VTubers. They're dogs, pirates, and rabbits — they're all over the internet, playing video games, reviewing memes, and generally causing mayhem for our entertainment. If you've been active on social media at all lately, you're probably aware of VTubers. One of the biggest, Kiryu Coco, has even earned about 85 million yen in super chats alone, making her the highest earner on YouTube's entire platform. You may be a fan of a few yourself, but if not, you're not alone. Outside of the ubiquitous Kizuna Ai, I used to live in relative ignorance of these sensations. But recently, I took a deep dive into the world of VTubers to see what they're all about.
What I found was a bizarre world where fiction and reality meld until finding the difference between them becomes part of the fun. The majority of VTubers are playing a character, visualized directly by the Live2D models that represent them, usually with elements like elaborate backstories to back it up. By embodying and being visually represented by anime characters, VTubers are just taking that idea to the next level.
That distinct separation from reality only makes it more amusing when the illusion is shattered, and I think that dichotomy is the key that makes it so enduring and lovable. If you watch the earliest content of any given VTuber, you'll find they are playing their role as closely as they can. But, as time passes, the facade slowly cracks in ways that feel completely natural. It's just inherently funny to watch a carefully crafted image fall apart in harmless ways, but I also think it's fundamental to why people grow so attached to them. These breaks in character end up becoming part of the experience, adding running jokes and fueling memes, making the whole experience even more immersive for the audience.
So, I started to understand the appeal of VTubers. In fact, it reminded me of something else I love, a little show that has mostly gone overlooked over time: gdgd Fairies.
gdgd Fairies follow three fairies with similar nonsense names, shrshr, krkr, and pkpk (pronounced "shirushiru," "korokoro," and "pikupiku" respectively), as they sit in their home in the forest and talk to each other. Seriously, that's it.
Some of their time is spent sitting at a table talking about something mundane, like why you can cry when you're happy and when you're sad, or debating the true meaning of popular idioms. One episode has them going into a knockoff "Room of Spirit and Time" where they can have similar talks but can summon props to add to the jokes. Also, every episode ends in a preview with faithfully recreated parodies from popular shows like Macross Frontier, Zeta Gundam, and A Certain Scientific Railgun — if you've seen the shows in question, it will be impossible to mistake them. The second season expands upon this and includes references to other anime in its intros, too. Each of these parts is almost or entirely scripted, and it speaks to the creativity of the writing that they are as amusing as they are.
The fan-favorite segment, though, is called "Dubbing Lake," and this is the part that most reminds me of the VTuber phenomenon. Here the fairies watch a silent, absurd-looking clip with absolutely no context, and one-by-one they come up with jokes to say over the clip, usually in an attempt to explain what is going on in it. The kicker here? "Dubbing Lake" is entirely improvised by the voice actresses, and they make little effort to hide it. Not for lack of trying, I think, but simply because they can't. The clips they're shown are too ridiculous to keep a straight face, and the jokes the actresses come up with are even funnier. Jokes made here sometimes even become running gags in the scripted portion of the show, blending the line between the two parts more and more as time goes on.
Sounds familiar, right? There are some clear differences here — VTubers have curated personalities, yet aren't traditionally "scripted" content — but it's easy to see how the appeal is similar. In both cases, we grow attached to the characters as they are written to be, but as time goes on, the personalities of the real people behind the scenes get mixed in, too. At one point, one of the actress' dads is even incorporated into a "Dubbing Lake" segment. Watching them come together and eventually become a new, unique character is a fun and different form of entertainment.
Unfortunately, the episodes are fairly short, running about 13 minutes each, and there are only two 12-episode seasons, so you're probably going to burn through them pretty quickly. The good news is, there's more where that came from. The obvious next step would be checking out gdgd men's party, a sort of spin-off of gdgd Fairies with different characters and format, but the exact same type of comedy and charm that makes the original so special. Also, gdgd Fairies director Kotaro Ishidate has gone on to make other shows using his unique brand of parody and subversion, like Mahou Shoujo? Naria Girls, HIMOTE HOUSE: A share house of super psychic girls, and Straight Title Robot Anime.
Like the wide variety of VTubers, each of these shows is hilarious and endearing in their own ways while sharing the same core appeal that keeps us coming back for more, so what are you waiting for? Check out gdgd Fairies today for wild laughs you'll never see coming because the characters didn't either!
There are even more fun things about VTubers — what are your favorites? Tell us in the comments below!
David Lynn can be found on Twitter @navycherub - feel free to bother him with VTuber recommendations.
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