May 25, is the birthday of VTuber La+ Darknesss, and that means a variety of ways to mark the occasion, as per usual. There are the special streams, the general well wishes from fans and peers alike, and of course, the merch. As La+ is one of my absolute favorites (and her group holoX just a generally great Hololive generation), I (and my wallet) will also be partaking in the celebration. But one thing I find so funny about VTuber birthdays is that they’re the ultimate kayfabe—a crucial area where everyone suspends their disbelief.
Nearly all virtual youtubers have two important dates to celebrate every year: their debut anniversaries and their birthdays. The former are near-immutable facts; they did their first YouTube streams on X Day, and that remains into perpetuity (unless a re-debut is somehow given precedent). The latter are completely arbitrary.
VTuber birthdays aren’t based on when their designs are first created or when they’re first hired—that’s an unknown and (presumably) long process. It’s clearly never the same as the actual person’s birthday—that’d just invite trouble by accidentally leaking personal info. Instead, the VTuber birthday is this made-up thing that gives an excuse to put the spotlight on an individual streamer while they get to promote their projects and new goods for fans to purchase. Everyone plays along as if this is the real deal.
It’s actually great.
I feel like everyone is on the same page in this situation, because what it really does is focus all the love and attention onto a particular period of time, giving meaning to the actions of the VTubers and their followers alike. It’s also the only part of a VTuber’s lore that holds firm no matter what. Character personalities can change. VTubers can play into their original lore or abandon most of it to be something closer to who they are behind the screen. Fans can popularize theories, and the performers themselves can choose whether to incorporate aspects of it. Entire designs can even change significantly. However, the birthday remains.
So Happy Birthday, La+ Darknesss! It’s going to be great getting to see you get all the attention you’ve earned. It’s good to see you bounce back from COVID as well (ironic that I say this while just getting my own first bout of COVID.)
An important final note: La+ has mentioned that she’s recovering from a stress fracture due to COVID-19, so there might not be a concert stream. In the meantime, two different delayed birthday concerts are happening this week: One is for the original Hololive, Tokino Sora, on May 26 (her birthday is May 15). The other is for 1st-Generation member Aki Rosenthal on May 27 (whose original concert in February had to be postponed due to some unknown difficulties). So while we might not get to see the Founder’s sweet dance moves again, we do get to see two of the best performers around.
I’ve been thinking about what I call “safe yandere,” or alternately “yandere aesthetic.”
Yandere character fetish feeds off many things. The notion of a character who’s so in love with another that she turns into a crazed axe murderer (and that this is a good thing!) is at the same time obvious and complex. It’s a realm of fantasy that, in my estimation, works by essentially being so hyper exaggerated as to feel real—like how food for astronauts is made extra spicy because the sense of taste is dulled in space.
Because yandere characters come primarily from media like anime, manga, and visual novels, there are many visual shortcuts to convey that quality. The thousand-yard stare, the creepy smile, the icons of sadism, and so on make portraying a yandere in a single drawing perfectly possible. What this also means is that this aesthetic can be extracted and placed onto characters who aren’t necessarily trying to trap their significant others in cement so that they can be together forever.
The first example that stands out to me is Jabami Yumeko in Kakegurui. She has all the visual hallmarks of a yandere, except she directs that primal energy towards the art of gambling instead of a person. She doesn’t take pleasure in hurting others so much as she does mutually experiencing the torrent of emotions that stir when everything is on the line.
Another is the teasing girl. They’re not exactly yandere—more like a midway point between that and tsundere—but they can serve a somewhat similar function. Nagatoro might be the most well known at this point, and her sneers evoke a kind of pain/pleasure combo that aligns with the general yandere for vibe.
The last example actually comes from the world of VTubers. The Hololive zombie girl Kureijii Ollie has a visual presentation that is very reminiscent of yandere, especially in the eyes, but her personality is far from it. I suspect that this contrast is part of her charm, though, and a reason she’s so popular. Incidentally, another Hololive member, Ceres Fauna is sort of the opposite: Her appearance is gentle but her words and demeanor can get yandere, especially in ASMR streams.
I don’t think separating out the visual component of yandere is a bad thing—far from it, in fact. It gives people the opportunity to assess themselves and what they enjoy, allowing for greater personal discovery. It also reminds me a bit of what has happened to the concept of vampires. Some people just want a specific sub-flavor of hotness, and that is okay.
I don’t know if we’ll reach a point where the definition of yandere has fundamentally changed and it goes towards the safe yandere. I doubt it, given the continued popularity of characters like Toga Himiko from My Hero Academia. But like so many things, I’d rather people be able to remember that this transformation has occurred rather than wholly adhere to some specific definition. History is important, even that of the yandere.
(And technically, all fictional yandere are safe precisely because they remain in the realm of fiction. Though that does mean VTubers can blur that line…)
The Hololive fan project Holocureis what finally made me try a Vampire Survivors–type game. That’s not to say anything is wrong with Vampire Survivors—I had no particular qualms based on what I knew of the genre, but also no particular motivation to check it out. But now I’ve devoted more hours to Holocure than many games in recent memory, so I figured I should jot down my thoughts on it, no matter how disorganized.
I can see why this game type has become such a hit. There’s something simultaneously relaxing and stressful about the format. The whole automatic-firing thing exemplifies this, as it means you don’t have to worry about constantly mashing on a button or timing hits, but it also means you have less control in dire situations where you really wish you could be more precise. My only complaint is that collision with stage elements sometimes happens unexpectedly, and I feel like certain graphics such as fences and potted plants are kind of iffy in terms of how they interact with the playable characters. Either that, or my partial color blindness makes them hard to notice.
Wikipedia calls Vampire Survivor a “timed survival” game, and I don’t know how common or accepted that is as a term. I feel like it’s treated as a genre or subgenre of its own, though I can’t help but compare it to the 1980s arcade game Robotron 2084, which also features an overhead view plus dual sticks for movement and aiming respectively. There are differences but also a clear conceptual lineage, and it’s fascinating to see people try to coin a term to describe this game type. The term “Roguelite” is funny for all the reasons Metroidvania and Roguelike are.
Specifically regarding Holocure, the roster is an obvious point in its favor. Getting to use Hololive members is ultimately what pushed me to try it in the first place, especially after hearing that Haachama would get added to the game. Even if I weren’t already a Haachama fan, she’d probably still end up being my favorite in Holocure. The fact that she has a “stance change” mechanic (based on the #coexist arc that implied Haachama has two warring personalities inside her) just makes her fun to play and strategize with.
I’ve now had the chance to use every character available in Version 0.5, and I just love the way that the girls’ lore, personality, and memes all get rolled into gameplay elements. It’s the advantage of being a fan game based on an existing property. I’m eager to see how future characters turn out. The entirety of Hololive Indonesia has already been announced for 0.6, and I want to try them all, especially Kureiji Ollie, Airani Iofifteen, Kobo Kanaeru, and Kaela Kovalskia—the last of whom has herself become addicted to playing Holocure for hours end while blaring an in-game trumpet for maximum cacophony.
And of course, I can’t wait to see the eventual arrival of La+ Darknesss. Given that Gura has the power of Smolness that allows her to dodge attacks more easily, I wonder if La+ will have a similar ability, given that she is literally the shortest member of Hololive. Or will it be the case that her massive horns neutralize the advantage of short stature? What will her super be—a reference to her original song Dark Breath, perhaps?
The 3D debut of La+ Darknesss forever changed her image as a Virtual Youtuber. This Hololive member initially presented herself as a brattychuunibyou with legit singing and rapping skills, but seeing her with a full range of motion revealed that La+ is actually one of Hololive‘s best dancers. Since then, she’s had a handful of performances in her own streams and as a guest in others, and they’re consistently top-notch. Numerous clips and comments in multiple languages make note about how her routines just look different from most everyone else’s, with one Japanese viewer summing it up well: While many others (like Subaru and Matsuri) are great at idol dancing, La+ comes across as a great dancer.
Indeed, La+’s dancing has made such an impact on me that I’ve previously discussed her talent in two separate posts. And now here’s a third one.
Writing another essay might seem superfluous; I’d actually thought as such myself. I’m also such an absolute dance novice that I’m completely unqualified to comment on La+’s with any authority. But as I’ve waited for more expert analysis of her skills, none have really appeared—even reaction videos are exceedingly rare. So, I’ve found myself watching her concerts over and over, trying to figure out why her abilities shine through even to someone as ignorant of the art as myself.
Thus, I present my attempt to explain what I literally don’t have the proper vocabulary or understanding for, in the hopes that someone better than me can do a more proper job of it.
Crisp, Full-Body Expression
I think the first dance that really caught my attention was from La+’s 3D debut stream: her performance of her first original song, “Aien Jihen.” She actually came up with the choreography herself, and it is likely her most difficult dance to date—La+ even prefaced by saying she was only dancing to her pre-recorded vocal track.
The introduction starts off, and she strikes poses if every part of her is in perfect sync with the rest. Then the blow horns sound off, and La+ goes into the first verse with the most confident arm movements I’ve ever seen from a VTuber. As she pumps her body, there’s a combination of elegance and forcefulness (along with some solid camera work) that just leaves a lasting impression—and that’s before La+ gets into the more difficult parts of her choreo! She looks as if she’s able to carry movements all the way from beginning to end with a level of precision that makes everything feel both important and impactful.
That crispness can be seen across literally everything she does. Case in point, one place where it really stands out to me is in her duet cover of Ayase’s “Cynical Night Plan” with Amane Kanata, from her first-anniversary concert. At times, La+ performs more complicated moves than Kanata, but there are moments when they’re doing the same steps, and she just seems to have something extra. In the above clip, the duo spread their arms in and flick upwards in steps of three; while Kanata seems to move wrist-first, La+ looks as if she’s moving from the shoulders and elbows, creating a sharp ratcheting that matches the song well. I find my eyes being drawn to her as a result.
Control and Stability
The 3D debuts of every member of holoX culminated with a group stream in which they performed a cover of the song “Roki” by MikitoP. This is actually the moment that multiple VTuber clippers drew attention to La+’s dancing, and for good reason: she somehow manages to steal the spotlight without diminishing her genmates. There are just multiple moments where she dips or moves like an undulating wave, and it highlights just how much more control and stability she seems to have over her body—especially her core—compared to the rest of holoX and by extension nearly all of Hololive.
Her first-anniversary stream is also full of moments that demonstrate her incredible smoothness, but where that talent really comes to the fore is in “Dark Breath”: her second original song, and one that clearly draws inspiration from K-Pop in the vein of Blackpink. Not only does she demonstrate the aforementioned crisp movement when she turns in place like the hands of a clock, but the way she leans back as if about to fall over—only to then snake right back up—seems to speak to an impressive amount of training.
Idols and Dancing
With the impressive expressiveness and control of La+ on display, I’d like to return to that previously mentioned distinction between “idol dancing” and “dance dancing.” To that end, it’s important to describe what idol-style dance is in the first place with a brief and highly generalized history lesson.
Japanese idol culture emerged in the 1980s with singers such as Matsuda Seiko being presented as platonic ideals of what girls could be—this is the foundation of the seiso (pure and clean) idol concept that is the butt of so many jokes.
As dancing has become a bigger part of idol culture—such as with the famous AKB48—performances follow a similar trend, being less about making you go “wow” and more about making you go “aww” or “ooh.” In anime terms, this is the progression from Macrossand Creamy Mamito Love Live!
Idol dance is the angle most Hololive members take, and it allows for those with and without dance experience to look fairly good and to utilize their strengths. For example, Inugami Korone is known as one of the most physically fit members of Hololive. She doesn’t have the cleanest moves, but she makes up for it with sheer athleticism and stamina, famously pulling off a front walkover flip while also nursing a broken finger. In turn, Oozora Subaru may not be as athletic as Korone, but she brings a similar amount of boundless energy, a kind of joyful expressiveness that’s really endearing, and visible improvements over time that play into the narrative of watching idols as “works in progress.”
Two members who actually have significant backgrounds in idol performances are Natsuiro Matsuri and Takahashi Kiara (Hololive Myth’s best dancer), and it shows in how stable they look while in motion.
In the above clip, Matsuri’s “Hare Hare Yukai” dance from Suzumiya Haruhi stands in sharp contrast to Houshou Marine’s memorized but somewhat uncoordinated motions. Below, Kiara’s performance during her original song “Hinotori” straddles the line of idol dancing with a choreography that feels more daring, but she still has a certain staticness that is expected of idol fare, despite showing off a great deal of balance and flexibility.
In comparison, it’s clear that La+ doesn’t follow the same template as most others. Certainly, she’s not alone in that regard, with Kiara diversifying her style further with her later songs, and Moona Hoshinova giving a more diva-like performance for her original song “High Tide.” But I think what La+ seems to have an astounding level of consistency, which leads me to the third reason I think she’s such a mesmerizing dancer.
On the subject of idol dance, there is something important to note: Just because it’s not La+’s typical style doesn’t mean she’s bad at it. In fact, she’s one of the best:
This clip is taken from the most-rewatched moment in her first-year anniversary concert: her idol outfit reveal, which leads into “Daishikyuu Daisuki,” a poppy and bubbly tune by the Japanese group Femme Fatale. It’s by far the most idol-esque number La+ has ever done, and she manages to bring her crispness and control to the performance in a way that elevates the whole thing. From how she twists and bends to the subtle positioning of her legs, she looks as impressive here as her other dances. For comparison, below is a video showing other Hololive members covering the same song. The difference is noticeable.
La+ is amazingly versatile, and nowhere is that more apparent than the fact that the very same first-anniversary concert also features La+ with Aki Rosenthal, who is indisputably one of Hololive’s best dancers. With a partner who is similarly skilled, La+ is able to pull off something that looks closer to a Broadway number or a dance recital at a major concert hall. The song, “One Room All That Jazz,” also has a completely different feel from everything else she’s done (quiet and jazzy, naturally). The number consists of nonstop highlights, but I think what really shows her (and Aki’s) power is the level of elegance displayed during the instrumental section that then transitions into a wildly contrasting tap dance. Aside from possibly Kiara and Moona, as well as potentially certain members who have yet to receive their 3D models, I’m doubtful there are many who could manage this so effectively.
Dark Lord of the Dance
When La+ Darknesss dances, she displays artistry and a plethora of skills that I think put her near, if not at the top of the list of best dancers in Hololive and Virtual Youtubers as a whole. She actually outdoes Miku Miku Dance models from the best 3D animators when it’s far more common for the opposite to be true.
La+ has the crisp, full-body expression that makes every movement feel razor-sharp. She has such stability and control that her moves seem somehow effortful and effortless at the same time. She has the versatility to apply her talents to different songs and genres of dance, and make all of them look good. It’s as if she combines the strengths of the most notable performers in Hololive, with the possible exception of Korone-level endurance and athletic prowess (though she might merely be lacking relative to the intensity of her choreographies). And all this isn’t even factoring her strong singing ability—something that makes her concerts that much more powerful. Truly, she’s my favorite dancer in Hololive and there is no close second.
Which is all to say, if you haven’t watched La+’s 3D concerts, you should really check them out.
There must have been something fermenting in the collective imagination of 2022. Last year gave us not one, not two, but three different forms of media featuring cute dogs combined with bread. And as many minds landed on this same idea of oven-baked canines, they all appeared to be guided by more than merchandising power alone.
The first bread dog of note is an embodiment of the Sanallites, the fanbase for the retired VTuber Tsukumo Sana from Hololive. The reason her fans are portrayed as bread is that Sana herself would express how much she loves bread, even going as far as doing a bread horoscope in an early stream. And because Sana herself is an experienced artist, she used her illustration chops to solidify the design as a whole loaf with an adorable flat face.
Sana’s bread dog comes from a warm and comforting relationship with her fandom—the kind of personal-feeling connection that you could only get from a streamer.
The second bread dog is Pam-Pam, a sandwich-themed dog fairy from the magical girl anime Delicious Party Precure. Here, Pam-Pam is the mascot sidekick of the bread-themed Cure Spicy, and contrasted with a rice mascot and a noodle mascot for a trio of staple carbs. This all plays into one of the themes of Delicious Party Precure, which is teaching kids to eat balanced meals and learn to appreciate all types of food. Pam-Pam transforms into a little sandwich with her dog head sticking out, meaning her bread elements come out primarily in battle.
Delicious Party Precure’s bread dog is a way to convey a theme of good nutrition. The decision to design Pam-Pam in this way is the result of trying to prepare children for the future.
Fidough and Dachsbun
The last bread dogs are the new evolutionary line from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Fidough, which resembles unbaked bread, evolves into Dachsbun, whose Baked Body ability makes it actually immune to fire attacks. They have more of an active bread motif than Pamu Pamu but retain more dog features than the Sanallites.
These two are actually just a couple of the many new Paldean Pokémon with a food motif—others include hot pepper plants, olives, and more. The Paldea region is based on Spain, which has a rich and diverse food culture, and both bread dogs reflect that aspect.
The Yeast They Can Do
Combining fluffy bread with furry dogs seems like an obvious winner, and these examples are certainly not the first. But to see three big franchises implement the same idea within the same year feels like a tiny miracle. There’s a surprising amount of versatility to be found in the bread dog concept, and should there ever be a true bread-dog boom, I doubt anyone would mind.
There’s a 50/50 chance that saying “the Japanese beverage company Suntory has their own official Virtual Youtuber” would come as a surprise. But the blue-haired “Suntory Nomu” is real (in a sense), and I actually like her design quite a bit. What really stands out about Nomu’s appearance, relative to other VTubers, is how simple and subdued it is. A white dress with blue highlights stands in sharp contrast to the vast majority of Hololive and Nijisanji, who seem to be created with a maximalist philosophy. This latter approach brings to mind broader discussions about character design in media.
(Side note: I’m not sure I need to mention this, but in case it matters, I am not endorsing Suntory products in any way. I generally like their drinks well enough, but that’s about it.)
When looking at Nomu relative to the Hololive members she’s streamed with, the difference is clear. While both have attractive designs, Takane Lui and Aki Rosenthal have all these details, adornments, and colors, resulting in rather complex/complicated appearances. There are practical reasons to make them this way, of course: They need to be immediately distinct and visually appealing to prospective viewers. Rigging/modeling them for animation is a one-time thing, as opposed to needing to be draw them anew every time in the vein of anime or manga. And the expectation is that people will stare at them for extended periods. VTubers need to communicate a good portion of who they are immediately, as viewers can’t be expected to dive into an extensive backstory—and often VTuber backstories are helpful suggestions, at best.
The decision to go maximalist reminds me of fan discussion surrounding fighting game characters. Fighting games, especially ones not based on an existing property, share a number of similarities with VTubing. There’s no prior context for people to get attached to (as they might in an animation or comic), so having them catch the eye right away while also communicating how they play is important. There’s still quite a bit of range—Compare Ryu or Chun-li from Street Fighter to Sol Badguy or Dizzy from Guilty Gear (especially pre-STRIVE)—but criticizing a fighting game character for being “boring” is typically more about looks and presentation of attacks. That’s actually a big difference with Virtual Youtubers: It does ultimately come down to personality.
But it makes me wonder if significantly simplified designs like Suntory Nomu couldn’t thrive despite the general trends against them. Maybe it’s because so many designs take an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach that Nomu’s aesthetics stand out more. Could there be a trend back down to relatively more minimalist designs in VTubing, fighting games, and other similar areas? It’s something I’d like to see, if only because I’m curious how it would all play out among the fans themselves.
Yesterday, I watched the Hololive COUNTDOWN LIVE 2022▷2023. It involved 3D concert performances by a variety of members including two of my faves, the currently COVID-stricken Haachama and the on-hiatus La+ Darknesss. I highly recommend it, especially the crossover sections between the girls of Hololive and the boys of Holostars. This clearly takes some inspiration from Japan’s long-standing end-of-year musical event, Kohaku Uta Gassen, but I’ve never actually watched it.
Looking back, it didn’t hit me how long the past year felt until I saw Kio Shimoku mention that Hashikko Ensemble concluded back in January of 2022. At times, it’s like the days move by all too quickly, and other times, it’s like they slow to a crawl. I can’t tell at this point how much of it is the prolonged funk of the pandemic and how much is just me getting older.
But here we are at the start of 2023 and the Year of the Rabbit, at least if we’re going by the solar calendar. Whenever I think about it, I find myself remembering a certain old flash video from the 2000s. Thankfully, someone uploaded it to Youtube, so I can inflict it on a new generation.
January’s Patreon subscribers are looking good. Thank you, everyone, and here’s to another fine (?) year.
At the start of the year, I feel myself wondering if I should be doing more both with Ogiue Maniax and outside of it. One thing I’ve thought about is starting a Substack, but I have no idea how I might divide my writing. In my head, there’s no real differentiation between “regular” posts and “premium” ones, and I’d probably have to figure out some way to make it worthwhile. One possibility is to break off the VTuber stuff into its own dedicated area in case it’s becoming too intrusive, but I don’t think it’s that bad currently.
I could also do premium posts on Patreon, but that sort of runs into the same issue. If anyone wants to see that sort of content (or if you even hate the idea), feel free to leave a comment. I think I care less about the money at this point and wonder more about how to promote Ogiue Maniax in 2023. All the old ways seem to be vanishing (and Twitter is constantly on the verge of collapse because of its moronic new boss), and I still haven’t caught up.
Whichever ways things go, though, I hope you’ll keep reading.
I’ve watched the recent anniversary streams of holoX, and in light of the announcement of the Hololive 4th Fes, I’ve been thinking about how holding 3D concerts can carry different types of significance depending on the individual member and what their fans are looking for. Hololive seems to celebrate their stars in a manner inclusive to every Hololive member’s diverse fanbase, and I’m all for it.
It’s no secret that Hololive members can vary tremendously in terms of where their talents lie. Some clearly establish themselves as great performers as soon as they have the chance, like Hoshimachi Suisei. Others don’t necessarily have the background but have worked hard and come into their own, such as Oozora Subaru. And then there are those who don’t reach the level of their fellow VTubers in terms of singing and dancing, but they might have engaging personalities that just make for a special experience.
However, when there are 3D concerts or other major events that bring Hololive members together, they potentially become places where all respective fans can come together and appreciate their favorites for their own particular reasons. Take the Hololive 3rd Fes concert, which was the 3D debut of Hololive English’s first generation. Gawr Gura showcased the singing talent that brought so many fans to her, along with a cute dance. Takanashi Kiara brought a more polished idol flair. Ina came with a soothing voice in a subdued performance. Amelia Watson is definitely not a strong singer, but her choice of music (a weird fictitious anime opening from the show Welcome to the NHK!) put her personality on full display. And, of course, Calliope Mori put her well-established rap skills (that have since led to a contract with Universal Music Group) to good use. Hololive Indonesia’s first generation also made their 3D concert appearances, with Moona’s diva-like poise, Iofi’s adorableness, and Risu’s ridiculous vocal range all on full display.
With holoX, there is a similar range of strengths and quirks on display in their anniversary concerts. La+ Darknesss (see above) is a ridiculous total package whose impressive vocals and unmatched dance skills both support and defy her “bratty alien demon lord” concept. Takane Lui doesn’t fit the typical image of an idol, but she’s very good at singing while also staying “in-character,” and her choice of songs conveys a sense of maturity. Hakui Koyori is a jack of all trades who also leans into her character the most by adding in puzzles and brain teasers to her concert. Sakamata Chloe is arguably the best singer in the group, with a voice that can seem unreal; she was also the only one to do exclusively solo performances, as if to prove a point. Kazama Iroha’s cuteness shines through in her energetic performances, and it’s clear that she put in a lot of effort to improve her dancing.
It all reminds me of an essay I once read about the differences in presentation between Japanese idols and Korean pop stars: part of the appeal of J-idols is seeing them grow into the role, whereas K-pop stars appear before fans already fully formed. In the context of Hololive, it’s like there’s a purposeful and perhaps even inevitable contrast. While you might have your “J-idol fan” types who want to see their favorites grow and your “K-pop fan” types who love to see perfection in action, a single banner like Hololive allows these groups (and many more) to all thrive in the same general space.
The power that comes from the variety Hololive has to offer is the way it encourages respect for diversity of talent. People can be fans of different members for different reasons. There are certainly talents whose appeal lies in their sheer skill, and the fans want to see their favorites put their abilities and/or progress on full display. However, there are also Hololive members who aren’t necessarily the greatest performers in one way or another, but their presence on stage makes for a kind of “we made it” moment for their fans. No matter the reason, it emphasizes the idea that there’s no one “right” way for a performance to be, and it encourages the different fanbases to coexist.
Anime NYC 2022 is the second year in the pandemic era for New York’s biggest anime convention. Last year, the event broke its own attendance records, likely owing to people eager to do something in-person after months and months of restrictions. In contrast, this year felt more like a return to something vaguely normal.
Badges and Registration
Although I had the benefit of obtaining a press pass, I do know there were issues with supply of general admission this year: both three-day badges and Saturday ones were in short supply. It’s difficult to tell if they’re following in New York Comic Con’s footsteps towards eliminating three-day tickets in general (a move that makes attending the con all weekend significantly more expensive at $65 per day) or if it has to do with COVID-19 precautions.
One thing Anime NYC definitely did seem to take a page from New York Comic Con is a lottery system for seats for major panels in addition to a similar lottery already in place for guest autographs. Attendees could enter online for a chance at these con activities without needing to devote themselves to waiting in lines, and the idea is that it’s also fairer for people coming in from farther away. I understand the overall benefits of this method, though the fact that you have to cancel your reservations in advance should you win (or else risk being ineligible for future lotteries) means that it’s harder to be flexible the day of. I believe being able to make impromptu decisions is part of the fun of conventions, and potentially losing that flexibility can feel like a bit of a burden. Again, though, it might be a net good, and what probably needs to be tweaked is that way fewer panels probably need this system in place.
Speaking of health, Anime NYC did require proof of vaccinations or a negative COVID test, and they enforced that aspect pretty stringently. The same could not be said of masks, however. In panels, staff did a good job of making sure everyone had masks, but everywhere else it was pretty much a coin toss. The city itself has relaxed rules around masking even on the subway, so it’s hard to fight against that kind of momentum, but I wish there was a way to re-emphasize the importance of masks especially in an environment like a convention center filled with tens of thousands of people.
Last year’s con turned out not to be an Omicron super spreader event, despite early reports. I really hope that remained the case for this year, but the relative lack of masking concerns me.
A Note on Attack on Titan
The biggest guest of 2022 had to be Isayama Hajime, author of Attack on Titan. I’m bringing him up first because I actually did not attend any of his events. I follow Attack on Titan through the anime, and I didn’t want to be spoiled. I don’t know if it would have been possible to wait for the anime to conclude before inviting Isayama, but I have to wonder if there were others like me, or perhaps even much bigger fans who were forced to hold back.
Hololive Meet NY
My personal must-see guests were technically not even there: the Virtual Youtubers of Hololive. I prioritized the VTuber stuff because this was my first time at a convention where they had a more significant presence; Anime NYC 2021 had a panel featuring Hololive Council’s five members, and it was a decent enough event that unfortunately had little to no interaction with the fans. For 2022, a more direct VTuber experience was provided through a dedicated booth in the Exhibit Hall in conjunction with VRChat, all as a part of the Hololive Meet series of international con appearances.
Throughout the weekend, different Hololive members (primarily the English ones) held hour-long live shows while streaming remotely. Due to what I assume are various limitations, they didn’t use any of their standard 3D models, instead opting for less complicated ones already familiar to fans: Smol models, BEEGSmol models, and also the VRDance ones.
For personal reasons (and because I didn’t want to make it an all-Hololive weekend), I was only able to see two shows in full. The first I saw was an enthusiastic morning exercise routine (though not in the radio taisou sense) by Mori Calliope that led to all sorts of 3D wackiness. The second, and one of the highlights of the entire event, was a special Anime NYC edition of the Chadcast that became something even more special due to technical mishaps.
The BaeRys Show
Normally, the Chadcast is a three-person monthly show on Youtube by Calliope along with Hakos Baelz and IRyS. None of them are among my absolute favorites as individuals, but as a trio, they’re practically a must-watch. I was looking forward to a convention-exclusive Chadcast, but as the crowd gathered for it, only Baelz and IRyS appeared. Jokingly announcing that this was actually the first episode of the “BaeRys” podcast, the two informed the crowd that Callie’s internet wasn’t working and so she likely couldn’t join in.
While unfortunate, this also meant getting a full 60 minutes of pure BaeRys, the official name for the pair. I’m not a dedicated shipper, but their interactions are among my favorites because they have such excellent chemistry together. The running joke in the fandom (that is also embraced by the VTubers themselves) is that they‘re constantly getting married and divorced, and so the two played various games meant to reveal “interesting” sides of each other. Questions included “Would you rather vomit on your idol or get vomited on by them?,” “Truth or Dare: Have you ever peed in a pool?,” and (with the help of a fan) “What are three things you like about each other?”
Watching their antics made me aware of what Callie adds to the Chadcast. Baelz and IRyS’s favorite drinks are coffee and soda, respectively, and BaeRys is very much like drinking coffee soda: a surprisingly refreshing combination, but one that can be overwhelming. Callie, then, is a savory (American) biscuit you eat in order to temper the intensity of coffee cola, and so one’s preference at any given time for Chadcast or BaeRys has to do with whether you want a balanced taste or to experience the extremes.
Along with the streams, there were three other booths offering official Hololive merchandise: Bushiroad (for items related to the Weiss Schwarz card game), Omocat (for exclusive crossover art), and Animate USA (for Hololive Meet–themed items). Buying $40 worth would get you a ticket you could exchange for a Hololive fortune, but attendees could also get a fortune for free if they have a VRChat account. I just so happened to create one because of the recent Code Geass x FLOW VR concert, so I managed to snag two fortunes, one for flagship Hololive Tokino Sora and one for Indonesian member Kaela Kovalskia.
I do have a couple complaints about how things were handled with Hololive Meet. First, the space provided meant everyone had to stand because sitting would create a fire hazard, and my feet still haven’t fully forgiven me. Second, you had to buy $40 of Hololive merch at one store in order to get the fortune ticket, so you couldn’t spread it across all three. Other than those issues, I’m glad I finally got to see what a “live” Hololive event is like. Next on the bucket list is getting to see my favorites, Haachama and holoX.
Among the anime premieres at Anime NYC was the first episode of a series called High Card, written by Kawamoto Homura (writer of Kakegurui) and his younger brother, Munoh Hikaru. It was actually the first screening anywhere, including Japan.
While there is a playing card motif to High Card, it’s not really a gambling anime so much as it is an action-oriented work that revels in absurdity and spectacle, exemplified by its tag line: “Are you ready? It’s showdown!” A special deck of cards has been scattered to the four corners of the Earth, and they have found owners of various types. The cards confer special powers that range from the powerful to the ridiculous (and sometimes both), and at the center of the story is a young thief trying to get money to save his orphanage. Like Kakegurui, the cast of characters is off-the-wall and full of dangerous and sensual individuals, though this time it’s mostly guys instead of girls. The creators said they were inspired by Kingsman, and it shows.
During the Q&A section, Munoh talked about how coming to New York City was amazing because he’d only ever seen it in images and on the screen. He then joked that he’d yet to see Spider-Man or the Ninja Turtles (the latter mention was omitted by the translator for some reason).
It’s rare to see a current anime studio with a pedigree as strong as Wit Studio: Attack on Titan, Great Pretender, Ranking of Kings, and most recently Spy x Family are among the works they’ve produced. At Anime NYC, multiple staff members for Spy x Family were invited as guests: President and CEO George Wada, as well as artist Syo5 (pronounced “Shogo.”) They held a panel that was a combination of Q&A, insight into the creative process, live-drawing session, and early preview of Spy x Family episode 8.
The live drawing was more a showcase of how Syo5 works on color palettes, taking an adorable line drawing of Anya Forger as the Statue of Liberty (with her dog, Bond) and adding a sunset to it. During the panel, Syo5 discussed how the color palettes in Great Pretender weren’t realistic, but were meant to have a different feel for each part of the world the characters travel to, and coloring the Anya of Liberty was a showcase of a process similar to what went into Great Pretender.
Ranking of Kings also got plenty of love from the Wit staff and audience alike. They mentioned that they’re trying to get the next season done in 2023, and Syo5 showed some of his conceptual drawings that established the general look of the anime.
Eating at the Javits
There were no onsite food trucks this year, so all nearby food options were basically in the Jacob Javits Center itself. Fortunately, between the stalls in the exhibit hall and the Javits dining area, there was actually a decent number of food options. Granted, they were all overpriced to hell and back, but that’s inevitable with con food.
For those eager to relish in Japanese culture, the exhibit hall had Go Go Curry (a perennial favorite of mine), ramen, bento from BentOn, okonomiyaki from Okonomi, and a few others. I’ve tried pretty much all of them before (though not necessarily in the context of Anime NYC), and the quality is quite good, even if it costs too much. For those who didn’t want to pay the “weeb tax” (or wait in line for a long time), options included burgers and chicken, dumplings, empanadas (Nuchas) Korean food (Korilla), and even Indian food (Curry Kitchen). Overall, the variety was welcome, given the circumstances. I remember a time when you could barely get anything resembling good at the Javits, and I’m glad to see that has continued to change.
Anime NYC 2022 had a few firsts for me, notably when it came to seeing Hololive Virtual Youtubers in a more direct fashion. In that respect, it was an unforgettable experience. While I prefer cons with a greater amount of fan panel programming, I also understand that this is not what Anime NYC is about. Attendees seemed generally to be in high spirits, but I do have concerns about it getting more expensive to attend, as a lot of anime fans are not rolling in dough. If they can keep bringing the guests people want to see while finding ways to make it affordable, I think things will be looking up for next year.