On the issue of “2D relationships.”

It’s safe to say that moé and virtual love go hand-in-hand. Thus, many arguments imposed against moé can be applied to 2D love and vice-versa. The idea of synthetic relationships has cropped up several times within and without the anime community, but I feel like we’re not getting to the core of the issue with the discussion that’s been had about it so far.

A while ago, I was directed to a Youtube video that attempted to broach the topic of synthetic relationships in Japan (More recently, I was directed to another video that attempted the same thing, but my focus is on the first). While I’m appreciative of attempts to start a discussion that aren’t heavy-handed or heavily one-sided, the way the topic was brought up left a lot to be desired in terms of discussion, and I feel like that’s true for a lot of the discourse on this subject.

The problem is that the issue of synthetic relationships, when brought up, is treated as its own problem. It’s discussed as if it occurs in a vacuum, even when it is acknowledged that it does not occur in a vacuum. Even when outside contributing forces are mentioned, they’re never investigated or given proper attention as part of a problem. Everything boils down to “The birthrate is low, and young men would rather date not-real girls than real girls,” and the rare times a reason is given, it’s something simple and superficial like “Young men are afraid of real girls.”

Make no mistake: This is a complex issue; too complex, in fact, for me to do justice to here with my relative lack of expertise on the subject. I can, however, speak to the lack of complexity that I feel the issue has been approached with in discussions about it. As much as some people wring their hands over young Japanese men seemingly inexplicably turning to synthetic or virtual relationships, there is a reason these things happen. The presenter in the video mentioned that Japanese women are getting pickier with men, and that Japanese men are becoming more docile and complacent. This is a potentially major contributing factor he touched on, but he spent almost no time exploring it. Everyone wants to get to the bottom of the issue, but everyone’s too caught-up talking about the relatively superficial issue of this proliferation of synthetic relationships.

What’s really damning about most of these discussions is that they tend to come from a “this stuff is weird” standpoint. Rather than putting the superficial cultural differences behind them for a bit, getting in-depth, doing some research, and gaining an understanding about the deeper underlying causes beneath the superficial underlying causes of the growing popularity of synthetic relationships, they focus on the “weird Japan” aspect of it exclusively. Rather than talking about something real and doing some justice to what they themselves consider a serious topic, they simply do lip service to the seriousness and focus in on the superficial because that’s what’s weird and, in the case of the Anti-Moé Brigade and other people who would enjoy seeing dating sims and moé love become less prevalent, directly works to their ends.

Again, I wish my level of expertise on the subject was such that I could do it justice here, but since it isn’t, the best thing I can do is call out the lack of complexity that this complex issue has been dealt with thus far, and call for a deeper investigation into the topic. We need to go deeper than synthetic relationships. Their rising popularity is only a symptom of a bigger, further-reaching problem, and the focus on one singular, superficial issue isn’t doing anyone any favors, except for maybe misleading people into jumping on an anti-moé bandwagon.

Moé isn’t the problem here, and neither is the increasing popularity of synthetic relationships. The problem is that we have two clashing ideals from two groups (men and women) who need to work together in order for society to function, and if we’re going to fully understand the problem, we can’t just zero in exclusively on one single superficial aspect of the issue.

Serious issues deserve serious discussion. That’s the bottom line, and we’re still very far from that serious discussion if we’re still focusing on the “fake girlfriend” phenomenon.


Stay Frosty


17 thoughts on “On the issue of “2D relationships.””

  1. People should just talk to those who have 2-D girlfriends instead of just brushing it off like it doesn’t matter. But to be honest, I don’t think even just speaking to a few people will really have one know why people choose to have fictional girlfriends instead of going out with real women because a few otaku can’t really speak for everybody. I imagine there are many reasons why people do this. I personally do it because I think it’s fun and I generally try not to take it too seriously, but I know for a fact that there are people who indeed take it seriously.

    1. I think there’s something to be gained by actually just talking to people who prefer 2D. Perspective is valuable, and an understanding of how these people think can provide a wider perspective. What I think would be more valuable, however, is a look at how Japanese society has changed over the years, with respect to what men and women expect in each other.

      Also, it should be noted (but never is) that pretty much all “2D relationship” people in Japan are otaku, meaning they’re already shunned by society at-large and never had a legitimate shot at getting a real girlfriend anyway.

  2. I watched that 1st vid and am now wondering if places like that hotel that caters to 2D relationships are just adding to the problem.

    1. I’d say it’s less that they’re adding to the problem and more that they’re just capitalizing on a trend they see. Put simply, it’s easy to get an otaku with a lot of spending money who truly believes in his fake girlfriend to buy an expensive vacation for two.

      The actual problem runs a good bit deeper. What we’re seeing is a complete disconnect between how Japanese women act and what they desire in a man, and how Japanese men act and what they desire in a woman. Nobody, however, wants to talk about the societal factors that brought this disconnect about. They all want to focus on the fake girlfriend thing, which is a symptom of a larger problem, not a problem in and of itself.

    1. so according to that 6/10 women are uninterested and 4/10 men are uninterested. it would seem that the women have the bigger problem whether it be an unrealistic expectations or if they actually want “manly” men.

  3. One of the reasons that the focus in these types of “reporting” is on the “2D relationship” thing, is that it puts the problem solely in terms of male behavior. Stating that the behavior of females is also part of the overall problem is either taboo or simply to be avoided to prevent hordes of screaming women’s activists howling for blood.

    Never hinted at in any of these types of “reports” is the possibility that these men’s actions are a rational response to their environment. Look, given that women are no longer treated as just above the level of chattel slaves, there are going to be men who simply are never going to be chosen by a woman for a relationship. Never. NEVER. And some of these men recognize that. This is particularly true given that many women have such high standards that hardly any man in existence can meet them. So why shouldn’t men start asking why they should even bother to try?

    This is not just a situation that is occurring in Japan. If you do a search on “MGTOW” (Men Going Their Own Way) you’ll see that many men in the English-speaking Western world are either simply saying that women aren’t worth the bother anymore (for a variety of reasons), or men are choosing to use what they call Game — a supposed method of acting so as to respond to women’s “true desires” in a way to manipulate them into the type of relationship the man desires. In other words, Game is a 3D dating sim.

    As far as I can tell, the only reason that “2D relationships” are only common in Japan is that the English-speaking West is not as awash in cute anime characters with which more western men can “have” that relationship.

    This is, indeed, a very very large subject to discuss, and the 2D relationship thing is a miniscule part of much larger social trends.

    1. In addition to the MGTOW movement and the Game/Pick-Up Artist community, another good example of the reaction to the current dating environment in the West is the TFL or “True Forced Loneliness” movement, which suggests that society and the dating scene is set up in such a way as to deny otherwise decent guys a chance at a relationship.

      Also worth noting is the fact that, if you do do a search on something like MGTOW or “True Forced Loneliness,” you’ll be met with, in addition to some actual information, a lot of articles heavily criticizing both movements.

      While I don’t subscribe to any of these ideologies (I feel like I need to make that clear, otherwise people would use my mention of them against me.), I think that the reasons behind why men form these movements are worth investigating. As much as people like to pretend that these are all just guys complaining about not being able to get a girlfriend, these movements didn’t just spring up out of the ether. Things happen for a reason, and that reason is worth investigating.

  4. Is it really a bad thing if someone uses 3D moe characters for a surrogate partner in a relationship? If someone can not conform to the standards of someone else why should people care if he pursues a different path for happiness?

    But on another hand people should want to find the fastest, strongest, smartest, and most attractive of the opposite sex when finding someone. Every species does it why is humanity going to be an acceptation. Moe is a fun experiment to build an ideal partner for someone, if someone can’t meet someone else’s standards why should they not partake in the 2D world.

    Every time I think of this I always think if Madarame from Genshiken and his long winded speech about how the 2D is always better than the 3D. That is always going to be true to some extent because it’s easier to believe a fantasy than accept reality.

    I am not expert but do Fujoushi fall in the same boat then? Do they also accept the 2D more than the 3D like their male counterparts?

    1. What’s kind of sad is that I feel like this issue won’t be resolved until we have consumer-level A.I. androids that look, feel, and act human, and the population (Japanese or otherwise) is put in serious danger from people not having children. Even at that point, however, that counts on the people preferring androids not being an easily-shunned minority.

      What’s really damning about the whole issue is that the focus is put entirely on “why are men turning to cartoon girls for love?” No mention of the societal causes, or of what the role of the women in this issue is. Fact is, it’s just really easy to write off the 2D love community as undesirables, especially when the vast majority of people are content to hit their head against the wall in the dating game. I’d bet, however, that if the tables were turned, and the 2D love community were the vast majority, women would be scrambling to make themselves desirable to them.

    1. Here’s the thing: Society shouldn’t get to shun a particular group of people based on their hobbies, then act like that group of people is wrong for seeking companionship and love (Both basic needs for average humans) where they can get it.

      Is 2D love healthy? Probably not. However, people like to pretend that people just decide to pursue 2D love rather than real people, when, in the real world, people are pushed into doing that because 2D is the only place they can find acceptance and love.

      This isn’t “I don’t want a girlfriend, I just want to cuddle with my Michiko-chan hug pillow.” This is “I can’t get a girlfriend, in fact, society actively finds me repulsive because of my hobbies, so all I can do to achieve even a simulacrum of the love and companionship I desire is cuddle my Michiko-chan hug pillow.”

  5. I have the feeling 2D relationships will become a trend in China as well in the coming decades as while their economy booms, the rate at which there are more men than women due to the one child policy. The women will continue to gain financial independence and will only seek men who are financially successful as well, thus this will leave a huge population of single, lonely men who will have 0% of getting any female companionship.

    1. This is actually becoming a prevalent problem with young women worldwide so if it happens in China I wouldn’t be surprised. The most attractive attribute a woman finds in a man is not just his looks but his status as well which goes back to our evolutionary days in where women would trade off their youth and uterus in exchange for a male’s protection and nurturing of offspring.

      In recent studies scientists found that most men nowadays are found to be unattractive to most women and that women only want the highest caliber of men to spend their finite youth and sexual attractiveness with. A recent study conducted that Japanese women found that “Doctor’s” are the most preferred profession women desire in a man.

      In this current age women today now have unrealistic expectations of men which the majority men cannot fulfill because of constant shifting goalposts. This is becoming a major problem in Japanese culture when it pertains to the birthrate since more women are now living at home with their parents and choosing to abstain from sex or only having sex with that top 5% tier of men they consider worthy. If this trend continues 50% of the Japanese race will be wiped out by the year 2100.

  6. In joining this conversation, one thing came to mind. Not that I’m condoning 2D relationships in any way but there is something I don’t believe has been mentioned. 2D characters are created by 3D people in the real world. Some characters have lots of depth of story and believeability associated with them.

    That being said, I believe that people can fall in love with these virtual characters more easily than their 3D counterparts. Seeing how otaku and fans of this genre of entertainment consider themselves introverts to begin with.

    Again, I’m just a regular guy with a normal relationship, but I can see where people can fall into this ‘love’ in the first place.

    Just my thoughts

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