We had a chance to interview Nobuhime Oda, an active VTuber partially inspired by the Sengoku period. Oda is quite literally a warrior, fighting gallantly against modern warlords in the virtual land. With the world's unification as her goal, she continues to gather new fans through her YouTube channel and Twitter account! In this interview, she speaks about the reality of her career as a VTuber.
- Nobuhime Oda
Her career as a VTuber began in April 2018. The actions and words that she posts on her Twitter account are unprecedented, including her claiming to be Demon King of the Sixth Heaven, and she frequently uploads questionable contents on YouTube. It is all thanks to her Twitter and YouTube posts that she quickly became the lucky adventurer in the world of VTuber. She has more than 170,000 followers as of April 2019. Ranked in the 22nd place on UserLocal's list of all VTubers based on the number of fans, she's well in her way to reach the top tier.
Editing takes a lot of effort, but video is the most effective means to gain new fans!
── Hello! We're honored to have you here!
Ohaikusa~! (Good morning, battlefield!) Nobuhime Oda here!
── I'm so excited for this interview! It's like watching one of your videos! So, Nobuhime, what made you decide to become a VTuber?
── I don't think anyone has ever been so casual about declaring their ambition to unify the world. Then again, it is so you. How do you usually create your YouTube videos, Nobuhime?
Basically, I do everything by myself--planning, shooting, editing, you name it. I've got people to help me create my videos, sometimes, but I make better videos when I do everything alone. So it goes like this, the second I come up with interesting ideas, I jot them down and then I shoot and edit. It's really not that different from what non-virtual YouTubers do.
── Shooting must be a lot of work as a VTuber and you do everything alone, including planning? It sounds incredibly laborious... How long does it usually take?
Sometimes I come up with ideas in 5 minutes. Other times, planning can take up to a day. Most of my videos are based on spontaneous ideas, though. A plan can take 10 minutes to about an hour to shoot and editing takes about 10 hours, on average. I would hire people to help me if they could share my vision, but it's proving difficult.
── 10 hours of editing? Wow... Is that the reason most VTubers choose to live stream or post recordings of their live-streaming instead of pre-edited ones?
I think an ordinary live stream is great because it has this laid-back vibe to it, but I prefer doing a full-blown live stream session for a special occasion. But that would require a tremendous amount of preparation, so I don't really do live-streaming.
Maybe it's because I love making videos more than doing live-streams. I like posting my videos on YouTube as works that I have properly edited, like films. Plus, I can expect edited videos to bring me more new fans than live streams do.
── You have a point there. It's probably better for people who aren't familiar with you to get to know you through your short, edited videos. But that's it for the noobies. I'm pretty sure your experienced vassals would scroll back to watch the archives of your long live-streaming sessions.
I'm not looking for a numerator. What I'm after is a denominator. It means I'm trying to recruit as many vassals as possible and I'm not looking to enrich the community. And I think videos are the best tool to expand my degree of recognition.
Do what others don't!
── You have more than 170,000 followers on your YouTube channel right now, Nobuhime. Anything you're particularly careful about to keep the number of your vassals growing?
One more thing; I love incorporating parodies into my videos and converting fans of the original works into my audience. And I approach parodying the same way. Instead of following trends, I try to keep in mind that I need to release my videos faster than anyone else and offer unique perspectives.
── This whole talk about parodying reminds me that you often change the profile photo of your Twitter account. I guess it's one of your many ways to keep your fans entertained.
VTubers and Twitter are highly compatible and I personally think that Twitter is currently the most popular social media in Japan. Posting interesting contents to entertain my followers and deepening my bond with my vassals are the things that I always bear in mind.
I don't get that many direct messages, but hundreds of people mention me and reply to my tweets every single day. I can't respond to each one of them, so I like to think that posting funny contents is a way for me to respond to these people. And I think my vassals would much rather receive occasional than constant rewards.
Ad revenue and pins aren't her only sources of income!?
── I should probably ask you the main question of this interview, which is "Can you make a living as a VTuber?" Please be honest with us, can you really make money as a VTuber?
── What about you? Do you earn enough?
── What's your main source of income?
Corporate projects. But they're not like what you have in mind. Many people think corporate projects are videos where you introduce corporate games or products, but I've been invited to a couple of events as a guest and that's actually another instance of corporate projects. I'm involved in various projects, it's just my vassals can't always see me working.
You see, a lot of people think that YouTubers and VTubers earn most of their income through AdSense revenue, which is based on the number of views, or by collecting pins through the Live Stream's Super Chat. The thing is, the more followers you have, the less likely it will be for you to earn money through these methods, so I'm pretty sure most YouTubers have other sources of income.
── I know you probably can't share all the juicy details with us, but do you agree that endorsement fees that you receive outside YouTube play a big part? And when did you start accepting offers from corporations?
I can't specify the amount, but VTubers usually do get paid more than YouTubers. And that's because people who watch VTubers spend much more than those who watch regular YouTubers. Then again, the amount that I get does change depending on the corporation I work with.
── How different do you think a corporate project and making videos are?
A corporate project drains you, I'll tell you that much. I try to produce results that can satisfy my clients without putting my vassals aside--I try to make every party involved happy. In most cases, it translates to more than 20 hours of editing.
Also, I change the contents of my videos to meet my clients' needs. If my client wants their products to sell, I'll plan something that will make people want to purchase said products. If my client wants more people to know about them, I'll whip up something funny that people would want to share.
── Do you receive corporate offers all the time?
pixivFANBOX is where she expresses her gratitude to her vassals
I need to thank pixiv for their FANBOX because that's where I receive a significant amount of support from my vassals. This February I started using BOOTH and I'm very pleased with the sales. My vassals are happy that I'm now using these services, so I think I'm going to keep it up.
── More and more VTubers are using FANBOX today, but Nobuhime, you're actually in the top tier in the entire FANBOX with the amount of support that you receive.
While I do think enhancing the quality of our contents is necessary, I feel like it's relatively easy for VTubers to receive several hundred thousand yen of support with FANBOX. And that's when you compare VTubers with people who make videos and earn just as much as VTubers do.
Back then I did think it would be nice if I could use another way, outside of YouTube and Twitter, to communicate with my vassals. So I went to look for something that enables me to interact with my vassals, but it also has to function as a service that can earn me money and it has to be long-lasting. And voila, I found FANBOX.
── You post entries about your daily life, voiced tracks, selfies, and more on your FANBOX. Where are you trying to go with FANBOX?
I just try to focus on investigating the needs of my audience, providing values and bonus, increasing the volume of contents and services to reciprocate their support, and making them even more satisfied.
But because I can't keep providing expensive bonuses, I always make sure to give cost-effective bonuses--stuff that I can provide with as little effort as possible. My voiced tracks are kind of popular. My vassals appreciate them.
── So what do you use FANBOX, YouTube, and Twitter for?
For me, FANBOX is a place to thank my particularly zealous vassals. My vassals want to support me, but there are only a few places where it's possible and they're all in dire need for one. YouTube does have a Super Chat, but it doesn't allow me to send my responses back, so it's basically just a place for me to receive offerings at this point.
Only 1% of my audience enters FANBOX and they're the ones who are the most zealous--who genuinely want to support me. And that's why my FANBOX community is much saner compared to the one on Twitter. FANBOX isn't a place for my audience to fight. It's a happy and toasty place for us to thank each other.
Leaving her mark in history as a VTuber
── Everyone knows unifying the world is your ambition. Could you please tell us more about your next tactic?
First of all, I want to grow my Oda army to 1 million people. But it's only a matter of time, so it isn't exactly a goal--just another checkpoint. My ultimate goal is for my sole existence to be able to increase the demand for the entire VTuber industry, create an environment where new-comers can easily start, and to leave my mark in history.
In order to get there, I've come up with what I call "a peaceful strategy". So I won't fight unnecessary battles and I won't do things that don't benefit me in any way. I will always need to be aware of the advantage. For instance, if I come across a project that might make me lose money temporarily, I will do it to the best of my ability as long as I know it will benefit me in the long run.
── The cross-dressing male VTuber Tamaki Inuyama (manga artist Norio Tsukudani) is notoriously known as your stalker. He's getting more and more influential these days and I heard this year you're having an annual income battle against him. What is it about?
It's not a battle of our annual income, but annual turnover (see Note) because the bigger our income gets, the higher the tax will be and we wouldn't want that. Tamaki Inuyama is doing his best, I've heard, but I won't lose.
── Thank you very much for answering our questions! Lastly, please give some advice to those who want to become VTubers and a message to your vassals!
If you want to be a VTuber, my advice would be to keep going at it and don't give up. If you fail, analyze your failure and conduct PDCA (see Note). Do your best to catch the attention of influential people, befriend them, and get them to support you. Create good contents and do activities that you personally think are enjoyable. If you follow these steps, I'm sure you'll have a better chance of making it through! Good luck!