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Cartoon Culture

2-D Lovers of Another Kind

Love in 2D

It seems only appropriate to wrap up Comic-Con weekend with this New York Times article about Japanese men who have long-term relationships with drawn images of cartoon characters. The article profiles Nisan (above) who met his current girlfriend–a pillowcase with a video game character printed onto it–at a comic book convention:

He treats her the way any decent man would treat a girlfriend – he takes her out on the weekends to sing karaoke or take purikura, photo-booth pictures imprinted on a sheet of tiny stickers. In the few hours we spent together, I watched him position her gently in the restaurant booth and later in the back seat of his car, making sure to keep her upright and not to touch her private parts. He doesn’t take her to work, but he has a backup body pillow with the same Nemutan cover inside his desk drawer in case he has to work late at his tech-support job.

  • EatRune

    *Sigh* It’s stuff like this that makes Otaku look bad . . .

  • FP

    –He treats her the way any decent man would treat a girlfriend–

    Eh? You mean, he tries like hell to avoid bumping into her in the Red Lobster when there’s a REAL relationship later? And explaining why she said “Hi!” and how you know her and why she seemed disappointed when you didn’t remember her name right away? And how many “skanks” did you ‘encounter’, anyway? And maybe that’s what that itching is? Maybe it’s your fault?

  • There, but for the grace of God…

  • ovi

    isnt there hospitals for people like this?

  • Well girlfriends are for a short time, death is forever. For that short time I’d recommend a real one.

  • TheGunheart

    As an anime fan, I find this far beyond simply frightening.

  • RoboFingernail

    I dunno… that girl on the pillow case is pretty hot…. and she must be ohhh so soft

  • Matt Sullivan

    Wow. I mean..I know people who think cartoons are sexy, but this takes it to a new level.

    Eh..if it makes em happy…*shrug*

  • So … why not? I’ve seen much worse relationships. As long as he’s happy (he doesn’t look like though).

    (Angry Beavers – Norbert: “Meet my new friend, Stump!”)

  • J. Encea

    “Lars and the Real Girl” is a terrific movie. But this is just WEIRD. And with one of those ugly Japanese cartoons, too!

  • chris robinson

    Whatever works.

  • Girlfriends are for a short time, linen is forever. I still have my hockey sheets from when I was a kid. Today we’re going to watch the game and drink brewskies … well, I’ll do the drinking ’cause I don’t want them to stain.

  • startend

    “It seems only appropriate to wrap up Comic-Con weekend with this New York Times article about Japanese men who have long-term relationships with drawn images of cartoon characters.”

    Is it?!?!!?

  • This is one of those lovely little things that makes one wonder, where exactly, as a society, did we go wrong?

  • that linen hussy! I’ve been looking for her for weeks! And she turns up in the arms of that smooth talking sharkie.
    Fine! Stay in Japan for all I care!!

  • ZAR

    Well, at least it’s a harmless sex substitute and not something REALLY sick, like an NRA-membership. ;)

  • Christopher Cook

    It’s time for his mother to kick him out of the basement.

  • Chris Leonido

    Does this guy have problems? I should recomend getting a real girlfriend instead of something like that.

  • Paul N

    So he’s cheating on his home body pillow with his work body pillow?

  • Jason


    The things I’ve learned, thanks to the internet.

    Sometimes ignorance really IS bliss…

  • how can a guy like this end up with a girl like that!
    she’s hot ..

  • sporridge

    So now I have some spin, er, rationale for my crush on Erin Esurance (knowing full well that she’s a cartoon will cushion the inevitable disappointment).

    Never ceases to amaze how a protest against “romantic capitalism” leads to another form of “romantic capitalism.” Yet again, marketers know how to play on the age-old desperation for attaining the seemingly unattainable.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    Pillow Talk: (noun) The relaxed, intimate conversation that often occurs between two sexual partners after the act of lovemaking, usually accompanied by cuddling, caresses, and other physical intimacy.

    I’ll never use that term again, the word-pictures are too disturbing. (BTW, I wonder if they’ve gotten to the removal-of-the-tags stage yet?)

  • This is fantastic. Good for you, man!

  • Lucky Jim

    Ah, creepy, disturbing love. Is there a better kind?

  • I think the most disturbing part is that “Nemutan is 10, maybe 12 years old…”

  • Sam

    I honestly don’t think this is funny at all. At least this guy isn’t out there to hurt anyone to satisfy his needs.

    It’s just that our society made us to believe such things are wrong. Then again it is very sad because they have to resort into pillows as their companion for life instead of someone who can share real emotions and thoughts with. I’d say, leave these people alone to do whatever they want as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. Go condemn the REAL criminals now if you will please.

  • Twill

    Okay…it’s one thing to watch anime and become obsessed….it’s another to “fall in love” with a fake anime character imprint on a pillow case. There are plenty of real women on the earth…we don’t need guys falling for fake people on a television show or in a book. I LOVE anime and manga…but I’m not “falling in love” with fake people. Our wiorld is so messed…*facepalm*

  • Bugsmer

    It could be worse. That could be a pillowcase of Scooby Doo.

  • Mark H.

    There is a product called a Real Doll which some men form romantic relationships with, including sex. BBC America had a documentary about it, there was one guy had 5 of them. At $30,000 each, that’s more than a little strange.

  • Applying the image to a pillow is a new angle, but I guess that’s really just an extension of having, say, a Farrah poster on your wall next to your bed.

    But still weird.

  • From Urban Dictionary:

    1. moe

    also written as moé.

    A Japanese slang term (ironically, first employed by otaku) used to refer to the fetish for or sexual attraction to idealized people, usually a fictional perfect young girl.

    Since then, moé has come to be used as a general term for a hobby, mania or fetish (non-sexual or otherwise). This is contrasted with otaku, which would be taking the specific hobby, mania or fetish to harmful levels.

  • Gerard de Souza

    This has to be a disorder. That photo is pathetic. Has he ever had a real girlfriend? “He treats her the way any decent man would treat a girlfriend”? Positioning her in seats? Yeh…just like a having a real woman. Sure this isn’t some media prank? At least he won’t get any stds…just cotton fibers.

  • Jim Engel

    I think this was invented by the “Furries” to take attention away from THEM…

  • Mike Russo

    While I’ve heard about Americans who have done some very, very weird things, all the creepiest stuff seems to come out of Japan. Why is that? What is it about Japanese society that causes some men to get this depraved?

  • stew

    Yes foreigners are weird aren’t they…. http://tiny.cc/7PSOC

  • Professor Widebottom

    If this guy needs therapy, they better steer away from the anger-reduction via beating a pillow with a tennis racket approach.

  • It’s about time pillow case lovers got some dap. Now, if only Japan would hurry up and pass that legislation that would actually make it legal to marry cartoon characters.

  • jordan reichek

    This tale is more common than one would think. Before long, he’ll break that fragile pillow’s heart and toss her for a curvy ottoman or perhaps a plump pincushion.

    For ONCE, I’d like to see this cushion/man love work out for a change!

    My heart goes out to them and I sincerely hope their stuffing lasts forever.

    MR. FONTANELLI- Glass houses, my friend. ;)

  • At least she’s not a backseat driver!

  • vzk

    This is probably why birth rates in Japan are declining.

    And now this blog becomes Sankaku Brew.

  • I didn’t see any pillows when I was in Japan. Wonder if they brought any to the San Diego ComicCon?

  • uncle wayne

    You’re right, the girl on the pillow IZ pretty hot….but not HALF as hot as MY asian girlfriend!!

  • tgentry

    “*Sigh* It’s stuff like this that makes Otaku look bad . . .”

    You mean it doesn’t do that on it’s own?

  • Chuck Wilson

    From the article:

    “50 percent of men and women in Japan do not have friends of the opposite sex.”

    “People say there are some otaku who don’t want to get married, but that’s not true. Some have so little confidence that they’ve just given up, but deep inside their souls, they want it just as much as anybody else.”

    Emotional isolation can make you do some really strange things, no argument there. I wonder if the excessively polite Japanese culture makes it easier for behavior like this to be out in the open instead of hidden behind closed doors like in other countries. At any rate, it’s easy to point fingers and make fun of someone, but social anxiety can be a debilitating problem. No matter how weird I think his behavior is, at least this guy isn’t going around molesting children or raping women to deal with the frustration and emotional pain of his loneliness. Personally, I hope he gets past whatever is holding him back and finds a live (non-prepubescent) woman to be happy with. His life sounds like a very sad one.

  • Wow, that’s so sad. Someday he’ll leave that hussy for a real woman!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > Oh…my…god….
    > The things I’ve learned, thanks to the internet.
    > Sometimes ignorance really IS bliss…

    Truth hurts doesn’t it!

    Thanks for the Moe definition Jaime! And no, this is not a trick Gerald, I’ve known people like him! It’s hard to say how it became this way, or what can save these people from the obsessions they have. Too many shows coming out nowadays in Japan are catering to this group day and night, and it’s a shame there isn’t a way to break it completely.

    An even deeper threat and social disorder effecting the Japanese today is a phenomenon called “Hikikomori”. This is the ultimate price for one’s obsessive delights.

  • 2-D-sire!

    I love Popeye, but I wouldn’t want to puff his pipe.

  • Rio

    i refuse to believe this is real.

  • Dick Cheney

    This will solve Japan’s overpopulation problem.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Y’know maybe he is on to something….I’ve always had a thing for the Betties; Boop, Rubble and Cooper…

  • I remember having Pac-Man® sheets, matching pillowcases, t-shirt and cap many years ago. My wife says we gave all that stuff to charity. Other than that, we never took the linens out anyplace.

  • Well thank God it’s not a pillow case of Speed Racer or he wouldn’t be able to get married in California!!!

    I actually think he’s found the perfect relationship – if he leaves, she wouldn’t be hurt, and if she leaves, he could just buy another one.

  • And he works in tech-support?!

    There’s the shock of the century.

  • vzk

    “Well thank God it’s not a pillow case of Speed Racer or he wouldn’t be able to get married in California!!! ”

    The new definition of “Sanctity of Marriage”: One Man and One REAL Woman. Let’s see what disgraced Miss California Carrie Prejean thinks about that.

    Speaking of which, here’s something for men into “alternative lifestyle choices”:


  • G. H.

    This is adorable!

  • nick

    Japan has a diminishing birthrate that’s of critical concern as the percentage of the elderly is the only thing increasing. The 1991 Otomo written anime feature “Rojin-Z” might be prescient of the future.

    I wonder if this is a kind of good for us good for you partnership between the media. Japanese media would probably not want to call attention to a subject like that. Western media has a big appetite for the extreme, quirky and Japanese though you never really find out how widespread whatever it is really is. Though on the other side of the pond, one trend a lot of observers are seeing in Japanese media lately is a lot of chic articles on first time motherhood.

  • Who let this guy out of the institution??

  • Viridis

    Somebody asked why all the really crazy stuff seems to come out of Japan. Having spent a fair amount of time in the country myself, and after studying the language and culture… I’m definitely no expert, but it just seems to me that the culture of Japan puts so much emphasis on the needs of the group, and so deeply represses the needs of the individual, that you end up with a lot of seemingly-crazy stuff that people do, because they’re desperate to express that individuality. Thus you get the crazy fashion teens in Shibuya, the anime-obsessed otaku, the hikkokomori who don’t leave the house and can only interact with people on the internet.

    With Japanese culture as indirect as it is, it’s almost easier to do visibly strange things (like carry a pillow girlfriend around) then actually talk with anybody about your real problems or loneliness. I mean, this is a country where some people who lose their jobs are so ashamed to “disappoint” their families that they become homeless instead of asking them for help. There’s a lot of very real social issues in modern-day Japan, and I honestly blame those issues for the outbursts of extreme strangeness that we see, like this guy, or the very violent crimes you get (like last year’s knife attack in Akihabara) in what is otherwise a very low-crime country.

    tl;dr version: this guy is probably a symptom of bigger social issues.

  • King Zilch

    Okay, it’s easy to make fun of this; I totally get it. I’m not going to wag my finger and cluck disapprovingly and say that anybody here is a bad person.


    When I look at that picture, when I see that man’s eyes, the loneliness I see there makes me want to cry. We’ve all been lonely; maybe you’ve had your heart broken and felt like no one could ever love you, or maybe you’ve just been a misfit and an outcast. Now imagine how much that must be magnified for him, if he can only feel loved by a pillow.

    Yeah, it’s funny, but my gods, do I feel sorry for this man.

  • Nancy

    I saw these pillowcases at comic-con last year and thought they were pretty funny, and terribly tragic. This year I saw cute Japanese girl mouse pads with molded breast wrist rests. (They were of course tastefully wearing lacy bras.) They were very soft and cradled your wrist perfectly, but I don’t think it would be appropriate for work.