Brennan Williams stands 6’7 “, weighs 300 pounds, and wrestles professionally as Dio Maddin, aka Mace, terrifying forcefully on stage in a skull mask. And also, lately, he’s a 7’14” pink haired man named Jibo, with a crunchy octopus ball on his head.
“The new king of the seas! Mother effing kraken! The shonen takoyaki! The big black octopus! I have several names. I have a lot of titles, ”Williams-as-Jibo said on his first live broadcast on YouTube in February.
Williams is a newly created Vtuber, joining the most kawaii trend in live entertainment from real anime. It is a coat rack of “Virtual YouTuber”, an anime avatar whose body and face move at the same time as that of a human artist. On Twitch and YouTube, Vtubers accesses a live audience, sometimes in the thousands, with cute karaoke or the latest video games. The Top 10 Vtubers collectively generated 36 million hours of viewing in the first two months of 2021, according to data from analytics firm StreamHatchet.
Moving between the square circle and streaming comes naturally, Williams says. What is Vtubing if not digital Kayfabe, a wrestling term describing the presentation of stage identities and storylines as genuine, even beyond the rug. “It’s literally the same,” says Williams. With avatars as masks, Vtubers keep performing in the digital world – YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Instagram – without anyone knowing their true identity.
It’s an open secret among fans that a potent variety of anime is circulating both among community members and top wrestlers. “I’ve heard the expression that wrestling is an anime for the rednecks,” Williams says. The Internet is full of lists of pros who love anime: Kenny Omega, Sasha Banks, Xavier Woods. He verifies. The way wrestling heroes are built, their heel rivalries, storylines that span years and even fans’ easy swing between liking and hating a character would feel perfectly at home on any location. what an anime shonen. It’s like Dragon ball z with four-legged locks.
Williams’ story has also changed a lot lately. As an offensive lineman with the Jacksonville Jaguars in mid-August, Williams wasn’t in the spotlight. But he left his football career with his body intact, so he traveled to Houston to train towards his lifelong goal of becoming a famous TV wrestler.
He has the acting skills for that. Take the end of a recent match: Scottish Titan Drew McIntyre takes off the mask of Mace, who is lying on the mat. Mace gets up, the body heaves and the mouth growls, and slaps McIntyre in the face. McIntyre then slaps Mace with the mask, sending him crumpled to the floor. The blow disqualifies McIntyre. In the post-show, breathing heavily with chin raised, a victorious mass grows, very shonen-esque: “As far as I’m concerned, Drew McIntyre, you’ve done me a favor.”
Everything is art, he says. In WWE, Williams creates characters by amplifying parts of his personality that aren’t necessarily on the surface. Vtubing offers the same version, without the physical limitations of a 6’7 “male.” I can improve some aspect of my fitness in real life, “he says.” But on YouTube I’m a cute little anime boy, who is also me. It’s all here, ”he says.
Entering this world is reminiscent of making your debut as a wrestler, but with a different set of standards. At the start of a Vtuber’s “birthday” stream, they create tension with the music as fans filter through. Then, they slowly reveal parts of their personality – first their physical form, then their personality. In his first video, Jibo’s octopus cap and big purple eyes slowly rise from the bottom of the screen. He smiles, rocking back and forth, then posts a list of his favorite “squide games,” anime, and music – all of which seem to reflect his real tastes. A few thousand viewers watched, including the famous Vtuber Ironmouse. “Ahhh kawaii,” she wrote in the chat.