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What is a Waifu?
If you’re reading this right now, on behalf of the entire anime fandom, I apologise. Welcome to the world of 2D women, where the borders between reality and fantasy are blurred. It’s a world where love requires no reciprocation and where worship constitutes a “date”. Among most anime fans, it’s regarded as a joke or a way of describing their favourite female character in a show, however there’s a far deeper and darker way in which the term is used.
Some fans take the term a step (or several) further, purchasing any and all merchandise involving a single character from a show. Supported by the anime merchandise industry, some otaku will go on to purchase wall scrolls, body pillows, figures and anything else they can find that relates to the character of their uncertain affection. Basically, once you’ve gone this far, you really can’t go back.
For the particularly strange, there’s even an event known as “Dinner with Waifu” or “Yome To No Bansan” where users post images of their dates with their waifus, usually on Christmas or Valentine's Day. Occasionally they’ll seat a body pillow on the opposite chair or even place a monitor on the dining table. It’s a charming sentiment, but the appeal doesn’t last long after your parents disown you.
Despite the endearment of pictures being an age old concept, the term “waifu” is actually fairly recent, originally being popularised in 2002 by Azumanga Daioh with the term being a comedic mistranslation of “My Wife”. The term was used either as a term of endearment or a way of mocking obsessive users on imageboards. Later in the decade, the term started referring more to a romantic obsession with a character, whether jokingly or seriously.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 1995 - March 1996
Okay, got your helmet on? Good, make sure it’s strapped on tight. We’re heading into a battlefield. Neon Genesis Evangelion was the site of one of the early waifu wars, with factions forming around characters such as Asuka, Misato and Rei. Apparently the show itself was about robots or something, but the real focus is this clash of wills between these characters which still divides the internet today.
Of course, Asuka is the only real best girl and anyone supporting Rei is basically the scum of society, but it is of course the responsibility of the right to correct the wrong. But more importantly, Neon Genesis Evangelion showed that the connection between a viewer and a character can happen in any show. Even one where the protagonist has more interest in a bloke with a piano.
Neon Genesis Evangelion - Theatrical Trailer
But don’t worry if you’re not into 2D girls, there’s a place in hell for you too with the term “Husbando”. Adopting the same principles, a husbando is a male character that women will form romantic attachments to, through the barrier of a screen. Not to be confused with the fujoshi fandom, this group of people would rather pair themselves with their beloved 2D character than let anyone else have them.
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2013 - September 2013
Ever since the first PV, fans haven’t been able to get enough of Free! Iwatobi Swim Club and its subsequent sequels. Throw the Hetalia fandom out of the window and let the Ouran High School Host Club fandom follow, because the Free! support worldwide was crazy. Occasionally pandering, this sports series knew exactly what it was in for and achieved it to great success.
Whether it’s the young and energetic Nagisa, the mature and sensible Makoto or the stoic and handsome Haruka, there’s always a husbando to be found within Free! It’s almost tragic that despite female lead, Gou fawning over their muscles, she’s competing with the entire female side of the internet for their love. Not that it’d ever be reciprocated, but Kyoto Animation merchandising has capitalised quite heavily on this fact, offering merchandise for all and any of the characters.
TV anime "Free!" PV
The Seasonal Waifu
There’s a big difference between “Best Girl” or “Waifu Material” and “Waifu” and for your safety on the internet, it’s important that you get this right. You may only have one waifu. There is no bigamy with your waifu and is regarded as a sin on some imageboards. However, ‘divorcing’ from your waifu is also regarded lowly and those that go through 2D anime girls at a rapid pace are regarded as having “Seasonal Waifus”. It’s a silly idea of course, but if you’re serious enough for a waifu, the internet will be serious about you keeping them.
Monster Musume (Everyday Life with Monster Girls)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2015 - September 2015
Monster Musume was a prime example of waifu infidelity as anime fans abandoned their 2D better halves in place of younger, prettier, half-monster girls. The thing with harem shows like this is that they’re designed and marketed in a way that commands its audience to make a choice and select their favourite character out of the bunch. At Summer Comiket 2015, the entire stock of 7 metre long Miia body pillow covers costing $800 were sold out within the first hour of the event.
The series, much like other harem shows boasts character songs, with each track being a different genre of music, calling upon fans to support a certain character by buying their single. Through comedy and charm, these characters call upon feeble minds to abandon their current waifus and be seduced into a seasonal trend. Descending into a cesspool of villainy, these scumbags will abandon their poor innocent wai- Sorry, I’m taking this a bit too seriously, aren’t I?
Have a monster daughter everyday: Promotional Video
So that is the waifu fandom, one of the stranger, yet popular sides of the internet. Even if you’re not planning on obsessively buying merchandise so as to honour your favourite anime character, it’s important that you know the term anyways, as it’s certainly a common one that you’re sure to be exposed to, no matter where you go. It’s kind of charming in a strange way to see people get so attached to characters.
Just don’t get attached to Tsugumi Harudori from Soul Eater Not. She’s my waifu.