Why Autistic People are Drawn to Anime

Alex B., Phase I Scholar

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism affects 1 in 54 children in the United States today. There is no one type of autism—it’s not called a spectrum for nothing! Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support, and in some cases, live entirely independently. In spite of stereotypes, some people with autism may be very social, but have difficulty understanding other people’s viewpoints or interpreting their behavior. Many people with autism also have difficulty dealing with certain sensations (loud noise, bad smell, strong taste, rough textures). People with autism also often have “special interests” that they focus on and want to share with other people. 

I believe most autistic people like anime because it often exaggerates the characters, making their intentions very clear and not leaving anything out. When you have a hard time interpreting what people are doing and why, anime doesn’t leave you guessing! Anime also has a wide range of interesting characters, many of whom share traits that many autistic people recognize in themselves. It is exciting when you see your disability (or features of it) represented in a positive and interesting way.

Some examples of anime characters with autism include Sai from Naruto Shippuden, Nagisa Furukawa from Clannad, Shiina Mashiro from Sakurasou No Pet Na Kanjo, L from Death Note, Mei Hatsume from My Hero Academia, and Felli Loss from Chrome Shelled Regios. Many of these characters exist in their own world, are obsessed with their specific interests, or need tips and tricks to communicate and make friends with neurotypical people. 

Sai was the first autistic anime character I ever really connected with, because he is so open about what he does or does not understand in social situations. I related so much to him! Anime provides this avenue for people with autism to more easily connect with a variety of characters, and for differences to be seen as normal. All people with autism deserve acceptance because they are all beautiful, whether they are fictional or real.