On Feb. 5, Japanese VTuber talent agency Nijisanji announced that it would terminate one of its talents: Selen Tatsuki. However, unlike a standard “graduation,” the industry-embraced term for the mutually agreed-upon ending of a contract between a VTuber agency and a VTuber, Nijisanji made the executive decision to outright cut ties with Selen over claims that included breaches of contract and allegations of misleading statements on social media platforms. Without warning, Selen was removed from Nijisanji, her X account was immediately locked, and all YouTube videos disappeared from her channel. The move from Nijisanji arrives on the heels of Selen’s Dec. 28, 2023, announcement that she had been hospitalized, grinding her social presence to a halt. Only now has Selen spoken up about the situation on social media.
“For more than a month, [Selen Tatsuki] couldn’t say or do anything,” Doki, who is not affiliated with Selen Tatsuki, said in a statement. “[Selen Tatsuki] was at a very dark point in [her] life. [Selen Tatsuki] didn’t know what was going to happen in the end. [Selen Tatsuki wants] to leave on mutual grounds. [Selen Tatsuki] knew it would be bad for everyone involved if it went this last, possible route.”
While often viewed as a niche form of entertainment, VTubing has exploded on an international scale. Agencies such as Hololive and Nijisanji have dominated the market, creating unique, colorful characters to appease an audience drawn to these designs and the personalities behind them. Nijisanji has been so successful in its endeavors that Riku Tazumi, founder of parent company ANYCOLOR, is one of the youngest billionaires in Japan. Profit from VTubing is largely made through fans who provide donations, subscribe to their favorite VTubers, and purchase merchandise. Unlike with Japanese idol culture, VTuber fans have a direct link to their favorite virtual stars through social media and live chats during streams.
But while agencies have been a more secure way for VTubers to find a stable income, Nijisanji has come under fire several times over abrupt graduations, terminations, and suggestions that the company has stymied its talent’s attempts at potential growth opportunities. And with Selen’s termination, there has now been a public outcry among fans and other VTubers within the English-speaking sphere, criticizing Nijisanji for its talents on a scale that hasn’t been seen before.
Selen is not the first VTuber to be abruptly removed from the Nijisanji roster over murky accusations. In March 2023, the talent agency removed Zaion LanZa over, as stated on an official Nijisanji account, copyright infringement, “offensive remarks,” and “giving ‘likes’ to comments falling under defamation of NIJISANJI Livers [VTuber nomenclature for the real person behind the virtual streamer].” In the months following, VTuber Sayu Sincro released a document refuting several of the claims made against Zaion LanZa. Additionally, it provided more information as to what was expected of Zaion during her time as a talent under Nijisanji and ANYCOLOR.
While the cited offenses that prompted the termination of Zaion and Selen aren’t one to one, the two incidents speak to how Nijisanji treats its talent and how the company’s choices bend the VTuber landscape. This has included streamers paying out of pocket for assets and materials that are used for streaming purposes. As flagged on her now-private X account and documented in a YouTube video, Selen hosted an outfit design contest in May 2023 in which she promised to pay the winner and top five contestants out of her own pocket. Initially, Nijisanji protested against the idea of having the contest at all, though when the idea was given the OK, the company’s stipulation was that the prize money would come out of her personal funds. (The stream detailing the conditions of the contest and constant adjustments made from Nijisanj is no longer available due to her content being delisted from YouTube.) One of the reasons Nijisanji says it chose to terminate its contract with Selen was due to “delays in payment” from Selen’s commission payment to creators. But claims that Selen did not comply have been refuted by several artists she has worked with, who verify that the VTuber would pay out of pocket for any stream-related expense.
The announcement of Selen’s termination was abrupt, but having spoken with a talent from within Nijisanji in 2023, instances like this are not entirely unexpected — at least in terms of “graduation.” In January 2024, just before graduating from Nijisanji, VTuber Pomu Rainpuff stated on a now delisted stream that she had given up life-changing opportunities under her time working with the agency, but was in the precarious situation of not being able to explain why.
“For talents themselves, it can be extremely sudden,” an anonymous talent told Polygon while reporting on our earlier look at state of the VTuber industry. “And sometimes you can’t even share information that would correct any kind of misunderstanding or prevent harassment. It turns into a benefit of the doubt kind of situation, where the only thing that can speak for you is your already existing content. Even then, given that there isn’t any real explanation, it creates a divide between the consumer and the agency.”
The uproar around Selen’s departure seems to have had an impact on Nijisanji. As of Feb. 8, ANYCOLOR’s stock continues to plummet, with comments on the Yahoo Finance page largely talking about the company’s inability to retain its talent, such as Pomu Rainpuff and Mysta Rias, and mishandling of Tatsuki’s termination. Following the statement released by Selen, several members of Nijisanji, such as Enna Alouette, Fulgar Ovid, Finana Ryugu, Kyo Kaneko, Uki Violeta, and Meloco Kyoran, announced that they would be taking temporary breaks and stepping back from social media.
Nijisanji followed up with a second statement concerning the termination of Selen, sharing that it believes that the decision will negligibly affect its finances. This is the first time the agency has gone to such lengths to defend the termination of one of its talents. (Polygon reached out to ANYCOLOR for comment on the situation, but our request for an interview was declined.) On Tuesday, custom PC case and accessory maker HYTE announced that it had terminated its current projects with Nijisanji, stating that it has chosen to “stand alongside many VTuber fans that have ceased support for the organization.”
[NOTICE]— HYTE (@hytebrand) February 7, 2024
In light of recent developments regarding AnyColor [aka NIJISANJI], HYTE has made the decision to terminate our current projects with the VTuber Group. pic.twitter.com/mUUEkq8VzF
After termination, details emerged about what transpired between Selen and her former agency. It was revealed that she was hospitalized due to poor management and a toxic work environment and had intended to part with Nijisanji amicably on Jan. 26. That didn’t happen.
“[Selen Tatsuki] didn’t even know it was going to be announced,” Doki said in a comment. “[Selen Tatsuki] didn’t know the contents of the announcements before it was dropped. [Selen Tatsuki] didn’t know the date or the time, and [Selen Tatsuki] was just lucky enough to be awake when it happened. [Selen Tatsuki] wasn’t aware this was the route that was going to be taken. [Selen Tatsuki] never wanted to drop the statement if the announcement didn’t go up the way it did and [Selen Tatsuki] was willing to keep that information hidden, as [Selen Tatsuki] didn’t want the public to know the reason [Selen Tatsuki] was in the hospital.”
Doki has chosen to only share a select amount of information about the working conditions for Selen Tatsuki’s own safety. “[Selen Tatsuki] know a lot of people want more details, but [Selen Tatsuki] can’t say more. [Selen Tatsuki] wrote that statement with my lawyer in a way that would keep me safe and moving forward so I could restart my life.
“Honestly the reception to that has been incredibly overwhelming and [Selen Tatsuki] really appreciate everyone for supporting me throughout all of this. It means a lot to see so many friends voicing their support for me and voicing their testimonies.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly considered Selen Tatsuki and Dokibird to be the same VTuber. The article has been updated to differentiate the two.