to the scene and unproven, people assumed that they were a scam.
VTubers are often showered with fan art, either art they themselves commission, or drawings filled with love and appreciation. Sakana was asked about crediting artists should their art appear in a stream, and his explanation was rather simple, and something artists might agree with: artists should be credited as a general rule. Paid commissions should be credited for the first time, but he clarified that it isn’t necessary to credit the artist every single time.
Sakana answered a question related to a VTuber’s profits, and explained that, depending on the pay model and agency, that it is mostly profit sharing.
Sakana himself has something of a spotlight in the community, becoming a target of fake and comical animosity, so he was asked to weigh in on the memes related to him. As a whole, he has no strong opinion on it, but admitted that it was fun to see. Speaking on the fan art, he said that it could go overboard.
With regards to managers themselves, someone asked Sakana if managers should be more public with their activities, or work behind the scenes. The Phase-Connect CEO explained that they can work either in public or private, but when working in public, activities such as streaming should be done appropriately, and not in a way that could take focus away from the talents. Above all, he insisted that the manager should not be the focus.
Sakana recognized that not every VTuber would want to join an agency, and highlighted some pros and cons to joining. The pros mentioned were a general corporate atmosphere, and the protection and growth an agency could offer talents. Restrictions placed on a talent, certain rules to follow, were mentioned to be both a pro and a con, that restrictions could protect a VTuber, but that VTuber who want to be a solo act might not want to join an agency.
VTuber agencies are known to have different generations, groups of VTubers who debut around the same time as one another. When asked how many VTubers should be part of a gen, Sakana insisted on between 3 – 7, as any more would make it just a large group, and not a gen.
When asked if there were any difficulties or differences between launching Gen 1 and Gen 2, Sakana revealed that Gen 1 was launched very quickly and with little planning, while Gen 2 had more time and planning put into it, but certain real world events delayed the official launch.
Though VTubers around the world have similar styles and methods, Sakana briefly explained what differences he saw between the Western and Japanese VTubing industries. He stated that the Japanese marketing is “difficult and convoluted”, and that the rigging on Japanese VTube models is a lot less expressive, and has a more anime aesthetic, but with fewer calibrations. He noted that English models are more expressive, which is in higher demand.
The VTubing industry is obviously dominated by female VTubers of all kinds, from pirates to shark girls, though there are a few male VTubers. When asked if he was open to incorporating male talent into Phase-Connect, Sakana replied that he wasn’t at the moment, but that he would monitor the demand for male VTubers going forward before making a decision.
Given the popularity of Twitch and YouTube, and the viability of both as streaming services, Sakana was asked if there would be any greater benefit to streaming on both sites. The fish CEO explained quite carefully that streamers should focus more on whichever site offers the most growth potential, but if they insist on streaming to both sites, they should be consistent with their activity.
Phase-Connect isn’t a very large company, especially when compared to the likes of Hololive, and someone wondered if there were any benefits to being a smaller sized company. Sakana explained that he doesn’t see Phase-Connect as a “company of a certain size”. Being a smaller company allows them to have a more direct connection with their community, and he assured the community that, even if they did grow in size, the content wouldn’t change.
Publicly or privately, many VTubers left behind former characters to continue their VTubing career. Someone asked Sakana for advice on rebranding, and they were told that, for a full rebrand, the previous character should be ended, so their new character would not have any baggage. In more simpler terms, such as a redesign, changing outfits is perfectly fine, as long as the character doesn’t change.
When asked what a talent coordinator does, Sakana explained that they mostly hang out in discord with the team, and helps Sakana himself communicate with talents, merchandise suppliers, and customers. Sakana continued by saying that he dabbles in a bit of everything, but often defers to experts in particular areas. In his own words, he does “everything and nothing at the same time.”
There are many loyal fans who attend each and every stream, eager to see their favorite VTubers. A question was posed, asking if VTubers should give these regular visitors special attention. Sakana explained that, as much as they appreciate these loyal followers, VTubers should not single out individual users in chat, and to avoid the perception of playing favorites.
Sakana has been accused of poaching by so-called “antis”, in which he stole talents from other agencies. Sakana explained that poaching is normal, but he has denied such accusations, insisting that he has gone out of his way to not poach talents, and that he has no intention of poaching from another corporation. It is his hope that VTubing corporations will stay on good terms.
To this, Lumi has jokingly said that she feels both she and Yuri have been poached, but Sakana argued that he prefers the term “saving”.
Sakana was asked to define the terms “bunks” and “strikes”, and further asked how they could be removed, and whether or not they should be implemented in a workplace environment outside of VTubing. The fishy CEO explained that bunks are less severe versions of warnings, that strikes are for repeated offenses, and revealed that their use outside of VTubing is common.
Highlighting the popularity of the adult-rated VTuber Projekt Melody, someone asked Sakana if there was an industry for other such adult cam VTubers like her. Sakana confirmed that there was, and pointed out that Projekt Melody herself was a proof of concept. With regards to whether or not he would have such talent on staff, the Phase-Connect CEO declared unequivocally that there would be no “Adult Cam Gen” at his agency. He was, however, open to the possibility of working with such talents, but not under the Phase-Connect banner.
Curious about the business side of things, someone asked about Yuri and Lumi’s contracts, and how they might differ from other VTuber contracts. Sakana didn’t get into the finer, private details about their contracts, but he highlighted that their contracts were mostly the same as others, but that they enjoyed slightly more freedom.
When asked how a VTuber comes to life, how their theme and avatar designs transform from ideas to reality, Sakana explained that it’s not that complicated. The agency comes up with an idea of a character that they want. Sakana as the Phase-Connect CEO comes up with a character he wants to have, and then he runs auditions, and he finds someone who fits the general direction he wants. He then hints at the character he wants, and the people auditioning try to match the personality, if their vision for the character matches Sakana’s vision. Those who pass the audition can help design the character, i.e. clothing, height, etc. The profile sheet is then sent to the artist, who will have creative freedom, depending on how much direction is given, to create the character. After all of that is done, rigging is implemented.
Sakana was then asked about what benefits, if any, an already established VTuber could have if they join an agency. The CEO explained that such talents would have a reliable support system and management team.
The indie VTubing scene is quite prolific and active, so Sakana was asked if it was competitive in the Western industry. He explained that it’s very messy and convoluted, and that there’s tribalism and drama going on in the indie scene.
As the CEO of Phase-Connect, Sakana was asked if he was ever concerned that the actions or poor decisions from some companies could result in potential talent avoiding smaller companies. To this, he confirmed his worries.
Someone asked Sakana what advice he would give to a VTuber searching for an agency that would work for them. He explained rather simply that they should do research and due diligence, and that they develop critical thinking skills to navigate the process.
Sakana considered the question of what life skill he found to be the most useful when running his own company, and he explained that it was important to learn to better deal with emotions.
Someone asked about the possibility of certain corporations pushing talents into being VTubers against their wishes. Sakana explained that corporations in general need to make sure prospective talents are comfortable with the job.
Humorously, when Sakana was asked where he saw Phase-Connect in five years, he replied that he hoped his company still exists in five years.
A question arose regarding Sakana’s stance on selling a portion stake in his company for pure profit, but it was dismissed with a response that Sakana would never sell out the entirety of his company.
The evolution of VTubing was brought up, and the shift from static, skit-based content to live-streams was highlighted, and Sakana was asked if he expected another shift in the future. Sakana was not really sure about the shift from skits to live-streaming, but he said that VTubing will change as it goes.
Given the thousands of VTubers that exist, someone asked Sakana if he thinks that the industry has hit a saturation point, to which he replied that apparently it has not.
Plenty of VTubers have merch emblazoned with their images, which is eagerly purchased by passionate fans for growing collections. When it comes to merch, someone asked Sakana what considerations he puts into VTuber merchandise, and if he hopes to create more varied merchandise in the future. Sakana explained that cost was a factor in such considerations, and revealed that unit cost isn’t the primary factor, the art itself is, given that they have to commission high quality art for commercial purposes.
Sakana was asked about VTuber behavior and traits, and what good and bad habits he observed in VTubers. He explained that VTubers need the drive to grow, and mental maturity, especially as decisions are being made.
Becoming a VTuber could be intimidating, so the fishy CEO was asked if a potential talent needed to know everything going in, or if they could learn as they along the way. Thankfully, Sakana confirmed that it is definitely possible to learn along the way.
As the CEO of Phase-Connect, Sakana was asked about what sort of things someone would need as a company. He replied that they would need money, and a drive to keep going, even when things go bad. He went on to explain that personality, mentality, and work ethic are also important.
The Phase-Connect CEO was asked how closely he and his company watch advancing technology as it pertains to VTubing. Sakana explained that he tries to keep a close watch on it. Phase-Connect mods and readers bring in new technologies, but they have yet to see a “pivot-worthy” technology, as it’s mostly “value-added” technology for model-rigging.
Finally, the relationship between VTuber and corporations was brought up, and Sakana was asked if a system where they act traditionally will work, rather than a standard contractor-like relationship. Sakana thinks it would, but it would require more fail-safe capital.