There's Growing 'Fictosexual' Movement in Japan

Adherents say the practice is empowering and liberating
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2022 3:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – In 2008, Akihiko Kondo spiraled into a deep depression after being bullied at work and rebuffed by several women. That is when he discovered Miku, a blue-haired, software-based “virtual pop star.” He soon fell in love, according to New York Times reporters Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno, who explore Japan’s burgeoning “fictosexual” subculture. Kondo and Miku’s relationship evolved in 2017 with the development of Gatebox, a tabletop device that allows users “to interact with one of a variety of fictional characters represented by a small hologram.” In 2018, after a 10-year relationship, Kondo and Miku were (unofficially) married. He knows she’s not real, but “when we’re together, she makes me smile,” the 38-year-old tells the Times. “In that sense, she’s real.”

Gatebox is marketed primarily to men, but "fictosexualism" is also popular with women. Tokyo has two shopping districts that serve as “meccas for fulfilling character-based dreams.” On social media, fans express devotion and share experiences like birthday celebrations and marriage proposals. Researcher Agnes Giard of Berlin’s Freie Universität says some young people see a chance to break free from Japan’s traditional “breadwinner-housewife” social structure. “To the general public, it seems indeed foolish,” says Giard, “but for character lovers, this practice is seen as essential. It makes them feel alive, happy, useful, and part of a movement with higher goals in life.” Kondo has found a new purpose thanks to conversations with fellow character lovers; he is now attending law school to study minority rights. Read more here. (Read more anime stories.)

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