A V-Tuber is the colloquial name for a virtual entertainer puppeted by a real person. A digital character onscreen blinks, moves their hands, looks around, and opens their mouth to talk at the same time as the person controlling them behind the scenes does. The software to do this is quite complex – the program controlling the model often works through a camera pointed at the real user (although some people do use things like pedals and controllers to control the model’s actions). A one-to-one real-time movement-matching simulation like the kind V-Tubers use are no easy feat, and they’re always getting better. The more recent ones are good enough to dance live with!
Why Have Concerts With These Things?
There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, the V-Tuber’s onscreen model can do things humans just can’t! The model can wear outfits that defy gravity, it can jump off cliffs or up through clouds, it can jump through sparklers and fireworks onscreen without ever risking anyone being burned, and it can do all this while still tethered to its owner and dancing in time. Speaking of which, while pre-recorded routines are possible, the singer is often still singing and dancing live offstage as well, although the complexity and mix of the routine can vary from show to show. It’s still live!
Secondly, a V-Tuber is mainly recognized through their model – not their own face. This grants them anonymity that many pop stars and internet celebrities don’t have, as well as a break from a cutthroat pop industry that insists singers be young, size 0, and pretty for as long as possible even at the expense of their health, both long and short term. The V-Tuber model does not suffer to meet these nightmarish standards, and the singer behind the model can focus harder on their voice and dancing.
Even for the ones who focus on video games and livestreaming instead of dancing and singing, the anonymity of their V-Tuber model is a serious plus. While it doesn’t eliminate the risk of being doxxed, it makes existing in public a lot easier! Walking around a Twitch or gaming convention anonymously is just not possible for YouTubers who show themselves on-screen. For V-Tubers, it’s the default.
A Matter of Movement
With the pros out of the way, there are cons: namely that if they started out on a platform like YouTube, they may not be ready for a concert. A performance at a Cosplay Arts Festival in July of 2023 went viral on TikTok because the person on screen, the V-Tuber Dacapo, wasn’t dancing. The most movement came when the character model’s bangs were swept out of his eyes during an intense part of the song, which made his many fans in the crowd go absolutely nuts, and even that didn’t come with an animation. While the person behind Dacapo did sing the cover of the song themselves, the model wasn’t rigged for anything more intense than looking around and moving side-to-side – the most movement he could do live was sway. One arm was frozen in place holding a cigarette as a stylistic choice, and this was not changed for the concert. Neither was the framing of the character, who is normally only seen from the chest up. This culminated in a performance with some very technically impressive singing paired with the sort of setup you see from livestreamers, but blown up twenty feet tall. (He has a replay on his official channel, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2FNn8d5o4A&ab_channel=DacapoCh.%E3%80%90ARP%E3%80%91)
It could hardly be called a waste of money, because the concert itself was free with the purchase of a ticket to the cosplay con it was hosted at, but it felt stiff. That model is part of a group of V-Tubers pulled together by the Thailand-based Algorhythm Project, which put Dacapo into a boy group with a couple of other singers. He debuted under that project – he was the fastest-growing member of it. This guy didn’t get famous by accident. For them to not have an alternate model for concerts, or at least modify the current one so it could move more freely, feels like an oversight! Especially when other V-Tubers prove it can be done.
That said, the next concert will probably be better – no performer has a flawless first stage show, no matter what their tech looks like.