Hikari Ookami has always been creative. The Argentine-born VTuber, who now lives in Mexico, had an innate storytelling desire from a very young age.
“As a child I would make up characters and it would all be very complex. And the rest of my family wasn't very happy about it because I had so many characters, they couldn't keep up,” she laughed. “I would get offended if they weren't keeping up with it.”
But it wasn’t just an outlet for some excess energy. The creative world had deeper meaning for Hikari.
It was an escape from the real world, where she fell on tough times and grew up in poverty. It was also a way to understand others and process feelings. She could live through the characters she made up, and use those to relate to others.
“It was my way to relate to the world. When I was a child, I didn't understand emotions. So pretty much I would process my emotions with the things that were going through the characters I wrote and role played with other people.”
This led her down many creative paths. Filming home videos is a classic example many creators relate to, with Hikari getting up to some shenanigans with her brother.
“In Argentina there was a time where they gave laptops to teenagers… so we would usually put it in very specific places where we’d either prank our mom, our mom or ourselves. And the other thing that we will do is we will make short stories.
“We would use ketchup or things like that to make blood. We learned how to do bruises with coloring pencils and things like that.
“In that moment we barely had a roof to live under and we were trying to build our house… we were pretty much in poverty. We were trying to make it through and work really hard on that.”
She also studied at a multimedia-focused school where creativity was emphasized. She eventually found herself in the school’s radio program, where she just wanted to help pick out the music — too scared to actually hop on the microphone.
But then her teachers and peers discovered just how naturally she took to being a presenter. And with quite a bit of force, she was thrusted into the spotlight.
“It was quite the experience because I originally wanted to be back in with the machines choosing music and things like that… but in the end they got me in the front because they realized that I was a very argumentative person,” she laughed.
All of this was valuable experience for her to actually transform content creation into her life. It took a while, but she landed on VTubing as her medium of choice. She always “had the itch for just turning on the camera,” even if social anxiety got in the way more often than not.
The anonymity was nice. And all those characters she once dreamed of and used to relate to the world? She could now play them out in real time.
“My friend sent me a company looking for VTubers… and they told me ‘I know you like VTubers and I know you're pretty funny. Why don't you try and maybe you can?’”
The community Hikari immersed herself in is perhaps a bit different to the one you might interact with on Twitter. The LATAM streaming space varies wildly to the English or Japanese VTuber ones most have become accustomed to.
Spanish and Portuguese-speaking streamers like Ibai and Auronplay have decimated Twitch records. In the VTubing space, Argentine star Nimu is probably the biggest virtual creator you’ve never heard of with more than two million Twitch followers and YouTube subscribers.
Big events are commonplace, but there’s still something amiss according to Hikari. Content in the space is pretty stale with a focus on a few games. Drama in the scene stops creators from uniting and pushing for a massive project.
And there’s also the broader socioeconomic aspect, which plays into a mindset of LATAM creators trying to emulate their English-speaking counterparts.
“There's no other content that is not Minecraft or Valorant or Among Us or things like that,” she continued. “We have not moved from that as just the VTuber community.
“Everyone knows Rakkun, everyone knows Nimu, and everyone knows Owozu as a company and they are very established. [But] at the same time it is so shameful for the people who participate in the community to admit that either they are a VTuber or that they [like] VTubers.
“We have lived, most of us, quite the rough situation economically, socially, politically. It makes it hard to remove that, or to think that you could make something as meaningful as Hololive or VShojo or things like that.”
Given the popularity of creators like Ibai, it’s only a matter of time until a LATAM or Spanish-speaking VTuber has cultural relevance across all of online entertainment. One could argue VShojo’s Ironmouse, Holostars’ Banzoin Hakka, or NIJISANJI’s Reimu Endou have brought some of that cultural flair to VTubing.
Much like in other areas across the world, the virtual medium is exploding in Latin America. It’s not mainstream, but it’s becoming known and decently normalized in online spaces.
There are just a few small things that need to fall its way for it to truly explode, and that’s what Hikari is working towards for her region — even if it ends up with her behind the camera versus being in the spotlight.
“I think we could make more things that have more of the artistic medium. We are art itself, we carry over the art of our models or artists and riggers.
“We have a pretty solid community on Twitch. We are known, we have collaborated with big streamers and it has happened already. Now it's just doing a little bit more of what the big streamers do. That's not just playing Minecraft, please. Like talking to events for appearing.
“If we can start making some subtitle work… most of the VTubers that I know have one alternative English speaking channel that they have around them. I believe there could be more effort put into that.”
Learn more about Hikari's story in her Behind The Model episode.