For his first feature story for the VTuber Section, let us welcome fairy scholar Monty Seelana. As a Virtual YouTuber, Monty streams Apex Legends, Final Fantasy XIV, and casual games. He and notable VTuber Lua Lucky had a collaboration as well. What you are about to read is an improved version of his story pitch when he applied to be part of the VTuber Section. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did. – Jay, Section Editor
Virtual entertainers, big and small
VTubers—streamers that use virtual avatars—are a phenomenon that is rapidly gaining traction worldwide. Originally starting in Japan five years ago with the rise of Kizuna Ai, VTubers are now a burgeoning industry with a strong grip on mainstays like YouTube and Twitch.
But what of the smaller VTubers? Personalities who took inspiration from industry giants like Kiryu Coco, Ironmouse and Gawr Gura? The indie VTuber scene is complex in depth, it’s warm and welcoming, and it’s accepting newcomers every day.
There are many people that have joined the indie VTuber scene for confidence, community, and a creative outlet. Join me in talking to three such indies about the journeys they had, and the lessons they learned.
Peering Behind the Mask
I reached out to Lucastre Mavia, a harpy VTuber, wanting to understand the journey she’s taken as a VTuber—and she said that she’d been wanting to stream and make content for quite some time.
“I really wanted a space to create my own safe little fantasy world full of the things I love that I could share with others, just like the spaces that I found solace in. And even if it was just going to be shared with one or two people, I knew it’d still be worth it, so I just dove in without thinking too much.”
This begs the question—why VTubing specifically? I asked Mavia what made her decide to take the leap with VTubing, and not any previous creative outlet. To her, personal freedom and escapism was a big deal.
“I think escapism played a big part of what drew me to [VTubing], but I ended up staying for how kind the experience felt. Even if it’s just for a few hours a day, being able to immerse yourself in a world of someone’s own creation is pretty cool, I think. The rest of the world kind of fades away.”
In the real world, she’s a student going through the same quarantine struggles that we all face. But as Mavia, she’s a harpy transfer student from the fantasy realm of Alknoste, and she’s here to play Pokémon and foster a warm community. Mavia’s story is echoed by thousands upon thousands of independent VTubers—people looking for freedom of expression and a strong sense of community.
Freedom in Form and Function
There’s a subtle logic to the feeling of freedom that VTubers get when they take on their anime personalities. You would imagine them preparing to play an embellished character like an actor about to go on stage – but, no, nearly every VTuber simply plays themselves. The sneaky part is—they’re somehow more themselves.
Ask an indie VTuber why they joined the trade and they’re very likely to tell you the same thing—they wanted a character to hide behind instead of using a webcam or a disembodied voice.
Many people dream of being entertainers or even just moderately successful Twitch streamers—but are held back by fear. Thus does the subtle beauty of VTubing come to light—It’s a mask to put on, a barrier to erect that would take the brunt of the nasty reactions that we all know the internet is capable of. That air gap empowers people to be themselves, without having to hold back.
Akumako Rei is another such indie, drawn to VTubing as an alternative to face cam.
“I think removing the physical aspect makes people more confident in themselves—like if they thought they didn’t look pretty, but would be otherwise confident in their voice or personality, it would remove their worries.”
Face cams have the possibility of introducing bias based on things the streamer can’t control—their physical appearance. As Rei puts it: “…With face cam, there are privileges that are awarded just based on how people look—and VTubing evens the playing field.”
In fact, for most of her VTubing career, Rei wasn’t even a living, breathing, anime girl. She was a static image in the corner of the screen—known as a PNGtuber—because she didn’t yet have the opportunity to get her model animated. She found that to be supremely validating, coming to the realization that, if people were still watching her, then it could only mean that “…people like me for me, because all they’re looking at is a still image.”
Celebrating Their True Selves
When a nervous and socially anxious person wears their anime mask, they can put on an air of self-confidence they wouldn’t normally have in everyday life. When a camera-shy entertainer wants to show off their gaming skills, or their artistic talents, or their melodious singing, they aren’t embarrassing themselves—they’re embarrassing a persona. When someone struggling with gender or body dysphoria turns on their face-rigging technology, they can feel at ease with the body looking back at them.
To these people, VTubing isn’t just a gimmick. It’s a way to share their true selves online, on a platform uniquely suited to letting them shine. It’s what drew Fuwako Yuni into VTubing.
On being asked why she became a VTuber, Yuni prioritized “…the freedom and creative form of expression that you can’t get with in-real-life content creation. While it has its own limitations in comparison, as a VTuber you create who you want to be.”
“I definitely feel like I’m more myself when I’m using my model… There are so many things that you can’t or just don’t have the means to control, that you can change with your model. Body type, hair style, color, height, gender, you don’t even need to be human if you don’t want to. I think it’s a lot of fun to see how people choose to express themselves with the amount of freedom that comes with their model.”
Overwhelmingly, VTubers see the technology as a boost to confidence. If anyone can look like anything, then your looks don’t actually matter. But don’t take my word for it—Mavia explains it well:
“I think that with only your words and actions to judge you by, and a lack of obligation to people who make you uncomfortable, it’s a lot easier to create a curated personal experience and community online. And when you find like-minded or open-minded people, you feel more comfortable speaking your mind.”
The VTuber Family
Community is tantamount to the indie scene, something that is readily apparent to viewers—VTubers all seem to know each other. Collaborations are a frequent sight, and everyone is friendly enough that a small VTuber will often be able to stream alongside someone they idolized just weeks ago. Mavia’s advice? Make friends.
“I think when you’re a smaller streamer, there’s this fear that you shouldn’t reach out to larger ones because they might think you’re just looking for an easy plug. My experiences with creators, however small or large, have been extremely positive. I really encourage new VTubers to not be shy and reach out to make new friends.”
It’s no surprise—in a community where everyone has similar interests in anime and gaming, it’s not hard to find friends. Beyond that, everyone is incredibly helpful.
VTubing is new—the concept is only a few years old, and the technology is evolving every day. To a fresh-faced VTuber, that means everyone they look up to was in their shoes very recently.
Everyone understands the growing pains, the small-streamer struggles of finding friends, troubleshooting technical issues, and growing a fanbase. As such, a new VTuber will find no shortage of people that aren’t merely understanding, but will go out of their way to help.
The Gate’s Open
To any prospective VTubers, Mavia suggests taking it slow, and enjoying the process and the community.
“Stream to your friends. Just because you enjoy watching someone stream something or you enjoy doing something doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy streaming it. Figure out one or two things you want to focus on and focus your energy into doing those things and doing them well.
Take it slow. Don’t expect instant growth, especially if you’re not coming from a content creation background. Connect with people and form friendships and good relationships. Of course, it’s still important to be critical of yourself. What kinds of content creators do you enjoy watching, and why? How can you put your own spin on that? Give it a try. If you don’t like it, try something else. There’s no rush.”
She also suggests making use of resource marketplaces. “Booth, Nizima, Twitter and DLsite are your best friends for finding assets and models. There are tons of free assets, too! Make sure to credit your artists.”
Rei suggests that you pander only to your biggest fan—yourself.
“Honestly, my advice is—you do you. Don’t feel pressured to do things to make you big. Yeah, you can go get a hot model and sound cute, but the people that like that content won’t stay for long. Be true to yourself, as true as you want to be. You can still play a character, but if you don’t like certain kinds of content, don’t make it.”
Rei also suggests you prepare for a long journey. “Stars aren’t born, they’re made like swords. Hit them over and over again until they’re sharp enough to strike.”
Yuni stresses the importance of taking things slowly but surely, honing your experience and skill along the way
“My best advice for people is to start streaming—having a fancy model means nothing if you do nothing with it. Getting experience and learning to overcome the hurdles of being a new streamer will help you much more than waiting until you have the best model you can. If you plan on investing into streaming, try to do it smartly with things that remain useful even if you don’t keep streaming, such as microphones or monitors.”
The VTuber world is expansive, it’s freeing, and it’s welcoming. However, it’s certainly no utopia—it’s an industry that expects heavy monetary investment in your computer, your streaming equipment, and your VTuber model itself. However, if you just want to dip your toes into the community and get a feel for how you’d like it—if you’ve ever thought you wanted to stream or create but held yourself back—then there are free ways to see if VTubing is right for you.
First and foremost, any aspiring VTuber should find solace and friendship with other aspiring VTubers, in the ENVTubers Discord Server. This community has been cultivated to be the perfect launchpad for new VTubers, to give them the answers and resources and camaraderie they need.
You’ll also need a VTuber model itself, to which I recommend VRoid Studio to create a 3D model, and VSeeFace to capture your face. Both services are totally free, and Argama Witch has great tutorials on how to make the most use of VRoid Studio to help you create the model that perfectly represents you.
VTubing is a big industry and it’s getting bigger. Many of the big names have never streamed before being a VTuber. The gate is wide open, whether you want to express yourself, shoot for fame and fortune, or simply want to be the anime person of your dreams.
A kind thank you to our interviewees Fuwako Yuni, Akumako Rei, and Lucastre Mavia for taking the time to answer our questions.