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Since 2009, news of men taking on pillows, cardboard cutouts, and video game characters as girlfriends has been popping up on various media sites. Those in such relationships may take their two-dimensional girlfriend out on a date, buckle her into her seatbelt in the car, and take her to restaurants. French university student Fabrice Requin is adamant that he doesn’t have that sort of relationship with Holo, the life-sized cardboard cutout that he took on a tour of Asia, as well as parts of Europe. However, each photo looks like a happy couple posing in front of landmarks.
“Love in 2-D,” an article by Lisa Katayama that ran in The New York Times in 2009, opened the Western world’s eyes to the relationships between members of the otaku culture and body pillows. Many men, and some women, fall in love with pillowcases that bear the image of a favorite anime character. Otaku translates to outsider or outcast, but has come to mean “people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, or video games,” according to Wikipedia.
Some refer to these pillows as girlfriends and even take them out on dates. Since the article ran, a body pillow girlfriend was even featured on 30 Rock: James Franco appeared as himself looking to enter into a fake relationship with a human in order to cover up his love for a body pillow. Since then, news broke about a Korean man who married his body pillow girlfriend in 2010. There is a group of men who photograph themselves having Christmas Eve (which is similar to our Valentine’s Day) dinner with their favorite anime character, usually on a computer monitor. These people truly love their 2-D girlfriends.
But it seems that’s not quite the case with Fabrice Requin and Holo.
Requin bought Holo “out of curiosity” from a Japanese Yahoo auction. Holo is a character from Spice and Wolf, an anime series, and she is part wolf. She was displayed in his room until Requin, his sister Kelsey, and friend Wibi Udayana, decided to take her on a pre-planned trip to Asia. They were inspired by a scene in the Japanese show Durarara! and by George Clooney’s mission in Up in the Air to take photographs with a cardboard cutout of his sister and her fiancé in front of famous landmarks.
Requin does not think of Holo as his girlfriend or wife, and assures readers that the Asian trip was not a honeymoon. Frankly, I think he’d have to treat Holo better if she was his girlfriend: Holo doesn’t get her own seat on the plane (men in the NYT article let their stuffed girlfriends have their own seat in the car), and instead is checked as oversized baggage and flies with the luggage in a cardboard box. She is lugged around famous landmarks in said box, being pulled out just before each photo op. Udayana complained about carrying Holo’s cumbersome box through bad weather and crowded areas in Japan, Bali, and Singapore, but somehow the box and Holo have survived thus far. The whole idea has been dubbed Project Holo and is documented on Requin’s site, Fateful Encounters. The students behind the project admitted that it was embarrassing to pose for photos with the cardboard cutout, but they encouraged each other. Requin appears in most of the photos, but occasionally Kelsey and Udayana are featured.
Project Holo has received some nasty comments from people assuming that Holo is Requin’s cardboard bride, something that Kelsey Requin disputes in the “Member Comments” section and Requin explained in a blog post quoted by Daily Dot. Even with haters, Fateful Encounters has 236 fans on Facebook and positive comments about the photos. The three-month Asia trip ended in early 2012, but Requin continues to take Holo around the landmarks in France, his home country. Most recently, the pair has gone to Versailles and the Eiffel Tower. If you want to stay up-to-date on a man and his totally platonic cardboard travel mate, follow this link.