Behind The Model: Maru De Cinco, VTubing’s Hero of Hope

Maru De Cinco has gone on many journeys through life, and VTubing has brought those pathways together.

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

Maru De Cinco’s colorful life has led her to VTubing. There’s too much to cover in one short introduction.

She emigrated from Argentina to Ireland in her late teens, and has since floated in and out of various communities. She’s been a professional translator, a stand-up comedian, and a general entertainer.

“Sometimes I forget how many subcultures I've existed within for at least a significant portion of time,” she laughed. “I was in the hipster music scene. I was like in the punk, kind of squatter scene.”

But anime, and associated media, has been a constant through it all. While not ever really interacting in the “nerd fandom,” that didn’t mean Maru didn’t appreciate the medium. Growing up in Latin America, anime was everywhere—and it boomed much earlier than it did in the English-speaking world.

Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac isn't maybe household names for those outside of Latin America, but those were the kinds of shows that resonated with Maru.

“I've always remained an anime fan who watched a lot of anime, but it's only really been ever since I became a VTuber that I fully dove into the anime scene and found kind of my people within it.”

Her well-traveled background and various experiences has opened up its own set of stories. Her translation work had her working on localizing games, and even helping close caption films about Hassidic Jewish communities in New York (with help from a friend).

While not explicitly working on Japanese-English translation like this space would know best, there is plenty of crossover.

Translation is an art in and of itself, and much too often is it misunderstood: “There's a lot that grinds my gears that I see in not just the VTuber scene, but like the general anime scene and gaming scene, and there's a lot of misunderstandings.

“There's this opinion that anime translators are trying to push an agenda, that anime translators localize too much. They translate it too much into like certain idioms that certain people dislike, like using memes and stuff like that.

“The only way for you to perfectly convey the meaning of a sentence in one language to another is to actually just learn that source language and understand it. Because there is no perfect translation… that will convey absolutely all of the cultural nuances, and all you can do as a translator is approximate it.”

Another part of Maru’s wild journey involves a stand-up comedy stint that took her across some of the biggest clubs in Scotland. She performed for five years, rehearsing the perfect tight five with gags on football, LGBT topics, and more.

This is the roots of Maru De Cinco, the entertainer.

“Comedy standup is something that if you don't know much about how the sausage is made, it looks effortless. A good comedian makes it look like the person got on stage and is just naturally charming and funny.

“I've always loved making people laugh. That's what I should have said first, actually. [There’s] something very enjoyable to get on stage and have like a room of people laughing or telling them a story and kind of weaving it in and out.

“On my last set… I did do an entire bit about the fact that I was retiring to become a VTuber.

“A couple of friends convinced me, and what they did to convince me is… they came at me with solid, honest praise of my abilities: ‘These are all of the reasons why we think you're great for this.’ I was really, really moved.”

When the streaming side of things really picked up, she was able to find true joy in one of her old hobbies: model kits. She has been building Gunpla since she was a kid, getting into plastic model kits in the 90s.

However, as a VTuber, it’s not as simple as slapping on a webcam and going live. Maru streams handcam Gunpla building streams a lot, especially after receiving a Hobbylink Japan sponsorship. It’s a delicate setup, but it fills a niche in the community she didn’t realize needed filling.

“One of the things that I quickly realized is that this was a space where there were a lot of people that wanted to watch this content and relatively not that much provision of that content. And I [saw] my numbers rise quite a bit.

“It became the main thing in my content because I really, really love building Gundam models. Gunpla is specifically one kind of model kit but I build other model kits as well.”

This recently culminated in her first major custom build, Project Pomu. Using a mixture of 30 Minute Sisters kits and a bit of homebrew, she was able to recreate her favorite NIJISANJI EN Liver, Pomu Rainpuff, in model form.

“The initial plan was very much in the vein of the content I was making with my Gunpla streams in which I was like ‘okay, I'm not going to do anything too fancy.’ I'm just going to combine whatever I can find to make the closest [renditions].

“To a large degree, by the conclusion of the project, that was still what I was doing, that I was making the best Pomu that I could.

She pushed the limits of her own creativity, getting specialized tools and even making specific elements like the iconic bow and her ears out of epoxy putty. The result was a stunning replica of the pint-sized fairy, appreciated by thousands of fans ⁠— none more so than the subject.

“It was just so much fun. I finally am learning all the stuff that I want to learn and making interesting original stuff.

“I have not seen anybody else do a Pomu custom like this. And I just thought ‘why?’ I can do it and I'll do more such customs in the future.”

And then there’s the charity work. Maru has taken part in numerous charity streams, raising thousands for various causes like the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund and Gamers Outreach.

She does all this ⁠without even VTubing full-time. While she is currently focusing on her dissertation, she is looking towards the future in which she can continue helping out various causes, make others laugh, and truly live up to her title.

“I'm the Hero of Hope. I’m not someone that can make a living out of my content, and yet I can help people with these things and help raise thousands of dollars for charity.

“It's a lot of fun as well. I get to learn so much, I get to meet people. It's wonderful.”

Learn more about Maru De Cinco's story in her episode of Behind The Model.