VTubers, short for Virtual Youtubers, are blowing up these days. While popular in Japan and East Asia more broadly for the past several years, the release of Hololive’s first generation of English VTubers in 2020 cemented their dominance in the Anglosphere, with shark girl Gawr Gura leading the pack at over 2.2 million YouTube subscribers. VTubers create a variety of content under their virtual identities, ranging from video game streams, to music, to cooking shows, and really just about everything in between.
What makes VTubers so appealing for fans is pretty simple; going virtual allows for a level of entertainment in streaming that blows anything IRL out of the water, at least for a certain type of consumer. For VTubers themselves, it allows for creators to assume a far more interesting persona than they may have in real life, all while avoiding the drama and risk of putting a face to the content.
I’m not exactly a VTuber fanatic, but I have to admit I dabble. I mostly get bored watching people stream video games these days, but there’s a lot of talent in the “VSinger” community, and some VTubers are just great comedians and entertainers generally.
One new VTuber instantly caught my eye one day on Twitter, virtual boy Magari Tohru.
Favorites: Acid and Weed? You’ve piqued my interest for sure. Drug use in Japan is highly stigmatized, and it’s difficult to find information in English about what drug culture in Japan is really like. So when V-boy Magari Tohru explained (in English!) a bit about “illegal drugs in Japan” on YouTube, I knew I had to try tracking him down for an interview.
After reaching out to him on Twitter, he graciously agreed. Below is our correspondence, slightly edited for clarity.
NEEMblog: First off, could you please introduce yourself and give us a few “fun facts” about your life?
Magari Tohru: I’m Magari Tohru, a Virtual Boy (V-BOY) who abandoned reality. I was originally a music composer. As for activities on YouTube, while playing video games, I release shoddy tracks and introduce street scenes in Japan that you’d never know. Trying to be a VTuber is one of my fun facts nowadays.
NB: VTubers are becoming extremely popular lately, especially overseas. Why did you in particular decide to become a VTuber?
MT: Since I was exhausted of being serious in the real world: school, business, sociality and music, I wanted to do something just for fun without identity. When I became a so-called VTuber, I had never known about their culture, however, I know just a little today. I understand it’s a good opportunity to do what I want with another persona.
NB: In addition to streaming video games and just chatting, you also make music. What musicians are your biggest inspirations? And what are your favorite video games?
MT: I love music regardless of what it’s like, from Punk Rock to Ambient. If I had to say, Larry Heard, especially his solo work, is the most influential producer on my musical component. His dreamy chord work creates elegant atmospheres and it moves me a lot. As for video games, I really suck at any kind of games. I had a traumatic event where my school mates beat me up together at Super Smash Bros. I realized they were not my friends at that moment, and I wouldn’t be into video games, but I love its OST. Donkey Kong Country’s OST is also one of my favorites.
NB: You’ve said your favorite drugs are acid and marijuana, what were your first experiences with both of them like? Did you first try them in Japan, or overseas?
MT: I don’t exactly remember when I had them. In Japan, when I was teen, there used to be legal drugs similar to them, however, those are all prohibited now. I couldn’t tell which were authentic acid and weed in those days.
NB: Most non-Japanese people believe drug use is extremely rare in Japan, and their stereotype isn’t completely wrong. Do you think this is changing with younger generations, or is drug use still highly stigmatized?
MT: Take the “Summer of Love” for example, youth culture determines what people are in favor of. Japanese hip-hop group 舐達磨 (Name-Daruma) is leading marijuana culture to Japanese youth today. As legalization has spread in the States, Japanese youth have gradually become optimistic about weed, but most of the elders are still rigid when it comes to drugs.
NB: You made a video detailing how drug deals work in Japan. How difficult is it to find a dealer in Japan, and how does a deal usually go down?
MT: Wherever you are, art and music necessarily relate to drugs. That’s totally the same in Japan. The more you love art and music, the closer you get to dealers. Deals are actually more ubiquitous than Japanese people assume. It certainly happens anywhere: night club, college, company, guesthouse and so on.
NB: Drugs are obviously much less socially acceptable in Japan than most of the world, but methamphetamine is rather popular there. Why do you think meth is the most used drug in Japan?
MT: Some say it’s just because Japan is near North Korea, which is a major route of meth. I don’t want to try it because I know a few people around who have ruined their life…
NB: Do you have any last words you’d like to give?
MT: Everything you know through the internet is nothing but a gag. I want you to enjoy my activities like Cartoon Network!
You can subscribe to Magari Tohru on YouTube here.