Zentreya was once VShojo’s lovable dragon. However, the veteran VTuber is restarting her journey in an alternate timeline as a time-traveling android tasked with saving the world from her adoptive owners. She’s not leaving behind her history though, instead building on her legacy as a pioneer in the space.
For regular streamers, rocking up every stream in a new outfit is normal. It’s no different to how we go about our daily lives. Some splash on the makeup to pretty up for the camera, others you could have sworn just rolled out of bed in their pajamas.
Distilling it down to its basic elements, it’s as simple as opening your wardrobe, picking out some new clothes, and turning on your camera. It’s a small part of a person’s stream — typically relegated to a box in the bottom corner of the screen as gameplay or other entertainment takes place in the foreground.
For VTubers though, something seemingly as simple as “changing clothes” is a full-blown ritual. It’s not as easy as slipping on a new dress — getting that change of clothes as a virtual avatar is both time-intensive and expensive.
Zentreya knows exactly what goes into one. She had upgraded from a mute gecko to a lovable dragon across her time in the virtual entertainer space, which extends well before the 2020 boom. However, she was abandoning that piece of her entirely in 2022 to get a fresh start.
She traded in the scales for a cyberpunk vibe, rocketing from prehistoric times straight into the future. When I spoke to Zentreya before debut day, she wasn’t even sure how to describe it and was going to piece it together on the fly.
The new era of the veteran VTuber’s career started with a new lore video diving into her rebirth into a mechanical world where humanity had lost the war to artificial intelligence (a force led by the dark side of fellow VShojo star Projekt Melody ominously named Melware).
Zentreya is now an android working alongside humanity to try and take back the world. You don’t see someone like xQc change tune that drastically when they jump on stream day after day. However, it demonstrated the level of depth behind these VTuber’s designs.
“When I first got invested into the VTuber scene, I became a dragon,” she explained. “I didn’t exactly have to plan much at first cause I didn’t even know what to do and how much I would need to put into this.
“[Back then] the Vtuber scene was growing, everyone was trying out new stuff but also being careful as to how much to invest into this. Now you jump to 2022, and the amount of stuff put into these VTubers is nuts!”
It was more than just a new lore video. There was a new stream overlay, emotes, even a new theme song, and of course the new model (plus voice — it’s got a bit more android twang). The entire process started almost 12 months ago, by which time any regular streamer would have gone through hundreds of wardrobe changes.
The level of investment adds a layer of complexity and pressure to the whole project. There’s a lot of moving parts, and everything needs to be locked in, in order to make sure things flow on time. There’s no potential for an easy last-minute model change if your lore video and overlays are already planned up.
However, it makes the reward even sweeter when it comes together perfectly. Zentreya’s redebut on May 20, also the VTuber’s birthday, was her biggest stream ever peaking at over 25,000 viewers.
“I wasn’t expecting it to get as much attention as it did. I was expecting maybe a little bit of noise, but it just lit up more than I ever thought. I thought to myself ‘okay. This might be a little bit more than I thought,’” she admitted.
“It’s different from when I debuted as a dragon. I guess because this was something that genuinely piqued curiosity, like, what is going to top the dragon look? Well, an iconic cyborg-mech look!
“Everyone was freaking out, from the smallest details on the sword to the eyes. It was so awesome to really see just everyone from the VTuber community and elsewhere come together to see this.”
However, just because she’s got a revamped look and a whole new story in this alternate timeline doesn’t mean Zentreya is changing much about herself. It’s still the same star behind the avatar trying to push innovation in the VTubing space.
Very few have wandered the path as long as her, and that history is being honored even if the gecko origins are being left behind.
— Zentreya ⚡️ VSHOJO (@zentreya) April 12, 2021
From VRChat to VTubing
The distinction between Zentreya’s past as a VRChat streamer versus a VTuber is a bit blurred. However, looking at it generously, the star broke out as the mute gecko back in 2017 with plenty of shenanigans in the virtual world.
She was there before virtual avatars posed as online entertainers became a phenomenon. Her gecko from days gone is remembered fondly by fans, even if the times and the content has changed drastically since then.
Zentreya jumped out of the virtual world — kind of — but brought her iconic model with her to streaming as a VTuber. As her videos evolved, so did the gecko, growing into a massive dragon emblematic of her journey through content creation.
“I sort of started before the pre-Vtuber boom back in 2017 with VRChat, and anime avatars were a big thing in that social game,” she explained. “It allowed for a lot of creative expressions.
“Back then you had Kizuna AI and these other solo VTubers who were really gaining traction. Then jump forward to 2018 and 2019 it really began just exploding on the scene! I had many inspirations from both sides of the industry who really pushed me forward into this scene.”
The dragon-turned-android cited Kiryu Coco from Hololive and Kizuna AI as two of her biggest influences when she started out in VRChat. When taking the plunge into VTubing though, she had to change things up.
People loved her mute personality from VRChat, but it wasn’t the most conducive to streaming.
“It was in 2019 when I really entered the VTuber scene. Funnily enough, I didn’t have a 2D avatar, I relied on body language solely for quite awhile while using a 3D model,” she said. “I was able to start doing my own thing with variety streams and games which was what I had been wanting to do for so long like Kizuna would do.”
This gave birth to the iconic speech bubble. Zentreya has never shared her voice publicly with fans (neither to me — we spoke over text). For newer fans of the VTuber, this has been her iconic Microsoft Zira-style voice pushed through a speech-to-text-to-speech program. However, before that there was speech-to-text, and even just plain-text with a lot of body language.
It’s been a part of her brand since the beginning. While it may seem unnatural for a streamer to not talk to their audience, it allowed Zentreya the comfort of opening up to content creation in the first place.
“The whole body language thing really came into play during the whole speech bubble thing, which nowadays people actually picked that off from me and incorporated it into their own way which is so cool,” she said.
“When I made the swap over to speech-to-text-to-speech, it was weird at first. I had always been practicing prior to the switch, and many people were very happy to finally hear something on the stream aside from gameplay. I will always be grateful for the people who stuck around do watch me being stupid on a freaking Notepad.
“It’s now become very iconic and a staple, and others have said how they see it as opening a path that now anyone can become a VTuber!”
While hearing Zentreya might throw you off at first, it becomes natural to just hear that slightly-robotic but still human voice and associate it with the VTuber. The process has also come with hidden, added benefits many don’t think of in the first instance.
“I have had people who live in other countries say that the closed captions and being able to read and understand how the words go with my actions help them better understand English,” she added.
“Hearing-impaired people, who are a few of my viewers, have stated it’s awesome being able to see it all and know what’s going on! I don’t know what exactly I’m doing, but I must be doing something right!”
It also sets itself up for some pretty unique gags: “My favorite is getting into a call and pretending I’m a voicemail or pretending they accidentally opened up their speech thing on their computer,” she laughed.
Those were also the days where there were very few avatar riggers or artists to make a virtual avatar for you. All of Zentreya’s early models were individual labors of love and something cherished by the streamer all these years after.
Since becoming a VTuber Zentreya has left the dirty work to JJINOMU — who she “dearly respects because they make works of art.” Those early days in VRChat were truly the wild west but ultimately was the seed for how she creatively approached content creation in a way that was comfortable to her.
“[Making my own models] really influenced my creative side with avatars and what the viewers like to see.”
Three years on since those early VRChat days though, she can’t help but smile at how far the virtual entertaining space has progressed. From just people vibing out in VRChat to fully-fledged productions, VTubing has truly tapped into the cultural zeitgeist and formed its own wildly successful ecosystem.
As much as Zentreya shies away from the ‘boomer’ memes, her impact on the industry cannot be understated.
“I got inspired by Zentreya [to start VTubing],” VShojo’s Veibae told Dexerto. “It was the first stream that I saw on Twitch two years ago, and VTubing was so small. I had never heard of it before.
“I was browsing Just Chatting and I saw an anime girl and I’m like ‘what’s going on?’ It was mind-blowing: the technology and being an anime character was so cool. I watched for a bit, and I loved her — she’s my longest sub — and… I gave it a try. I followed the footsteps of Zen.”
Breaking down barriers in the VTuber space
Zentreya knows better than most the barriers that VTubing can break down. It’s given her a medium to truly express herself.
Even though it was behind the body of a gecko, opening up online was a daunting process. However, when VShojo came around in 2020 with Melody welcoming her into the group with open arms — and some help from ‘Nagzz21’ as a streaming mentor — Zentreya was able to really find her true self.
“They both gave me an opportunity to show things to their communities as well as the VTuber community, and it was because of Melody, I was able to get into VShojo,” she added.
“It’s so weird waking up each day and reminding myself I am a part of something crazy. Gunrun, Ruppy, and Poshie, who I work with closely who help this whole wheel spin, have helped me tremendously with really growing into this expanding scene.”
However, even within the VTuber community, there’s still some barriers that exist. The end goal for many creators is to end up with a big agency like Hololive, NIJISANJI, or VShojo. With that name value backing, they can shoot up in stardom — that’s the thought.
But the rise and success of independent VTubers has proven otherwise, and those starting out should realize that it’s okay to find your own brand and what works for you because ultimately that’s what makes content creation enjoyable.
“I know plenty of indie VTuber who are absolutely killing it right now! There’s Haruka Karibu — my best friend — Snuffy, ShyLily, Buffpup, GirlDM… I can literally go on, they know who they are!”
That relationship between the now-former dragon and the caribou is she cherishes fondly among all the star collabs she’s done over the years: “I have so many fond memories… but I think the ones that I always go back to, where I laugh non-stop all the time, are with Haruka Karibou and Froot [also of VShojo].
“We usually always are doing something really really dumb together. Whether that’s screaming bloody murder on Apex Legends, accusing each other in Among Us, or just goofing off in a random game, these two have been my go-to serotonin for laughs and fun. I love them, and our group dynamic is loved by many in this community. I am thankful for getting to meet them.”
What VTubing looks like in Zentreya’s time-traveling future
Zentreya has seen the future of VTubing already — she’s a time-traveler, after all. While she’s not going to give away all of the secrets of the eventual takeover of these artificial intelligence lifeforms disguised as anime girls, the signs are already evident.
“The ceiling is raised each and every month as VTubers, both indie and corporate, bring new stuff to the table constantly,” she cited. “There’s people like Buffpup who can swap in and out of their human form to a freaking wolf! Veibae just recently debuted her new model that had so many triggers and expressions and I was absolutely stunned by all this.
“There’s lore, there’s background art that looks like it came out of a TV show! Some VTubers who use their vocals to go to new heights such as Ironmouse, Mori Calliope, Pomu from NIJISANJI. The scene is so insane nowadays, there’s something exciting every time you look.”
It’s already cracked into the mainstream overseas, especially in Japan with Hololive. However, the west isn’t trailing too far behind.
VTubers aren’t here to replace mainstream entertainers, but as the technology progresses to give those like Zentreya a chance to express themselves in a more liberating medium, the way we see entertainment and our own identities will also evolve.
And even beyond that, for those starting out in VTubing, it can seem daunting with all the high-class models. However, the seemingly high barrier of entry is just a myth. The industry is still young, but if you put in the work, you can make it anywhere. Just ask Zentreya — that what she did in the early days.
“People seem to think you need to spend thousands of dollars to become a VTuber or to really get up there, but you don’t. There are many free programs that give you the opportunity to really show your creative side and shine with it.
“You’ll be seeing them everywhere [as a result] — not right now but down the line, maybe next year a few years later. VTubers will be a bigger part of our lives in some shape or form. It’s still growing, and I haven’t seen it stop.
“With growing technology, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go the way of virtual holograms. That’d be so cool, to be honest, having a little Ironmouse to sing to you or a little gecko version of me to watch you while you sleep. There’s endless possibilities!”