A quick glance at this particular YouTube channel will usually spur two reactions. The first is a cursory look over the shoulder with an alt-tab maneuver ready to go should an unsuspecting individual pass by. The second is an irresistible allure to dive right into some of the most unique videos the platform has to offer. Welcome to Sydsnap, a YouTube channel by Sydney Poniewaz where she shares the racy side of anime, manga and Japanese culture.
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Poniewaz doesn’t just walk on the wild side of YouTube. This is a channel that prances, leaps, and practically flamenco dances as it celebrates some of the things you may have wondered about Japanese pop culture but never dared to ask. Regulars of the channel would hardly bat an eyelid at video titles such as “I Found A REAL Monster Girl Café” or “Sitting Down With One Of Japan’s Biggest American Pornstars.” She is someone that doesn’t shy away from the risqué or slightly strange, which makes her humble origin story all the more fascinating.
“I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, a place where hardly anyone knew what anime was at the time. My first exposure to Japanese animation was through a game called Harvest Moon,” says Poniewaz.
Harvest Moon is a 1996 farming and dating simulation game. The game bears semblance to more current critically acclaimed games such as Animal Crossing but some would call it an ‘OG’ in this genre and ahead of its time. It showed the potential of games as not just being your stereotypical adventure or hack-and-slash style. Games could have the trifecta of story, romance and the ability to till the ground in preparation for your virtual potatoes. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds.
Poniewaz has long been a part of the global anituber (YouTubers that cover mainly anime) community through her voice acting work. However, she cites her passion for manga which led her to develop her current niche on YouTube.
“I was obsessed with manga, reading it every day at one point,” says Poniewaz. “I enjoyed some classics such as Full Metal Alchemist and Yu Yu Hakusho. But as I got more into it, I became fascinated by how many types of manga are available. [..] Manga is truly a medium that goes into every subject matter, even lewder ones.”
As Poniewaz began to upload more videos, she realized that it was her videos covering erotic manga content that seemed to resonate most with her audience. This encouraged her to go further down this path, covering eroge, a Japanese genre referring to erotic video games and even video tours of everything from themed girls’ bars to a Japanese adult toy factory.
“Living in Japan has definitely changed my perception of the culture. I’m more exposed to it and am able to explore it more deeply. It’s also more accessible to me now. You can simply buy the latest manga issue from a convenience store. There’s less of a hunt now and that can make it feel less special,” says Poniewaz.
Sydsnap videos are both funny and relatable. There is a certain candor about Poniewaz as she tells it like it is and she’s never shy about stating her opinion. From visiting a Japanese Succubus Bar to reviewing rare and racy anime figures, her excitement for the subject matter is always palpable and genuine.
An obvious chord Poniewaz strikes with her content is her ability to convey her perspective, a female perspective, on Japanese products and services that are typically made for the male gaze.
“I can be crass sometimes, I really don’t hold back my words,” she says. “First-time viewers might find this overwhelming and surprising but my regulars don’t see me as Sydney the woman. They see me for my personality, as someone who bought 10kg fake anime boobs.”
Admittedly, a lot of erotic content in Japan is still very much male-oriented but Poniewaz is hopeful that this will change with time. She sees more female viewers on her channel for starters and has also noticed more doujinshi (self-published printed work) and smut webtoons created with women in mind.
“Porn very much gives you a look into the culture of a country,” says Poniewaz. “Japan is conservative on the surface but their relationship with sex is oddly open if you know where to look. This is a country that has gacha machines featuring women’s used panties after all. And in specific areas of Tokyo, you can also find advertisements for soaplands out in the open. Sex is a real focus point here.”
Content creation, whether on YouTube, TikTok or Twitch continues to be a growing area, leading to saturation. Poniewaz’s advice on this? Find your space, own it and grow a thick skin.
“Everyone is making content these days so it has never been more important to find your niche and stick to it. Try not to be bothered by criticism online and get used to the fact that more and more of yourself will become public. I remind myself that there were many before me and there will be many after me. That helps gives me perspective on my work.”
Poniewaz’s trajectory online has been anything but linear. Her regular viewers are waiting patiently with bated breath to see what the next evolution of Sydsnap will be.
“I’ll slowly be moving away from hentai and eroge content on YouTube,” she says. “Expect more videos on girls’ bars, love hotels and other similar venues around Japan. I’m working on quite a few unique things that you wouldn’t be able to imagine and I’m excited to share them soon.”