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VTuber Tokoyami Towa Breaks Down ‘Aster’ Debut Album & How Inter-Agency Collabs Happened: Interview

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Tokoyami Towa debuted in 2020 as one of hololive’s fourth-generation group of virtual YouTubers, and currently boasts more than 1.3 million subscribers on her channel. The VTuber whose main draw is gaming livestreams also releases videos of herself singing covers and original music, showing off her signature strong, husky voice and wide vocal range.

Tokoyami — her name is stylized in Japanese order, surname first — recently dropped her first album called Aster, a highly anticipated project that showcases her potential as a vocalist through tracks written by a team of distinctive creators. The Startend VTuber shared her thoughts on her 12-track debut set and its production process, including how the rare collaborations with other VTubers and streamers were made possible.

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What motivated you to become a VTuber?

The reason I joined hololive was because I wanted to make friends. I enjoyed watching and playing first-person shooters from around that time and although hololive is a group of “idols,” I thought it’d be interesting to be an idol and a gamer at the same time. The nice thing about gaming livestreams is how you can watch the players improve. They exchange ideas and work hard with each other to compete. I want to convey through my activities that working hard isn’t something to be embarrassed about and that the accumulation of your efforts up to that point is more important than winning or losing.

In a sense, your debut album Aster embodies the accumulation of your career up to this point. Tell us about its concept.

I wanted it to express who Tokoyami Towa is. This album also has a hidden theme that I encourage everyone to speculate about. It took me a long time to decide on it. I looked back on things like what I was feeling at the time and the work I’ve done over the years.

The lead single “ANEMONE” was written by music producer Yuyoyuppe (Mamiya Takehiro). Why did you choose this song as the face of the album?

It was really hard to decide. I thought it’d be okay to not have a lead single at all since there are so many different genres of songs on the album. But I felt that “ANEMONE” was the one that showed Tokoyami Towa’s strengths that separate her from other VTubers, both from hololive and elsewhere, so that’s why I chose it.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by “Tokoyami Towa’s strengths”?

First, I have a good vocal range. I can keep my voice steady when I hit high notes, and that’s also one of my strengths. Blistering heavy metal numbers like “ANEMONE” aren’t common in the VTuber industry, so being able to sing such songs with a strong voice is Tokoyami Towa’s signature style.

What thoughts went into the lyrics?

Over the course of my career, people have said nice things to me, and also not-so-nice things as well. I get hung up on the negative stuff sometimes, but in the end I want to decide what I want to do and live my life as I am. When I told these feelings to Yuyoyuppe, he was like, “That’s really great, let’s incorporate it.” That’s how the phrase “I want to live as I am” came about as we worked on the lyrics.

So your usual livestreaming activities and musical ones like this project closely influence each other?

It’s like of like, “Let’s use music to express the stuff I usually can’t say.” For the song “Taidana Wonder” on the album, I wanted to convey feelings like “what a drag, I don’t wanna do anything, I feel lazy, I’m sleepy” in an endearing way. I didn’t think a solid rock band sound would fit the lyrics, so when I heard Botchiboromaru’s “Otose Thunder” on TikTok, I thought the light, fresh style would be a great fit, so I asked them to write it for me.

“Antares” features nine guest vocalists. The lineup isn’t limited to your colleagues from hololive, but also includes VTubers and streamers from other agencies.

I’m an outlier in hololive in that I have a lot of opportunities to collaborate with people from other organizations. My management has given me its blessing regarding this and I think it’s one of my selling points, so I wanted to do collaborations on this album as well, which is why I approached various people from other companies and also other hololive VTubers. “Antares” was written with the collaboration in mind. I wanted to do a singalong. I thought it’d be nice to sing it together with the audience at a live show.

Do you think these collaborations are connected to what you said about first becoming a VTuber, being motivated by wanting to make friends?

Yes. As a VTuber and streamer, I want to incorporate good influences as much as I can, and before anything, I want to do fun stuff. As I always tell my fans, I don’t want to do what I do out of obligation. I want to communicate how I’m having fun and get people to have fun watching me do that. So the way I see it, the companies my collaborators belong to don’t matter, as long as what we do together is enjoyable.

You collaborate with Nekota Tsuna, who belongs to VSPO! (Virtual eSports Project), on the last song on the album called “Nininsankyaku.” How did this one come about?

Singing and playing first-person shooters are Tokoyami Towa’s two mainstays. I often get to participate in FPS gaming competitions, and when I teamed up with Tsuna, we cried and laughed together and deepened our friendship. We share good memories together and she’s now one of my best friends. That’s why I wanted to sing a song with Tsuna and asked the management about making it happen. I think our fans probably know about our relationship, so I hope we can perform together on stage someday. I’ve been listening to the song at least once a day lately. It moves me every time I hear it while I’m doing something. [Laughs]

Did Tsuna have a say in the song’s creative process?

Before the song went into production, Tsuna and I wrote out these lengthy memos about what we thought about each other. Even cheesy stuff like, “I’m stronger now thanks to you.” [Laughs] We prepared these letters, I guess you could call them, and sent them to the songwriters, who then reflected them in the lyrics for us. I think the song really captures that spirit. There’s this part where we take turns singing, and we had a great time recording it while expressing our feelings to each other.

Your first solo concert called Break your xxx is set for Friday, Oct. 13. What will the show be like?

I’ll be performing with a live band, so it’ll be a wild, fun show. I’m working hard to prepare for it right now because I want to make sure my voice won’t be overshadowed by the band’s sound, and that my feelings will reach everyone, and that both the people who come and those who join the livestream will think, “That was awesome.” 

What’s the meaning behind the title of the show?

There were times I felt anxious and depressed over the course of my career, but thanks to my fans and the management, I’m able to do live shows like this now. The meaning behind “Break your xxx” is that I wanted to overcome my gloomy feelings and gain confidence, overcome myself. I’m sure everyone goes through times of pain and hardship, but I want to invite people to break those things together at my concert. What goes into the “xxx” is up to you. Everyone is building this concert together.

Tell us about your vision for the future beyond your debut album and first live performance.

I’d love to do a second concert, of course, and I’d love to stand on stages outside of Japan. My fans in other countries were also very supportive of me when I was faltering, so I want to go express my gratitude to them.

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