Akihabara, Nakano, and Ikebukuro are wards of Tokyo famous for their anime and otaku (super fan) culture. The districts are home to innumerable shops catering to fans of all kinds of manga, anime and video games. One of the most popular types of merchandise is character figurines. The scope is impressive - from mechs to schoolgirls, ninjas to sports players - there are models of practically everything and anything. But the most popular and most intriguing collection has to be the diverse range of female characters. Although female characters in media are objectified worldwide, in Japan they also become fetishizable and personal objects through figurines.
Anyone who has watched anime or read manga will be aware of the otherworldly, sometimes impossible proportions these characters are often drawn as possessing. Tiny waists and (very) large breasts are characteristics of many women and girls in the medium. Furthermore, because of the images’ un-realness, the platforms can be used to circumvent laws and produce often taboo sexual narratives and scenarios that would be impossible to be told within a medium such as film or photography.
Among these anime shops can often be found other shops dedicated to the sale of male sex toys, "sleeves", which are used as masturbation aids - often packaged in boxes illustrated with female characters. There was, I thought, an interesting parallel between the inhuman, inorganic design of the sleeves (filled with jelly walls, rubber cubes, and spheres etc.), their taboo cultural status, and the fantastical design and sexual representation of anime characters.
In this project, the two are joined. Figurines I had bought in those "otaku" areas of Tokyo have been reconstructed in the digital using photogrammetry and fused with sex toy sleeve designs to create sculptural expressions of how images are successfully offering a prevalent alternative to interpersonal intimacy.
Male sculptures have also been incorporated into this collection. A popular genre among Japan's female manga readership is shōnen-ai (boy love). These are typically stories following a close relationship between male characters as it develops into a forbidden homosexual love. Much of the appeal no doubt lies in the taboo nature of the comic. But in conservative Japan where there are rigid ideas of gender roles within a relationship, boy love can be used to observe a relationship with shared respect and responsibility. Here, the fetishized role of an equal partner is paired with the convenience of the sex toy and its incomplete capacity to replace a lover.