There’s a new wave of anime entertainment sweeping the net that’s become more and more firmly established during our lockdown troubles. What felt like a niche section of youtube streamers has grown to be an entertainment genre supported by serious talent agencies, and now even the legendary publishers Shonen Jump are starting to test the waters and think about getting their share of the attention.
If you haven’t guessed already (and haven’t read the title), I’m talking about VTubers. For those new to the scene, VTubers are online performers who stream anything from gameplay to live art sessions. The key difference between them and your average streamer is that VTubers make use of some pretty fancy software to create responsive, real time anime avatars which move and talk when they do.
That tech setup will generally include some 3D avatar software, motion capture products, a device for face recognition, and finally 3D animation software like Unreal engine to complete transfer to virtual reality. It’s not a cheap starting point, but a properly equipped streamer can transform their image into a character which mirrors their actions, capturing every moment of surprise and spontaneous remark.
Since this project involves Japan, gaming, anime and cute anime characters, I’m guessing a lot of readers might already be invested in the rise of the VTuber. For the uninitiated, some of the top streamers right now are Gawr Gura (shark girl and descendant of Atlantis), Inugami Korone (the dog girl behind that Eekum Bokum meme last year), and Nyanners (a creature who decided on playing video games over destroying the planet). All three of the channels have over a million subscribers, and the first two are supported by the talent company Hololive, which sprung up just over two years ago, while Naynners is supported by VShojo.
There’s a ton of different VTubers to check out, and there’s a lot of professional talent behind these performers, even if easy going vibes and bad jokes end up being the focus. It’s the community which is really helping to drive forward this new style of online entertainment though. Viewers crowd the chats on every livestream, passing around new memes and support for their favourite streamers, as well as spending time making fan art.
Despite being a powerhouse of Japanese entertainment and probably responsible for all your favourite long-running fighty titles, weekly manga magazine Shonen Jump has so far taken no steps towards the VTuber boom, but that might be about to change. A recent edition of Jump featured a questionnaire directed at readers with questions that hint very strongly that the publishers might be thinking of creating their very own virtual star. Readers were asked how often they watched VTubers, their favourite virtual streamers and how likely they would be to watch content from a Shonen Jump VTuber.
It definitely sounds like the manga magazine is looking to create their own online personality, which opens up some very interesting possibilities. A totally original star could be interesting, although it’s often the relaxed and non-commercial feel to VTubers that attracts audiences. Am I too optimistic to think we could get an already existing character to announce news for Shonen Jump? Imagine Franky from One Piece getting his own live spot on youtube…
Hololive on twitter
Gwar Gura on Youtube