Lisa Katayama, author of the Tokyomango.com blog has a terrific article on Otaku culture at NYTimes.com
Here’s an excerpt:
Nisan is part of a thriving subculture of men and women in Japan who indulge in real relationships with imaginary characters. 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 Japan in the last decade. It’s impossible to say exactly what portion of otaku are 2-D lovers, because the distinction between the two can be blurry. Like most otaku, the majority of 2-D lovers go to work, pay rent, hang out with friends (some are even married). Unlike most otaku, though, they have real romantic feelings for their toys. The less extreme might have a hidden collection of figurines based on anime characters that they go on “dates” with during off hours. A more serious 2-D lover, like Nisan, actually believes that a lumpy pillow with a drawing of a prepubescent anime character on it is his girlfriend.
According to many who study the phenomenon, the rise of 2-D love can be attributed in part to the difficulty many young Japanese have in navigating modern romantic life. According to a government survey, 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. One of the biggest best sellers in the country last year was “Health and Physical Education for Over Thirty,” a six-chapter, manga-illustrated guidebook that holds the reader’s hand from the first meeting to sex to marriage.
“Phenomenon – Love in 2-D” at New York Times
I think the most interesting idea was Morinaga Takuro likening the 2-d complex to attaining Buddhahood.
“It’s enlightenment training,” Takuro Morinaga, one of Japan’s leading behavioral economists, told me. “It’s like becoming a Buddha.” According to Morinaga, every male otaku can be classified on a moe scale. “On one end, you have the normal guy, who has no interest in anime characters and only likes human women,” he explained. “The opposite end, of course, is the hard-core 2-D lover.”
I was even thinking “Aum” vs. “Moe.” I never thought that someone would liken this non-standard affected experience to a mystical experience, even tongue-in-cheek. It gave me a chuckle. Moreover, it reminds me of Baudriallard’s “Third level simulacra,” that is, a similation of a simulation. I smell a presentation topic in the works for me!