A humanoid figure looms over us. Its big eyes hold a weird glow and its skin has a slight sheen that looks like plastic. Its arms and legs are slim and its guileless expression fits the high-pitched voice we hear coming from its tiny mouth. Suddenly, it whispers in Japanese: "Kaori-san, I want you so bad."
We imagine this scene playing out perfectly in the mind of an otaku, and ardent lover of anime and manga and all its paraphenelia. Being aroused by a cartoon could be considered by many as unusual behavior, and some may laugh with incredulity at the fierce attachment these people have towards these fictional anime characters. Nevertheless, this situation is far more common than we think. The right term for this situation is Schediaphilia, and it explains why some people fall in love or feel sexual attraction for a cartoon.
Although Schediaphilia is not an official classification for mental disorder, it's frequently used to explain the infatuation some people feel for a cartoon character. It's common to think that consumers of hentai (animated pornography)would be more likely to feel this type of attraction, but this isn't always the case.
This philia is also linked to another known as fictophilia, referring to the sexual desire or affection for a fictional individual from a book, movie or series.
This affection and growing connection a person feels towards a fictional character are largely based on the personality traits and features they seek in a partner.
Although there are people with Schediaphilia all over the world, Japan is probably the most notorious since it offers a wide array of products to satisfy the needs of these consumers. The manga Air Doll tells the story of a man who buys an inflatable doll and treats it as his wife. The protagonist is in love with the idea of what the doll represents, not the object per se. This sexual desire for a fictional is driven purely by intellect and it sustained by fantasies.
In 2009, a Japanese young man known as "Sal9000" got married to a character from the video game Love Plus. While highly criticized by many, he also received support from several fans of the game. The purpose of the game is to woo and start a relationship with three different fictional women. Sal9000's experience turned out better than he expected when he felt sure that Nene Anegasaki was the love of his life. His case is one of the most extreme ones, but it helps shine a light on how these digital "relationships" are developed. This guy fell in love with her because the character with its own unique personality empathized with him.
According to a study made by the Independent, millennials are the loneliest generation in history, despite finding success at an early age. In 2011, 86% of young people claimed to feel lonely and depressed. Four years later the same analysis pointed out that young people isolate themselves from society as elders over 70 tend to do. One of the main reasons why they seem so reluctant to interact with others is because they think everybody have ulterior motives and are often distrustful. This is a consequence of the information era we're living in; millennials would rather stay not stray from their circle of acquaintances.
People develop connections with the characters from the books they read, the movies they watch, or, in some cases, from anime. By not having a bidirectional bond, we can fall in love with someone who won't let us down, an imaginary being who will remain the same forever, and seems to be more attractive than any person on the street, even if this being is a cartoon.
These cases are clear examples of how schediaphilia develops, but in this discourse we could add one more point: technology immersion. Studies have shown that a decrease in sexual impulses can be attributed to an increase in the consumption of pornography.
According to statistics published by Covenant Eyes, at least 70% of teenagers in 2015 have already watched pornography. The same study shows that, now more than ever, the content in these movies is more graphic.
We could be lenient and say that schediaphilia it's not a big issue and that it actually boosts the creativity of fans. With all slippery slopes, the moment you plunge into excess you stop making real bonds with people and you lose touch with reality.
There are fandoms who adore Sherlock Holmes for his intelligence and arrogance and likewise there are communities of the anime One Piece that spend a lot of time talking about the character Nami and make explicit drawings of her to fulfill their fantasies. Some followers even create "fanfiction," where they write love stories between their favorite character. So here is where the lines become blurred, to what extent is the admiration for an image or an idea any different from the love and affection you have for handsome and beautiful celebrities?
Raise your hand if you ever felt attracted to Vegeta, Bulma, Launch, Ranma (in either version), Howl, or any other anime character. We are so immersed in the story and characters you cannot help but feel the pull to belong in these fantasy worlds.
The same happens when we fall in love with someone. We expect them to be what we have idealized; we close our eyes, picturing the possibilities of having a relationship with them. Bearing this in mind, perhaps being schediaphilic is way much better than falling for stupid love games. After all, reality is also a subjective matter.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards