Anime is such a pleasing and soothing visual experience in many more ways than one. For me, a girl with Aspergers, it is an escape from the difficult parts of everyday life that seriously overwhelm me. It also soothes the loneliness I feel in so many ways. Here are some of the ways that anime helps me most with my self image, characters that always make me feel better and I can identify with on so many levels! It’s such a relief to see all the hidden, secret and many parts of my identity that I am embarrassed about, portrayed proudly in anime.
1. The ultimate fan girl: Tsukino Usagi from Sailor Moon
Having Aspergers, I can get extremely fixated on certain things, hobbies and characters. I can get super passionate about them and get locked in to my hobbies. But that’s okay and nothing to be ashamed about. Before Sailor Moon became Sailor Moon, she was the most obsessive fan of Sailor V, a superhero and pop culture icon that owned her own show and game. Every day she would go to the arcade to try and play the new Sailor V game with her crush. It’s so cool to see that someone as magical and super cool as Usagi as a massive fan herself!
2. The conflicted personality: Nao Kamiya from iDOLM@STER
I can relate to Nao Kamiya so much, I feel like there are so many conflicting sides to my identity and I am always trying to condense them in to one, to try to make sense of myself. I feel like other people have an exact and fixed identity, they know who they are and have a strong sense of self, whereas I am all over the place and I just don’t feel like I ever fit in because of that. Nao Kamiya is such a fascinating character to me because she is so multifaceted and, like me, really struggles with conflicting sides of her identity. She is first and foremost a tomboy at heart but actually wants to become comfortable with her feminine side. She signs up to be an idol, the most feminine thing she can think of. She learns to manage the conflicting sides of her personality with ease and this is so inspiring to me.
3. The dedicated girl: Sensei from Denki-gai no Honya-san
There are those times that I get so in to the ‘flow’ that the outer world doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. All that matters is my project or passion, and I become totally ‘in the zone’, unable to eat, sleep or take care of myself like I normally might do. Sensei represents this side of me, a super dedicated clerk at the Umanohone manga store, who dreams of becoming the next great mangaka. Like me, she is no stranger to pulling runs of all nighters, being too ‘in the zone’ to be able to sleep. She often ends up staying overnight in the back of the store and living off convenience store onigiri and bottled tea, forgetting to shower and resorting to washing her hair in the sink and spraying deo on her armpits. I feel like this is me to a ‘t’, she makes me feel so much better about the times I get so caught up in what I’m doing, I can’t do anything else.
4. The ‘everything is fine’ girl: Tamiya Nika from Switch Girl
A perfect representation of a girl who ‘switches’ between her two personalities, I can relate to Tamiya Nika so much! In public I have to try to do what everyone expects, I feel like I always have to put on a facade and say all the right things, like putting on a mask. In the anime she tries hard to appear confident, polished and outgoing… but in private, she’s messy, lazy, and wraps herself up in manga! She is such a perfect relatable character, pretending everything is fine on the outside, when it’s kind of falling apart on the inside – just like the ‘everything is fine’ meme! I can relate to her so much because I always pretend things are fine on the outside, even to my family and friends, when I actually can’t deal with everything on the inside. When everything is so overwhelming I tend to internalise things because it’s easier. If I don’t tell anyone I’m struggling, they can’t make me deal with it – right? I just so badly want to escape and not have to deal with it, so I pretend everything is fine and put on that mask. I love that her room is full of trash, unwashed mugs and piles of manga everywhere.
5. The girl who lives a double life: Umaru Douma – Imotou Umaru-Chan
One of the most relatable characters of all time, little sister Umaru literally has two forms that no one but her brother realizes is the same person. Her otaku and game loving form represents my ‘escape from life’ mode, she turns in to a two-foot-tall chibi soda guzzling, constantly snacking hamster hooded girl, which is so endearing and relatable as it feels like she sums up all of my guilty pleasures in one tiny character! Like me, she will do all she can to stop people from seeing her secret side. She is everything I am secretly about but won’t admit!
6. The shy and introverted girl: Tsukimi Kurashita from Princess Jellyfish
I really love watching Tsukimi as a character as she makes it feel okay to struggle socially and to be pretty terrified of to the point where it is impossible to live life the way she wants to. Even though this is not an ideal situation, it shines a light on what a challenge it is for socially awkward people to achieve the things they want to. Most of the time I can’t connect with people either, so she makes a great fictional friend to have. Like me, she has an unusual interest and adores jellyfish and she also dreams of becoming the best illustrator in Tokyo. Unfortunately her shyness constantly holds her back from achieving her goals, in the most relatable of ways. In the anime she couldn’t manage to make it to an exhibition on Jellyfish in Art and is constantly too nervous to follow her dreams, something that I can so deeply relate to on so many levels that I prefer to just forget about my dreams and escape instead.
7. The girl that struggles making friends: Tomoko Kuroki from No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular
I don’t think I could relate to Tomoko Kuroki more! It’s so lovely to watch someone who has the same struggles as me and the way she struggles to connect with people makes me feel so much better about my own struggles. Like me, she prefers spending time alone and has difficulty talking to people of the opposite sex. Also like me, she prefers to recharge by staying at home to game and read manga, the best kind of escape because rejection is hard and feels bad. The whole show revolves around the fact that she tries to get out of her social slump, but she’s unable to. She is so relatable and makes us feel like it’s okay to be an introvert, reaching out and forming social connections can be treacherous territory, there seems to be so many silent rules to adhere to and it’s hard to constantly know the right thing to say! I feel like every negative interaction kind of negatively reinforces my behaviour and makes me want to try less and less. Tomoko is my hero though, as she keeps on trying, she’s a really reassuring character to watch and also so inspiring.
I have a website here called Where Pokemon Meets Anime where I discuss my experiences with Aspergers, along with all my favourite anime gamer girl characters!