There has long been a trend among the Japanese (and many others) to appreciate manga and the characters within it. Otaku, as it is called, is a sort of obsession with manga and anime and accompanying video games; the 2-D lovers are an extraordinary extension of that culture.
People who fall in love and think they have relationships with inanimate objects are called "objectum sexual" and have been around for a long time. Example- the lady who fell in love with the Eiffel Tower...
But apparently these "2-D lovers" are different. For one thing, the images they worship are actually human, as opposed to the Eiffel Tower; and for another thing, the images are often of children.
When I read of this phenomenon in the New York Times magazine today, my first reaction was to cringe back and think it was some kind of joke. Then I remembered that "objectum sexual" oftentimes have little choice in their preferences. But then I read on...
It seems that some if not most of the "2-D lovers" (that is, the actually 2-D kind) are images of prepubescent children. I don't know about you but I leave people to their own preferences- but only until child pornography is involved. Then I object. Strongly.
By writing on this subject I don't hope to dissuade the "2-D lovers" from their lifestyle, because I realize they'll probably never read this post. I simply think that such a story is worth a mention... and a thought. When do freedom of expression and of lifestyle stretch too far?
I'd say, when kids start being involved.