From Breathless to Breathtaking: How Ninomae Ina’nis Surpassed a Musical Challenge More Than 2 Years in the Making

hololive VTuber Ninomae Ina'nis peforming Unravel
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On February 18, hololive VTuber Ninomae Ina’nis went live with one of her most highly anticipated streams to date, her 3D debut. Peaking at a viewership of more than 63,000 enthusiastic fans, the reveal will go down as one of the VTuber’s most iconic streams.

From throwbacks to long-running jokes to a set of stellar vocal performances, Ina’s 3D debut had it all.

The reveal stream was first planned two years ago, according to Ina. Back then, the VTuber didn’t even feel comfortable singing with her family members nearby. Nevertheless, Ina locked in the three songs she would eventually perform live years later.

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“We’ve had plans for our 3D showcases for [so] long,” the lovecraftian priestess shared after the big day. “I’ve told you guys about the [assets we’ve] had prepared since 2021. We just needed to be here [in Japan] in person so it could start.”

It may seem like Ina is a natural-born performer, but things didn’t always come this easily to her. The ability to express herself through song has come from Ina’s hard work and the support of her many talented collaborators. From almost pulling out of her audition to being one of VTubing’s most beloved performers, Ninomae Ina’nis has finally found her voice. 

Unravel” and Ina’s First Unarchived Karaoke

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Ina performed “Unravel” for the first time in October 2020, during one of her earliest unarchived Karaoke sessions. The Tokyo Ghoul opening is one of the most iconic anime songs from the last decade.

Her voice was still shaky, and she fumbled the lyrics. But fans of the VTuber hardly noticed. They immediately fell in love with her version of “Unravel.” A fan reupload currently sits at more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.

Ina has since revisited “Unravel” time and again during Karaoke streams, including her two-year anniversary. But the takodachis would have to wait some time before they received an official performance. In the meantime, Ina had other musical pursuits to embark on.

Ina’s First Original Song

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Ina’s fans wouldn’t be the only ones to recognize the potential in her voice. Before the VTuber could decide where to take her music next, composer seibin approached hololive and offered to work alongside Ina for her first original song.

Featuring lyrics and music video by LUMINA and string arrangements by Benicx, the song “VIOLET” was released on August 5, 2021. 

The single would turn out to be a key moment in Ina’s vocal development: “I jumped in without knowing much… I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it off because I wasn’t confident,” Ina shared during a stream shortly after “VIOLET’s” debut. Fortunately, everyone involved was satisfied with the final result. 

“It’s already been two years since VIOLET was made, and it’s been a really fun work and a meaningful work for me now,” LUMINA told Anime Trending. 

LUMINA fleshed out the lyrics for “VIOLET” alongside seibin and Ina in order to develop a story that expressed Ina as a streamer and persona.

“Unlike other HoloEN members, Ina’nis is a rather dark character. It’s a very mysterious character unlike what you see on stream,” LUMINA said. “VIOLET’s lyrics and MV were produced with the keyword ‘love’ in mind. I think I wrote it thinking what it would feel like if this unknown character truly loved something [in a way that] couldn’t continue.”

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After hearing Ina’s touching vocals on “VIOLET,” LUMINA felt more motivated than ever: “When I first heard it, I was very happy and proud.”

Ina gave “VIOLET” her all, using her artistic prowess to express herself through illustration for the music video. Despite the success, the VTuber continued to work hard. 

“For now, I really just want to practice singing. A lot. I know my technique isn’t there yet, but I’ll just keep practicing,” said the VTuber. “I may not release a lot of songs and covers, but I want to put a lot into every single one because I don’t get that many.” 

Recording for Camellia

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The next in line to recognize Ina’s vocal prowess would be the prolific electronic music producer Camellia. The producer seized the opportunity to invite Ina to record the vocals for the track “Drenched in Air” for his latest album “Ashed Wings.”

“After working with her as one of the members of UMISEA – a unit featuring oceanic members from hololive – I had just been feeling her voice was super fantastic, and was seeking an occasion to feature as a solo,” Camellia told Anime Trending.

“EVERYTHING JUST CLICKS. I mean her voice is excellent, soft and gentle but not too weak but sometimes rather strong, the range of expression is fantastic, possibly learning from VTuber activities, and to be honest I just like her singing style.”

Camellia described how virtual identities, beyond purely VTubing, can pave the way for creators like Ina to excel: “Everyone can be free once they are released from their physical humanity.” 

“I’ve been cooperating and personally enjoying VR space to communicate and just chill with a lot of ‘virtual’ strangers,” he said. “They of course wear their virtual avatars, instead of showing their real appearance, which is pretty much mandatory always in real life, and it feels like limiting their possibility sometimes. 

“They can be anybody, [only limited by their] imagination and creativity – and of course not harming anybody else – which is exactly something needed for people who want to be creative like a singer, or any genre of creations.”

Much like LUMINA when she wrote the lyrics to “VIOLET,” Camellia molded his song to match Ina’s lore and persona. Harmonizing Ina’s themes alongside the “dark but brave” concepts of the album – phoenix, ash, wings – Camellia expressed Ina’s performance in a unique way. 

“In the end, I got the idea of writing about ‘mermaids who were expelled from [the] human’s world,’ which I thought fit really well. [The idea] could be perfectly describing the theme to make a song with beautiful, mysterious, organic – which roughly means the opposite of synthetic – or quietly furious.”

Expressing Herself Through Solo Covers

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Ina is well versed in using her virtual avatar to express herself, using her virtual identity in combination with her illustration skills to set the stage for her vocals. 

“When I’m choosing cover songs, it’s not only the song that I’m looking for, it’s the visuals [too]… I have to have a clear vision of what I want the MV to look like,” Ina shared during her July 9 stream.

Ina’s first song cover of choice was a nostalgic pick, the opening theme from Spice and Wolf,  “Tabi no Tochuu.” Not only would Ina draw the art for the music video, but she would also animate the whole sequence in the style of an anime opening.

The once-shy VTuber started to experiment with her vocal range, performing two parts for one song.

“The original song is actually kind of like a duet between two people, but [the cover] was a duet with myself,” Ina said during her December 3, 2021 stream. “I had to sing really low in the register for the cover.”

Unbeknownst to Ina at the time, the utaite Akatin oversaw the mixing and instrumentals for the project. Once her manager told her, she was shocked. One of the cover singers that Ina admires was now, by extension, listening to her own singing. 

Ina would not hesitate to call upon the help of Akatin to mix her next cover song of choice, “Nai Nai” from Shadows House

The VTuber would push her vocal range once again, this time singing the lowest note of her career. “That’s all me in the lower register voice,” Ina shared during her May 20, 2022 stream.

But it was not possible for Ina to recreate her experience with “Tabi no Tochuu”: “I wanted to include a lot more.… [but I] can’t. I physically don’t have the time. I had to settle on working on [just the] illustrations.”

Ina would call upon the work of MV editor and VTuber Rumskii. “I think Rumskii’s work with Nai Nai was just perfect. I could not have asked for anything better.”

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As both a VTuber and a fan of Ina’s content, Rumskii was possibly one of the best candidates to help Ina express her vision. 

“Working directly with the artist from scratch for an MV is a rare thing for me, and Ina was really helpful with feedback and [giving] input for the [project] as well!” Rumskii told Anime Trending.

“[During the concepting phase], Ina provided me with the draft illustration, [and] from that, I did a rough video draft. As soon as it got a green light, I started work from it. I actually got creative freedom with how I would want to work on it, so I am grateful since it turned out really fun to work around with!”

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Despite the ties to Shadows House, Rumskii strayed away from making the sequence similar to an anime opening or ending. Instead, she aimed to tell a subtler kind of story: “The theme I tried to strive for is probably somewhere between elegant and a bit unsettling.

“I try to weave a story or a specific scene, like in Nai Nai you would find a lot of scenes that resemble mansion interiors, it’s because I want to make Ina in this MV feel like she was one of the Shadows House characters… slowly finding the truth behind the shadow house.”

Ina’s 3D Showcase

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Ina would open the performance in her 3D reveal with “if Hitori Omou” from Fire Emblem Fates. This marked the beginning of her first official solo live performance. 

“I [felt] like I [had] so much pressure because everyone [was] waiting for [the] 3D showcase for so [long]… I really wanted everything in [the] 3D showcase to be live,” Ina shared during her February 22 stream. 

But before she would close out the concert with her performance of “Monochrome” from Star Driver, there was one other song she needed to perform. 

Timestamp: Ina’s performance of “if Hitori Omou”

After two years of waiting, the takodachis would finally get what they had been waiting for: Ina’s official rendition of “Unravel.” 

“Unravel has a pretty special place in my heart, I gotta say,” Ina professed. “It marks how I opened up to singing, dancing, and performing in general in front of [other] people.

“Back then I was shy. I mean I’m still shy, but back then I literally had to bribe my family to leave the house for a single karaoke stream of one hour. But here I am now, character development: able to sing and dance in front of so many people.”

Timestamp: Ina’s performance of “Unravel”

While not the final song in the set list, Ina’s performance of “Unravel” would mark the emotional climax of her two-year-long musical pursuit. 

“It’s a song that I sing a lot, but it just has a special place in my heart. I feel like it’s the same for you guys, those of you who have seen me do karaoke streams since the early days.”

“It really reminds me of how long it’s been, how much we’ve gone through. I put all of my emotions into this Unravel.”

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Ina has a great year ahead of her. Since returning to her VTuber activities on January 10 following a three-month hiatus, Ina has already performed at this year’s “hololive 4th fes.”, where she sang “SAIGO NO HANABIRA.” Ina will return to the stage in July for hololive English’s “Connect the World” US concert, alongside a possible birthday live performance in May. 

With her aptitude for art and her newly fostered talent for singing, Ina has flourished into one of the most talented VTubers on the scene. No longer hesitating to express herself, Ina is on her way to reaching new heights.

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