New Horizon star appears in “private English lesson” videos.

Tokyo Shoseki makes textbooks and other educational materials, but a while back they also created a pop culture icon. Soon after the publishing company updated its New Horizon English textbook and added new anime-style illustrations of the characters featured in its sample conversations, Ellen Baker, a blond, baseball-loving Bostonian who moves to Japan to work as an English teacher, captured the hearts of an instantly forming fanbase.

Earlier this year Tokyo Shoseki announced that Ellen-sensei, as she’s popularly known, would appear in a light novel series. Now she’s embarking on yet another new venture as a virtual YouTuber/VTuber (or maybe we should call her a VVTouber – we’ll get to that in a second).

On Monday, Tokyo Shoseki released Ellen Baker-sensei Hajimete no Eigo Kyoshitsu, or “Ellen Baker-sensei’s English Classroom for First-Timers.” In contrast to the more textbook-like approach of New Horizon, this book takes a less scholastic approach to the subject. Rather than lessons and drills, it looks to be arranged in a more conversational tone, with Ellen offering explanations of things that can trick up Japanese learners in the early stages of studying English, plus manga interludes. Tokyo Shoseki even promises that the book “Contains no difficult English sentences whatsoever!”

▼ A section from the book

But where things get really unique is that Ellen Baker-sensei’s English Classroom for First-Timers marks Ellen-sensei’s debut as a VTuber, although there’s actually even one more additional layer to the “virtual” aspect. As a special bonus to early buyers of the book, the first printing includes a VTuber Ellen-sensei Private Lesson Video pack.

Across five videos with a total runtime of 17 minutes, Ellen-sensei will teach viewers basic greetings and daily conversation tips for communicating in English. Since the videos are aimed at entry-level learners, they’re subtitled in Japanese, for the benefit of those who can’t yet catch everything she’s saying.

However, while they’re called “private lessons,” these aren’t live-streamed, one-on-one sessions, nor are they being hosted on a conventional streaming platform. Instead, the VTuber Ellen-sensei Private Lesson Videos are structured as video-format NFTs, which those with access provided by purchasing the Ellen Baker-sensei’s English Classroom for First-Timers book can access and view through NFT website FanTop. So if you’re in the mood to debate the semantics, you could argue that Ellen-sensei, in this sense, is really a virtual virtual YouTuber.

It’s worth pointing out once again that unlike New Horizon, Ellen Baker-sensei’s English Classroom for First-Timers isn’t being marketed as a classroom instruction tool, and instead seems more to be aimed at older self-study learners, so this isn’t a case of NFTs being snuck into elementary school kids’ required-curriculum reading. The NFT angle seems to be something included as part of the videos’ distribution channel, as Tokyo Shoseki doesn’t make any allusions to a possibility of them rising in value and functioning as an investment for buyers.

Ellen Baker-sensei’s English Classroom for First-Timers is available through Amazon Japan here, priced at 1,430 yen (US$9.40).

Source: Tokyo Shoseki via Hachima Kiko
Images: Tokyo Shoseki
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