The past few months of Hololive have been one major event after the next, and among the biggest were the debut of not one, but two new Virtual Youtuber groups. First was Holo Advent at the end of July, the newest English generation in two long years. Then in September came ReGLOSS, who seem to be the vanguards of an entirely new division. Both groups have now had a bit of time to establish themselves, and they seem to reflect two very different approaches: refinement based on past experience vs. taking an experimental direction that’s a mix of old and new.
While “lore” and “backstory” matter less and less over time, they are part of the initial impression a VTuber makes and can help to solidify their image in the eyes of fans. And when it comes to the English branch of Hololive, their parent company COVER Corp. chose to make things elaborate. Unlike the relatively simple princesses, idols, and devils of the Japanese branch, the first generation (known as Holo Myth) debuted with an ancient Atlantean shark, a grim reaper, a warrior phoenix, an Eldritch priestess, and a time traveling detective.
Due to circumstances of timing (a global pandemic) and their own abilities, Myth are the most successful generation of Hololive—and possibly any VTuber group—ever. Their follow-ups, Project Hope and Holo Council, went even bigger by being the representatives and embodiments of abstract concepts: hope, of course, but then also a celestial governing body of space, time, nature, civilization, and chaos. While all of them have turned out to be popular and entertaining individuals, I think the grandiose nature of their lore can be a burden on the girls themselves. It can weigh the VTubers down just as much as it can elevate them, and often the streamers give this facet of their characters only basic lip service.
I believe that knowing how to avoid that awkwardness is the lesson taken from the past two English generations, and I see this in how Advent strikes a middle ground between them. Like Council, they have a group concept unifying them: The members of Advent are all runaway prisoners who were locked away due to their forbidden powers but staged an escape together. However, their individual backstories are all more detailed than Myth yet less so than Council. Shiori Novella is an archiver whose pursuit of knowledge gave her access to the forbidden. Koseki Bijou is a sentient jewel who inadvertently drives avarice. Nerissa Ravencroft is a demon not unlike a siren. Fuwawa and Mococo Abyssgard are twin demon guard dogs locked away for being huge pains.
In practice, this specific level of lore allows them to play into their core characters without having to devote too much of themselves to keep up an act. Shiori encourages creative works and accumulation of interesting stories. Bijou makes rock jokes on the regular. Nerissa sings beautifully. FuwaMoco talk in cute dog voices and bark on occasion. They don’t have to, for example, express primordial chaos. In pro wrestling terms, Advent’s gimmicks are starting points that they can choose to learn into or not without feeling like they’re overdoing or underdoing it.
If Advent is a product of calibration and finding a nice lore sweet spot that is neither too sparse or too burdensome, then ReGLOSS takes a far different angle. Like Advent they number five in total, but all of them are supposed to be just regular human girls—not reincarnations or half-wombat people or anything—albeit eccentric in their own ways. Hiodoshi Ao is a handsome manga artist who is now a VTuber to help with new story ideas. Otonose Kanade is an aspiring musician with a penchant for bad puns. Ichijou Ririka is a young gal CEO who loves survival puzzles. Juufuutei Raden is a saucy rakugo performer with a fondness for drinking and smoking. Todoroki Hajime is a short-statured, pastel banchou (delinquent boss) who loves dance and fashion.
These five have joined together to make music, but what’s funny about this is that most of them are not practiced musicians. A couple have confessed that singing is still awkward to them, and they don’t have the trained vocals of many of their senpai. While there have been Hololive members who start off lacking in this department, there is typically the expectation that they’ll grow at their own pace and fans will love their ability or evenlack thereof. In contrast, ReGLOSS debuted with their own generational song from the get-go.
However, this plays very much into a familiar aspect of Japanese idol culture. Unlike K-Pop, which prefers to unleash its stars when they’re already fantastic, part of the enduring appeal of idol culture is seeing the performers grow. That quality permeates Hololive both naturally and by intent, but it’s never been this concentrated. That said, it’s notable how, while they’re mostly not singers by default, they have other skills and interests they can fall back on. For example, Raden does fine art history talks and Ao did an entire stream about the bullet journal system.
The most unusual thing about ReGLOSS is arguably that they are also the first to be part of a division called holoDEV_IS (pronounced “Holo-dev-ice”), whose true purpose is still unclear. Is it an attempted inroad to other areas of entertainment? Not much is known.
Room to Explore
With any sort of new iteration, there will be those who want something comfortably familiar. Likewise, there will also be those who want something new and exciting. What I think has helped make Hololive such a big player in the world of VTubing is their willingness to provide both while understanding that there is more than one type of success—big numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. Advent and ReGLOSS are indicative of this philosophy, and as they continue forward, I will enjoy seeing all their members carve out their own fanbases and finding people who appreciate them.