Today’s New York Times Magazine ran a story, Love in 2-D, by Lisa Katayama about Japanese men (though women do it too) who engage in relationships with imaginary characters. She writes, “These 2-D lovers, as they are called, are a subset of otaku culture- the obsessive fandom that has surrounded anime, manga and video games in the last decade.” Her piece begins by profiling a 37 year-old man named Nisan who carries around a stuffed pillow imprinted with an image of a video game character named Nemu, whom he considers his girlfriend.
Whatever your take on the social isolation spawning this phenomenon, what caught my attention was a quote by Takuro Morinaga, a Japanese behavioral economist who likened 2-D love to “enlightenment training” and even went as far as to say that it was like “becoming a Buddha.” When speaking of men who prefer 2-D lovers to human women, Morinaga says, “I understand their feelings completely. These guys don’t want to push ahead in society; they just want to create their little flower-bed world and live there peacefully.” It seems an odd (not to mention inaccurate) comparison to make and perpetuates the stereotype that Buddhism is a solitary endeavor with the sole purpose of individual enlightenment.
Another proponent of 2-D love featured in the article, Toru Honda, argues that these relationships are the answer to the loss of “pure love” caused by “romantic capitalism.” While I agree that capitalism has had an effect on intimacy, engaging in romantic relationships with media characters hardly seems like progress…in fact, it just seems like a strange extension of the commodification of romantic love. Did anyone else read this article? If so, any thoughts?