Virtual Friends Are Watching: Notes

  1. Introduction
  2. Main Characters
  3. Supporting Characters
  4. Episode Notes
    1. Episode 1
    2. Episode 2
    3. Episode 3
    4. Episode 4
    5. Episode 5
  5. Glossary
  6. Special Thanks

Note: Page is still under construction

Introduction

2018 saw the explosion of VTubers: internet personalities with virtual avatars. Since Kizuna AI first popularized the concept of a “Virtual YouTuber”, the word “VTuber” has expanded to include literally thousands of virtual personalities, who livestream or upload videos to any number of online platforms (with some calling themselves “Virtual Live-ers” to avoid being tied to YouTube).

Here we will introduce both the recurring characters in Virtual Friends Are Watching, as well as the various memes and terminology associated with each character and the VTuber scene as a whole.

Main Characters

HimeHina (Tanaka Hime & Suzuki Hina)

Twitter: @HimeTanaka_HH @HinaSuzuki_HH
Affiliation: Tanaka Koumuten
Two girls whose original goal was merely to make a song and have it included in an anime.

Tanaka Hime is the red half. She’s a chatterbox who’s always jumping around and laughing, sometimes to the point of oxygen deficiency. Known for frequently performing the Comăneci move (bringing one’s hands diagonally downwards). Her love for little girls is what gave birth to the name of HimeHina’s fans, “Jojimin” (“little girl citizens”).

Suzuki Hina is the blue half. While she’s generally calmer than Hime, she can be just as silly (if not more). Known for the difficulty she has reading kanji and her extensive knowledge of anime.

Ever since their Let’s Play of Super Bunny Man, they’ve become strongly associated with carrots (or “cawwots” as they call them).

Mirai Akari

Twitter: @miraiakari_prj
Affiliation: ENTUM

Nekomiya Hinata

Twitter: @nekomiya_hinata
Affiliation: ENTUM

Siro (Den’nou Shoujo Siro)

Twitter: @siroyoutuber
Affiliation: .LIVE
Cyber Girl Siro is .LIVE’s second VTuber, following Baacharu (for whom she often shows contempt, due to his weird behavior). She has been uploading videos daily since her debut, in addition to streaming weekly, hosting a triweekly TV program, and participating in various promotional campaigns.

She’s an AI who likes (virtual) sweets and cats, but hates horror and creepy-crawlies. Her dream is to become an idol and hold her own live concerts. She speaks English fairly well and is known for her high pitched laughter, which fans compare to dolphin sounds. She eventually adopted this dolphin motif for herself, with it being incorporated into her design.

She gained traction with her early PUBG and DBD videos, where she showed some psychopathic tendencies (see “seiso” below), but she’s actually a very sweet girl.

Her fans are called “Sirogumi” and are often depicted as tofu due to the default avatars in her company’s (now dead) VR streaming platform.

Tsukino Mito

Twitter: @mitotsukino
Affiliation: Nijisanji

Supporting Characters

Baacharu

Twitter: @bayoutuber
Affiliation: .LIVE

The self-proclaimed “world’s first male Virtual YouTuber” and the producer of .LIVE’s Idol Club group of VTubers. Despite what he says, not actually a horse person, but rather a person wearing a horse mask. According to him, when his company was first getting their VTuber tech ready, the modeler was too lazy to animate facial expressions, so decided a horse mask would do.

Often acts as MC for big collaborative VTuber events, and on some occasions appears in the flesh (a form which fans call Realcharu).

Baacharu loves partying, soccer and Kaguya Luna.

Elu the Elf

Twitter: @elu_world
Affiliation: Nijisanji

Fuji Aoi

Twitter: @fuji_aoi_0618
Affiliation: Smarprise

Aoi is a VTuber with a stated goal of spreading Japanese culture to the world, and to cheer the viewers on with her videos and music. Since she debuted in late 2017, she’s posted song covers, gameplay videos, and a wide variety of other content, her covers attracting the most attention for her brilliant singing voice. In November 2018 she debuted with her first single with a major label, Hajimari no Oto. Aoi refers to her viewers as members of the Aoi Musical Company (Aoi Kagekidan), while the viewers themselves have taken to referring to Aoi as their “granddaughter”, due to her general cute and innocent demeanor.

Aoi has a sidekick named Kiku no Joe, a floating Kansai dialect-speaking starfish(?) with a Sujiguma kabuki mask. He was summoned by Aoi in an attempt to make a “convenient friend” who is a “popular character with an animal-like cuteness (preferably a cat) and who will listen to what Aoi has to say”. Whether she succeeded is up to interpretation. Kiku no Joe refers to Aoi as “brother”.

When she first started out, Aoi used a model that—well, let’s just say that “her singing is amazing, it’s just too bad about her model” was a common sentiment. However, she launched a crowdfunding campaign during the first quarter of 2018 to have a new model made and to upgrade her motion tracking hardware, which exceeded the original goal, finally landing at 22,822,560 yen donated. The new model was revealed in April the same year.

Fukuya Master

Twitter: @lesupo_ru321id
Affiliation: upd8 (formerly independent)
A VTuber known for sounding like (and named after) singer Fukuyama Masaharu.

In fact, Fukuya Master (in his previous identity) was already active on Nico Nico Douga and YouTube for many years before becoming a VTuber. Initially uploading normal song covers, he rose in popularity after singing the School-Live! theme song using his Fukuyama Masaharu voice, and began uploading other songs where he imitated the singer.

He gained his 2-D avatar in late 2017 and fully took on his new identity in March of 2018. Though initially a bit of an outcast, being seen as a “real” YouTuber just hopping on the VTuber bandwagon, he’s become an accepted member of the community involved in numerous collaborative events, including Peanuts-kun’s 24-hour marathons.

Due to his commitment to his new VTuber identity, most of his past videos have been deleted or set to private.

Higuchi Kaede

Twitter: @higuchikaede
Affiliation: Nijisanji
A Kansai dialect-speaking second-year high school girl, also known by the nickname “Derо̄n”, an onomatopoeia for the way she slouches while snoozing in class. Together with Tsukino Mito and Shizuka Rin, they form Nijisanji’s “JK-Gumi” (high school girls trio). Plays the trumpet.

She and Mito are something of an item, much to fans’ delight, with many subtle and not-so-subtle flirtatious moments happening during their videos.

Game Club

Twitter: @Kaede_gamebu @haruto_gamebu @Ryo_gamebu @Miria_gamebu
Affiliation: Game-bu Project

Kenmochi Toya

Twitter: @rei_toya_rei
Affiliation: Nijisanji

Kerin

Twitter: @kerin_vtuber
Affiliation: upd8 (formerly independent)
Yamikumo Kerin (mostly known as just Kerin) is a 19 year old dark elf living in an elven village in Gunma prefecture, Japan. Kerin’s hobby is manufacturing missiles and shooting them at various locations (mainly Nico Nico Douga’s offices).

A student of dark magic, especially explosion magic, his catchphrase is “I’ll blow you to smithereens!” (“buchitobashite iku ze!” or “buchitoba” for short)

His videos often feature Nijisanji’s COO Iwanaga and Game Club’s Domyoji Haruto. He also likes to end his videos with the North Korean military song “Gonggyeok Jeon Ida”, roughly tl’d as “It’s battle time” (known in Japan as “Kongyo”), which is a meme unto itself. Is quite infatuated with Elu, to put it mildly.

Formerly a member of the VTuber misfits group “BANs” and currently affiliated with upd8.

Mochi Hiyoko

Twitter: @mochi8hiyoko
Affiliation: ENTUM (formerly independent)

Mononobe Alice

Twitter: @alicemononobe
Affiliation: Nijisanji

Peanuts-kun

Twitter: @osyarenuts
Affiliation: independent?

Started as the main character of a (still ongoing) independent short-form absurdist web animation series, but began also doing gameplay streams and other YouTuber activities, eventually being recognized as a VTuber. He’s a 5-year-old peanut whose goal is, as stated in both the title of his webseries and Twitter handle, to become hip.

He works closely with Ponpoko the tanuki ninja, originally a supporting character in the webseries. Together, they’ve hosted two popular 24-hour livestreams featuring a myriad of guests from and related to the V scene.

Roboco

Twitter: @robocosan
Affiliation: Hololive

The character of Roboco was originally a Unity project started in 2016 by artist kuromaru9. In December of 2017, Cover Corp. (the parent company of Hololive) announced that Roboco would debut as a VTuber, and began holding auditions for her “soul”, leading to her eventual debut in March of the next year.

Known for her playful, big-sister-like personality, soothing speaking and singing voice, and love for battle royale games. Insists that she is high-spec (kouseinou), but is frequently teased as being a “toaster” (ponkotsu) when she messes up. Her fans are known as Robosaa/Robosir (this writer is not 100% confident where the fan name came from, though it probably has to do with Roboco’s tendency to end sentences with “saa!” when flustered or frustrated, and may be a pun on “sir”).

Sister Cleaire

Twitter: @sistercleaire
Affiliation: Nijisanji

Tokino Sora

Twitter: @tokino_sora
Affiliation: Hololive

Hololive’s first virtual idol and Virtual YouTuber. Her kind-hearted, comforting, and unironically wholesome personality has led many fans to call her “motherly”. A big fan of horror games, which do not seem to scare her in the least.

Quite musically inclined, she has published various covers and original songs on her channel, including collaborations with producers from the Vocaloid scene, and recently announced her debut album with a major record label.

Her fans are known as “Soratomo”, and she is often accompanied by a stuffed bear called Ankimo, who frequently gets buried (a meme from her earlier livestreams, when technical difficulties caused him to clip into the ground). Her best friend and manager is known only as “Friend A” or, more familiarly, “A-chan” (@achan_UGA). Originally a behind-the-scenes staff member, A-chan began to make appearances in Sora’s videos (usually as the victim of Sora’s horror games) and eventually got her own virtual avatar, which makes occasional appearances at events.

Unity-chan (Ootori Kohaku)

Twitter: @UnityChan_PR
Affiliation: Unity Technologies Japan

Virtual Gorilla

Twitter: @gorilla_virtual
Affiliation: VEEMusic (independent)

Weatheroid Type A Airi

Twitter: @typea_airi
Affiliation: WEATHERNEWS INC.

The self-proclaimed “rookie VTuber in her 7th year since debuting”, Airi as a virtual character actually predates the VTuber phenomenon by quite a bit, having been part of Weathernews’s regular weather forecast programming since 2012. The character has been played by different people throughout her history, and usually speaks using speech synthesis, but her weekly Thursday livestreams feature a live actress (it’s common knowledge that Weatheroid Airi is currently played by weathercaster Yamagishi Airi, who is officially “Weatheroid’s manager”).

Airi is a weather-forecasting android (yes, we know, she’s technically a gynoid). Since opening her YouTube channel in 2017, she has engaged more with the VTuber scene, collaborating with various other VTubers (including Tokino Sora, with whom she shares the fan name “Soratomo”, although they are written differently in Japanese). Nicknamed “Ponko” for her frequent ponkotsu behavior. Does horoscopes as part of her weather forecasts, and is known to have an irrational grudge against Cancers, who are always last place.

Episode Notes

01

  • 0:15 – “some old dude pretending to be a girl” references the “babiniku” class of VTubers, in this case Nekomasu specifically, who is the OG babiniku.
  • 0:22 – There is indeed a virtual grandma, and Hello Kitty does have her own channel nowadays. “Strangled Hamtaro” is a nickname of Kaguya Luna, whose voice is said to resemble, well…
  • 0:43 – “dolphin” is a nickname of Siro’s, because of the high-pitched, chirpy way she laughs. The rest of the line refers to her violent and psychopathic tendencies, despite her insistence on being wholesome.
  • 2:25 – “Comaneci” refers to a signature gag by comedian Beat Takeshi, which is named after gymnast Nadia Comăneci. The gag consists of Beat Takeshi dropping into a frog-like crouch and using his arms to emphasize a V-shape around his crotch, to imitate the high-legged leotard worn by Ms. Comăneci during her Olympic appearances.
  • 5:28 – Raising their rating is a reference to competitive Pokémon, one of the main topics of Kaede’s videos.
  • 7:13 – “Virtual Grandmother” is Kobayashi Sachiko, a famous enka singer with a lengthy career that’s been going since the 60s. In recent years, she’s gained popularity with the younger generation when videos of her went viral on Nico Nico Douga, and is now a frequent guest at Nico Nico-related events. Dwango, the production company of this anime, also runs Nico Nico Douga.
  • 9:11 – “Ahh, the sound of wholesomeness…” (seiso no oto) is a reference to this infomercial where a woman gets very excited over hydrogen water. When the bottle is opened at 0:22, she utters “Ahh, the sound of hydrogen!” (suiso no oto).
  • 11:41 – Fuji Aoi Park is a reference to Fuji Safari Park, known for this ad with the memorable honto ni honto ni honto ni honto ni raion da (they’re really, really, really, really lions) song.
  • 13:54 – Virtual Red Light District, or more specifically Virtual Kabukichō, Kabukichō being a district of Tokyo known for its love hotels, among other things.
  • 17:19 – The gay porn bit happened in one of her streams, where she played Stereotype Boys’ Love by Europe Kikaku, thinking that it’s just a typing game, when it turns out to be some serious BL. This also saw the birth of another meme, “Gotta hide it with myself” (watakushi de kakusanakya), from her trying to hide the visuals with her own avatar.
  • 18:29 – “I won’t stop” is a variation of a line from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, spoken by Orga Itsuka in episode 48: “Don’t you ever stop”. Someone commented with the original line during one of Sora’s livestreams, and Sora responded with “I won’t stop”, presumably without knowing the reference. It’s now turned into her unofficial catchphrase.
  • 21:45 – Squishy melon buns comes from this collab video between Siro and Akari, where Siro says she likes Akari enough “to want to eat her squishy melon buns”, and Akari responds with “especially the tip, right?”.

02

  • 3:05 – It’s a Naruto reference, in case that needed to be pointed out. The medicine at 3:16 is a parody of health drink Oronamin C.
  • 4:30 – A famous line spoken by Ayanami Rei from Evangelion (hence the eyepatch). Details omitted here to avoid spoilers.
  • 8:25 – And a Bleach reference. Apparently Shonen Jump references are in this week.
  • 11:04 – LINE is the most popular messaging app in Japan. It allows you to send stickers, which are essentially large emoji, often featuring characters from pop culture. Anyone can sell custom stickers on the Creators Market, but only official stickers that have been approved by LINE can have sound and go in the official sticker shop.
  • 12:52 – “Hao” is HimeHina’s standard greeting that they use in their videos.
  • 14:13 – A reference to Elu the elf, whose forest apparently frequently burns down, an in-joke that other Nijisanji members like Kaede have been happy to perpetuate.
  • 18:31 – This line was simplified to keep it concise and easy to understand. Sora says she committed the crime of “nidogaki”: fixing an unsatisfactory part of her calligraphy piece by going back over it with the brush. This is a big no-no in Japanese calligraphy, because you’re supposed to write the characters all in one go, following proper stroke order. Making corrections after you’re done writing ruins the integrity of the piece.

03

  • 04:10 – Is that a motherfucking JoJo reference?? Specifically, it’s a reference to the final battle in part 3 (Stardust Crusaders) of JoJo’s bizzarre adventure.
  • 06:23, 21:19 – Well, this is what being a virtual YouTuber is like is a line Tsukino Mito spoke during a stream of a Europe Kikaku game. After having issues getting through a minigame that required repeated clicking, she decided to go and get a mouse instead of using he touchpad buttons on her laptop. However, as she only had one adapter cable, she ended up having to temporarily remove her face instead, thus leaving the screen with just the game and the comments (what was the point of VTubers again?). One person commented: “she just sacrificed her character for the game!”; in response, Tsukino Mito uttered the line in question.
  • 12:37 – After school tea time, perhaps obviously, refers to the name of the main characters of K-On’s band, Hokago Tea Time in Japanese.
  • 12:54 – Senburi tea is tea made with swertia, and is known for being incredibly bitter. It is often used for “batsu”, or penalty games on Japanese variety shows.
  • 14:04 – hocho is a verbal tick of Siro’s, a corruption of honto meaning “really”.
  • 15:44 – iya na jiken datta ne literally means “it was an awful incident, wasn’t it”, and is a meme that originates from the first chapter of the Higurashi no Naku Koro ni visual novel game.
  • 16:17 – This “spell” is a reference to the final scenes of Princess Mononoke.
  • 19:44 – ponpoko is an onomatopoeia associated with the tanuki. Hime likes to use it as a nonsense word that more or less means whatever she feels like in the moment. Hime’s usage is not directly related to Ponpoko the tanuki ninja.

04

  • 6:24 – A play on one of Alice’s catchphrases, “I’m a high school girl, you know!” (usually directed at people insisting she’s an elementary schooler).
  • 10:18 – Chono Masahiro is a professional wrestler and a recurring guest star on variety show Gaki no Tsukai, where a running joke involves him violently slapping another member of the cast.
  • 12:10 – A reference to Shinji’s ever-memetic line from the first episode of Evangelion.
  • 14:48 – One of Mito’s most famous incidents is her matter-of-fact discussion of the roadside weeds and grasses she ate as a kid. Because surely, everyone’s done that before. Right? Very wholesome.
  • 18:24 – A reference to how the name changes for higher-level spells in some Final Fantasy games (e.g. Fire → Fira → Firaga).
  • 23:30 – See ponkotsu.

05

  • Coming soon.

Glossary

“babiniku” (reincarnate as a virtual cute girl)

“Babiniku” stands for “baacharu bishoujo juniku” or “reincarnate as a cute virtual girl”. It refers to male VTubers with female avatars. Babiniku VTubers are almost exclusively independents, and a good many are professional illustrators, hence why they can draw cute girls so well. So far, Virtual Friends does not feature any babiniku VTubers, though it has referenced them.

“kigyou-zei” (corporate)

VTubers who are affiliated with a company or talent agency. Corporate VTubers are more likely to have full 3-D models, as well as a professional motion capture studio and a staff to plan and edit their videos. They are also more likely to do sponsored content or appear in major sponsored events. Some corporate VTubers plan their own content and record from home, like independent VTubers, with the company providing technology, artwork, promotion, and support. Some independent VTubers eventually sign on with a company and become corporate, in which case the company’s level of involvement varies on a case-by-case basis. Contrast with independent VTubers.

“kojin-zei” (independent)

Amateur VTubers who are not affiliated with any agency or company. Most are one-person operations, using original artwork for their avatar and consumer software to do face-tracking and animation. Though they don’t have the benefit of corporate funding and promotion, some can still get quite big. Contrast with corporate VTubers.

“ponkotsu” (piece of junk/“toaster”)

A word which describes old or malfunctioning machines, it is often used to affectionately tease Kizuna AI. It has since been applied to various other VTubers, especially those who are explicitly robots or AIs such as Roboco (who insists that she’s high-spec) or Airi (whose nickname “Ponko” comes from ponkotsu). In the VTuber scene, it has similar usage to the English slang “derpy”.

“seiso” (wholesome)

One of the most widespread and well-known of VTuber memes is “seiso”, which we translate as “wholesome”. It refers to a character type defined by innocence, purity, and propriety. It is also used ironically to refer to a character who definitely does not have those qualities, or who tries and fails to act pure and wholesome. “Seiso” as a meme originated with Siro and is strongly associated with Tsukino Mito (in both cases, in ironic usage).

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the VTuber fan community for their contributions to this page and their expertise on the VTuber scene.