A new video game subculture has been flourishing in Japan: men who are so obsessed with pubescent, female, Anime figures they form “relationships” with body pillows covered with the girl’s image.
In this world known as Moe, the rising popularity of so-called “2-D Lovers” has spawned its own thriving industry among some men.
If a guy can’t “get the girl” for real, virtual world fanatics figure, he gets a girl pillow. Within Japan’s widespread otaku culture – the obsessive fan base of anime, manga and video games – more is what the Moe men want.
The female characters and the Moe men who love them — some more innocently than others — are 10 to 12 years old.
However, the ornate costumes that create flashes of bright color on video screens often look nothing like the “get-ups” on the pillow covers. These child-women might be sporting strategically placed, but mockery-of-modesty patches. For bolder clients, the 2-D Lolitas are wearing nothing at all.
Nisan (pictured above) is a balding, flacid, 37-year-old, never-married video gamer. He describes his 3-year relationship with “Nemu” – whom he’s driven hundreds of miles on trips to visit Kyoto, Osaka and Nara — as blissful but chaste.
He even prides himself on taking special care not to touch her private areas when he tucks her into bed at night.
“I’ve experienced so many amazing things with her,” he gushes. “She has really changed my life.”
Toru Taima, also never married, makes no claims of innocence. He sells X-rated body-pillow covers at gaming conventions – and his eyes light up like a LED screen when he readily concedes he engages in sex with some of the 150 pillow cover characters he owns.
“I am not doing anything to harm anybody,” he insists. “To me these are works of art. They’re cute girls that live in my imagination.”
Whatever their intentions, 2-D lovers flock from all over Japan to Tokyo’s Akihabara district every day to scour specialty shops and attend fan events in search of new character girlfriends to add to their collections.
Cultural observers say the rise of 2-D love can be pinned in part on the difficulty many young Japanese of modest means have in navigating modern romance. More than a quarter of men and women between the ages of 30 and 34 are virgins; 50 percent of men and women in Japan do not have friends of the opposite sex, a government survey reports.
Perhaps there’s a screenplay in this for Judd Apatow, the American writer-director famous for his spot-on depictions of delayed adolescence in “The 40-year-old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” But to hear Toru Honda tell it, moe subculture is more like “Revenge of the Nerds … Gone Creepy.”
Honda, 40, a college dropout who worked a succession of jobs at video-game companies, began imploring gamers online to “stand with pride against good-looking men and women.”
His message — that Japan’s economic bubble of the 1980s had killed the true value of romance, turning it into an elitist looks- and money-based commodity – caught on.
And so a subculture was born over the last half-decade or so. Japan’s lonely heart gaming fanatics can now get their “piece” of action, but without fear of complication or rejection.