“Aw, look at him tremble! He’s gonna pop a blood vessel ‘cause I dissed his waifu!”

Yeah, yeah, yuk it up, you spiteful clowns. 2D girls this, 3D girls that, Junko Enoshima this, yaoi hands that. All the while, it’s still uncool to have a big-tittied anime “gf” in the 2020s, unless you’re some kind of ironic-unironic mainstream rapper who is currently in the process of inventing anime clout. We’re told we’re “being weird” for having an “ unhealthy fixation” with “2D” girls, or that it’s “embarrassing” to have a hearty appreciation for scripted characters with valuable physical assets. It’s cringe, bro. It’s straight-up depressing.

More like concerning how we have not discovered, as a society, that our ability to survive hardships is directly tied to how many fictional characters we are mentally dating at any given time. Troubling how we haven’t realized that the Soundcloud rappers are always right.

If you don’t believe me, think back to the days of your childhood: the comparatively peaceful early 2000s, when the internet was still exciting and Impact-font dog memes were holding global culture by the throat. Who was the subject of your affections in those blissful times? Oh, what, Sandra, from across the street? Some internet boy from another state? The popular kid at school? Please! Your heart belonged to one ravishing creature after another, but the only constant was the untouchable. Sam Manson from Danny Phantom, Prince Zuko from Avatar: the Last Airbender, Zoey from Zoey 101, the Jonas brothers from The Jonas Brothers… our fascinations turned out to be damn near universal. That’s no coincidence, of course. Our youthful longings were too precise, too surreal to ever be fulfilled by flawed, flesh-and-blood human beings; not when there was a smokin’ hot, pixel-built zaddy on TV to make us question our very need for them.

As the 2010s have shown us, once you’ve gotten the 2D knack, you can never go back. Look at Lil Pump, the Harvard graduate who is locked in a cosmic love affair, not with Miranda Cosgrove, but the fictional character she played in iCarly. Look at rappers like Snoop Dogg and Lil Uzi Vert, cradling anime waifus on Instagram and indulging their superegos with anime-patterned cars in patterns that transcend real-world boudoir for a confusingly weebish lust. Or how about the softcore stylings of Belle Delphine, known for her e-girl image, advanced replication of ahegao hentai clips, and her controversial, totally digitized internet presence, whose only real-world radar blip was sold-out “gamer girl bath water?” Would it be out of place to mention the fact that our so-called “unrealistic” beauty standards for our fellow humans are actually quite realistic for 2D drawings?

Face it. Real people weren’t enough for us, and they never will be.

All of this brings us to the contemporary era, which is currently epitomized by state-sanctioned introversion and a heavy dependence on technology. History has shown us that, over the past few years, we’ve been inching ever-closer to what I call “2D-ism,” spurred by the increasing tolerance of social media sites like Reddit and Twitter and the affection-starved, socially awkward Generation Z. We’d had years of preparation thanks to the likes of Snoop Dogg and Belle Delphine. All we needed to plunge us into full pixelphilic territory was the collapse of in-person interaction. Cue COVID-19 and “the New Normal,” and witness the perfect storm of staying home with short attention spans that defined our childhoods.

Yet there was no 2D boom! We hem and haw at the golden opportunity given to us, refusing to return to the comfort and safety of our youth. We invent cumbersome, inconvenient methods of social distance dating, or devise “video calls” with people to satisfy our desire to be loved, at the cost of having to be judged for our quarantine physiques. Technology pulls out all the stops to ape and mimic real-world interaction, even as we know it is never good enough to fully suffice. All to cope with living in a world where we can’t have what we want.

I ask, what good can all this overcomplication possibly do for our mental health? There was once a time in our lives when it was enough simply to admire and imagine, though the objects of our affection could be as close as an inch away. Flat and pixelated, yes – but utterly perfect. As far from the original canon as you want them to be. As real as you want them to be, too, if you’ve already dipped your toes into body pillow fixations (we’re looking at you, AMP readers). Unburdened by the limitations of 3D physics or COVID-19 precautions, they serve as our purest, most satisfying manifestations of desire.

In these new circumstances, we find we owe the lifelong believers an apology. Horndogs of the internet, you were right. You, too, fellow vitamin-deprived internet Chads. I speak also to the weeby anime elitists, the socially awkward masses, and those who secretly jonesed for the oiled-up glory of the December Temoc back page comics.

2D girls, fictional hunks, and imaginary babes are an essential service; eyes four times the size of their mouths (due to makeup or illustrative style), completely scripted dialogue, and an aggressive use of jiggle physics (for those who’re into that) are what make the world go round. Our artificially-charming fictional crushes were always there for us when real people weren’t, even though we didn’t always believe in them. But we need them now. More than we may ever have before, now that we lack an excuse to get sidetracked by 3D mating.

I admit, it debases this magazine to say it. My limbs are trembling as I type out this wretched, accursed devil of an article, but I’m too pragmatic a person, too enlightened a prophet. I cannot bring myself to deny society’s most inevitable truth: that we all need a more accessible outlet for our tensions. So let’s get cracking, folks. There’s a lot of waifus out there that need cuffing.