Behind The Model: How Hanako's Rebrand Let Her Be Creatively Free

Once a humanoid dragon, Hanako's furry VTuber rebrand let the creator finally express herself fully with nothing to hide.

A Japanese translation of this piece by Kentaro Kuwahara is available here.

Hanako might look a bit different to the first time you saw her floating around the VTuber space.

When she debuted two years ago, it was as a strawberry dragon. The model combined her love for mythical beasts and the bright red fruit. It also allowed some expression of her past in different online communities. She had over 100 OCs to pick from, but this was the one that resonated with her the most.

“I went on a whim because… I wanted to use one of my main personas,” she said. “I thought she was really cool to use, so I threw my persona out there [to try and] see how people like her, try to interact as her, and that’s basically how it started.”

However, she was bottling a major side of her life in doing so. With an extensive background in the art and furry communities across the internet, Hanako didn’t feel especially comfortable expressing that love in VTubing right away.

When she first started, there was a heavy focus on humanoid characters. While there were many anthropomorphic stars ⁠— and if you dug beneath the surface far enough, some full non-human designs ⁠— they were a firm minority.

It planted a seed of doubt in Hanako’s head: “As a person coming from the furry community, it wasn’t [necessarily] disappointing but it was weird to see.

“I came into the fandom as a furry model, then I don’t know how people would have thought of me. That’s why I stuck with that.

“[But] the more I was in the VTuber community, the more I realized I didn’t want to be a humanoid character anymore. I don’t think it personally fits me or my energy.”

Hanako got to work on a full rebrand just months after debuting. First she stepped away from the strawberry dragon into a humanoid cloud dragon ⁠— trading in the bright red for white tinged with pastel blues and pinks.

But only weeks after debuting the humanoid form, she decided to fully commit. She revealed a “little gremlin cloud dragon”, pint-size but with plenty of energy and charisma. Through this new, full furry form, it had liberated her in a creative sense.

“I move more energized, and it matches my personality more than any other form imaginable… I’m very loud and chaotic, sometimes obnoxious. I can do silly faces, I am more wiggly ⁠— my tail is wiggling like crazy ⁠— and with all that in mind, I just feel more spontaneous.

“Fitting in is kind of lame sometimes. So I was like ‘you know what? I should just not fit in.’ I wanted to be genuinely myself, and that’s the direction I took then. I’ve been much happier. I’ve been having better streams because I feel more like myself and feel more genuine on camera.”

There was still a consideration she wouldn’t be widely accepted in the community. But as she grew and found more like-minded content creators, it became apparent she wouldn’t be isolated ⁠— she could find a new community for herself if her old one rejected her.

“I was worried about people not liking it, but then there’s a side of me who doesn’t care if people don’t like it. It shouldn’t matter what it looks like ⁠— it’s just the personality behind it.

“When I became a fluffy cloud dragon ⁠— as you see me right now ⁠— I did get a lot of backlash. Combining two different communities like that, who don’t really interact that much, is a bit [crazy]. I got a lot of hate DMs because I’m a furry, and I lost a lot of followers.

“But I realized I didn’t really care because people will stay for your personality. Those people didn’t stay because of that ⁠— they liked the models, and that was the only thing keeping them here I suppose so they upped and left.”

The rebrand isn’t just a new look visually. Hanako has taken a new perspective on streaming. She recently ended her Twitch partner push to focus on growing at her own pace, rather than rushing to grab that coveted purple checkmark.

It’s opened her up to a new side of VTubing which has offered her more comfort and support. She can block out those who despise her new form just for being furry, and truly represent the community she has interacted in for more than a decade.

“I’m a VTuber, but I’m a furry first and foremost. It’s the community I grew up in, it’s the community I’m still in, and that’s who I want to represent more as myself.”

Hanako’s rebrand is not the first, and won’t be the last. There is a larger trend of VTubers finding new forms as the medium starts to mature. In the English space, Zentreya and Vei both underwent big visual and lore changes in 2022. Senz kicked off 2023 with a total overhaul, and many other large names are showing interest in changing how they express themselves.

For the now-cloud dragon, seeing creators big and small test the waters with new identities is inspiring.

“Not a lot of VTubers would rebrand, or were afraid of rebranding, because they would have a difficult time finding the same person.

“I think it’s cool for big VTubers to do rebrands for themselves to feel more like them. As someone who went through a few rebrands myself, I’m happy people are taking this step in their own right direction and I’m super proud of them.

“Don’t do what I did and try to fit in with the crowd because… it did confuse me throughout my VTuber journey. Why don’t I feel like myself? Why do I feel like something is missing?

“Go straight in with something that feels right. Don’t hide yourself. You don’t have to hide yourself for anyone.”

You can learn more about Hanako’s story in her Behind The Model episode below.