The VTuber sphere has expanded massively since the medium really found its feet in English-speaking territories a couple of years ago. And, while their raw numbers might not reach the dizzy heights of the behemoth that is Hololive, it’s hard to deny that some of the most exciting things going on in the commercial VTuber space are coming from Nijisanji — including the west’s first prominent all-male VTuber group, Luxiem.
Since Luxiem debuted, they have successfully integrated themselves into not just Nijisanji’s overall English-speaking empire, but also VTuber culture in general. They’ve also played a huge role in establishing the appeal of male VTubers with a more mainstream audience, since it’s very easy for those less familiar with the medium as a whole to look on it as as being enormously female-dominated. While it is to a certain extent — and that doesn’t do great things for the confidence of male performers hoping to break into the market — Luxiem has shown that an all-male generation can carry universal appeal rather than simply being, as some might assume, fujoshi bait.
Part of the reason for this is that Luxiem, as a whole, has a very different overall vibe to pretty much any other generation of VTubers I’ve ever encountered. Groups such as Nijisanji EN’s previous generations LazuLight, OBSYDIA and Ethyria, Hololive English’s two main “waves” holoMyth and holoCouncil and the “pop punks” of the business in VShojo all have their distinct appeals, of course — but in each case, you’re conscious that a core part of the appeal is “cute girl does [x]”.
By contrast, Luxiem can, of course, be simply described as “cute boys do [y]” — but it’s more than that. There’s a distinct sense of chemistry between them that is very different to the relationships between the girls; if I were to describe it in simple terms, it’s that when they get together, there’s the distinct feel that they’re a group of bros who enjoy hanging out, taking the piss out of one another and generally taking things a little bit further in the yabai stakes than many of the girls do.
The fact that there are two Brits and an Aussie in the mix definitely helps with this feeling, since culturally people (particularly men) from those regions tend to feel pretty comfortable with light-hearted quasi-bullying of one another without it necessarily crossing a line into “jockish” behaviour.
There’s a whole lot of gap moe going on, too. Take Vox Akuma, for example, who has a deliciously deep, smooth voice that it’s possible to drown in — and he knows it. Depending on exactly when you catch him, though, you might hear him dispensing solid life advice, talking about the perils of leaving a bit of piss dribbling from your dick or simply letting out a belch that he’d supposedly been sitting on for four hundred years.
Those who have been paying attention to popular clips of Luxiem have doubtless noticed something interesting, though: the fact that they all have a very frequent visitor in their streams — someone who absolutely brings out the best in all of them, and who gives the group’s already formidable wholesome energy a whole other level of comfiness.
That visitor is Nina Kosaka, the nine-tailed fox from Ethyria, Nijisanji EN’s third generation — and an individual who has taken great care to cultivate a “mom” image ever since her debut. After arguably slightly overplaying the “honey” card in her first couple of streams — at least partly due to nerves, I suspect — Nina has absolutely settled into a wonderful role in relation to the rest of the group. There have already been a number of fantastic collaborations in which she has acted as something of a backbone to the whole scenario, but it’s also obvious she’s been acting in a mentor capacity behind the scenes for many of them.
Of particular note in that regard is Mysta Rias, one of the two Brits in Luxiem. Mysta is a pretty admirable figure in that he is one of the most open, honest members of the group and for the most part isn’t afraid to share his feelings about things, even if they’re a bit raw and “real”. It’s obvious that Nina’s presence very much empowers him in that respect, since during their thoroughly enjoyable drunken New Year’s stream together, he spoke frankly about how he felt bad when people spoke negatively about him displaying obvious symptoms of ADHD.
While I suspect he would have probably brought this up at some point anyway, it’s obvious that being with Nina — a “safe” and supportive presence by all accounts — made him feel a lot more comfortable about doing so. Well, that and the four cans of Kopparberg, but mostly the Nina thing.
This isn’t to say that Nina is in any way a killjoy or someone who holds the Luxiem boys back, mind you. She can absolutely give as good as she gets — though the fact that she delivers withering putdowns and snappy comebacks with the energy of a warm and wholesome mom somehow makes her verbal blows all the more devastating.
It’s obvious that the Luxiem boys all hold her in very high regard and both respect and love her greatly — though at the same time they’re absolutely not above misbehaving when she has to step away from her microphone for a moment. The perfect “mom and kids” energy, for sure — made all the more delightfully amusing when someone like Vox is involved, since his voice makes it sound like he should know better.
One of the aspects of VTuber culture that is simultaneously wonderful and perhaps something to be a little wary of is how easily it can create the sense of a parasocial relationship. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Luxiem and Nina, since their streams carry such powerful “hanging with the bros” and/or “enjoying a family moment” energy that it can be easy to feel wrapped up in the overall warmth of it all. This can be a wonderful thing so long as you understand where the boundaries are — which most people do.
This sort of thing has truly exploded in popularity over the last couple of years precisely because of the situation the world is in. While it’s not outright impossible to see other people as I type this, most people are rightly wary of going out too much and potentially spreading or catching one of the myriad COVID variants out there.
VTuber culture, meanwhile, allows us the feeling of having someone who is there for us and supporting us without having to worry about real-life considerations. Speaking as someone who hasn’t seen “IRL” friends for quite a while at the time of writing, I know I’ve certainly drawn a fair amount of comfort from the “bro energy” Luxiem brings to the table.
This isn’t to say that I’ve sworn off female VTubers in favour of my new virtual digital bros, mind. But I do find it quite interesting what a different vibe I feel from the different types of performer; in the case of most female VTubers I find myself enjoying a “performance” and feeling like I maintain something of a respectful distance from them, while in the case of Luxiem I feel a warm sense of inclusion in what is going on.
That’s likely a personal thing — and I’d be interested to hear how others feel about that — but it does show quite how much scope there is in the VTubing medium for a wide variety of experiences. And with Luxiem — plus their unique relationship with their senpai Nina — it feels like we’re just getting started exploring the possibilities.
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