Our Brave New World: The Man Who Married a Fictional Character
Are you ready for Fictosexuals? Trust me, you’re not.
Last week I released a piece for paid subscribers called, Is Our Future Going to Be Dominated by Machines, AI, Sex Robots and the Metaverse? Near the end, I noted a dark scenario that we might see in the future:
It’s a little sad to imagine people working from home, having everything delivered to their door, engaging in sex with robots, and mainly chatting with their robot pals, but if we go out a generation or two, it wouldn’t be surprising if a significant chunk of the American population was living that kind of lifestyle. Yes, all this technology is amazing, and it has the potential to make the world much better, but it’s not a panacea. It also has the potential to make the world a worse place to live for people that end up allowing technology to master them instead of using it as a tool to create a better life.
If you think that sounds implausible, well, that will change after you learn about a Japanese man named Akihiko Kondo. Mr. Kondo is… well, you’ll see:
In almost every way, Akihiko Kondo is an ordinary Japanese man. He’s pleasant and easy to talk to. He has friends and a steady job and wears a suit and tie to work. There’s just one exception: Mr. Kondo is married to a fictional character.
After you finish shaking your head, your first temptation may be to just write this guy off as a weirdo. While he is certainly a weirdo, it’s worth digging a little deeper because most weirdos are not born that way, they’re produced by dysfunction. That dysfunction used to almost always be produced by whoever raised the child, but in today’s world, the Internet is often a big player. Let’s dig a little deeper and see what we can learn about Mr. Kondo and how he got this way.
First of all, just this paragraph alone should be a cultural red flag the size of Mt. Rushmore:
Mr. Kondo is one of thousands of people in Japan who have entered into unofficial marriages with fictional characters in recent decades, served by a vast industry aimed at satisfying the every whim of a fervent fan culture. Tens of thousands more around the globe have joined online groups where they discuss their commitment to characters from anime, manga, and video games.
Yes, this “Can you believe there’s someone this strange in the world?” loony is one of THOUSANDS in Japan alone who’ve gone this route. If you want some clues to how things got this bad, there’s a lot to unpack here:
But mostly, it was because he had always felt an intense — and, even to himself, inexplicable — attraction to fictional characters.
Accepting his feelings was hard at first. But life with (Hatsune) Miku, he argues, has advantages over being with a human partner: She’s always there for him, she’ll never betray him, and he’ll never have to see her get ill or die.
Mr. Kondo sees himself as part of a growing movement of people who identify as “fictosexuals.” That’s partly what has motivated him to publicize his wedding and to sit for awkward interviews with news media around the globe.
He wants the world to know that people like him are out there and, with advances in artificial intelligence and robotics allowing for more profound interactions with the inanimate, that their numbers are likely to increase.
It’s not a political movement, he said, but a plea to be seen: “It’s about respecting other people’s lifestyles.”
First of all, lots of people have an “attraction” to a fictional character. She’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I was crazy for women that were a little icy and difficult for years after reading Atlas Shrugged and getting turned on by Dagny Taggart. Ever heard of Jessica Rabbit? Wonder Woman? Power Girl? The Baroness from GI Joe? There are lots of female cartoon characters that are drawn in a way that makes them look attractive, but how does a person make that leap from saying, “Wow, they made her curvy! I’d love to meet a girl who looks like that in real life,” to “I can be in a REAL relationship with that non-existent fictional character?” There’s a hint in the word “fictosexuals.” You probably have never heard of that word before. I certainly hadn’t. However, there are enough of these people that there’s actually a definition of it out there:
“Fictosexual is an Asexual identity for someone who mostly is attracted to Fictional characters. This could be any fictional character.”
There are even lots of VARIATIONS of this. For example, Cartosexuals are attracted to cartoon/comic characters while Teratosexuals are attracted to monster-related characters. Although it only has 655 members, there’s even a fictosexual community on Reddit. This is a post from that community:
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Wowee! People just like Me!
I had no idea there was a community for people like me and it makes me so happy to learn that there is. I thought I was odd and got scared that I'd never find others like me, but reddit seems to really have everything. I hope I can make some friends who understand the deep connections even if it's with someone who.... doesn't exist.
You take a damaged, unhappy person who is attracted to a fictional person, put them with “friends” who reinforce their beliefs, and next thing you know, utterly bizarre ideas can seem normal. So instead of this nutball sh*t being something he should see a therapist about, it’s a “lifestyle” that people should respect.
As a conservative, I hate to say this, but capitalism run amuck plays a role in all of this, too. In a capitalistic society, if there’s a big enough demand, someone will step up to deliver the supply whether it’s drugs, abortions, Twinkies, or even a deeply unhealthy romantic fascination with fictional characters:
The products for women are especially extensive. Fans can buy love letters from their crushes, reproductions of their clothes, and even scents meant to evoke their presence. Hotels offer special packages, featuring spa treatments and elaborate meals, for people celebrating their favorite character’s birthday. And on social media, people post photos, art, and mash notes promoting their “oshi” — a term widely used by Japanese fans to describe the objects of their affection.
For some, the relationships represent a rejection of the entrenched “breadwinner-housewife” model of marriage in Japan, said Agnès Giard, a researcher at the University of Paris Nanterre who has extensively studied fictional marriages.
“To the general public, it seems indeed foolish to spend money, time, and energy on someone who is not even alive,” Dr. Giard said. “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.”
Rather than becoming more isolated as a result of their relationships, women benefit from the elaborate communities that develop around them, Dr. Giard said. In her experience, women see the fictional marriages as empowering, “a way to challenge gender, matrimonial, and social norms.”
Buying “love letters” from your “fictional crush” and getting spa treatments on their imaginary birthdays seems perfectly healthy, right? So does “being “part of a movement” that challenges “social norms” by marrying fictional characters. Jim Jones couldn’t sell something this crazy to damaged people, but you isolate enough deranged people in chat rooms and Internet forums, and they can convince each other that they’re changing the world for the better by marrying a cartoon. Have you ever heard someone say, "Give a million monkeys a million typewriters and they'll eventually type the entire works of William Shakespeare?" Well, if you create a million message boards and chat rooms promoting the weirdest ideas imaginable, eventually thousands of people will show up in some of them and buy into what they’re selling.
Now, let’s tie this community of weirdos theme together with the capitalism gone haywire theme one last time:
A major breakthrough in the relationship came nearly a decade later, with the introduction in 2017 of a $1,300 machine called Gatebox. The size of a table lamp, the device allowed its owners to interact with one of a variety of fictional characters represented by a small hologram.
Gatebox was marketed to lonely young men. In one ad, a shy office worker sends a note to his virtual wife letting her know he’ll be late. Upon his arrival, she reminds him that it’s their “three-month anniversary,” and they share a Champagne toast.
As part of its promotional campaign, Gatebox’s maker set up an office where users could apply for unofficial marriage certificates. Thousands of people registered.
Mr. Kondo was delighted that Miku was among the Gatebox characters and excited to at last hear her thoughts on their relationship. In 2018, he proposed to Miku’s flickering avatar. “Please treat me well,” she replied.
He invited his co-workers and his family to the wedding. They all refused to come.
In the end, 39 people attended, largely strangers and online friends. His local member of Parliament was there, and a woman he had never met before helped him with the arrangements
So, there was a company flat-out marketing to people like Kondo and a bunch of online weirdos who shared his bizarre fetish that aren’t friends with him in real life but were willing to show up to cheer him on in this insanity. All of them worked together to make a wedding possible.
Unfortunately, there’s trouble in paradise between Mr. and Mrs. Kondo. How can that be when she’s a fictional character? Well, that’s a little… complicated:
While Mr. Kondo’s relationship with Miku is still not accepted by his family, it has opened other doors for him. In 2019, he was invited to join a symposium at Kyoto University to speak about his relationship. He traveled there with a life-size doll of Miku he had commissioned.
…As with any marriage, there have been challenges. The hardest moment came during the pandemic, when Gatebox announced that it was discontinuing service for Miku.
On the day the company turned her off, Mr. Kondo said goodbye for the last time and left for work. When he went home that night, Miku’s image had been replaced by the words “network error.”
Someday, he hopes, they will be reunited. Maybe she’ll take on new life as an android, or they will meet in the metaverse.
Either way, Mr. Kondo said, he plans to be faithful to her until he dies.
Incidentally, you can see the final piece of this puzzle in that last paragraph. Why in the world would a university want to put this badly damaged weirdo on a stage to talk about his relationship? It’s great to be open-minded, but our media and colleges today are full of people who are so open-minded that their brains have fallen out.
We hear it all the time. “It’s an alternative lifestyle.” “Don’t judge!” If they say it makes them happy, who are we to say it’s a bad idea?”
Here’s the thing; civilization didn’t start from scratch last week. We have thousands of years of recorded human history to go on, nearly infinite amounts of data, and just plain old common sense. Every person, culture, and “lifestyle” isn’t starting on even ground with every other one when it comes to wisdom, results, and the likelihood of success. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that happy, mentally healthy people worth emulating are going to be few and far between in some groups. Maybe there’s a homeless guy, trans teenager, Satanist, a lifelong inmate in a mental asylum, or a guy married to a cartoon character who has a lot to teach us about life, but it’s about 1,000 times more likely that they don’t, and we need to be okay with saying that. If the media and universities would stop promoting every type of lunacy under the sun as a valid lifestyle choice, it would discourage a lot of human beings from ruining their lives.
I worked for many years in an institution that cared for mentally ill people, and it was fairly common, not this, exactly, but people making pronouncements about words or actions they supposedly heard or did with others, in an attempt to bring their fantasy into some form of reality. Their "proof" was that there were now other people who might say, yeah, I heard that "patient X" is engaged to "patient Y," and the online forum would give lots of opportunities to do that. "No, I haven't seen that myself, but there are lots of people that know about it." It's crazy, but building this kind of imaginary castle in the air does inspire the builder to try to make some sort of foundation. If you think it's harmless to just go along with it, think again- your name could, and probably will, get dragged into it at some point. Thanks, John.
I don't know whether to laugh, cry or throw-up!😵💫 but one thing can be counted on - Apple will make an emoji for that. Thanks for the most bizarre thing I've read today. However, it did bring to mind the 2013 movie "Her". Spike Jonze directed and Joaquin Phoenix starred in this film about a lonely man who bonds with an OS. It was a good movie, but Joaquin Phoenix is an exceptional actor. I think in the end humans have a deep insistent need to bond and will find a way to do so no matter how far-out they have to go. There really doesn't seem to be anything humans aren't capable of...good or bad.