These character-print dakimakura came into existence in the late '90s as a way for animé fans to get up close and personal with their cartoon sweethearts.
2004 February 10, Julian Fong, “Re: [Semi-OT] _Wired_ article: Xbox to come with DOAX hug pillows”, in rec.arts.anime.misc, Usenet:
For an image on a dakimakura, maybe it's more appropriate for Kasumi to be wearing the Acapulco: […]
2008 October 30, AstroNerdBoy [username], “Re: Japanese launch campaign to marry comic book characters”, in rec.arts.anime.misc, Usenet:
I'm sure there's a dakimakura that can handle the load.
2010, Gerald Figal, "Monstrous Media and Delusional Consumption in Kon Satoshi's Paranoia Agent", in Fanthropologies, Volume 5 (ed. Frenchy Lunning), University of Minnesota Press (2010), ISBN 9780816673872, page 146:
After the fourth iteration the camera zooms out as in the opening sequence, but this time to reveal the scene running on a laptop next to a Maromi dakimakura in a darkened workroom without workers—two desks have vases with a cut flower, apparently commemorating the deaths of their previous occupants.
Jin has fallen head over heels for a Japanese 'dakimakura' - or hugging pillow - showing a life sized cartoon of his favourite sexy anime cartoon character Fate Testarossa.
2010 December 9, Galen, “Opera Tantei Milky Holmes”, in rec.arts.anime.misc, Usenet:
... has inspired the question, is Twenty Faces' romantic infatuation with a dakimakura of himself an example of self-cest?
2012 March 20, Big Bad Bob [username], “[allegedly] stupidest girl on the planet (IMBO, gutless disclaimer)”, in alt.hacker, Usenet:
After all, there is NO need to enrich the family law attorneys or the cottage industry that has grown around 'family court', ESPECIALLY in CALIFORNIA! No amount of loneliness can be 'cured' by one of THEM. You're better off with a dakimakura.