In my room I have three figures, two posters and a drawing of my favourite anime girl, Sen Yarizui (from Ben-to). I haven’t gone as far as to buy a dakimakura with her on it yet, but the fact that I know that one exists probably speaks a lot for my obsession. This phenomena of grown men having “waifus” has become an incredibly wide spread reality for a lot of people over the years. Most otaku have seen at least one picture of a Japanese guy and his body pillow out on a date in the past. What is it that makes both men and women have this kind of obsession with 2D characters? It is not hard to see that a lot of female anime characters are drawn to represent the “ideal woman” and a lot of mangaka are said to draw their own idea of this when they design their female leads.
In a culture where anime is such a widespread and beloved form of media, could young men, or even women, become alienated from the real world by an “obsession” with 2D characters? Could this obsession be distracting part of the Japanese populous from choosing a more traditional route - and a spouse that is capable of procreation?
Certainly there is no doubt that the birth rate in Japan is in decline. A study by Hiroshi Yoshida from Tohoku University conducted in 2012 said that the number of children aged up to 14 in Japan is shrinking by one every 100 seconds and by 3011 there will be none left.
Obviously, this study grossly over-exaggerates its conclusion. It can’t possibly take into account any unexpected future changes in the population since they haven’t happened yet. But it does raise an interesting and valid point. Looking at a world comparison of birth rates provided by the Population Reference Bureau in 2009, we can clearly see that birth rates in Japan are lower than anywhere else in the world except for maybe Germany. What has caused the birth rate to get so low? And is there a link to the situation in Germany?
The answer to this question seems to be more linked to money than anything else. Germany and Japan are both countries that at one point or another have been famous for their strong economies. Nowadays with the struggling Euro in Germany and a stagnant economy in Japan, making ends meet has become harder and harder for young families. This combined with the increased marriage age of both men and women in Japan and the fact that women find it hard to get a job after giving birth in the Japanese labour market has led to a lot of younger families just not wanting to have children.
Another contributing factor could be attributed to the difference in celebrity culture between Japan and the Western world. It only takes a brief glance to see that there is a distinct difference between the kind of people hailed as idols in Japan and celebrities in the Western world. Japanese idols are loved for attributes like cuteness and innocence. Most female idols are even forbidden from having romantic relationships to maintain their pure image.
"No! Kanon! What about your image?"
This greatly contrasts with the sort of celebrities we see on the front cover of magazines every day doing drugs, getting overly drunk, or just being crazy in general. In a much more innocent culture, young girls might look up to their favourite idols and want to stay innocent like them. Unfortunately in the west our youth are looking up to “celebrities” like the cast of Jersey Shore who only care about getting drunk and having a good time.
So, is there any relationship between loving anime characters and a declining birth rate? It would seem not. There is certainly no empirical evidence to prove this claim and even if there is some sort of effect, it seems that it can’t be differentiated from the idea of a western “fairy tale romance”. At the end of the day it looks like it’s good news for all of us otaku and we can keep on loving our favourite anime characters as we please. As long as our respective economies don’t crash and burn we still have hope of having a child yet.
"I can't eat anymore, I'm stuffed"
Article Thumbnail and Images posted anonymously
Population Map © Population Reference Bureau
The World God Only Knows Image © Manglobe
James is an English anime fan who loves nothing more than sitting around; putting on some anime; and sipping on a cup of Earl Grey with his pet tortoise, Barrel. He writes for Goboiano and Anime Corner where he goes by the tag name, Thayne†.
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