It is a well documented fact that Japan’s birth rate has been struggling for the quite a while now. The last few years have shown a slight uptick in the birth rate, but still not nearly enough to compensate for the growing elderly population. The birth rate hit its nadir in 2005, dropping to 1.24 children per woman for the nationwide average. A rate of 2.1 children per woman is considered zero growth, with the extra 0.1 accommodating for early deaths or people who do not go on to reproduce. Japan is certainly not alone in their low birth rate, many modernized countries are suffering similar situations right now. Countries such as the UK (about 1.8) and the US (about 2.05) are both below the replacement rate. The major differences between Japan and many of these other countries is that Japan’s differential is quite severe, and countries such as the US supplement their birth rate with higher than average immigration rates.
Japanese society in general is facing some odd situations that may be contributing to their lower birth rates. First, it was the “herbivore men” that were garnering international attention. They were less driven, less ambitious, less masculine, and possibly even less libidinous than their average Japanese counterparts. Sometimes it seems to stem from a lack of self-confidence, but others genuinely seem not to care. This new attitude seems to correlate with the decline of the Japanese economy. Recently, Japan has taken its biggest economic hits since the burst of their bubble economy, and that has manifested socially, as well.
Now, though, as New York Times (via TokyoMango) has recently reported, there is another group of Japanese people that aren’t contributing to the gene pool. There’s a sub-section of otaku who have taken their love of anime and manga to the next level. The main focus of the NYT article is a man referred to as Nisan (a reference to “oniisan” or older brother) who carries around a pillow with a picture of his “girlfriend” Nemu-tan, from Da Capo. He takes “her” everywhere: restaurants, walks, and even keeps a second pillowcase of her in his office in case he has to work late. While he is not alone, he is definitely the face of the 2-D love movement; I have personally seen pictures of him for the last couple years, often with captions and macros such as “So Ronery” attached. Having spent quite a bit of time on 4chan’s /a/ board, I am already accustomed to seeing the “mai waifus” and “3-D Pig Disgusting” statements from the English-speaking crowd; so, the NYT article was no surprise to me. I’ve even seen jokes made about it in the manga Hayate no Gotoku, where Hayate turns down a girl by telling her that he only loves 2-D women. Because the characters from anime, manga and eroge are ficticious, they can be given idealized personality traits. For someone who has no luck with finding the real lover of his dreams…or any other lover for that matter, the option to connect with their favorite idealized, characters may be all they have left. Because the character archetypes cover the whole spectrum, there is an option whatever the person’s flavor. In recent years, many terms to describe characters personalities including tsundere, yandere, and even a whole genre of entertainment devoted to moe. It is a bit depressing to see, but these are their choices to make. Hopefully, for the sake, of Japan’s population, some of them find real love. In the meantime, if they aren’t interested in real Japanese women, send them my way.
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