How moth spirit VTuber Yuzu broke out of her cocoon ⁠— for good

Sanagi Yuzu smiling with new VTuber modelTwitch: Yuzu

Sanagi Yuzu is ready for the future. The moth VTuber has unveiled her new beginning with her 2.0 redebut. But to do so, she had to open up to the world, come to terms with her past, and move on with her head held high and lofty ambitions.

It’s a little sadistic how Sanagi Yuzu describes her VTuber lore. She couldn’t help but stifle an awkward laugh about how she relishes in “a character [who] has a really tragic story” in any media.

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“I made it so that Yuzu was a moth spirit and she was farmed for her silk ⁠— she was kept locked away in a dungeon for a very long time ⁠— and the way that it happened is she made a little friend called Koga, who is also a moth spirit, and he would bring her a Yuzu fruit every single night of her captivity, and that’s what kept her going. 

“I am super into FromSoft games, and their games are usually so tragic with their stories, so I wanted to do something similar.”

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In some respects, that story couldn’t be further from Yuzu’s truth. On stream, she’s a calming yet commanding force, bubbly without being too boisterous. She’s as guerilla as they come ⁠— not ‘held captive’ to schedules, just vibes.

But on a deeper level, it’s a very apt story for her personal growth and journey through life. Yuzu knows hardship. Mentally and physically, she’s had an uphill battle to make it to where she is. 

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And now with her February 25 redebut, the moth spirit VTuber is being more open in sharing that story with her audience ⁠— and the wider streaming world.

Coming out of her cocoon

Yuzu didn’t start her content creation journey as a VTuber. She first went viral on TikTok, getting thousands of likes and millions of views on random clips from her streams ⁠— as well as partaking in all of the trends.

Her face was widely out there, and that was both a blessing and a curse. For the almighty algorithm, it meant her content was spread far and wide. But it sprouted this uneasy feeling around how the clips became about eye candy rather than substance.

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“I realized I didn’t like the way I was always putting my looks out there, and the way everyone kept commenting on it. It made me more self-conscious than anything; having to always look a certain way. I did content creation for fun, and it wasn’t fun anymore.

“From what I’ve learned from it, if you’re pretty or attractive, you end up having more interactions [on TikTok] ⁠— that’s how I got pressured into making more content that was catered to people who liked… looking at women.”

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That could be defined as the moment Yuzu spun up a cocoon for herself, trying to figure out what direction she could go next. 

She fell down the VTuber rabbit hole, like many others, flicking through clips of fellow stars like Usada Pekora and Ironmouse. She scrounged together a plan to put together her own model, and started on her new journey in 2021.

Yuzu took to it immediately.

“VTubing has allowed me to be more myself, I guess in a way, because I’m not worried about what I look like when I’m streaming or making content,” she said. “I just have an avatar who is always pretty.”

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There were some bumps in the road. Yuzu used to play League of Legends on stream frequently (she couldn’t help but drop some of the lingo during the interview like “sadge”), and she quickly realized it wasn’t the best for gaining traction, especially as a VTuber.

There was also the phase a lot of VTubers went through, especially during the medium’s spike of popularity in 2020, of trying to sound cutesy and lean into the anime trope hard. 

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With a newfound sense of anonymity and protection, Yuzu felt like she could drop the act ⁠— just sound like herself, but be visually anonymous ⁠— and get the best of both worlds. And that’s what has kept her allured to VTubing for so long.

“I have a really low voice, and every time I’d look back at my VODs or see clips of me I’d just [be] really disgusted by the way I sounded,” she reflected on her early days. “I was like ‘I’m not going to act like this anymore, that’s kind of cringe,’ so I started becoming more vulgar and I’m usually like that. I just be saying some sussy sh*t for the funnies. 

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“I just like the fact [VTubing is] super anonymous. I feel protected and comforted, and I can play whatever game I want. I can be as vulgar as I want and not stream without any clothes pretty much. It’s so comfortable!”

However, there is still danger on the other side too. When Yuzu was an IRL creator, content creation became about her looks. Now as a VTuber, there’s a loss of humanity involved.

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This isn’t a new trend or concern for VTubers, especially women. In the indie space across 2022, creators got more comfortable sharing some photos of themselves in real life. There were meetups at conventions and big get-togethers.

“There’s some bad apples that are even crazier than IRL streamers’ fans because the idea of an anime girl makes it seem more… wantable I guess. It’s a lot more dangerous for a VTuber because when you’re an anime girl online, some people forget there’s a human behind it and they only think of you as an anime girl, and then it dehumanizes you in a way. 

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“That’s why I’ve started to push out a little bit of IRL content to remind people that I’m still human and not just an anime girl.”

The fears of taking a break

Yuzu was on the up and up in 2022, but she was on a timer. In the background, health complications were catching up with her. The mental and physical toll of streaming was only exacerbating it, and there was a hiatus inbound.

There was only so long she could delay the inevitable though, and that led to her taking an indefinite break starting mid-October. It was her biggest fear.

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“I was genuinely scared,” she admitted. “I felt like I built up so much for myself, and I love the community I created, and I was really nervous about leaving for such a long time and having to build that up again. 

“I felt really sad about it because streaming in general just makes me really happy, and it’s a coping mechanism for me ⁠— to stream and forget about the other problems that I have.”

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Throughout the nine weeks she was actually gone, Yuzu never really came to terms with it. Streaming was her bedrock in many ways. It was where the majority of her friendships and relationships were formed, but it was also her income. The perilous nature of content creation, and its trends-based ebbs and flows, are always on the back of the mind.

But there wasn’t truly a cause of concern. Every day, Yuzu would see her ‘lampchamps’ hanging out in Discord, cheering on their VTuber and wishing her good health. Her biggest fear ⁠— being forgotten ⁠— was just a far-flung figment.

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“Before I came back, I’d always look in the Discord and I’d see my community hanging in the VC being like ‘we love Yuzu’ and they’d change their name to Koga and they’d have a different version of the Koga, altering the image to make it more personalized for themselves.

“That’s what kept me going. It was like ‘oh they still love me, they still care for me.’ I finally came back, and it was just like a really big warm welcome. They made a video for me and that just proved how strong my community was. I cried. They always make me cry all the time.”

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Yuzu’s struggle with mental health

There are some scars there though. Yuzu admitted she was restless and “even though I was supposed to be resting, I still streamed.” Mentally, even with all the community support, it was isolating. Who can these internet micro-celebrities turn to when they are down and out?

“When I came back, I told [my community] I was in depression again and suicidal,” she continued. “It was really bad. It’s less now, and I’m still looking for a therapist and psychiatrist to help me through it. But it was really bad when I was first coming back.

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“Not being able to talk about content creation with other people around you really sucks because you won’t get the same empathy you’d get if you were a Starbucks barista or something. 

“You don’t find a lot of content creators around you normally in your everyday life, so you don’t get to talk about it outside the online world. The pressure of making content and imposter syndrome are really big things ⁠— just feeling like you’re not good enough and it getting to you.”

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However, there has been a new openness in streaming spaces, especially since the pandemic, about speaking out about mental health. While streaming is an “escape” from reality for some, that’s not a reason to bottle everything up.

“Just in general, with more young people being more susceptible to depression and anxiety, it shouldn’t be something you don’t talk about. I just think people should be more comfortable talking about it, but also there’s a time and place and you don’t want that to be bringing the mood down. 

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“Some people come into your stream for an escape or to have fun. If you start your stream and you start talking about depression and suicide, it might trigger some people. Some people might actually be dealing with that stuff as well, so you have to be careful when you talk about it as a content creator, but it shouldn’t be something you don’t talk about. People should be more aware of it. Content creators are really susceptible to mental illness too.”

Sanagi Yuzu next to fanmade koga vtuber mascotsSupplied: Yuzu
Yuzu’s fans stuck by her through her hiatus, keeping the VTuber motivated to return.

There are two very important people in her community that did help Yuzu push through above the rest though, and also shaped her into the VTuber she is today though: Bao and Akuma Nihmune (more commonly known as Numi).

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The trio are mischievous, to say the least. Their antics are the butt of many jokes in the indie VTuber scene. But their bond is also the most inseparable.

It’s a funny thing in retrospect for Yuzu. Being friends with Bao and Numi ⁠— two of her biggest inspirations when starting ⁠— is like a constant fever dream where she pinches herself to ground herself.

Bao was this seemingly untouchable force, who just randomly dragged her into a voice call one day: “One day I entered her chat while she’s having a celebration stream ⁠— it was about 3AM. I entered chat and she immediately notices me, calls me out, drags me into VC, and asks to play Valorant. I have never played Valorant before. We started playing it for a couple of hours and I was like ‘oh my God my oshi is playing with me’ and we eventually became friends.”

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Numi appeared closer to Yuzu’s level, but there was a semblance of social anxiety there.

“We’d raid each other all the time, but every time she’d reach out to me on Discord I’d ‘donowall’ her because I was scared to talk to her. At the time there was so much VTuber discourse. I didn’t know who was a good or bad apple! I didn’t want to talk to anyone that would cause any trouble. She seemed nice but I was also scared and I didn’t want to run into anything.”

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But combined, they are both creative inspirations and a shoulder to lean on.

“They were super big on pulling me out of being so depressed and stuff,” Yuzu reflected. “When I was on hiatus, they’d call me almost every second day to cry on call, and they were comforting me every single time. That was the whole reason they came to see me… we had that whole vacation together. It was so much fun.”

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Now through that tough period, Yuzu is spreading her wings again. Her redebut as a reinvigorated moth spirit, with a new model and slightly adjusted lore, is the start of a new chapter.

In Yuzu’s new lore, she’s no longer just a moth farmed for her silk ⁠— her good looks. She’s an independent spirit, protecting her lands and standing up for her friends, even if detrimental to the landscape around her. She’s loud and unashamed, but wants to rebuild a home for everyone.

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Its evolution is emblematic of her journey through VTubing to this point. And as she moves forward into the future, those are the values she will uphold.

“I just want to be playing the games I want to play, continue to do that, and continue to make more memories with all of my VTubing friends,” she said.

“I just want to have a cozy community because if I said something like ‘focusing on the numbers’ or ‘getting bigger numbers’, that’s not a healthy mindset to be thinking about. It would probably ruin me if I started caring about that.”

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If you have been affected by issues raised in this article, information and support is available from the Suicide Prevention Helpline 1-800-273-8255 (USA) or the Samaritans 116-123 (UK).

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