All change: Hololive English’s new outfits make our girls look better than ever

If you follow the VTuber scene, you are probably aware that last week was an important time for Hololive English, also known as HoloEN, HoloMyth and various other combinations of those terms. Yes, it was the time our girls got their first ever outfit changes since their debuts in September of 2020.

An outfit change for a VTuber is a big deal, because it means a fundamental change to that VTuber’s visual identity. And that visual identity is super important, because it helps set initial expectations for what that VTuber’s work is all about — and, more often than not, provides said VTuber with the opportunity to subvert those expectations and make themselves particularly memorable.

So the VTubers’ “mamas” and “papas” — VTubers typically refer to the artists responsible for their character designs as their “parents” — are presented with a challenge. How to keep the character recognisable while creating a new outfit that is a distinctive contrast from what we’ve seen before?

The initial tease

Hololive English

Towards the end of April, each of the Hololive English members posted the image above as a teaser of what was coming very soon. What’s kind of remarkable about this image is that it’s immediately obvious which silhouette belongs to which of the Hololive English cast, even though in most cases those silhouettes are notably different from their previous outfits.

There are a couple of reasons why this works. Firstly, and probably most simply, is the use of colour — ever since each Hololive English member’s debut, they have consistently worked to establish a distinctive image colour for themselves. This is a colour that you see and immediately think something along the lines of “ah, Ninomae Ina’nis purple” or “that shade of yellow sure makes me think of Amelia Watson”.

In many cases, the image colour is most prominently seen in the character’s hair, but it’s also often used in accents on their clothing, stream overlays, emotes, social media icons, logos, fonts… it’s a “brand identity” in many ways, but it’s also an example of how Japanese popular media makes use of colour to signify a lot of different things, particularly when said colour appears in a character’s hairstyle.

Ina’s dark colours are often associated with somewhat quieter, calmer characters, for example, which fits the comfy style of her streams perfectly. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Amelia’s vibrant blonde is typically associated with the “foreigner” trope in anime — fitting, given her character concept as a time-travelling investigator sent to observe the other four — and Kiara’s powerful orange is often seen in loud, energetic characters. And I don’t think anyone would argue that Kiara is not loud and energetic.

But it’s more than just the colour. Although the silhouettes as a whole are noticeably different from the girls’ original looks, there are just enough recognisable elements to make it clear who is who — and in some cases referencing popular memes about the characters. For example, Ina’s obvious paintbrush and palette are a reference not only to her artistic abilities, but also a popular representation of her as something of a modern Bob Ross-type figure thanks to her chilled-out art streams.

There’s also a distinct vibe established by those silhouettes — a sense of being casual and fashionable. This is probably most obvious in the case of Mori Calliope’s silhouette, which contrasts her usual “uniform” with an outfit that, even in such a vaguely defined form, has a clear and obvious “street” vibe about it. Likewise, Amelia’s handbag and strappy shoes give us the distinct feel that she’s off on the town somewhere, and Kiara’s straw hat provides a nice summery touch.

But silhouettes can only get us so far — so let’s take a look at how each of the Hololive English girls debuted their new outfits.

Mori Calliope

The outfit reveals went in the same order as the Hololive English girls’ original debut streams, so your boi Mori Calliope was up first. Prior to the stream, she’d established the hashtag #callidrip on Twitter, and fans had been submitting fanart speculating as to what her new outfit would look like, using the silhouette as a template. “Drip”, I am told by people younger and cooler than me, is the new “swag”.

This would prove to be something of a pattern for all of the streams, since it was an easy way to build hype for the outfit reveals — and for each of the girls to celebrate their enthusiastic (and enormously talented!) groups of fans. It was also abundantly clear in these sections of every outfit reveal stream that said fans have a very good understanding of each of the girls by this point. Even if the outfit speculations didn’t quite match the final outfit, you could absolutely see each of the girls wearing the suggestions. Many of Calli’s fans successfully incorporated her love of cool sneakers into their speculative designs, for example.

Hololive English Mori Calliope

The eventual outfit reveal — which unfolded piece by piece on the stream — revealed a Calli who was well and truly embracing her identity as a formidably talented rapper, as well as one who was keen to kick back and chill with her Dead Beats after so long presenting herself in full “uniform”.

Of course, one of the best things about Calli is that when she’s not spitting fire in front of a throbbing backing track, she’s an adorably awkward dork — and this outfit just somehow emphasises that side of her personality beautifully.

Takanashi Kiara

Kiara’s stream initially unfolded much like Calli’s — a bit of teasing of the outfit, a bit of engagement with the community by showing off some fanart outfit speculations (including a badass “phoenix armour” look that wouldn’t be out of place in Phantasy Star Online), and then proceeded to take the audience “shopping” for her new clothes.

What then followed was an endearingly entertaining sequence in which she dragged various pieces of clothing clip art over her Live2D figure, including a pair of shorts that absolutely did not fit her impressive hips.

She then invited people into the changing room to “help her try some things on”, which was a masterful piece of baiting the hornier members of the chat. Naturally, this was followed up — after a bit of voice-only teasing behind a curtain with a wonderful caricature drawn by Ina — with a reveal of her new outfit’s shoes. And said shoes featured visible feet, of course, for a formidable one-two punch to the horny brigade.

The rest of the outfit reveal then proceeded in this way until we had the full picture — it was a lot of fun.

Hololive English Takanashi Kiara

The final outfit features a number of different elements that can be combined to provide a particular look and feel for a specific stream. Kiara referred to several of these as her “secret weapons” — the first of which was a pacifier, a reference to a “punishment game” she had to play during a collaborative Uno stream a while back. Kiara acknowledged that people were “sick of it”, but that “Huke-papa liked it, so you have to deal with this now”. Huke-papa, lest we forget, is the man who gave us the distinctive art of Steins;Gate and Black Rock Shooter.

All this might also explain the uptick of fanart in general featuring pacifiers recently.

Even more formidable, however, was the reveal of her optional cat ears and tail. This is likely a reference to a couple of things — firstly, the fact that Kiara keeps a couple of cats and “keeps inhaling their cat hair”, and also her 12-second “am dog” video which premiered — with live chat — on May 2, 2021. This was just one of several “am” videos she’s done over the course of the last few months, with others including “am frog“, “am sheep” and “am crow“. I suppose “am cat” was only a matter of time, but I doubt anyone expected it to happen quite like this.

Ninomae Ina’nis

As the third Hololive English girl to debut back in September of 2020, Ina was the third to reveal her new outfit. Out of everyone, Ina’s silhouette arguably made her new outfit the most obvious, but that didn’t stop the community from speculating wildly about the things she might be holding on the off-chance they weren’t a paintbrush and palette.

In true Ina fashion, she presented the stream as a comfy and relaxing social occasion, framing it as her inviting the audience inside her studio for the first time, showing off a new background before revealing her new outfit.

Throughout her reveal, Ina made use of a fun “close your eyes” transition on her stream, forcing her audience to shut their virtual eyes between the reveal of each part of her outfit. As with Kiara and Calli’s streams, this unfolded a bit at a time, starting at the bottom and gradually working up.

Hololive English Ninomae Ina'nis

Appropriately for Ina’s calm, reserved and comfy nature, her new “artist” outfit is fairly conservative rather than sexy, but it fits her personality perfectly. It also features some impressively realistic Live2D rigging on the flowing hem of her dress — part of her that we won’t see on screen the majority of the time. Attention to detail is everything — particularly for an artist!

Like both Kiara and Calli, Ina’s new outfit has a few variations, including ones where she’s not holding the paintbrush and palette, ones with her beret in different positions, and ones with her “I’m totally not an ancient horror from beyond time and space” tentacles on full display.

Her book mascot Ao-chan also got a makeover — she uploaded herself to the Internet and took the form of a tablet (or “Ao-pad”) but found herself unable to speak. Ina’s interactions with Ao-chan in tablet form as part of her outfit reveal also allowed us a good opportunity for us to see her “grumpy” expressions; given Ina’s good nature, we don’t see those all that often!

Gawr Gura

The fact that Hololive English superstar Gura would be getting cat ears was abundantly clear from the silhouette of her new outfit, and as you might expect the fan-artists had a great time speculating as to exactly what form her full outfit would take. Gura, of course, took great delight in declaring absolutely every one of them “cute”, much to the delight of chat — while dressed in a hammerhead shark overlay that Ina had drawn for her, and which she had been waiting for a good opportunity to use. (“This is not the outfit reveal!” she clarified.)

Once again, we had an outfit reveal from the bottom up — and, of course, with plenty of focus on the feet for those who are into that. Toes are now officially canon.

“I painted my toenail art specially for this occasion!” Gura noted — and indeed, there was an impressive amount of detail on her nails, especially considering they will not be on screen for the vast majority of her streams.

Hololive English Gawr Gura

Gura’s outfit as a whole plays up her young-looking appearance with a summery short-sleeved outfit that fits her personality nicely. The cat ears are a reference to a running joke Gura has had with her viewers, though she clearly had a great time making them wiggle and talking in “nya-speak”.

Since Gura is one of the most popular VTubers in the world, having been the first Hololive member to break a million subscribers and one of the fastest growing VTuber talents following her debut, it will doubtless not surprise you to hear that her outfit debut was also one of the most successful VTuber streams of all time, peaking at 194,280 concurrent viewers, and enjoying over 1.6 million views in total between its original broadcast on May 7, 2021 and the time of writing.

Amelia Watson

Finally, Amelia Watson’s outfit reveal stream closed out a week of festivities and fun for the Hololive English girls — and in keeping with Amelia’s highly creative, technically minded nature, it was one of the most interesting streams to watch.

We began, as was the format by this point, with plenty of fanart speculation of what her new outfit might involve. Given Ame’s often chaotic nature, however, her fanart followed suit, with some wonderfully inventive fanart from the Hololive English fan community — including plenty of love for her dog Bubba, who often “contributes” to her streams.

When it came to the outfit reveal itself, Ame presented it as a Pokémon-inspired game that she played with her chat; chat would “select” each part of her new outfit’s silhouette (including the “Egg?” on her head) and then have to reveal it piece by piece by typing “Left”, “Right”, “Up” or “Down” in chat. This backfired when the chat thought it would be amusing to persistently go the wrong way while attempting to reveal the aforementioned “Egg?” — the cynical might suggest that Ame planned it this way all along to build tension, but it was an entertaining moment nonetheless, particularly when she “hacked” the game to reverse the controls and counteract chat’s nonsense.

The eventual outfit reveal was a delight, particularly with its numerous variations, some of which include Bubba on her head, and others of which include glasses — a good look for Ame. Perhaps best of all, however, was the amount of delight Ame took in the fact that her Live2D model now has the ability to scratch its own arse — a motion which looks especially undignified with her highly feminine, elegant outfit, and one which fanartists have already paid homage to in their own inimitable way.

Amelia’s stream brought us to the end of a highly entertaining part of Hololive English history — but the fun didn’t end there. On the Saturday after the outfit reveals, all of the girls got together on Gura’s channel to play a game called Pummel Party — and to announce that their first collaborative cover song, Take Me Home, Country Roads, will be released on May 15, 2021.

Like everything Hololive-related, the group’s outfit reveal week was a celebration of happiness, positivity and enthusiasm for the community. As easy as some might find it to feel cynical about the “corporate” nature of Hololive as a whole, I defy anyone to watch the streams from the past week and not find themselves feeling at least a little bit swept along by all the positive energy.

And I’m all for it. After well over a year of some of the darkest times the world has seen for quite a while, I’m certainly not going to turn away a good, healthy injection of happiness!

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Pete Davison
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