VTubers, or virtual entertainers, have their limits. The digital model of any given VTuber can only mimic a human being’s movement on camera if there’s a corresponding animation for that action. A smile in real life will likely translate to a smile for the viewer, no problem — grins are usually included in a model’s repertoire of emotions. But if the camera software misjudges a movement, or if it isn’t rigged to copy certain behaviors, then things can get wonky. Sometimes, a VTuber will seemingly implode.
But if you watch any given VTuber for long enough, these brief yet unavoidable moments of chaos almost become a language of their own. And while there’s no human analogue for the ways in which these 3D models glitch out, you could still consider them expressions of sorts.
Here’s the strangest, cutest, and most unintelligible VTuber expressions out there.
VTubers are people too. They have to eat, just like us. The problem is that none of their models are created to fully show the ways lips or jaws move while snacking, resulting in some of the weirdest (and potentially ASMR-inducing) moments on stream. A fairly popular clip has sheep-girl Tsunomaki Watame munching on chips as her mouth opens and closes like the pop cat meme. As she flaps her lips, you can only hear the snap and crunch of chips.
When VTubers eat it’s like you’re being torn in two directions. On one side, you try your best to see them as the fictional character they chose to be, and on the other side you’re imagining the person behind the fictional character, sitting at their desk, tossing Ruffles into their mouth. It’s so uncomfortable and fascinating to watch you can’t look away.
best thing about VTubers is that no one bothers with the tech of "sneeze box, but for face tracking" so whenever someone drinks it's like this every time. pic.twitter.com/lWybTjn2gW— BooDoo (@BooDooPerson) March 18, 2021
Drinking is its own nightmare, often only identifiable when a VTuber tilts their head back and opens their mouth without speaking. It almost comes across like the stream got muted somehow, except for the occasional sounds of liquid being glugged. The viewing experience is more uncomfortable than watching a VTuber eat, because of the initial confusion as you try and figure out what’s going on.
For such a rare occurrence, VTuber sneezing examples are easy to find — some people even like to make compilations of VTuber sneezes on YouTube. Maybe it’s because VTuber sneezes mirror people in a surprisingly accurate way, even if they don’t correspond one to one. They too have a long buildup as they tilt their head back, close their eyes, and let out the achoo. Even across the many, many VTubers out there, sneezes look basically the same for all of them.
Anger for VTubers is complicated. Some 3D models have the ability to show angled eyebrows and a stern look, while others are stuck looking gleeful, because they were designed that way. Take Hololive’s Uruha Rushia for example. She’s known for getting loud when something in a game is being a pain, and yet she doesn’t really have a clear angry expression. Instead, we get what looks like a face for joy while she explodes in a rage. Or you have someone like Amelia Watson who simply looks pleased while she slams her controller onto the floor.
Inugami Korone actually has the option to swap to an angry face, except sometimes that upsets viewers who only want her to be happy. But as anyone who plays games knows, it’s not always a happy time. When a boss or a challenge is being particularly annoying, you might not want to look like a cheery dog girl.
Hololive’s pirate captain Houshou Marine can do the facial gesture seen in the PogChamp emote. Marine got an updated model to increase the fidelity of her facial expressions—something that happens for a lot of VTubers over time — and one of the new features lets her orient her mouth into Twitch’s favorite emote. Of course this came up right after she told her chat that they are her little PogChamp, referencing the meme from late last year. Why Marine would need this ability is unclear, but Hololive gave it to her and we have to live with that.
Unless they have a full-on 3D model with the appropriate motion capture accessories, it’s difficult for VTubers to dance. When it’s only your upper body, you have to make do. A lot of VTubers can be seen swinging their heads back and forth, reminiscent of the video Fukkireta, which is a cover of the song “Ochame Kinou.” They also will manually move their models to the beat of the song, making for a slightly immersion-breaking moment as they zip around the screen.
The head bop is contagious, especially when it’s impromptu like Zentreya and Froot taking a rave break while playing Phasmophobia. Sometimes, music does really make you lose control.
Facial and motion capture technology is only so good. Occasionally it can’t keep up with whatever the VTuber is doing and just defaults to something neutral, even if the action isn’t.
Pikamee is a self-described “family friendly” VTuber, but last year she decided to play Super Mario Sunshine. There’s a particular surfing level that caused her to break her PG-rating promise and scream at her monitor. A cursing Amano Pikamee would be funny on its own, but it’s even better that her model reverts to its default, blank-faced look as she yells in the background.
VTubers also fall out of their chairs frequently and the models can’t handle that either. Sometimes the fall contorts them so much that it’s hard to laugh at it. But other times it’s amusing to see the models try to represent the VTubers doing things like pushups and failing spectacularly.
Several VTubers have also gotten into streaming Ring Fit and it’s consistently hilarious to watch. Depending on who you choose, the models either break and act like they’re talking while they fling their arms around in Nintendo’s exercise game, or they barely move. But while that is going on, you can hear the pants and cries of VTubers having to jog, squat, and squeeze to make it through the game.
Winks are classic. They’re the easiest cute thing a VTuber can do, except they’re clearly not always easy to pull off. Whether it’s the facial capture software or the VTuber themselves, winks can either be flawless or look as if they’re teetering on the edge of a full on blink. That doesn’t stop tons of people from asking for winks and making many, many compilations on YouTube.
Watame gets her own section because the things she does with her model are a list of their own. One of the sheep’s most iconic faces is when she goes wide-eyed, opens her mouth, and sometimes nods her head. It’s not quite the Jack Nicholson gif and it’s not quite a PogChamp face, but it’s just as unsettling. Other VTubers have even tried to replicate it, but they don’t quite nail the bizarre energy that only Watame exudes.