A streamer appears on your computer screen, but something is a bit different. Instead of a person, an anime character in cat ears bounces around the screen, gleefully announcing, “Thank you for the supa! Arigato!”
In the past couple of years, virtual YouTubers (VTubers) have exploded in popularity as Japanese VTuber agencies have added English-speaking branches. While female VTubers by the likes of Hololive English’s (EN) Gawr Gura and VShojo’s Ironmouse have dominated in viewership, male VTubers experienced comparatively less success. Though this may be due to a majority male audience, the viewership demographic shifted drastically when the all-male VTuber group Luxiem entered the picture.
With the breakthrough success of Nijisanji EN’s all-male group Luxiem, VTubers have become more popular than ever among western audiences.
VTubers are virtual streamers who use anime avatars that can move. “Rigging” is the process of applying physics to digital art; this makes the VTuber model appear animated and interactive, which many viewers find appealing. Face-tracking software is what syncs the person’s expressions to their avatar. Most well-known VTubers operate under the two largest Japanese companies: Hololive and Nijisanji. VTuber streams are not limited to gaming, as they also entertain their audience with chatting streams or “hand cams” where they make crafts, cook, etc. Out of all their content, karaoke streams typically earn the highest concurrent viewership, experiencing incomparable popularity.
Prior to Luxiem, female VTubers were more popular with English-speaking audiences. Hololive EN’s Myth was recognized as one of the most successful female groups, with each member amassing millions of followers since their debuts in 2020. For instance, Myth’s Gawr Gura has gained four million YouTube subscribers since her debut. Alternatively, VShojo’s Ironmouse consistently ranks top 10 in viewership amongst female Twitch streamers. Even so, the numbers for male VTubers paled in comparison.
That all changed when Nijisanji’s English branch Nijisanji EN debuted Luxiem on Dec. 19, 2021. At the time, there were no male talents established in the English VTuber scene. Consisting of five members, the group’s lore centers around a fox detective, a demon, a novelist, a sorcerer and a mafia boss. Luxiem VTubers portray themselves as streamers, contrary to Hololive, so their personalities are wholly authentic to the individual. Yes, they are anime avatars with backstories to follow, but that is about it. The guys are generally free to express their personalities and opinions however they choose. In spite of this, Luxiem’s popularity cannot solely be attributed to charming personas and a lucky algorithm; their connection with their fanbase is completely one-of-a-kind.
Initially, many Japanese and Chinese fans translated clips from Luxiem’s streams. Never was there more attention brought to English-speaking VTubers by international fans. Moreover, Luxiem involves themselves within the community to a level unseen by other big names. The members generate content from community interactions, quip nonstop on Twitter and are seen commenting under fan clippers’ videos. Everyone within the Nijisanji EN branch are also close friends with each other, allowing them to be on each others’ streams frequently and participate in humorous collaborations.
Recent milestones are indicative of the heights male English-speaking VTubers have reached.
On Jul. 23, Vox Akuma, one of the five members of Luxiem, surpassed one million subscribers less than eight months from his debut. Prior to the Anime Impulse convention held in Orange County, CA over the past weekend, Luxiem’s Q&A panel tickets sold out in less than five minutes. During the event, hundreds of cheering fans crowded around the stage in the hopes of getting a glimpse of their oshi.
Succeeding VTuber debuts has also been a force to be reckoned with. On Feb. 26, Nijisanji EN’s fifth wave Noctyx, also all-male, amassed equal—if not higher—numbers of over 500k views on debut streams with the reputation established by Luxiem. Debuted on Jul. 24, ILUNA, Nijisanji EN’s first co-ed group, gained the highest concurrent viewership ever as excitement further built among fans of the branch. Finally, Jul. 22 marked the day Hololive, too, debuted their first wave of male English-speaking VTubers, known as Tempus.
Holostars (Hololive) EN’s Tempus has also seen its fair share of popularity and fan engagement across YouTube and Twitter.
With male and female VTubers receiving equal amounts of attention now, Nijiansji and Hololive’s English branches have perfected the formula for grabbing the attention of all demographics. No longer are only female VTubers viewed as the most entertaining. Now, English-speaking VTuber branches have expanded to be inclusive of all audiences.
As VTubers rise up the ranks in Twitch and YouTube, the streaming scene has shifted immensely from just a couple of years ago. Now, VTubers are seen collaborating alongside big-name traditional streamers—“flesh streamers”, as Twitch streamer 39daph so adequately puts it.
Whether you like anime or video games—or you are just looking to be entertained—it could be worth your while to check out VTubers and see where the future of streaming is headed!