If you’re a VTuber fan, chances are you got involved through one of the large groups such as Hololive. But as the phenomenon has grown in popularity, more and more groups have started to appear — with one of the most noteworthy being VShojo.
VShojo stood out for a couple of key reasons. Firstly, there’s the fact that the group was assembled in an English-speaking territory rather than in Asia. And secondly, rather than holding idol-style auditions to manufacture a new generation of stars, the initial lineup for VShojo mostly consisted of established VTubers with existing audiences, and a couple of relative newcomers on top of that. This gives their talent lineup an endearingly scrappy, very “real” feel — even if their work might occasionally seem a little more rough around the edges at times than that of Hololive’s many stars!
When VShojo first appeared, the group made a specific point of mentioning that it was a “talent-first” organisation. What that supposedly means is that in practical terms, the management behind VShojo as an organisation will remain as hands-off as possible and allow the group’s members to approach their online presence as they see it.
At the time VShojo first appeared, this felt like a direct response to some of the difficulties Hololive had been encountering when talent didn’t quite toe the corporate line — particularly when the oft-volatile Chinese market was involved. Some Hololive members had been forced to “graduate” after such incidents — the intention for VShojo was for no such restrictions to be placed on its talent, and for management to primarily act in a supportive capacity.
To date, it seems that they’ve been true to this word; VShojo’s founding members Projekt Melody, Ironmouse, Silvervale, Nyanners, Zentreya, Froot and Hajime Hime have been mostly left to their own devices — Melody is even still doing the sexually explicit adult shows she initially became known for, and Silvervale happily promotes and sells lewd merchandise of herself, for example.
So why does VShojo exist at all? Well, for several reasons. From a business perspective, it makes sense for these girls to come together as something of a united front when it comes to negotiating sponsorship deals.
Although some of the individual members were already rather successful in their own right prior to VShojo — with Nyanners probably being the most standout example in this regard — it makes sense for them to be able to approach prospective sponsors as an organisation rather than an individual. One wonders if Nyanners would have been able to do an officially sponsored stream of the Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker reveal if she was still operating solo, for example.
In terms of practical support of the girls themselves, VShojo as an organisation is able to pool its resources and ensure that everyone in its lineup has the same opportunities and technology available to them. And we’re just starting to see that support coming to fruition now, as two members in particular have had significant upgrades, switching from the 3D models they had previously been using to official animated Live2D artwork.
This might sound like a downgrade rather than an upgrade, but if you look at the vast majority of VTubers on both YouTube and Twitch, the most successful ones primarily make use of Live2D for their everyday streams, saving 3D models for special occasions. Or, if you’re Kiryu Coco, extremely frequent shitposting.
Why? Because as good as 3D modelling is these days, it still doesn’t quite match 2D artwork in terms of expressiveness and detail — plus making use of 2D artwork allows scope for collaborating with established, famous artists. 3D modellers deserve love too, of course, but there are a lot more well-known names in the 2D art space than there are in 3D modelling!
The first of the VShojos to get an upgrade was Zentreya, who has always been an interesting case. Beginning as a completely mute host with strong ties to the VRChat community, she introduced a “voice” through a text-to-speech system with a thick Russian accent in August of 2020, and more recently switched this to a somewhat more generic (but also more easily understandable!) artificial female voice as her audience grew considerably.
Zen’s use of text-to-speech means that she’s a master of deadpan delivery by default, and the art for her new 2D model — drawn by freelance artist Yuniiho and rigged by AlexyonLive2D — reflects this nicely. She’s particularly good at exasperated deathstares, especially when Twitch chat triggers automated text-to-speech with donation and subscription messages, but as the showcase video above demonstrates, the range of expressions her new model is capable of is pretty impressive.
More recently, the squeaky-voiced Ironmouse got a similar 3D-to-2D upgrade — though over the Christmas period her “Precious Family” had already enjoyed numerous tweaks to her 3D model and costume to celebrate the festive season.
Ironmouse has spoken on several previous occasions about the health condition her “real” self suffers from, and how this keeps her housebound and often bedridden. As such, the way she presents herself to the world through her VTubing work is enormously important to her — and thus her initial nervousness at revealing such a significant revamp to her look is entirely understandable.
She doesn’t have anything to worry about, though; her “Season 2” look, as she calls it, is both adorable and packed with detail, and the Live2D rigging is seriously impressive. The highly expressive animation on her tail is especially noteworthy — as is, to use VTuber parlance, the presence of some rather more enthusiastic boing-boings than the Precious Family might be accustomed to! Artists Nia_0703 and etctr_ certainly did a fine job in giving her a distinctive new appearance that is both fresh and true to her roots.
That leaves just Silvervale and Projekt Melody in the 3D space — though Melody has used a joke Microsoft Paint 2D “model” on several occasions — so we’ll have to wait and see if they get similar upgrades in the near future.
Whether or not they do, though, I think we can safely say the new-look Zentreya and Ironmouse give the distinct impression that all these girls are serious about what they do — and that VShojo as an organisation is doing a good job at helping them realise their dreams of entertaining the masses.
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