The primary time I noticed Chester, I used to be captivated. The web has seen a torrent of several types of “VTubers” during the last yr, and whereas some fashions are fusions of people and creatures, few have damaged by way of as straight-up animals. And right here was a cartoon otter getting his nostril booped dwell by an enthusiastic Twitch chat. Even probably the most hardened cynic would crumble whereas watching Chester exhibit his fangs to his excited viewers.
Chester is the creation of Kris Yim, an animator who advised Polygon over e-mail that they’re engaged on a digital actuality film starring the exact same character. They got here up with the idea again in 2016 as part of a college venture, nevertheless it took years for them to discover a good venue to inform Chester’s story.
When Yim graduated from college, they figured why not use a few of that free time streaming on Twitch? Over the course of two weeks, Yim constructed Chester’s mannequin utilizing Live2D Cubism — the method, they are saying, is much like rigging a personality for TV animation. They have been by no means anticipating folks to latch on so shortly to Chester, which was largely getting used as a check of their animating capabilities. Alongside the precise mannequin, Chester typically additionally has props like a guitar, or outfits, like a maid apron, which make periodic appearances on the stream.
Given this consideration to element, it wasn’t lengthy earlier than fan artwork of Chester began flying round. Yim even had viewers saying that they have been watching Chester’s streams with members of the family. Chester was a success, so Yim caught with it.
Chester isn’t the one non-human digital entertainer on the market, neither is he the primary. However a part of what units Chester aside is that he’s bought that Saturday morning cartoon attraction. I can image Chester on a child’s present, even when the precise content material of Yim’s streams is probably not rated “E for Everybody.” For instance, when Chester’s chat chants “maid Chester,” the otter dutifully obliges and places on the outfit. The chat can even do issues like pet Chester’s head. It’s all in good enjoyable and by no means sexualized, nevertheless it additionally highlights a curious dichotomy for the character. Chester is lovable and has a high-pitched voice, in the way in which Muppets do, however his backstory is a bit more grown-up. In Yim’s upcoming movie, Chester is a frat bro attempting to slot in at school.
“I’m a giant fan of tales about non-human characters attempting to combine into human society,” Yim mentioned. “I believe animation excels at telling these sorts of tales. I’m impressed by Daniel Chong’s collection We Naked Bears and Kristen Lester’s quick movie Purl. In them, the lead characters are accepted as members inside a society with out really being assimilated into it. Chester is an otter as a result of he’s essentially attempting to suit himself the place he doesn’t belong.”
The Chester that really involves life for Twitch, although, is barely divorced from that context. Yim reminds their viewers that the movie is occurring, and Chester’s social media hashtag at all times contains “VR” in it, however what you see on stream isn’t essentially the nervous faculty pupil that will probably be within the eventual film.
“Numerous VTubers will make an effort to remain in character, however I’m undecided if I’m able to performing like that,” Yim mentioned. “Despite the fact that Chester the Otter has a backstory, I’m simply me once I’m on stream.”
As a result of Yim fell into streaming like this considerably by chance, they really feel unsure if they’ll actually name themself a real VTuber — particularly after watching personalities like Pokimane stir controversy by moving into the house. Yim doesn’t establish as a furry; it’s simply simpler for Yim to name Chester their fursona, as a result of the web understands that idea.
“I can’t say whether or not or not individuals are proper to react this fashion,” Yim mentioned, in regard to folks feeling defensive about who does or doesn’t qualify as a Vtuber. However Yim additionally is aware of that bringing Chester to life has introduced their viewers pleasure, and has impressed others to select up streaming as a pastime, too.
“It should be an excellent factor when a comparatively new type of media turns into extra mainstream,” Yim mentioned. “It’s given so many individuals a brand new solution to specific themselves and join with others.”
Chester streams on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays on Twitch.