A look into the 2D complex

The ides of March are understandably coming, and it’s hot as hell. Tomorrow marks the start of our final examinations, but here I am doing nothing about it and being absolutely comfortable. I wonder if my id finally dominated over my ego, but I’ve realized that I just couldn’t study – even with the electric fan at its highest setting, the temperature still makes me perspire as well as sleepy. It’s very annoying, but I’d have to deal with it.

Anyway, since yesterday I’ve been pondering about the 2D Complex, and how most of us anime fans fall victim to it. This has been elaborated by Madarame in Genshiken in that anime otaku, for the most part, see what is idealized in the two-dimensional art and animation – something that they could not even imagine to exist in real life.

The Book of Disquiet and sublimation

This reminds me of Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet: the persona in that book is an aesthete, and he notes in an entry (as the novel is somewhat a compilation of disjointed entries) that he likes to appreciate beauty from a distance. He likes to view human beauty (in women, most especially) from a distance, because if he tried to interact with the woman he appreciates his image towards her shatters: there is inevitably something flawed in that lady, and since he doesn’t want his ideals to be destroyed he remains distant; he sees human beauty as he sees art’s beauty – perfect and untouchable.

I guess most of us anime otaku are that way. Although there are occasionally some who break free, or just aren’t so in the first place, most of us often see the women or men in real life to be flawed and too trite as well as bland, and so we try to regress to the ideals we have always appreciated – the ideals of what we deem is perfect in our eyes. Because oftentimes what we deem perfect or ideal in real life is morally unacceptable, we sublimate what we like and just see it in another universe that is anime. In that universe, nothing is morally unacceptable because there are no people in it; it merely is a collection of moving pictures and occasionally outstanding art, but it contains our deepest desires that we cannot legally perform in society. Before I get too technical, though, I’m going to try and give an example.

A lot of hardcore anime fans (at least, those I’ve been exposed to in the Internet), like lolitas. If one hasn’t been buried under a rock, one can very much tell what these are. But for the convenience of anime fans who aren’t that hardcore enough, lolitas (or lolis) are girls under the age of maturity but quite near it. Girls in the age of 12 – 17 often qualify for this category. Now in real life, we all know that it’s illegal to have sex with girls under the age of ‘maturity,’ (18 for a lot of countries, but that differs from country to country) but a lot of men enjoy these kinds of girls – I’m not among them, though. Instead of being a real-life sexual pervert, however, most of these men simply enjoy the innuendos of anime which contains these types of girls profusely. It is socially acceptable, and does not bring with it the label of ‘pervert.’

Another example would be those who appreciate more mature women (among them would be me, I guess). In real life, most women and men past the age of thirty slowly degrade in their looks as they grow older. Some rarities still maintain their sultry and sexy bodies, but age often still decreases their attractiveness. However, most of those like me don’t go saying these things in real life, because we’d also be branded as another form of a sexual pervert as most of these more mature women are either married, with kids, or just don’t look as nubile as those ripe in age. To avoid being labeled deviants, I guess we sublimate with anime again. The ideal can be found in anime – even women with children (Akiko from Kanon, Yuuji’s mom from Shakugan no Shana, Junki’s mom from Reideen) look mature enough to be nubile women, yet are much older. I’d say that we’re fixated by beauty that is not marred by age, by beauty that lasts – and this is epitomized by the passage of time which is proven by the presence of children and of a more mature way of thinking.

Because, however, these types of women are impossible to possess in real life unless one breaks societal standards and because these types of women rarely exist, most of us transfer what is socially unacceptable or something that is impossible to obtain into something that can be obtained, albeit in a 2D form which is anime.

I still had more things to say but I guess I’ve forgotten all about them. Future edits may rectify this, or when commentators add something iridescent to the article that I’ve forgotten about. Until then, cheers.

20 Responses to “A look into the 2D complex

  1. Not Safe For Work Says:

    Hmm..another well-written and informative entry you got here. I know a “deviant” or two of this kind so I have to agree about what you have just said.

    I think another basis for the 2-D Complex is how this gives these people the closest thing to their “perfect” women; it fulfills their desires and, for some, provides an escape mechanism.

  2. Michael Says:

    Indeed. Rather than becoming sexual perverts, they sublimate things into more acceptable stuff. Incidentally, Japan has the lowest number of sex crimes perpetrated in the last decade. That should say something, I should think.

  3. Danny Says:

    ‘illegal to have sex with lolis…’, hmm what if youre a shota? xD

  4. lokkit Says:

    Damn, Mike, going all scholar on our asses…

  5. mochi Says:

    Good article.

    One nitpick…the Ides of March was 10 days ago…it falls on the 15th.

  6. Michael Says:

    I know that … it seems delayed in this country, though. 🙁

  7. Lupus Says:

    This doesn’t really apply to me, so I guess anything I say here is moot, but I’m going to say something anyway.

    Hentai > real porn. LAWLZ.

    Okay, seriously? I suffer from a little bit of the 2D complex. I see nothing in anime characters, but (let’s get a little personal here, there’s probably more information than you need to know in the lines that follow, so read at your own discretion) I find hentai manga more arousing than real life porn. The reason is mainly that my sense of aesthetic, developed from years of reading manga and drawing anime-style characters, has made me keen to the flaws of human appearances and as such find the usually flawless hentai manga drawings more to my liking (or rather, lust). Somewhat akin to the protagonist in the Book of Disquiet, I guess, but when it comes to emotional involvement, anime or manga characters have nothing on me.

    Of course, none of that ever compares to a truly hot, real life girl, but how often do you find those in porn anyway? And simply by appearing in porn, that hotness dimishes somewhat for me, since it feels like she has been cheapened.

    And I’m not a lolicon, but simply an appreciator of cute, young girls. 😛

  8. Mike H Says:

    For me anime women and real women are two entirely different things. You look at an h-anime and see a somewhat realistic protagonist interacting with entirely fabricated females, often in outlandish social situations. The type of girl I prefer in real life has nothing to do with the form of female I often root for in the H-animes that I watch. As I interpreted it you said hardcore anime watchers see in these 2D women hypothetical “ideals” of basic characteristics of womanhood that exist (flawed) in real life too.

    I think this explanation fails to encompass the entire viewing population. I enjoy outlandish shows like SHUFFLE! precisely because there’s absolutely nothing in that show that I can draw a parallel with in my real life. I don’t have an attractive non-blood-related sister whose entire life goal is to make me happy, and I’m not on the brink of becoming the Lord of Gods; girls aren’t door mats for me either. I think while you may correctly characterize a portion of the anime watching population, there are those who simply enjoy the craziness of animes and the absurdity of their plots.

    Anyways that was kinda rambling but anything to avoid Chinese homework lol.

  9. gaguri Says:

    . . .

    Will not comment on hentai (since I haven’t seen a decent one) but the 2d complex in anime characters is interesting. Only that you seem to concentrate on…perverted aspects such as lolis and moms. The reason I like so much about my favourite anime characters, such as Lafiel from crest of the stars, youko from 12 kingdoms is similar to the reasons you’ve stated in that fernando part. The characters represent an image, a person with set of beliefs and ideals, philosophy on life, certain perspectives on life, that is really beautiful and admiring. It’s something that you can’t see much in real life, because perhaps no women in real life could be as determined (but not obsessive in a disgusting way) and have a genuine feelings for someone not influenced by superficial values as Lafiel. Only in animes you can get to see characters like her, and enjoy marvelling at her in a journey that you can’t help but follow her and hope that she attains what she’s looking for.

  10. Michael Says:

    Actually, the women in anime are epitomes or quite perfect simulacra of what cannot be obtained in real life – for the most part, that is. Often times the girls we like possess traits that are not seen in unison in a single person. We may see girls that are physically hot, yet possess obnoxious attitudes; we may see benevolent and beneficient girls, who, sadly lack the physical attraction most of us males seek (assuming you’re one, that is).

    So we look to other refuges – some find in in art, I find it in anime. I hope you get my drift.

  11. lokkit Says:

    >>And I’m not a lolicon, but simply an appreciator of cute, young girls. 😛

    So you belong to the Lovely Kitsune school of Youth Appreciation?


    It makes me feel good when I see others paying respects to my idol.

  12. Ronin Says:

    Simply put, purveyors of the 2D complex look to these “imaginary” or “ideal” women (or men, if you’re of the opposite or same gender) as their “refuge” from the imperfections of real life ones.

    That is a sad truth for people like them. 🙁

  13. OHKRA! Says:

    Oh… so that’s the term, hehehe.

    I guess I belong to those guys who root for ‘ideal women’.

    Actually in my life, I did met some girls who got the half or if not, almost of an ‘ideal’ girl we only see in anime. Either they have the body or the personality but not the whole package.:D

    But well, it’s not a crime to root for someone who’s not yet even existed, hehe. Manga / anime illustrators like me do that, hehe. It’s natural for those who are influenced in anime, I think.

    And in my opinion, ecchi is more favorable than real life porn. Because in ecchi anime / games, you only use the following basic things:

    an illustrator, art mediums (all kinds), script/storyboard, computer with tools that an artist needs, a programmer (for games), and a voice actor (for games and anime).

    While real life porn uses the following: A director, HUMAN MEDIUM/S, camera, script (they still need that? They can do it even without a script!) and room/s (sometimes they do it outside the house.). 🙂

    Now which of them plays cleaner?

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  16. spectratone Says:

    2D Otaku, huh?… Guilty as charged. Thanks to ‘Genshiken’ for putting a name to it for me.

    I suppose I’ve had such tendencies since my early teens, but it wasn’t until I discovered anime (in my early 40’s) that the lid was ripped off the box.

    I can certainly say I’ve developed a profound appreciation for certain female characters (Lafiel, Aoi, Shinku etc.)

    I think that some of the characters’ power arises from the situations they are presented in, which might never arise in real life, and the omission of unattractive elements.

    Of course they’re typically created by men, and the Japanese seem to have a good grasp on the features that make women attractive; features that seem to be obscured, suppressed or forgotten in the real world.

    I feel that properly executed characters possess the power of a kind of shorthand that communicates directly to the subconscious. There need not be any filler, merely the images that the artist created for the maximum impact… straight into the viewers brain with no distractions. I get more emotional watching anime than I do watching real people.

    It took a while to get used to the character styling of anime girls for me; I initially found some characters to be quite bizarre looking, and still do sometimes, but I’ve gotten to the point of finding most real women repulsive physically. I’ve never cared for them, personality-wise.
    Ever been strongly attracted to someone who bores and annoys you?

    Thank god for anime, it’s a relief to know what kind of girl I really like now, even if she’s not real or even possible. It’s enough for me, at this point in my life.

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  20. R4inman Says:

    I see no difference between a drawn image of a person and a person acting in a live action series. Both are simply representations of a character.

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