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R18 Piracy Site Catapults Career of Chinese VTuber

By Cecil Gao
Mar. 24, 2023 updated 06:00

Recently, a very popular Vtuber named Whale Sister Cester(鲸鱼娘西丝特official) has emerged on the Chinese video platform BiliBili. This Vtuber achieved an astonishing 1.6 million followers and over 4,000 subscribers in just half a year, which has been called a "miracle speedrun of a Vtuber career" by many of her fans.

However, this miracle is not entirely pure and sacred. Behind Whale Sister Cester, there is a piracy hentai doujinshi website, “18Comic”, that has been operating for 20 years, and Whale Sister Cester is the key step they took to legitimatize the entire company.

BiliBili Streaming congrats Cester on over 4000 membershipsBiliBili Streaming congrats Cester on over 4000 memberships

Last June, 18Comic quietly created an official account on BiliBili, which is in stark contrast to their current high-profile promotion. As mentioned earlier, 18Comic is a platform that hosts unlicensed content, attracting users with various types of pornographic content, including but not limited to doujinshi, animation, and games.

If this were years ago, the 18Comic platform would probably not be a topic that could be discussed openly. However, today, with their entry into the livestreaming industry, many things have changed. After several changes to their username on BiliBili, 18Comic finally chose the safe name of "Whale Sister Cester" to then debut as a Vtuber.

Whale Sister Cester has carried the special identity of 18Comic’s official account since her creation. But an overt association with 18Comic is a potentially dangerous play as it could force the hand of BiliBili to ban her as a potential risk.

However, her livestreams on BiliBili have been very typical of your average VTuber or streamer, despite the backing of 18Comic. In the lead-up to Cester's debut, the 18Comic app's splash screen ad was replaced with a promotional tagline for her "Outer world debut". Such piracy platforms have always had high user stickiness, and with the official support of 18Comic, it was no surprise that Cester quickly became a sensation.

The promotion ads 18Comics post on their app, announcing Cester will come to the “outer world”The promotion ads 18Comic posted on their app, announcing Cester will come to the “outer world”

Just two days after her debut, Cester had already garnered 2,600 members and over 1 million new fans. Fans in her live stream often say things like “payback for letting me enjoy free hentai comics” to justify their donations. Even those who can't afford to spend money have started creating fan art and chanting phrases like "Cemen" to show their gratitude and adoration of Cester and the 18Comic platform behind her.

The fans use Holy Bible as a fan art sourceThe fans use Holy Bible as a fan art source

Cester's success is no accident. It is the result of 18Comic's continuous experimentation and exploration. Ever since its establishment, 18Comic has been publishing original content, such as informative articles on comic-related topics, as well as special sections recommending authors and genres, in an effort to transform the website into a more diverse platform and ultimately achieve full legitimization. On the path to monetizing their users, they have found a unique shortcut for themselves.

The articles published on the websiteThe articles published on the website

Not everyone is pleased with the success of Cester and her parent company, 18Comics. A significant number of Vtuber viewers and anime enthusiasts have expressed concerns about the piracy industry entering Bilibili. Due to the strict regulations on online content in China, it seems that keeping certain things in the shadows may be the safest option, as stepping into the limelight often means destruction and more stringent restrictions on the entire industry.

These concerns reached a climax in February of this year when a famous Japanese artist @punopupupu discovered that 18Comics had illegally reprinted and used his doujinshi without permission and announced on Twitter that he had reported the matter to the police.

The doujinshi got near 10 million views on 18 ComicThe doujinshi got nearly 10 million views on 18Comic

Overnight, Cester's comment section was flooded with opposing voices, but they were quickly drowned out by fans who came to show their support in return for the free access they have enjoyed for years.

“more memberships to show our support plz, 18 Comics were sued in Japan these days.”“more memberships to show our support plz, 18Comic was sued in Japan recently.”

Currently, the artist has not provided any updates on the case, and 18Comics continues to update other works on its website. Piracy isn't going anywhere, and while many sites seek legitimacy and monetization, launching a VTuber as the face of an R18 site is a novel move. If this brings down regulation on 18Comic or just encourages them to even brasher moves, we will have to wait and see.