On Loli Vampires, Morality, and Fiction

Anime and manga are full of relationships with large age disparities, ones that would assuredly get people arrested in real life. While fiction isn’t reality, and therefore doesn’t necessarily reflect what people desire or are willing to do in their actual lives, the fear of harm is founded in a simple and important value: adults having physical and romantic relationships with kids is wrong and impossible to justify in reality.

“But why is it wrong?” Generally, when presented with this question, people react that it is just morally repugnant, that it should cause disgust in all people. But what often isn’t taken into account is that there are two components to this answer that are conflated into a single response: the physical disgust and the moral disgust.

The Power of Fiction for Breaking Down Ideas

Before getting into the subject at hand, I want to emphasize some of the strengths of fiction: it can introduce ideas not easily found in reality, working alongside imagination to help people envision a world different from their own. It can also dissect and decouple concepts we believe to be either inextricably tied together, even those multifaceted ideas thought to be a single entity. This aspect of fiction enables people to reflect on its assumptions, and to further clarify how we think as human beings.

Take the example of being transgender, that one can potentially appear as one sex on the outside, but feel they are truly another gender on the inside. Thousands of years of social reinforcement emphasizes that the outer appearance dictates the inner mind, so for many someone being transgender is still a difficult concept to grasp. They cannot divorce sex from gender.

Yet fiction helps make this comprehensible. For instance, the old manga and anime Ranma 1/2 stars a boy who, due to a curse, changes physically into a girl every time he’s hit by cold water (hot water reverses the transformation). The more recent and wildly successful anime film, your name., features a boy and a girl who switch minds and have to live in each other’s bodies. In both works, the idea of “a girl on the outside but a boy on the inside” becomes more easily relatable. One need only watch these works, then think, “If I was in their shoes, how would I think? How would I feel?”

Physical vs. Logical Morality

Adults having relationships with minors is morally wrong, but in order to illustrate the complexities of this idea, I’m going to reference two characters from the company Arc System Works’, which specializes in fighting games. First is Dizzy from the Guilty Gear series. Second is Rachel Alucard from the BlazBlue series.

Visually, Dizzy appears as a fully-grown adult. Tall and voluptuous, she holds zero physical appeal for anyone who would be into much younger characters. However, in her first appearance in Guilty Gear X, she’s stated as being a mere three years old. While it’s more the case that she emerged fully grown like the goddess Athena, the conceptual contrast is still there: young in age, but old in appearance.

Rachel Alucard is the opposite. Having the appearance of a child, Rachel is actually an ageless vampire with the maturity and wisdom to go along with it. She’s very intentionally designed to follow that old lolicon trope of “she looks 10 but she’s 1,000 years old!” that often comes across as the flimsiest of excuses.

If you were to apply real-world laws to Dizzy and Rachel, you’d get two different results. If an adult had a sexual relationship with Dizzy, they’d be breaking the law 100%, but at first glance no one would find anything amiss. If an adult had something with Rachel, it would be legally justified but they would get pulled over by the cops every day for the rest of their lives.

Being bothered by Rachel’s design reflects a physical, visceral disgust—that one should not perceive her appearance as sexually attractive. On the other hand, being disturbed by Dizzy’s situation has more to do with the logic of morality. Even if someone appears fully mature, that does not mean they are mentally or emotionally ready. Age of consent laws are designed to protect minors from the inherent power imbalances that exist in adult-child interactions, even if she “looks like an adult.” The two sides of this argument can and do join together, but they’re fundamentally separate ideas.

So What About Those Stories?

While there is a clear immorality to having an underage relationship in reality, I do not believe that fiction is beholden to the same rules. Putting aside the fact that fiction, in and of itself, causes no harm, what ultimately makes those large age gaps morally problematic is the power dynamic. Adults inherently hold authority over children, even if those kids could pass for adults themselves, and the excuse that “she looked 18” doesn’t take into account the psychological harm that can occur. In stories, however, “power” comes in many different forms, and a story can be all about seeing how two individual characters can join together as equals. This doesn’t mean that people should never feel disgust at what’s depicted in fiction, especially because what goes on can potentially be used as an excuse or justification for bad behavior in real life. But it still, in the end, highlights how we perceive equality (or lack thereof) in fictional portrayals of romance.

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4 thoughts on “On Loli Vampires, Morality, and Fiction

  1. Great post! Here are my thoughts on this:

    First, the media. I will go a little bit out of Anime and Gaming and grasp a story that I think ended up having way more impact/people watching than an Anime or a VideoGame. The Twilight Saga. Here we could see that the majority of people were ok with their relationship, although Edward was hundreds of years older than Bella. Although liking the story or not is debatable I think it’s a good piece to think on how our society works towards this… Here, what I could see is that if they both seem the same age it’s ok…

    Now, regarding real life… If we go just a couple of hundreds of years ago, we see princesses with 13 years old marrying kings that are way older than them. Back in the day that was completely ok for some reason. Nowadays, we still this in some arranged marriages in India.

    I think it really depends on the society you are living in and it’s more of a moral thing than a physical thing. For example, a 20-year-old dating a 28-year-old does not seem that strange, but if we put this in perspective, the youngest would be 12 when the other was already 20 which is seen as wrong.

    In my opinion, it will always depend from person to person, but of course, there is a need to have an actual law to make sure we protect children, so it makes complete sense that there is an age threshold and that enforcement changed society perspectivity when it comes to age gaps. But, more than that, I strongly believe there is a need for that law. This, because even if you have consent from the younger person, it’s way too easy to persuade that said person to do things.

    For example, we have a 13-year-old girl and a 20-year-old guy. It’s really easy to make that girl to have consent even not understanding what she is in fact doing. The same goes if both genders change or it’s the same gender.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed.
      I think that one of the reasons why people married younger in the past is because they were forced to become “responsible adults” at a younger age. Instead of spending 18+ years in a school system, children would have been put to work doing family chores / helping on the farm from a young age. By the time they reach 13-15 years old, they had already been working for likely 5+ years, and that was probably at more than our current 40 hrs / week standard.
      Personally I believe that there is a connection between adulthood and responsibility like this. I think extreme of situations like a spoiled rich kid vs. someone who is has to work to help support their family while in high school to explain this – there is a clear difference in maturity / understanding of the value of money and work between those two examples.
      Current society lets most people defer that full-time work / adult responsibilities until late teens / early 20’s, which is why I agree with current laws.
      It also sort of explains why an 8 year gap isn’t a big deal between 20 and 28, but is a big deal between 12 and 20 as you mention. And I agree it would vary person to person.
      Anyways I enjoyed both this post and your comment haha. It’s interesting stuff to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I too agree with that. Laws to protect the infants are justly needed. Growing up was really a fast thing in the old days, and still is in many underdeveloped countries. We are lucky, indeed, and I’d point that a society that takes care of their children seriously (and is able to do so) is an one that is worth something in my eyes.

    Fiction is fiction, and sometimes that saucy escapism is a mere liberty of imagination we take, only that in manga & anime, perhaps it is explored with more contrast. The mental maturity of the character may freely portrayed, regardless of perceived age… but at some point, the suspension of disbelief just falls flat. Somehow, in epochal fantasy it just works a lil’ better.

    Cheers!

    Like

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