The explanation for the success of Hikaru Kaihatsu, who recently reached 10 million followers on HikakinTV, one of his four YouTube channels, is buried in a 2018 interview with BuzzFeed Japan. When asked about the requirements to work as a YouTuber, Kaihatsu answers, “I believe it is to calmly analyze the current popular trends. What is that person proficient at? How do they adapt to the times?” He could have been speaking about himself.

Kaihatsu, 32, is a wiz at mining the web for trends and adapting them to his carefully molded persona; an Aera Dot commentator mused that he plays “an older brother in the neighborhood who played with me when I was an elementary school student.” While his videos are simple and formulaic, crafted for the short attention spans of children coming of age in an era overloaded with screens and content, his character holds a not-so-hidden power: You can’t help but like him.

Kaihatsu first achieved fame in the early 2010s with a beatbox rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme. At the time, he looked like a teenager: long black hair capped by large headphones, a blue short-sleeved button-down shirt and an uncertain expression. Kaihatsu, who was 21 when he filmed the video, appears to be not yet comfortable in front of the camera. But 15 seconds into the video, as the music begins to flow from his lips, a smile so slight it’s easy to miss flickers across his face. His body loosens up. His expression changes. It’s a moving sight: A creator coming into his own mid-clip. This was not his first upload, but it was his most influential. And it was his first taste of virality.