During quarantine, it seemed like from celebrities to brands, nearly everyone was starting a YouTube channel. However, I couldn’t help but notice that the way we use YouTube has changed since the Golden Age of YouTube in Japan, a time where Youtubers like HIKAKIN and Hajime Syacho led the way. In the changing world of YouTube, one Youtuber named Megane stands out. Her channel, “Megane to Waku,” has garnered popularity with her catchphrase, which roughly translates to: “I’m Megane, and I can see your heart!” Megane started YouTube as a high schooler, and since then, she’s tried everything from challenges, makeup tutorials, comedy skits, and more. Her videos and unique character have captured audiences, garnering around 350,000 subscribers. So, why is she now starting a career as an actress? I caught up with the Youtuber and actress about self-expression in the age of social media.
On connecting with people through YouTube during quarantine
――Could you tell me about how you became a Youtuber?
Megane: I was about sixteen when I started. At the time, I was a high schooler studying classical arts and culture. A friend from class asked me to start a YouTube channel with her, saying that it’d definitely be funny if I were in it. At that time, HIKAKIN and Hajime Syachou were starting to become famous, but YouTube was still uncharted territory. Back then, there were a lot of people who ran their channel alone, so it was unusual for a pair of high school girls to be making videos, but we were creating comedy skits, makeup tutorials, and videos of scenes from high school life.
――So you were part of a duo at first?
Megane: Yep! When we started our channel, my dream was to become a stage actress, and my friend’s dream was to become a fashion designer. We were creating these videos to make our dreams come true, thinking it could get our names out there. But around the time that we graduated high school, we sat down and talked about splitting up to work towards our individual goals.
――Currently, your YouTube channel has about 350,000 subscribers. Was there one video that was a turning point for you?
Megane: I think it was a skit we uploaded as a duo about 3 months after starting our channel. It got a lot of attention, and suddenly, it had about 200,000 views. From there, our views went up by 1 or 2 million, and we gained about 200,000 subscribers. If I had to name some videos from after I went solo, it would probably be the video about getting thinner legs or diet tips. They also generated a lot of buzz, and all of a sudden, I gained about 100,000 followers, which is what got my subscriber count to where it is today.
――A lot of celebrities and brands started YouTube channels during quarantine. Have your thoughts about YouTube changed since the coronavirus?
Megane: My thoughts on it have changed a lot. During quarantine, it hit me that it was a bit hard to balance being an actress and a Youtuber. YouTube was almost a bit of a hassle. Making a video takes time because of the editing process, so for a while, I felt like it was hard to get done between acting jobs. But during this time, I’ve been able to see myself in a new light. I’d always been really busy up until then, so my repressed feelings of loneliness and isolation really came out during quarantine, but YouTube really helped me deal with it all. It could just be a video making dinner, or doing makeup, or an Instagram Live, for example, but I was grateful to have a tool like social media to connect with people. Looking back on it now, if it weren’t for quarantine, I may have just abandoned YouTube like, “I don’t even know about this anymore!”
An actress plays someone else. A Youtuber shows their true self
――Could you tell me about how you got into acting?
Megane: I’ve wanted to become an actress since I was 14. It all started when my mom took me to a show by the Lilliput Army II theater group, which Wakagi Efu is the chairperson of. They did some crazy stuff on stage and for some reason, they were throwing around chikuwa [fish cakes] after their performance. (laughs) I got goosebumps watching them. I wanted to be the one giving people goosebumps. I wanted to be the one throwing chikuwa. That’s when it started, when I knew I wanted to become a stage actress.
――What kind of acting work have you done?
Megane: At the moment, I’m acting in movies and dramas, but I mainly perform in theater productions. I used to play a lead role in “Mero Mero Tachi” by the Warui Shibai theater company, and during quarantine, I was “DJ Megane” for the fully remote theater group, No Meets. The people from No Meets knew about me, so I was able to play myself. It was the first time I’ve had a role that felt that close to my true self.
――Do you think there’s a difference between being a Youtuber and an actress?
Megane: When you’re an actress, you play a role that someone else imagined. On YouTube, you create everything yourself, so it’s totally different. On YouTube, I’m my true self, Megane, and it’s a realistic depiction of me. There’s nothing weird or artificial about it. And the responsibility all falls on me as well.
――What’s the origin of the name Megane?
Megane: My former YouTube partner had a name with three syllables, so I made mine three to match her. (laughs). The origin of “megane” [glasses in Japanese] was that I wore glasses just for fun. To be honest, I have good eyesight. But wearing glasses completed my YouTube persona as “Megane.” It’s like a way to switch that character on.
When you’re expressing yourself, the most important opinion is your own
――You’re on social media platforms besides YouTube. How do you use them differently?
Megane: I use Instagram (@iam.megane) and Twitter (@MEGANE_WM), but YouTube is my main platform. I use Twitter and Instagram as a way for my followers to get to know me better if they’re interested. For example, on Instagram, I tag the brands I wear on YouTube, or I focus on more personal aspects of my life. But I think these days, you have to make an effort on all social media platforms. So I’m really aware of how I use social media, like making sure I tweet and retweet, or upload things to my feed. I think I wasn’t as conscious of that in my high school days.
――You mentioned that you create all your YouTube content yourself. Do you have anything you like to keep in mind during your creative process?
Megane: To be honest, there’s part of me that isn’t sure. It used to be really clear. “Megane” was someone a teenager could aspire to be. So I made my videos according to that, like posting stuff about makeup and diets, or shooting in my classrooms or after school. Honestly, I was creating everything with the energy of a teen, so the videos were easy to make. Now, I’m really not sure what I’m doing. But I have an idea of what I want to do and who I want to become. For example, I want to do a large-scale play, or become like certain actresses or Youtubers. But I get confused about how to get there. Maybe I’m in a slump…but I try to think of it positively as growing pains.
――Is there anything you try to be careful about when making YouTube videos?
Megane: The hard part about social media is that it’s hard to get the truth across. No matter how much I try to make sure everything is honest, and that it’s easy to understand for viewers, there are always comments that come from a totally unexpected angle. There are times when I feel like, “Why don’t they understand what I’m saying?”
――That’s true. A lot of controversies start on social media.
Megane: That’s why I try not to judge people on social media or take any of it too seriously. I think it’s important to evaluate your own work. No matter what, you can’t let the number of likes or comments, or the words of rude people get to you. If you judge yourself based on what others think of you, you’ll be miserable. It’s easy for people to say things on social media that they wouldn’t say to your face. Instead of confronting that kind of irresponsible trash-talk, it’s important to have a strong sense of the intention behind your work. I’ve finally come to realize this recently.
――Do you ever get down on yourself?
Megane: All the time. I’m talking confidently about it all, but actually, I have to tell myself the same thing. So no matter what people tell me, I can be like, “There’s nothing wrong with me!”
――What advice would you give people who want to start their own YouTube channel?
Megane: Recently, there’ve been more channels that advertise different brands or products. Compared to when I first started out, there are more people on YouTube doing interesting things or things I’d like to try, but these days, YouTube is also about marketing. I think it’s become a way to get your name out there. If I were to give advice to people who want to become Youtubers, I’d tell them not to lie. That doesn’t only go for Youtubers–when you lie in the process of expressing yourself, it’ll make things hard in the long run.
――Finally, tell me about your goals as an actress and Youtuber going forward.
Megane: As an actress, I want people to come to me with roles. I think that would make me more confident. As a Youtuber, I’d like to get out of the slump I was talking about earlier, and aim for 1 million subscribers!