I you my Virtual Girlfriend
Are fictional 2D companions better than the real thing? has human-to-human interaction become obsolete? technology AND culture blur the line between fantasy AND reality
in2009, a man who calls himself Sal9000 married his long-time partner, Nene Anegasaki, a video game character from a popular dating-simulation game, Love Plus. While the marriage wasn’t legally binding, Sal9000 still wanted to prove his love for his wife. He stated in an interview with the press at his wedding: “I love this character, not a machine. I understand 100 percent that this is a game. I understand very well that I cannot marry her physically or legally.”
Before you chalk this one up to Japan being Japan, it might be important for you to know that this isn’t an incident isolated in the country. Back in 2010, a Korean man called Lee Jin-gyu married a body pillow. He had an image of Fate Testarossa, one of the magical girls in the show Mahou
Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, printed on the pillow. Lee Jin-gyu took his wife pillow on dates in restaurants and theme parks despite the curious eyes that followed them.
You have to ask: what kind of one-way relationship would that be?
A CULT AND A CULTURE
There is a movement in Japan promoting the idea that 2D characters are better partners than actual human people. Led by Toru Honda, 47, the group has been hard at work convincing its brethren of 2D-loving males and females to not be ashamed of their life choices. Honda courts controversy in the otaku culture by painting all of its supporters as the outcasts of society.
Honda’s motivation is to use this outcast stereotype of the otaku to empower its members to overthrow the majority. Honda wrote in his book, Denpa Otoko (translates to The Ultimate Otaku Teacher), that “pure love is completely gone in the real world.” He alleges that such love is for old otakus past their prime. He believes that there is no hope left for them because life has screwed them over; therefore they must start a new “love revolution.”
In Honda’s world, liking prepubescent 2D girls isn’t creepy and should be regarded as a great expression of manhood since not everyone has the luck, privilege, and means to be in a happy and loving relationship with a real woman.
SHE IS WHO I WANT HER TO be
But while Honda’s voice might be able to rally some people to join his cause to change the norm, some otakus are happy enough to just be able to escape the reality they are in.
Elliot, 29, a graphic artist for a startup company, was diagnosed with maladaptive daydreaming. It’s a disorder where he gets lost in his fantasies for a significant amount of time, losing his sense of reality. Elliot was a victim of domestic abuse when he was just a child. He recalls that he would put himself in a trance-like state during the beatings where he would create his own imaginary world. It is in that world that he also created Anna, his current girlfriend.
We met Elliot while he was on one of his dates with