Food-related content has long been a mainstay on the internet. From recipes and cooking shows to 60-second TikTok videos, you’d think we’d have seen it all. One content creator, however, is not only shaking up the typical format but also changing the way we view food. Meet OniGiri, a demon warlord VTuber who is blending virtual and augmented reality live streams.
Like many VTubers, there is an official streamer ‘lore’ behind OniGiri, which borrows from anime and manga tropes. Giri is the warlord of an oni (“demon” in Japanese) army whose decades of fighting to bring peace ended with her becoming “isekaied” (internet slang for being whisked away to another dimension) into our world. A chance encounter with a kind old lady offering her a delicious rice ball changes everything and marks the start of her new mission to share food and bring laughter and joy to everyone.
Of course, behind the virtual avatar, she is like you and me. For over a year, she juggled an office job and did some streaming before VTubing became a sustainable source of income.
Getting Into VTubing
She cites social anxiety and a general fear of making small talk to people in real life (IRL) as motivations for her to begin streaming. “I’m a weeb. I like anime,” she says. “When I was first introduced to the concept of VTubing, I thought it was kind of weird. But the more I watched, the more I understood why it was compelling. And I realized that I could stream to help overcome my anxiety while at the same time, maintain a sense of anonymity.”
OniGiri first started as a PNGTuber, a kind of VTubing that involves having a static image onscreen that can sometimes be rigged to light up to indicate the streamer is talking. A month later, she formulated her design and was able to begin streaming with a more animated 2D model. As for her content, she played video games such as Celeste and Fall Guys initially, but realized she wasn’t very good at them.
“I also didn’t really enjoy doing that and found myself wanting to incorporate cooking into my streams as I love food content,” she says. “I started cooking and I cook a lot of Asian food in general, like Chinese and Japanese food, because that’s what I like to eat.”
A typical OniGiri stream now is a blend of the virtual and real. Her presence is still in the form of a demon avatar, but she is cooking real food in a studio. Viewers can see the prep work and even follow along at home.
There’s a lot of tech involved, but for the most part, the streamer explains that she dons a blue suit against a blue screen that allows her to stay hidden while her VTuber seemingly does the work. The result is a pretty seamless experience for viewers. It’s thanks to her supportive group of friends and family that OniGiri is able to level up the quality of her streams.
Going Fulltime in 2022
Streaming on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube reached peak views throughout the pandemic as many people were bored at home and sought new types of content to consume. The allure of VTubing, being able to go live with a virtual persona rather than your actual face is also becoming a saturated category. While OniGiri’s rise in popularity within a year is by all metrics an incredible feat, she does admit that it’s hard to not compare herself to others.
“For me the first realization of ‘success’ was when I started to average about 100 views per stream,” she says. “There was a great sense of community and the chat was popping off. I average over 1,000 views now, but I’ve come to realize that no matter how many viewers there are, there is still a fear that I could lose everything the very next day.”
At the end of last year, OniGiri has taken herself and her community to the streets of Japan through her IRL streams. The tech side of things has been a challenge to manage, as she’s usually more comfortable streaming from the kitchen studio. There have also been the added barriers of setting up internet access in a foreign country and having the bandwidth capability to maintain stable streams while she’s on the go.
“The food in Japan is delicious, the service is wonderful and [Tokyo] is so clean. I’ve been spending my time exploring and meeting friends. The biggest discoveries so far are the amazing dishes being served in the most unassuming of places. I prefer cheaper restaurants. The more hole-in-the-wall they are, the better the food and atmosphere,” she says.
OniGiri’s community reactions to IRL Japan streams have been very positive. In fact, it’s the Onimart, OniGiri’s community, that she is most proud of. While streamers typically have a mixed experience when it comes to chatters, Onimart is a supportive and welcoming group of followers that tease her in some moments and praise her in others.
“I play off my chat’s reactions, I love bickering with them on stream,” she says. “Even in my Discord, everyone’s mostly positive. I have some great moderators who help keep the atmosphere warm, the morale up and the [suspicious] people banned. I’m really lucky to have had these people here since day one.”
So, You Want to Be a VTuber?
When asked about what advice she would give to those interested in VTubing, OniGiri’s main takeaway is to simply just try it first. “The biggest shame would be to put a lot of time, money and personal investment into creating an amazing debut before realizing that you might hate streaming,” she says.
“People also assume that to be a VTuber, you need to have all of the bells and whistles like the 2D model, the overlays and the emotes, but you really don’t,” continues OniGiri. “Try and do regular streams on a private account and don’t worry about having a bad mic or a camera. As long as the personality and the content is there, people will still be entertained and will want to stay.”
OniGiri recently launched a line of merchandise with UWU where fans can purchase T-shirts, sweaters and even an apron with her name and face on it. She assures us that this is just the beginning. There’s talk of more merchandise in development which will align even more closely with her brand of food and cooking. On the technology side of things, we can expect more immersive forms of content, although OniGiri’s lips are sealed for now.
Catch OniGiri’s live streams on Twitch, connect with her on Twitter or watch her highlights on YouTube.