PorcelainMaid overcame fears with VTubing, thanks to a marionette doll

VTuber PorcelainMaid laying downTwitter: theCecilz / Supplied

PorcelainMaid is a stalwart of the indie VTubing scene. He was doing it before there was even a recognized name or community. Seven years on from his streaming start — six as a VTuber — much has changed, especially as he’s grown as a person.

It can be a bit of an experience tuning into a PorcelainMaid stream for the first time. If you’re unprepared for the voice that comes out of the six-foot “sexy female doll”, it might be a bit shocking.

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Most viewers are relatively chill, getting a laugh out of it before sticking around for the shenanigans. It’s also a decent way to weed out any bad actors who might use that as a point of harassment.

That’s just who Jowol is now though. A long-time streamer and content creator of more than a decade, he can’t really see himself as anything other than, well, “a bisexual’s wet dream ⁠— sexy male voice trapped inside a sexier female body.”

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The origin story doesn’t really stop there. In fact, that’s where the fun begins, as he jovially recounted how this obscure marionette became his callsign.

“It was an OC I made,” he told Dexerto. “I’d take things I was scared of and then draw them really hot, then that way I’m not scared of them anymore and I feel more attracted to them because I thought that’d be a good way to get over things.

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“I took a porcelain doll and turned it into this hot, tall anime woman that had the ball joints and I was like ‘wow, not as scary anymore’, and that’s how the OC became to be. Then I chose the character to be my VTuber way back when because I was playing around with VRoid and I just made my OC in it, and it just became my VTuber.”

That was a split-second decision made six years ago now, and one he couldn’t be happier with. It took a while for him to get used to, but this is just who he is now.

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Through PorcelainMaid, he has become one of the most recognizable characters in the English VTubing scene. It’s not just his looks, but his longevity and veteran status that makes him remarkable. He’s seen as an inspiration for many in the scene, and a name often floated when newly-debuted VTubers highlight who gave them a final push down the rabbit hole.

And while you may think an extensive history online might take its toll, he’s still got pep in his step for plenty of years to come.

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Twitch: PorcelainMaid
PorcelainMaid is one of the first English-speaking VTubers — although he didn’t even know it was a thing for years.

VTubing before it was even a thing

Jowol has an extensive history of creating content long before PorcelainMaid was dancing around on our screens. He started as many people did in the early days of YouTube ⁠— random videos centered on his favorite games like Halo Reach.

“I would do Halo Reach Forge map reviews, do blogs, but as an 11-year-old you’re just dumb and you don’t really know what to say,” he laughed. “It was the worst thing ever. I’ve shown [my Twitch] chat some of my old videos.” 

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But there was something missing in the content he made. He loved chatting to people and just passing the time with wacky stories. That was something lacking in his YouTube space, which up to 2016 only had a few people in the comments at any one time despite him actively trying for six years to that point. There wasn’t a community.

That led PorcelainMaid to Twitch, where he would start streaming to try and find a group of like-minded people and get some back-and-forth flowing.

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“I immediately fell in love with it because there’s a community to be had, people are actively watching your stream from the very beginning until the end, and you get to hang out with people,” he explained. 

“I don’t go outside much. Even if I did have friends in school, they weren’t really people that I wanted to hang out with or spend my time with. Being able to do this and spend time with people who I want to is a joy to me.”

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As he continued to fall in love with the medium, his goals started to narrow down. For Jowol, there was no future beyond his love of art and streaming. There wasn’t anything else motivating enough to go to college and study.

While he had flirted with the idea of using his art skills to become a newspaper cartoonist ⁠— an idea he laughs at now because “when was the last time you saw a newspaper floating around” ⁠— he put all his energy into becoming the best possible content creator.

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That crossover led PorcelainMaid to VTubing, even if he didn’t really know it.

Starting to get involved in the wider communities through streaming, he fell into the rabbit hole in 2017 after learning about VRoid from fellow early adopter ‘rosedoodle’. 

“Back in the day it was just Kizuna AI,” he said. “There wasn’t that much of a space back then. It was mainly artists doing everything with it ⁠— Hololive [and NIJISANJI] weren’t much of a thing.

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“We never really saw ourselves as VTubers. What we were doing was VTubing though. I would call it ‘anime girl-itis’: when I was young I had a disease that turned me into a 6’1” anime girl. Crazy how that worked out.”

His story of transitioning from regular streaming, where he’d occasionally show his face, to VTubing is very common. There was an equal amount of support and confusion. Back then though, there wasn’t a huge community to lean on ⁠— at least, that’s what Jowol thought.

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“Since I didn’t use the word VTuber, there was apparently a community growing without me. There was Hololive, NIJISANJI, the indie scene, VRChat people turning into VTubers, and I just had no idea. I didn’t have an idea of what a VTuber was until early 2019 when Zentreya raided me with around 300 people and I was like ‘woah, what is this, somebody else who does the thing I do?’ 

“It was really cool finding out there were other people around me. I got into the community and found a bunch of other VTubers that were starting out, and it was enjoyable.”

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There was a little tinge of regret surrounding the fact if he hopped on earlier, maybe he’d be bigger or have made it mainstream faster. But there’s a silver lining: “it’s a gradual growth, and I think that’s something a lot of people can look up to.

“A lot of people nowadays think VTubing is something where you blow up or you don’t. You can look at my stats, point to them, and say you can gradually grow into a [successful] VTuber if you keep bashing your head into a wall until it goes through.”

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That point has resonated with the community too. If you were to ask many upcoming VTubers who are only starting to break into the wider consciousness nowadays, two of the names they’d point to as inspirations are the aforementioned Zentreya, and Jowol.

That’s a point of pride for the veteran streamer: “A lot of newer-age VTubers would watch me a lot of the time, but never told me they were watching my stream. I only found out when they told me years later saying ‘I was lurking in your stream before VTubing was a thing and I liked watching your little model move around.’ That’s really cool to me.

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“VTubing is such a wonderful thing. I know a lot of people can look at it with negative connotations, but VTubing is what you make out of it. You’re just using a mascot to represent yourself on stream. 

“Yeah I do some light roleplay ⁠— I’m made out of porcelain, I have my own lore video, and I keep the lore very important to my streams and keep that immersion as much as possible even if it’s light ⁠— but it’s really cool to see I made other people become VTubers and they get to enjoy this experience as well.

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“It’s not only something I do for income, but it’s my only hobby. If I don’t have streaming in the future, I don’t know what I’d be doing. I wouldn’t have anything I enjoy… While I don’t recommend being as reckless as me, I wanted to do this.”

Smashing through gender norms

VTubing does often get boiled down into a gendered game. People look at the overwhelming success of women in the field, and a comment about how it’s all eye candy and no substance isn’t far from that gaze.

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PorcelainMaid knows this plight more than many other VTubers. His male voice does cut through the visuals of his model. As much as it shouldn’t be a point of contention, it does lead to transphobic comments (something he takes great pride in quashing whenever they crop up). 

“If you come into my stream and try to say gross things, it’s easy to take it and turn it against them and use it for my own content,” he laughed.

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“It’s not a traditionally male role for a very masculine person to be inside a feminine body. It says no to gender norms which is what I really like, and I like that I can be comfortable with myself and just be more open with my sexuality ⁠— more expressive. 

“I’ve gotten a lot of DMs from people saying ‘you made me feel comfortable with my voice.’ Maybe it’s someone who is trans…maybe it’s just someone who is plain uncomfortable and they’re using a model that is different from one someone would usually perceive [with their voice].

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“They don’t have to take sh*t from people because they can look to me and say ‘if Jowol can do it, I can too.’”

On top of that, as women started thriving online, male VTubers struggled to take flight until the Luxiem branch of NIJISANJI EN exploded onto the scene. From the early days, Jowol noted it was only a natural reaction to feel a little jealous.

“When I started, I had insecurities about ‘do people not want to watch me because I’m a man,’” he mused. “But I realized no, that wasn’t a thing, and even if it was, why would I care? Those aren’t the people who are going to be watching you in the first place. 

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“I don’t want to use the word ‘male VTuber’ to describe myself. Yeah I’m a man and I use a VTuber model, that’s it. When you start using gendered terms, you start creating a divide between yourself and other people and that seems really lame to do.

“You have to just stream, and find your niche.”

VTubing, as a medium, is a powerful tool for expression. There is really nowhere to be bound by the traditional gender norms of society. You can look how you want, and if you want to go the extra mile with a voice changer, sound that way too. It’s why there’s a massive trans community.

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Fans might have preferences in what they want to watch, and that’s something Jowol acknowledges: “When you want to watch somebody who is male-presenting, with a deeper voice, because that’s your preference, I can understand you putting on a label. 

“But when you’re a VTuber and you’re putting that on yourself… it’s not as appealing to me personally. I don’t want to define myself as a male VTuber. I am Jowol, a sexy man trapped inside of a doll. I want to be open to everyone.”

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It’s an awkward “hill to die on” in Jowol’s words, especially when other streaming spaces are heavily dominated by men. And for all the praise NIJISANJI’s Luxiem and Noctyx, as well as Hololive’s STARS project, get for giving a platform for male VTubers, it still proliferates a divide of the VTubing audience.

“I can understand why companies would make them gendered, but I really enjoy how NIJISANJI has been doing it recently where they will make mixed-gender VTuber groups [in ILUNA and XSOLEIL].

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“They’re only making the divide worse when they separate teams of VTubers by gender. I think we should specify on it less. We shouldn’t look into it too deep. Let VTubers be VTubers, don’t look at the gender, and let them stream.”

Keeping motivated after seven years

For someone who has been streaming for seven years and making videos for even longer, PorcelainMaid is rather chipper. There’s a bit of a stereotype about streamers being jaded after chipping away at the craft for years. He’s far from that though.

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He’s competitive at heart, and seeing the VTubing space continuing to grow around him invigorates his spirit to keep pushing the next frontier.

“You’re always happy with your community and you’re happy with what you have,” he reflected. “You always stay grateful and humble. But at the same time, you’re never satisfied with where you’re at, because there’s always someone above you. That sounds a bit competitive, but it’s in the nicest way.” 

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The joy he has captured through VTubing and his little “roleplay” (not too much, though) hasn’t faded yet. And as long as that spark stays alive, there’s no reason to think about leaving.

“I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now without VTubing. I’d be stuck, at a dead end, and depressed. In college I was not having a good time. Streaming was my only joy, and without that, I can’t imagine where I’d be. 

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“This is the one thing in my life I wake up for, and it keeps me up every day. It gives me something to do.

“I just want to keep growing. I want to feel where I can comfortably be at the same level as my friends without having any inferiority complexes. I just want to stream and keep growing to the best of my ability, and to keep growing my community to spend more time with more lovely people.”

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