Startend’s journey to Apex Legends stardom

Apex Legends! It’s not the main focus of today’s piece, but it certainly has a large part to play in it, because today I want to talk about Startend. This is a group made up of three Hololive members who got together to participate in a big VTuber Apex Legends tournament — to not only show what they could do, but also have some fun together and experience something new. 

We really have had some great stuff from our favourite VTubers over the last week, with Pomu and Nina playing one of the scariest (and most difficult to get hold of) games out there, Kojima’s P.T. Elira, meanwhile, has been playing Devil May Cry V, a game that is always fun to watch someone’s blind playthrough of. But the highlight was most definitely VSaikyo’s VTuber Apex Tournament — and the great story of Startend that came from it. 

The Journey of Startend
Art by @imo_norio

Who are Startend?

Apex Legends is by far the most popular battle royale first-person shooter in Japan, with VTubers being one of the main reasons for the game’s massive spike in popularity worldwide.

Startend is the name of a group of Apex players that consists of three Hololive members — Generation 0’s star singer Hoshimachi Suisei; generation 2’s airhead maid Minato Aqua; and generation 4’s angelic devil, Tokoyami Towa. All three of these girls have played Apex individually numerous times on stream — some more than others — but all of them had previously expressed how much they enjoy the game. 

Towa in particular has streamed Apex a ton of times on her channel, and has openly expressed just how much she loves the game. She has climbed up to the higher ranks of the game’s Diamond league, and considering the highly competitive nature of the battle royale genre, attaining such a high rank is really impressive.

Where Towa differs from her teammates is her level of experience — this wasn’t her first tournament. This, along with the fact that she has grown massively as an in-game leader and shot-caller, really helped round their team out. And she’s made a bit of a name for herself, too.

If you’re a fan of competitive Apex Legends, then you may have heard the name “rpr”. He’s a professional player for the team Scarz, and he is a massive fan of Towa. He’s referred to Towa numerous times as his “oshi” — which as any VTuber fan will know, is a term typically used to describe someone you’re particularly keen to throw your support behind, often your favourite from a group.

Next up is Mad Dog Aqua. It was so interesting to hear all the other strong players in the tournament talk about just how terrifying and strong Aqua is, and just how impressive it is that she made it to Master rank by playing solo. Master is almost the highest rank in the game; the only one higher is Apex Predator, which is given to the top 750 players on each platform. For Aqua to achieve Master by herself is incredible — but you only have to watch her to understand how she got there.

This was my first time watching competitive Apex, but I’m familiar with other shooters such as CS:GO and Valorant. I have never seen such an insane level of mechanical skill as what Aqua was putting on display throughout the tournament — and indeed during the lead-up to the main event. It was mind-blowing. 

Finally, we have our beloved and always cute Sui-chan. Suisei was the lowest ranking of the three Hololive members in Startend, but by no means does that mean she’s a weak player. In fact, she possesses an unbelievable strength that can easily go unnoticed — she has a complete lack of ego when she plays.

What this means is that she is comfortable asking questions, taking advice, following orders and generally providing incredible support to her team. It’s a stark contrast to highly competitive, egotistical players who want to shine and show off how impressive they are, sometimes at the expense of their teammates.

On top of this, Suisei is an incredibly busy lady with a stacked schedule. She only took part because Aqua, a person who is extremely introverted — and someone whom Suisei wholeheartedly loves — summoned up the courage to not only express an interest in participating in the tournament, but also to ask Suisei to be her teammate.

Suisei ended up sacrificing any free time she might have had in the evenings after a hard day’s work to train up with her teammates — but you can tell that she loved every minute of it. 

Art by @satsuki_5

VSaikyo and the story of Startend

The other name for VSaikyo is “VTuber Most Cooperative Tournament”, but considering that doesn’t roll off of the tongue quite so well, let’s just stick with VSaikyo.

VSaikyo tournaments, usually based in Apex Legends, are hosted and organized by a male VTuber named Shibuya Hal. He’s the co-founder of the esport VTuber agency Neo-Porte — so it’s fair to say he knows what he’s doing at this point. This most recent tournament is the fourth VTuber-focused Apex event that has been run by Shibuya Hal, and even he was surprised to see the lineup that made Startend. 

Before the main event on April 17, 2022, there was a whole week’s worth of “scrims”, which are essentially practice games featuring all of the teams who will be taking part in the tournament. Tournament play feels very different to standard ranked or casual games, so the scrims give players who have never experienced a tournament a chance to get accustomed to the feeling before the results really start counting. 

The scrims are completely optional, but the Startend girls were online every single night at 8PM JST playing through all of the possible games. Suisei, acknowledging that she was a little bit further behind her teammates, would ask around in the VSaikyo Discord for help from the other members who were participating in the tournament — I was completely blown away at the level of commitment these girls were showing towards this tournament.

Remember, the Hololive girls are “idols” who have a lot of other responsibilities outside of simply playing games on stream. Plus, due to the fact that they are probably the most popular and prolific VTuber group, they have a lot of eyes on them — which means a whole lot of pressure. 

Throughout the week leading up to the event, Startend managed to pull off some absolutely incredible plays in numerous games, even winning a good number of matches, including a few back-to-back victories! The girls’ communication got better with every game, and seeing their skills and confidence grow as they started to win some of their practice matches was really fun to watch.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have quite the same luck in the main event. Startend ended up coming 16th — though as much as I’m sure the girls felt bitter about their final performance, they still played really well and provided some incredible entertainment for their fans.

As corny as it might sound, this really was an “it’s about the journey, not the destination” kind of scenario. Aqua challenged her introverted nature by asking to participate and team up with Suisei. Towa grew massively as an in-game leader, and did an incredible job controlling the team. And Suisei developed her skills and experience to an incredible degree.

Regardless of their final ranking, all these girls were winners in my eyes — and I sincerely hope we see Startend again in the near future.

Cover art by @summer_tail720

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Conor Evans
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