Hyuni is an ‘older’ VTuber fan. While we’re not talking about being one of the 13 Tokino Sora debut watchers here, she did get into VTubing through NIJISANJI veterans Kuzuha and Kanae, which is old enough in most books.
However, Hyuni didn’t just passively appreciate the VTubers for who they were. She felt a need, a desire to create content around them.
So, the artist picked up her pen and started drawing fan art, quickly becoming a central figure in the VTuber fandom.
“Back then I was kind of just on the outskirts. There were quite a few Japanese indie VTubers that I watched, and I used to be super involved in those communities. That’s how I started to learn Japanese… and that’s when I started drawing anime character-esque fan art.”
“When I found out about the fan discourse, that's when I started getting really integrated into the community. And I met a lot of different people and friends there.”
Creating adorable fan works was a start for Hyuni, but it certainly wasn’t the end. She had been involved in other communities previously as an artist, but she wanted to express herself in different ways.
Thankfully, the VTubers she was watching proved there was a path for her. It was through VTubers like Elira Pendora that she started doing karaoke — first singing for people in various fan Discord groups, and then on stream to a handful of people. That then quickly expanded to upwards of 100 people.
“It's just a lot of fun and it's a lot of satisfaction sometimes being able to sing,” she mentioned. “[Recently] I did a karaoke stream for the first time in like a year or two, [and] I think that was the first stream I ever hit 100 concurrent viewers with.”
Not only that but she played games and drew on stream. The self-expression VTubing provided was truly wonderful, alongside brushing shoulders with her idols.
“I did small stuff like recording covers and doing small unlisted streams to practice [art and karaoke at the start]. And I did a lot of those back then.
“Using those skills that I've learned from just being a fan, I've been able to put it into my own brand and my own personality and skills.”
However being both a fan artist and an independent creator is a difficult mix to reconcile.
Many fan artists are stubborn in only sharing their fan works. Anything that drops the mask and is more personal breaks the immersion. To Hyuni, while she started out that way, it quickly came prohibitive.
Independent creators are also meant to stand alone and focus on their own content. Looking at other VTubers is equally as questioned by some in the space.
What she learned is that being both is okay. People wanted to hear her personal takes, and they saw it as a breath of fresh air in a space which is usually quite sterile. People weren’t just interested in Hyuni, the NIJISANJI fan artist, but Hyuni the person. Being able to set aside some of that creativity and personality for herself was crucial for her own well-being.
“Sometimes when I'm on the fan side of things, it gets tiring because there's a lot of drama going on there and then you could be kind of targeted for supporting whoever you're supporting,” she stated.
“When I'm on my own, I also have to deal with a lot of issues.
“But I think they can honestly exist together, because… a lot of my audience are still fans of other VTubers. So just being able to geek out with them about the people we love and support is [great].
“I don't think there's anything wrong with being both yourself, being your own character, but also being like a huge nerd and fan of like other VTubers.”
She, more than most, has seen VTubing’s audience change over time. She was once the owner of Mysta Rias’ fan Discord and is well known for being the creator of his fan mascot, the Mystakes.
It was Luxiem’s debut, at least in the NIJISANJI circles she interacted in, that brought in a new audience.
“Everything was kind of controlled [before], I guess. The audience was primarily male.
“But after Luxiem debuted, I think a bunch of fans from other fandoms — primarily K-Pop, Ensemble Stars, and Project Sekai — caught on and they're like ‘well, like these guys are really cool too.’
“So that's how they kind of blew up on TikTok. And then that's where all the TikTok people came into the servers. And that's how I noticed the demographic change… people have gotten younger.”
As much as the community has grown around these streamers, they have crumbled in their departure. Mysta’s graduation in August was a test of that.
When Hyuni was first asked about this question, she mused on the fact that she hadn’t really watched his streams much in recent months due to timezones. She had drifted away from the affable British fox man.
But she looks back on those times fondly, and she now sees that through the VTubers we idolize, people form genuine connections that go beyond having a shared oshi.
“I kind of convinced myself that I wasn't that big of a fan of him as I used to be because of burnout and just interacting with Mystacord tired me out. But you know what? I kind of feel like Mysta burned out, too.
“When the news dropped everything just crumbled. And I was like ‘wait, this is real.’
“Thinking about the projects that I've organized and the fan art that I've drawn for him, it's less of like, ‘oh no, all of my work is going to waste.’ It's more like ‘I'm glad I was able to do all of this for him while he was still here.’ Sometimes I'll still think ‘maybe if I had drawn more or maybe if I had done more projects, he wouldn't have come to this decision.’
“I'm just happy that I was able to contribute with the time that we had left with him as the character of Mysta.”
As VTubers come and go from streaming, so too will members of the community. People will fleet in and out of the space. But Hyuni is still happy for all the memories she’s made along the way, and how much love there is still to go around.
“Even though even though the kind of demographics have changed and even though some of the people I've known back then aren't really into VTubers anymore or they've left because of drama and stuff like that, I still really treasure all of these interactions and I still really love the community that was built from this.
“Not even related to NIJISANJI, I went to the [Hololive] Connect The World EN concert recently. I was one of the organizers or the designers for their penlight project.
“Just watching that play out in itself was really emotional. Even though I'm not that deeply integrated into the Hololive community yet, just seeing people this dedicated… I was like ‘holy moly, VTubers fans are freaking awesome.’
“This kind of power, like experiencing it in person, really makes a difference. And I think that's just knowing that… has kept me in the circle for ages and I don't think I'm going to get out of it any time soon.”
Learn more about Hyuni's story in her Behind The Model episode.