Akihiko Kondo is an ordinary Japanese in almost every way. He is pleasant and easy to talk to. He has friends and a steady job and wears a suit and tie to work.
There is only one exception: Kondo is married to a fictional character.
His lover Hatsune Miku is a turquoise haired computer synthesized pop singer who has toured with Lady Gaga and starred in video games. After a decade-long relationship that Kondo says pulled him out of a deep depression, he held a small, unofficial wedding ceremony in Tokyo in 2018. Miku, in the form of a plush doll, wore white and he wore a matching tuxedo.
Kondo found love, inspiration and comfort in Miku, he says. He and his assortment of Miku dolls eat, sleep and watch movies together. Sometimes they sneak off on romantic getaways and post photos on Instagram.
Kondo, 38, knows people find it odd, even harmful. He knows that some – possibly those reading this article – hope he grows out of this. And yes, he knows Miku isn’t real. But his feelings for her are, he says.
“When we’re together, she makes me smile,” he said in a recent interview. “In that sense, she’s real.”
Kondo is one of thousands of people in Japan who have entered into unofficial marriages to fictional characters over the past few decades, fueled by a vast industry aimed at catering to the every whim of a passionate fan culture. Tens of thousands more around the world have joined online groups to discuss their involvement with anime, manga, and video game characters.
For some, relationships are just for laughs. Kondo, on the other hand, had known for a long time that he didn’t want a human mate. Partly it was because he rejected the rigid expectations of Japanese family life. But most of all, it was because he’d always felt a strong — and even to himself inexplicable — attraction to fictional characters.
Accepting his feelings was difficult at first. But living with Miku, he argues, has advantages over a human partner: she’s always there for him, she’ll never betray him, and he’ll never have to see her sick or die.
Kondo sees himself as part of a growing movement of people identifying as “fictional”. That’s partly what motivated him to publicize his wedding and do awkward interviews with news media around the world.
He wants the world to know that people like him are out there and that their numbers are likely to increase with advances in artificial intelligence and robotics that allow for deeper interactions with the inanimate.
It’s not a political movement, he said, but a plea: “It’s about respecting other people’s way of life.”
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