A British newspaper article blaming 2D for turning Japanese men into effete pillow-frotteurs has lately been provoking controversy online.
The piece, from the pages of top leftist rag The Guardian:
Japan leads the way in sexless love
It’s not easy being a young man in Japan today. Every few months sees the release of a new set of figures, stats and stories trumpeting the same meme: today’s Japanese men are unmanly – and worse, they don’t seem bothered by it.
In the most recent government study, published at the end of last month, the percentage of unmarried men spiked 9.2 points from five years ago. More telling: 61% of those unwed men reported not having a girlfriend, and 45% said they couldn’t care less about finding one.
What gives? As anyone who has watched Japanese or Korean pop videos knows, the popular image of men in Asia, seen from a western perspective, is more effeminate than macho, rife with makeup, stylised hairdos and choreographed dance steps. Even so-called punks in Japan lean more to Vivienne Westwood than Malcolm McLaren – more familiar with fashion spreads than the spitting in the street.
Why the generational malaise and indifference to sex? Theories abound. The most provocative to me, a Japanese-American and longtime Tokyo resident, is that Japanese women have become stronger socially and economically at the very same time that Japanese men have become more mole-ish and fully absorbed in virtual worlds, satiated by the very technological wizardry their forebears foisted upon them, and even preferring it to reality.
“I don’t like real women,” one bloke superciliously sniffed on Japan’s 2channel, the world’s largest and most active internet bulletin board site. “They’re too picky nowadays. I’d much rather have a virtual girlfriend.”
Virtual girlfriends became a sensation last summer, when Japanese game-maker Konami released its second-generation of its popular Love Plus, called, aptly, Love Plus +, for the Nintendo DS gaming system.
Konami skillfully arranged for an otherwise deadbeat beach resort town called Atami to host a Love Plus + holiday weekend. Players were invited to tote their virtual girlfriends, via the gaming console, to the actual resort town to cavort for a weekend in romantic bliss. The promotion was absurdly successful, with local resort operators reporting that it was their best weekend in decades.
I tried to explain the phenomenon via a TV interview for a US cable station: the men who spent their yen on a weekend of romance with a digital lover were a subset of a subculture many times removed from mainstream Japan. They are known as otaku, or hyper-obsessive and often asocial men who seek solace in imaginary worlds (not unlike many artists and writers, I should add).
Nevertheless, these were clearly young Japanese man of a generation that found the imperfect or just unexpected demands of real-world relationships with women less enticing than the lure of the virtual libido. You can’t have sex with a digital graphic, but you can get sexually excited, and maybe satisfied, by one.
The Guardian’s writer can probably be considered to have fallen deeply into the trap of believing the drivel the media writes about Japan (whether Japan’s notoriously deceitful domestic media or the pathetically credulous foreign correspondents who inhabit Tokyo) – any generalisation about 60 million Japanese men which is based on the niche habits of a fringe and much despised population of otaku which numbers a few hundred thousand at most surely deserves to be treated with ridicule.
Anyone looking for proof of this need look no further than the pathetically low sales seen in hardcore otaku markets – eroge, anime DVDs, moeblob manga and dating games are considered hits if their sales number in the tens of thousands, hardly the sort of popularity which could be used to make sweeping generalisations about the lives of millions of men.
None of this stopped the piece being picked up by a Japanese hack (“English Man: 2D is to Blame for the Loss of Japanese Male Assertiveness”) as an example of insightful foreign commentary on Japan’s social woes, which was subsequently presented to none other than 2ch itself:
“I really feel as though we are just being made fun of?”
“It is absolutely impossible to generalise the views of a tiny number of 2ch-posting otaku onto all Japanese men (or even onto all otaku).”
“I can’t deny that there are those sorts of people in Japan, but it’s not as if everyone is like that. It’s as if foreigners think Japanese are nothing but anime and AKB48 fans?”
“The main reason is just that Japanese women have become so arrogant.”
“If you want to have a relationship with a middle schooler you’ll be arrested, so there’s no other choice than 2D.”
“Otaku always end up being picked on for this sort of thing, but for some reason nobody ever reports on just how horrible Japanese women are?”
“Women have become stronger, but for some reason they still never make approaches on men…”
“Housewives don’t do any housework now, so what’s the point of marrying one?”
“Women have too much authority. They don’t recognise themselves as the slaves of men, so it’s no wonder men reject them.”
“Just lower the legal age for marriage to 13 or 14 and this problem will fix itself!”
“I don’t think the lack of assertiveness you see in Japanese men is actually anything new at all.”
“It’s rather simple – young men have no money any more.”
“The vast majority of Japanese marriages before were arranged marriages. Now that parents and friends aren’t meddling in your lives to make you marry someone, it’s only natural that there are fewer marriages.”
“The feminists really are desperate to get 2D banned…”
“I don’t think this writer has ever heard of ukiyoe, has he?”
“The English guy’s analysis is right on the mark!”
“Compared to other Europeans, the British are incredibly negative about everything…”
“A British man says so, I guess that makes it highly credible.”
“This isn’t even written by an English person, it’s a Nikkei American…”
“He said he’s an American who has lived in Tokyo for a long time, it’s not even a British person!”
“I called a girl at work (she told me her number herself before). She got angry at me and said ‘How did you know my number? Calling me like that is creepy!’ Romance is impossible for me.”
“3D women are too much hassle these days. People just flee to 2D instead…”
“Britain should turn to 2D love, it might reduce all the sex crimes they are plagued with.”
“Yet somehow sex crimes are still the fault of games.”
“I can only hope that all the discrimination, prejudice and verbal abuse coming out of this country one day abates.”
“I like talking to real women, I like sex and I like 2D. I think the majority are like me.”
“I lost all interest in anime in elementary school. Isn’t that normal?”
“There’s no way we can support all these old people. We can’t even support a woman.”
“I prefer 2D men, there’s no contest!”
“Polygon Miku is becoming dangerously cute these days, isn’t she?”
“All the overseas articles about ‘hologram’ Miku were calling her ‘creepy,’ ‘bizarre,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘fake’ and so on. They never refer to her in a positive light.”
“Kerutsu-san, you reading? You’ve certainly trolled an awful lot of British and Japanese, well done!”
“If you foreigners keep watching Japanese anime you’ll end up like us. Hollywood has no such powers.”