When you first fall down the VTuber rabbit hole, it is natural to gravitate towards the biggest names — after all, they’re the ones who, in many cases, have helped make more people aware of the VTuber phenomenon. And in turn, they lead to the creation of more VTubers as more and more people are inspired to express themselves in this new and unique way.
As with anything that gets popular, though, we end up with a whole lot of people doing similar things — and no real way to tell who you “should” be watching.
I won’t pretend to be some great infallible, omniscient authority on VTubers, but I will share with you five independent VTubers who are well worth your time — with “independent” in this case meaning that they work as an individual rather than as part of an agency like Hololive or VShojo.
You can probably argue that Obake PAM is a corporate VTuber of sorts in that she is the mascot of popular import gaming store Play-Asia. But in practice her work is pretty much entirely independent from what the main site is doing, and she’s not attached to a particular VTuber agency, so for our purposes today she counts as an independent VTuber.
Obake PAM is the self-proclaimed CEO of Play-Asia, though some may cast doubt on her credentials in this regard. She was originally introduced as a mascot for the site back in 2020, with most Play-Asia orders including bonus PAM stickers and face mask holders, and debuted as a VTuber in February of 2021.
PAM stands for Play-Asia Mascot, and her family name Obake is a catch-all Japanese term that means “ghost”. It is said that PAM is actually a Tsugomomo-gami-type obake, born from the restless spirits of old products that lie forgotten in some dark corner of the Play-Asia warehouse — indeed, in a video called “Forgotten Memories of an Obake” we hear Pam talking over shots of a nearly-empty box that contains nothing more than a mug bearing Play-Asia’s old logo.
PAM’s streams tend to focus on video games, as you might expect, with some of the games she covers being titles that Play-Asia offers physical versions of. Her recent SaGa Frontier Remastered stream is a good example of this. Like many other VTubers, she also has an interest in music, and has put out an original musical track called Virtual Pleasure, the official video for which has been one of PAM’s most successful YouTube videos to date.
While PAM’s videos and streams tend to attract relatively small numbers of viewers at this time, she’s an entertaining watch who seems to always have fun engaging with the community. Show up for a PAM stream and you can expect yourself to get fired at least once — even if you weren’t aware you had a job at Play-Asia in the first place.
Kani Kanizawa is a crab VTuber who is a relative newcomer, having debuted in December of 2020. She’s part of a group of VTuber friends called Atelier Live; while Atelier Live has an online presence of its own that helps to promote all its members, it appears to be less of a formally organised operation than Hololive and VShojo. Instead, Atelier Live mostly operates as a means of organising collaborations between its members and helping one another out, while its individual streamers work independently.
According to Kani Kanizawa lore, she was born two years ago on Christmas Island, but found herself separated from her family. She inadvertently found herself in the United Kingdom, where she discovered the concept of VTubers, at which point she decided to follow that path for herself. This would go some distance to explaining her distinctly British accent, and her insistence that Cockney rhyming slang is actually “Crabbish”.
Kani Kanizawa is a big fan of trucking games such as Euro Truck Simulator 2, and thus you’ll often find her hosting comfy streams where she drives a truck (badly, with a keyboard) while chatting with viewers. (She has asked me to add that she is “very good at driving the truck when no-one is looking”.) She has a friendly, relaxing, laid back vibe to her streams, and is always up for talking with her viewers while she plays. She also regularly hosts other VTubers in collaborative streams and, as a fan of Hololive’s Kiryu Coco, would doubtless love to work with everyone’s favourite foul-mouthed dragon one day.
Kani has a broad range of interests that will appeal to the Rice readership; she enjoys Touhou Project and is a big fan of Reimu Hakurei, for example. Other favourite games include Silent Hill, Yakuza and Saya no Uta, and her waifu is Sejougahara Hitagi from the Monogatari series.
Bao is a whale VTuber who, prior to her debut in October of 2020, was a musician working under the name Hikaru Station — she’s been around in one form or another online since 2015. Her lore claims that she is a long-lived whale deity who is as old as the ocean “plus one”, and has been longing for someone to listen to her voice for many years.
Bao makes a point of doing comfy streams — her official Discord is called Bao’s Comfy Cove — and frequently pays compliments to others. She’s very aware of Internet culture and online humour, giving her a rather playful nature that is appealing to spend some time with.
Her streams to date have included a number of popular streamer games, including A Way Out, Phasmophobia and Omori, and her most popular streamed games to date include Nier: Automata, Night in the Woods and Minecraft. Those who are sick of “sus” jokes will be pleased to hear that she despises Among Us “with a passion that burns even underwater”.
Bao’s long-term goals are to make a full album of original music and conquer her stage fright. She seems to be doing just fine with the latter aspect so far, judging by the energy of her streams!
Koopa is a mommy turtle VTuber who was apparently born with zero luck, but a crippling addiction to chocolate caramel bunnies, if the above clip is anything to go by, along with some of the most incredible vocal eructations you will ever hear. Legend has it that she originated from a post on a VTuber enthusiasts’ message board about a member having a dream about a sixth Hololive EN member called Koopa who was “not much to look at” and “constantly very nervous and shy”.
She debuted in December of 2020, and since that time has played a variety of games including Resident Evil 4, Muv-Luv and No More Heroes. Like many independent VTubers, she started as a 3D model before switching to Live2D in February of 2021. When working to put together the Live2D model she took on board feedback and requests from her viewers, which led to her current “sweater dress” outfit, which seemed to prove popular upon her Live2D debut.
Koopa has a distinctly “mature” air to her voice, which gives her plenty of the timeless “big tiddy mommy gf” appeal — something which she very obviously leans into with the role she plays in her streams. This also fits quite nicely with her self-professed “mediocrity” at everything she does thanks to her poor luck; one can look at it as a light-hearted take on a slightly older person perhaps struggling with newer technology, as the stereotype runs.
Koopa seems to be a fun VTuber that is keen to play with her audience, and unashamedly honest at times — whether it’s belching thunderously during her streams, or admitting that a lot of her love for the No More Heroes franchise stems from the fact that Travis Touchdown gradually becomes a DILF over the course of the series as a whole. “No, I don’t have daddy issues,” she says. “We know he works. We know he can provide children. He is a man in his prime. A man that, can, y’know, provide you with the baby.”
Full disclosure and disclaimer: Martyr is a friend of mine, but she’s been working so hard at the VTuber thing recently that it simply wouldn’t do not to share her great work with the broader community at large — particularly because, as a self-professed 30 year old boomer weeb, she’s right up the alley of a significant portion of the Rice audience, I’d say.
Martyr enjoys a wide variety of game genres, including role-playing games, hack-and-slash, platformers and music games. She streams regularly and engages directly with her community, even going so far as to make her own emotes live on stream. And unlike many VTubers, she simply uses the VTuber avatar as a means of representing herself, rather than playing a specific character. For those who like the idea of Vtubers’ visual presentation but perhaps not the “character” aspect, this makes Martyr a good choice to hang out with online.
She rewards community participation with “weeb points”, which can be redeemed in her streams to make her take on various challenges, remove her glasses or change her outfits. And she has a lot of outfits. If you enjoy a fun, interactive and eminently weeb-friendly VTuber stream, be sure to give Martyr some of your time.
Who are some of your favourite independent VTubers? Let us know in the comments, or via the usual social channels!
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