In the VTuber industry, there are several management models adopted by agencies or groups in general:
- Common model, where the VTubers are created from scratch, the talent is hired as a talent and is therefore managed.
- Adoption model, first started by groups such as VShojo, Kawa Entertainment and other organizations.
A new model is being developed in Japan, where the talents are being trained... at a VTuber Cafe. Astlive is a production company which also operates "VTuber Training Cafes," introducing a unique spin to VTuber talents: You can meet them in person as attendants.
Astlive operates two cafes—the first one, with a pastel pink-laden environment, is located at the 6th floor of Tora Building in Sotokanda District (a 5-minute walk from Akihabara Station).
The other one sporting a noble look is located around Akihabara as well. Willow, our guest writer, went to both cafes.
Willow sat down with the cafe's representative, Dear-kun, to talk about this concept. Joining them is Lefou Kazueta who helped with translation.
We understand the VTuber talents are debuting this month, is that correct?
This cafe is a VTuber training cafe. They do not really have the accurate timing of when the character will debut, they stream on Twitcasting; and if the character/girl is on the top of the rankings and have the will to do enough streaming and support, the company will support them to debut. It is not like everyone has a set date.
Some girls have been in the top rankings, so some girls may debut in June possibly.
How long did it take to decorate the interior for this (first) cafe? It’s very pretty and fits the theme quite well.
The counters and wallpaper [were done in] one month, but the neon panels were added a month after opening. The managers are constantly meeting up to make this place a better place. Everyone’s trying to do their best.
Something I noticed while scrolling through your different cafe accounts on Twitter was that the Male VTuber cafe seems to be much more decorated for a theme than the first location. May I ask how long it took overall for you to develop that store?
It just opened up on May 21st! At first, we were planning on opening the male store earlier, but because we wanted to let our fans see the perfect style of this store along with the characters inside. We put a lot of time and effort into making the males store look as nice as possible.
How did the idea for this cafe come about? It feels like an intricate machine that took time to develop, rather than the same thing copied and pasted throughout Akihabara.
Dear-kun was an indie VTuber at once. He had a lot of friends who wanted to become a VTuber, but it was a lot of work; so, he wanted to make a training environment to make VTubing easier.
Most tend to have another job, and this replaces the need for that job while giving the training and focus they need with their personality, etc.
One thing he also had in mind was that when VTubers talk with fans, they will become happy, and it will be a great time. Akihabara is a place where people meet idols and maids, so he thought it would be a good place to have this kind of store.
How long have you (Dear-kun) identified as a VTuber?
Around 4 years. [Dear-kun] has only had his 2D model for 6 months.
What are your favorite VTubers outside of the cafe?
[I have] a lot of fans so I cannot say. I want to say for English VTubers, I like Gura and Shoto. I also watch a lot of Nijisanji.
It sounds like this works like an investment in your talents, rather than a guarantee of success. They need to work to get the support from fans to ultimately debut as a VTuber. Do I have that correct?
Do you get to control the [cafe's] music?
They get to change it through Spotify.
How are the character designs decided for each talent? Are they determined beforehand, or are they determined after the talent is chosen?
We work with our talents and base it on their style and preferences, once they have cemented their place in the group (Astlive). Our talents do not have their own individual designs at first.
Any plans for a signature drink for each VTuber in the future?
Yes, yes, nice idea. Maybe a better idea with an event, like introducing other (popular) VTubers such as Nijisanji or Hololive first.
That’d definitely make its own interesting bar for sure!
We hope that this cafe is the first and main place where everyone becomes a VTuber, and do not plan on opening a separate bar for the moment.
Do you have plans to collab with other VTubers?
[We] do want to collab with other VTubers, but right now we do not have any specific plans. [We] want to give the girls and boys time to become the kind of VTuber other people will collaborate with.
If you had a transgender talent, where would you place them? Like preferred gender, etc.
We have the audition for Astlive, and they say that they are transgender, we want to respect their feelings as much as possible; if there was a good fit and liked cute things, we would support [them].
VTubers are one of the best ways to express yourself, we want people to express themselves the best as possible.
Do you try to look for a specific balance in personality types, i.e., not clashing personality types if possible?
We are trying to balance the character, but the really important thing is to respect the VTuber, their feelings and what they want to do. Even if the personalities clashed, and if it clashed, management would help to make a character that works better for them.
Have you considered selling merchandise in the stores? I feel like people would really want buttons like your talents have.
It is easy to make the buttons and be able to purchase them, but [I know] how exciting it is to get merchandise, so maybe if the girl debuts and has a lot of fans, maybe in the future they’ll have merchandise. It is a win-win for the VTubers and the fans.
[I think] that it's really special to have certain timing to get to know your fans, and your fans know you in person.