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2-D Love?

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? 



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theo

posted July 27, 2009 at 5:13 am


I read the same article this morning (by the way, the one after it, about Radovan Karadzic’s techno-healer career, is kind of a riot) and had a similar reaction to the “enlightenment” passage you quoted. I didn’t really think it was offensive so much as revealing – contemporary Japanese negative perceptions of Buddhism (as self-centered and obsessive) seem to be pretty different from Western ones (as Satanic, wishy-washy, or New Age)!
As for the rest of the article, one thing that struck me was that all of the objects of 2-D love were representations of pre-pubescent girls rather than sexually mature ones. (Stop reading now if you don’t like amateurish and overly judgmental cultural anthropology.) I’m not sure what to make of that, except that it seems to me like some problems might stem from an unusual cultural standard of beauty, where innocence, cuteness, and so on are highly prized. (Anecdotes aren’t data, but I’ve met quite a few adult Japanese women who have affectations which seem a little childish to me.) Since it’s hard to find all those qualities in adult women, and both illegal and unsavory to do so in children, men raised with those norms of sexiness have to look to fictional girls to satisfy them.



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damaris

posted July 27, 2009 at 12:49 pm


wow….. so many things have gone wrong there.
What’s interesting is that these folks say they are turning away from the notion of capitalistic love yet find themselves involved with the images that capitalism has created for them. Yet they don’t see that.
But isn’t that how it is for us sometimes. We are so bent on looking for the ideal we miss out on seeing the less than ideal. I guess you can say that if we become successful and attractive then perhaps the ideal will be attracted to us. But when they do, we would have to question what are they really attracted to…. us or our success.
As for the video gaming thing, I dislike it. Not because it isn’t fun (double negative); but because somewhere long ago as I was playing Ms. Pac Man; I realized that it took my life away without my awareness of it. Time just flew and I kept on playing.
I think it’s very clear to all that this is not what the Buddha was talking about.
As for Nisan, all I can say is I understand his loneliness. I really do. So please drop the pillow and have a zafu instead.



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Julia May

posted July 27, 2009 at 4:32 pm


@theo: I think there is also a Western opinion of Buddhism as self-obsessive and naval-gazing. Otherwise, yes. What to make of the “little girl” thing? It is hard to judge and hard to condone.



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