“I will never be you still have to practice! “Twitch streamer Imane” Pokimane “Anys said on her stream on Sunday. She zoomed out the camera to show off her full form: wavy brown hair, huge teak eyes and a cropped purple top showing a flat stomach. Anime as hell, all that.
Instead of her face, Anys had ordered a 3D anime model of herself that followed her words and movements, featuring them live. Anys was scrolling Reddit and chatting with viewers as usual when asked what was going on in the name of God. “Usually I broadcast with a camera,” Anys said in a neutral tone. “Sometimes if I don’t want to use a camera, I might use it! Nyah! “Her 3D model’s eyes closed, resembling those of a complacent cat.
Anys launched “Vtuber Pokimane”, adopting a form popularized by the Vtuber communities of YouTube, Twitch and other video platforms. Tech-savvy operators use face and voice tracking systems to dance, sing, chat, play games and move like any other online personality, only through these 2D or 3D animated avatars. Their mouths move as they speak; their eyes widen in curiosity and narrow in anger. (Anys tested their hand-tracking technology by successfully handing the middle finger.) Often the operators are anonymous, their voices modulated to kawaii frequencies.
For starters, Vtubers orders virtual and interactive models with a variety of animations and facial expressions. Then, they map their facial expressions and their mouth and body movements, using a camera as well as motion capture and voice analysis software. (Anys said she uses Luppet, body tracking software from a Japan-based company.) About 10,000 of these channels exist around the world on YouTube, Twitch, Bilibili, Weido, Niconico and other video sites; there is even a Vtuber agency called HoloLive which represents over 50 anime models. In 2019, the number of combined views on Vtuber channels increased by 99%, according to to the IA company Hyprsense.
Kizuna AI, who has millions of subscribers on YouTube, claims to be the first virtual YouTuber. With knee-high socks and an oversized pink bow, Kizuna, who launched her chain in 2016, is voiced by a human Japanese actress. (For effect, she tells viewers that she’s an artificial intelligence.) Fans believe her underlying software is the same as that used by virtual 3D pop stars voiced by synthesizer software, known as from Vocaloids, like Hatsune Miku. On YouTube, Kizuna does the same things any other personality online: play the horror game Inside, draws pictures of cats, discusses controversial topics, discusses with fans. Today, she is a culture ambassador for the National Tourism Organization of Japan and has appeared in commercials.
In keeping with anime trends, some more popular Vtuber channels have strong obscene undertones. Models often exhibit exaggerated anatomies (with exaggerated “jiggle” physique). Earlier this year, Projekt Melody, who describes herself as “the first… 3D rendered hentai camgirl,” launched her Chaturbate stream, where she networks donations from his fans to a vibrator connected to the Internet. In March, Twitch greeted her with immediate partner status, demonstrating the streaming site’s full support for the trend.
Absurd streams are also very popular. Sherlock Holmes-looking blonde anime chick named Watson amelie debuted on YouTube this weekend with 474,000 views. Over 45,000 live viewers listening to shark-girl Gawr Gura’s first stream Sunday. “Have you heard of Atlantis?” she asks viewers, dressed in a shark costume. “Have you got summer? Shaaaaark! ”Later, she sings at karaoke. The two artists are part of Hololive EN, the English-speaking branch of the agency.
“Like the anime, it already started out as a very specialized thing and slowly developed,” says Vtuber Iron mouse, a pink haired girl with devil horns who has been broadcasting since 2018. “I think it will only get better and more exciting from here on out. The more the merrier, I say!