This Week in Anime

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

VIRTUAL-SAN LOOKING is the first anime made by Virtual YouTubers like Kizuna Ai and Mirai Akari. This week, Micchy and Steve will be your guide to this strange new world inhabited only by the Extremely Online.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for language.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

Yo Steve, I'm really not sure about this
Aggretsuko sequel.
Looks extremely normal to me! Personally I'm a big fan of the new horse character.
It's also cool that it takes place in a virtual world now. And it stars like 50 virtual youtubers. And we're actually talking about Virtual-san Looking and not Aggretsuko oh god how did we get here?
Virtual-san Looking might just be the most 2019 anime to exist in that it's incomprehensible to anyone who isn't extremely online and it only barely makes sense to those who are. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about it.
I guess we should start by explaining the virtual youtuber phenomenon? It's only about two years old, but that's basically ancient in internet terms. So in theory, as long as you've got a 3D rig of a an anime character and some kind of motion-tracking software, you can just kinda. Make videos. On YouTube.
As an anime character.
The most well-known vtuber is definitely Kizuna Ai, who's been all over the place from the Crunchyroll Anime Awards to talking with Christoph Waltz at the Alita premiere to briefly promoting cryptocurrency for some reason.
2019 is wild.
But beyond her, the virtual youtuber phenomenon encompasses such personalities as a jokey Umamusume character, the 3D rendition of enka legend Sachiko Kobayashi, and everyone's favorite multilingual idol, Sally Amaki. Now as someone who barely understands regular youtubers, let alone the virtual ones, I can't say I get why they have such large followings, but earlier today I spent several minutes of my life watching Kizuna Ai just stand around in T-pose, so I guess I can't throw shade.
Kizuna Ai definitely kicked things off, and I'll admit I got a kick out of her videos when she was just starting. But her immediate popularity combined with the relatively low barrier of entry caused the vtuber scene to explode so quickly, and that's where I lost track of things. A lot of the characters featured in this show haven't even been around for a year, yet here they are in a real anime that's both made and watched by real people.
I'm assuming anyway. Maybe it's made and watched by vtubers all the way down.
Maybe you and I are actually vtubers!
Look I'm not here to have an existential crisis. I'm here to talk about this awful vtuber minion.
Excuse me, he's clearly a peanut.
I don't want to know that. Anyway, the very, very, very loose concept behind the show is that it's a recurring collection of skits featuring six main vtubers and a bunch of other supporting and guest characters. In the abstract, this sounds perfectly reasonable. In practice, it's absolute chaos.
Virtual-san Looking is what happens when you take the chaotic energy of YouTube and deliver it in 30-minute doses. The result is bizarre, often irritating, and positively baffling to sit through. So basically, it owns.
You're right, it does feel like an authentic adaptation of YouTube into an anime: a nonstop assault of people yelling over increasingly unintelligible jokes. And yet it's kind of mesmerizing. While i don't know if I can say I enjoy its chaotic energy, I do find it fascinating.
It is oddly addicting! Online is a very different place now than it was in the days of impact font and image macro templates! Now it's all about the self-referential ouroboros of in-jokes and memes, where the goal is to be more obnoxious than the next minor celebrity. I can't look away from it despite my rational mind's pleas to save myself.
I'd say it has some of the improv appeal of Himote House (though not nearly as refined), but with the "screw traditional joke structure" attitude of the modern online world. It's like Tim and Eric for kids who were raised on videos of people playing kusoge instead of weird public access channels. Watching this makes me feel old, which is in itself a kind of endorsement.
Like, here's a good example.
That's an in-joke about this one time Mito talked about eating grass as a kid. But you wouldn't get that unless you were already ingrained in the subculture. I only know this because I did some research on the vtuber wiki (which of course exists).
I'm still not over the time they started talking about popular Fortnite streamers. I'm too old for Fortnite, dammit.
On that note, let's talk about some of the segments in the show, to provide a clearer picture of the chaos. I think one of the better ones is Virtual Grandmother.
It gets away from the usual conceit of vtube because instead of a wide-eyed anime girl yelling about Fortnite, it's just a digitized enka singer telling kids about how it used to be in the old days.
It also delivers godawful puns.

Virtual Grandmother's segment isn't completely free of incomprehensible bullshit, mind you.
No vtuber is without sin.
Virtual Grandmother might be even better for that concession though, because the relatively grounded nature of her segment otherwise makes the awful digital face and janky moments stand out all the more. It's wild to think that the character only exists so Sachiko Kobayashi and Kizuna Ai could cover Senbonzakura together.
Speaking of breaking the mold, I like the segments with the character literally sponsored by and created in Unity. They're short, but her rig and animations are noticeably better than everyone else's, and I think that's hilarious.
Yeah, her hair doesn't clip through her chest every five seconds like Fuji Aoi's does.
This is pretty much what the rest of the show looks like:
It's so bad that the camera can't even keep up.
They're fucking with the mocap software on purpose for that joke, and I love it.
If that's not breaking new artistic ground, then I don't know what is.
Yeah, Virtual-san Looking is definitely Art!
Dab on them haters, Hinata.
I'll Never 4get that time Nekomiya Hinata turned out to be a pretty good rapper.
She was legit! I was shocked. Aside from Kizuna Ai, Nekomiya Hinata is pretty much the only vtuber I was somewhat familiar with going into the show, and she's definitely one of the best parts of it.
I wish I could also say I was familiar with Hinata beforehand, but her channel full of Fortnite scared me off. However, she is scarily good at Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, which I appreciate.
That's the thing! She's extremely good at FPS games, which is the basis of her main skit in the show: Chio's School Road but Hinata's School Road instead.

Also she plays PUBG a lot more than Fortnite. She's a good cat and a frequent Mood.

Hinata's the sleepy cat gamer girl we need in these trying times, but as far as I know, she's never done a Shia LaBeouf impression like Kizuna Ai or Mirai Akari.
Akari is a character of much complexity.
But my favorite character is the gorilla with the nice singing voice. His newest single, "Like a Gorilla", has a line about throwing poop, just in case you forgot he was a gorilla.
That's his entire schtick. He's a gorilla with a really handsome voice, and he shows up in every episode. It's amazing. Personally, I most respected the scene in the first episode that they hadn't finished animating.
Not that it's much more animated in later episodes, unless you count wild mocap flailing as animation.
We have to, or else we won't even be able to call this an anime.
Surely the opening sequence has enough animation to count?
Oh yeah! The opening song is sung by Kizuna Ai, produced by Yasutaka Nakata (of Perfume, Capsule, and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu fame), and it's legit a bop. Like, it's so much better than the show deserves.
"Much better than it deserves" applies to most of Kizuna Ai's music tbh, like who let her work with Teddyloid?
There's also the one shot where everyone is actually anime and I still don't know how to feel about this. Anyway, it brings to mind the fact that these vtubers are a BUSINESS that generates revenue, and that's so wild.
Virtual-san Looking is evidence that 2019 is going to be That Wild.
When you shitpost into the abyss,
the abyss shitposts back.

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