Virtual YouTuber (VTuber) Gawr Gura’s YouTube subscribers exceeded 3 million on July 4, 2021. This is the first time in the history of virtual YouTubers.
Gawr Gura YouTube Channel
From Japanese point of view, I would like to discuss why she is so popular. This might not be a new opinion and I think many people feel the same way. Some of the reasons I point out are not unique to Gawr Gura.
Gawr Gura is one of the members of the virtual YouTuber group Hololive EN (English) first generation, and is popularly known for her anthropomorphic design with a shark motif.
Female virtual YouTuber group “Hololive” in Hololive Production, a virtual YouTuber agency run by Cover Corporation, has several generations and each of them has basically five members (three members each for Hololive Indonesia). This reminds me real idol groups.
Hololive EN (English) is a group of mainly English-speaking members, but they can also speak Japanese, although the level of fluency varies from beginner to fluent depending on the member.
I think that Gawr Gura sings her favorite Japanese songs by rote memorizing, but she speaks Japanese only in fragments. It seems it is difficult for her to have a conversation in Japanese.
Virtual YouTubers are interesting to watch and I feel that their video contents suit the times, and especially Hololive EN has caught my attention as “English” video contents produced by a Japanese company. I feel that Hololive EN is leading the way of Japanese entertainment companies in the way video content should be as entertainment / media become increasingly Internet-based and globalized.
I think that the appeal of virtual YouTubers, especially female YouTubers, is basically based on the combination of their anime-style “appearance (character design)” and the “character of the person inside (personality)” and “appearance” is extremely important.
Virtual YouTuber designs often look cute, and I think they’re probably attractive to people overseas as well.
When I talk to people from overseas, I am surprised that Japanese anime and manga are popular all over the world. I imagined that they would be popular in Asia and the U.S., but among the people I met while studying abroad, not only Asians and Americans but also people from other countries liked Japanese anime, and they usually knew more about it than I did. It seems the anime style has already penetrated many parts of the world.
I think the appearance of Gawr Gura is also designed in a way that many people around the world find cute.
The costume is based on a shark motif, and the teeth that can be seen from the occasional open mouth are pointy like sharks, which is an accent.
Also, same as the case of real human beings, the character design including the facial expressions of anime and virtual YouTubers should be more than just beautiful and/or cute. The more they have a range of emotions, the more attractive they will be. I think Gawr Gura has a good balance of such expressions, that makes her appealing.
As mentioned above, Gawr Gura is a girl character with a relatively young appearance among virtual YouTubers, so I think she is well liked by viewers of all ages, from adults to children, although the set age noted by herself in her debut stream was 9927 years old.
Anime characters are often portrayed as younger than the set age, it seems that the person inside Gawr Gura is also relatively young, and I think that reflects to Gawr Gura’s character.
In addition to the character design and lower appearance age, the personality of the person inside and the choice of contents of the stream / videos are other factors that many people love.
Some virtual YouTubers seek edgy contents, such as nerdy topics, dirty jokes, dark humor, social incompatibility, etc. They are interesting in their own way, but I think that harmless character is accepted by many people more easily.
Gawr Gura does occasional pranks in game collaboration with other members. That makes a good balance.
According to information on the Internet, the person in Gawr Gura was already popular as a virtual YouTuber with another anime-style avatar before becoming Gawr Gura, and I think that her experience and skills are being put to good use.
There are other examples of virtual YouTubers who have experience as streamers. I feel that the more experience they have, the more they are familiar with planning the contents and interaction with viewers.
Since HOLOLIVE EN’s activities are mainly in English, Gawr Gura basically speaks English, too. I think this is a factor that makes viewers around the world can enjoy the contents.
Despite the pioneer of virtual YouTubers Kizuna Ai has delivered videos in Japanese since her first debut, there were already many English comments in the comment section. Since her debut, people from all over the world have been attracted by virtual YouTubers, and I think that English-based videos / streams make it easier for viewers from all over the world to enjoy them, and it leads to a large number of views.
On the other hand, I think that being able to speak not only English but also some Japanese is attractive particularly to Japanese viewers. As I mention below, Gawr Gura also sings Japanese songs and tries Japanese learning software. I think these are factors that make her more approachable for Japanese viewers.
Gawr Gura’s voice sounds so-called anime voice, which is similar to anime voice actors, and it is also attractive. The pitch of the voice might be raised a little mechanically, but I think the way she speaks and talks suits Gawr Gura’s character.
It seems that many overseas anime fans prefer to watch anime with the original Japanese voice with subtitles rather than with English dubbing. This is because they find the expression of the original voice actors’ voices appealing. Voice is extremely important. Gawr Gura speaks English with an anime voice, so I think it makes easy for English-speaking-viewers to understand / enjoy the videos because they do not need subtitles.
Gawr Gura sings a lot of Japanese songs. She sang “Ride on Time” by Tatsuro Yamashita as her first song after introducing herself in her debut stream. Though I am not sure if this was her choice or management’s advice, this was interesting and nice choice because this song was released in 1980 and is one of the old Japanese popular songs.
The repertoire is wide from jazz to anime songs, and the singing ability is outstanding.
She released her original song on June 21, 2021, which is unique song and has already been played over 9 million times as of August 28, 2021.
think her ability in playing video games particularly rhythm games and her love for horror games have also expanded the potential audience. She played “SOMA”, a sci-fi horror game with a story of dramatic aspect, for example.
As it can be said for virtual YouTubers and human YouTubers in general, the more frequently they post, the more likely they are to catch the attention of viewers, get views, and get subscribers. Gawr Gura posts her videos frequently, which I think leads to her popularity.
Although it is not limited to Gawr Gura, several Hololive groups of five virtual YouTubers have debuted as each generation, and by collaborating within the generation and with other generations, there is no shortage of contents and topics to talk about. I think this has a synergistic effect.
In fact, many of Hololive’s virtual YouTubers have more than one million subscribers.
Since the members of Hololive EN can speak some Japanese (beginner to fluent), they collaborate not only in English within Hololive EN but also with Japanese members. It is easy to be recognized because other members talk about the collaboration. Fans of other members see the collaboration videos and may become fans.
“Clipped YouTube videos” refers to third parties cutting out interesting parts of a video on YouTube and posting them on their own channels. This is often seen in the cases that the original videos of celebrities and/or virtual YouTubers are long. Although it is illegal if the uploading of clipped video is done without permission of the original video creator, it is convenient for viewers who don’t have time to watch long streams or videos, and in many cases, the clipped video functions as an advertisement for the original video or its creator, so it is often tolerated.
Hololive Production allows derivative works on the condition that the guidelines are followed, and although it may be a bit of a gray area, I think that clipping videos are created as derivative works.
There are many clipped videos of Gawr Gura, and I think this is a catalyst for widespread recognition.
The shift of media to the Internet was already going on before the COVID-19, but I think that the acceleration of entertainment viewing at home due to the stay-at-home because of the COVID-19 has been a factor in accelerating the popularity of virtual YouTubers.
Although there are exceptions, both virtual YouTubers and viewers can stay at home, so it matches the era of stay home and remote work.
The Hollywood film industry has a business model of gathering talents (filmmakers, actors, VFX artists, etc.) from all over the world, developing the content to the world, and using the profits from that to fund the next development.
Hololive does also a world-targeted development with talents gathered from all over the world, and I think that it is leading the way in the future of entertainment.
I believe that Gawr Gura is one of the symbolic success stories.