Cheering for the final encore song Kirameki Rider☆, I felt both a part of the larger VTuber fanbase but also strangely isolated, like I was alone on my own island amidst the sea of hololive fans.
🎊 hololive English 1st Concert -Connect the World- 🎊
Thank you for joining us, and we hope to see you again somewhere soon!
If you missed today's concert, catch us below until August 2nd!
— hololive production (English) (@hololive_En) July 3, 2023
On one hand, the show was everything we fans of the EN branch could have wanted. The setlist showed a careful consideration of selections from their entire discography, with certain girls such as Ceres Fauna and Ninomae Ina’nis choosing to cover other hololive songs and forgoing their own originals, the latter of which would have felt incredibly out of place during their solo segments. My arms already felt like they had gone through the wringer after the first to step up was none other than Hakos Baelz whose latest solo song, PSYCHO, has been on continuous repeat for me since its release earlier this year. While the songs performed were largely predictable, my personal favorite moment was the performances of the two entirely new songs. The fact that the concert itself opened with the legendary Shiny Smily Story should have been enough to impress upon me the performers’ intention on delivering the best version of hololive SUPER EXPO they had the means to deliver.
It was also that song, though, that set the mood for the strange undercurrent of dissociation that hung like a cloud throughout the 90 minute live. While my friends and I were chantng the calls for SSS, I could barely hear anyone else echo the same throughout the venue. It was stunning to realize that the most iconic song in the hololive discography would be completely foreign to the vast majority of the attendees. Even more surprising was the fact that despite several of my friends absolutely screaming the calls to every song at the top of their lungs, not a soul around us thought to join in. Perhaps this is something that would get better over time, but for now it created this sense of cultural disconnect between various groups of fans.
Although the setlist was replete with great selections, it felt a bit disjointed. The guests – which for me were a huge draw, given that we were talking about the likes of Hoshimachi Suisei and Ayunda Risu joining in – felt more of an afterthought than a true part of the concert. Each set of guests (announced in waves of three) simply came on as a unit, performed one song each, and abruptly left. The lack of cross-generation interaction within the performances was not exclusive to simply EN with the rest of hololive. During the MCs, I almost thought I was watching a series of detached performances that had nothing holding them together. Outside of the first and last songs, none of the girls displayed the natural chemistry that was usually present in their friendship in a way that felt genuine, with several parts coming off extremely scripted in ways that were immediately apparent. In fact, it felt like each performer practiced separately and did not have enough time to conjoin their parts into a whole. Part of it I could contribute to their nervousness and inexperience. While the backgrounds were visually stunning, I wish there had been more done with the fact that this was a virtual live. There was also the lack of a set time during which cameras were allowed, which was also surprising given the trend of idol and artist performances regularly allowing pictures during specific songs.
Fundamentally, the concert delivered exactly what fans expected, which ironically meant it felt underwhelming given that the entirety of the performance was predictable. As a longtime fan, it felt unnerving to be in a room full of thousands of fellow fans and yet feel so deeply divided, which might be more of a reflection on their Western fanbase that was cultivated separately from the Japanese side, and unused to idol concerts. Hopefully, hololive English’s -Connect the World- is more indicative of their inexperience in holding a first performance in the West rather than a trend we can expect from the group in the future. As a fan, I would like to see hololive EN put on a show that is inclusive to all of their audience, while finding a style that is unique and true to themselves.
Title courtesy of infamous fellow vtuber fans and friends, MTX and Kebby among unnamed others.