Opinion: We Need To Rethink How We Approach VTuber Graduations

VTubers graduate. People leave jobs. Grass is green. Sky is blue. Let's stop catastrophizing and reflect on what we're actually saying.

I have a major bone to pick with people thinking VTubing is under some existential threat.

I understand why the fears are there. It’s likely in the last 12 months one of your oshis has graduated, gone on hiatus, or just disappeared without a trace. And that can be tough to stomach as a fan, losing someone who became a part of your daily routine.

I’m here to tell you there’s nothing unnatural about it though.

We have a tendency in the VTuber community to catastrophize. There’s a fair few who believe VTubing is dying because of the influx of graduations.

But the reason why many think that is because you will always see the 100,000-follower VTuber graduate. 

You’ll (likely) never see the first-time streamer with five followers and a dream debut.

This follows a very similar cycle to ‘regular’ content creation, whether it be streaming or short-form video. When MatPat retires and everyone else seemingly takes a step back from full-time creation, it can seem like the end of the medium as we know it.

But the reason why people don’t panic over that is because fans know this is an eventuality. And there’s likely to be someone else starting their YouTube career today who in a year’s time will be just as big. Just look at Kai Cenat’s rise through Twitch.

VTubing fans (and antis, they are included here too) need to realize people drift in and out of content creation all the time, especially those who are in the very intense world of streaming. They give up old opportunities to pursue new ones.

Very few streamers have the longevity of someone like Pokimane, who recently celebrated 10 years on Twitch with a move to YouTube.

Much like VTubing, many streamers scale back their schedules or move on entirely within 3-5 years. It goes through cycles of retirements and rising stars (in fact, the pendulum since 2020 has been remarkably similar between VTubing and regular streaming).

Some focus on other forms of content creation like short-form video, others go into entertainment-adjacent business endeavors. But the smaller streamers ⁠— the silent majority you never hear from ⁠— almost entirely leave content creation behind.

Outside of streaming, a 2022 study by the USA’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found the median employee tenure at a company was 4.1 years. 

Seeing VTubers move on from a persona after a similar amount of time ⁠— say Pomu Rainpuff’s 2.5 year stint at NIJISANJI, or even Yuki Chihiro or Yozora Mel’s near-six year run in agency VTubing ⁠— shouldn’t then be cause for alarm. 

Even Kyo Kaneko, whose graduation after 1.5 years in NIJISANJI prompted me to finally pen these thoughts after months of musing, shouldn’t be condemned for moving on. Nor should his company or colleagues be attacked for “not supporting him” when he came to this decision mutually and amicably.

Are we going to condemn Kyedae for leaving 100 Thieves after 2.5 years? Or attack 100 Thieves for not supporting her enough to stay? Or how about Myth leaving TSM after three years? Or, to bring Pokimane back into the fold, for her “abandoning” the OfflineTV project she helped co-found after six years?

As someone who has a background in esports and broader online entertainment, all of those suggestions are ridiculous. People move between organizations, or leave the scene entirely, without any infighting between fandoms.

So why do we do it with VTubers? Why do we attack their companies and their colleagues, or even the talents themselves, without respecting their wishes?

Fans and antis alike could learn a thing or two from any other entertainment medium ⁠— sports, film, music ⁠— respecting stars’ privacy when they step out of the spotlight to start anew. Or just plainly supporting them without the need to take a stab at someone who has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

And if you’re worried about an existential threat to the virtual medium, it won’t go away. Anime-style avatars have existed online for decades, and they’ll continue for decades more. 

VTubing may be new but it’s the peak of expression so far. Let’s just appreciate its stars while they’re here.