Autistic people love fiction, but there aren’t many positive representations of us in media. (I don’t look anything like Sheldon Cooper!) Anime tends to skirt around labeling people in this way, but I think there are a lot of characters who could be perceived as autistic. I know it can be problematic putting a medicalized term onto fictional people, but it’s not really meant to be taken seriously. Maybe just call this “5 Anime Characters That I, As An Autistic Person, Can Relate To?” I never know how to start these posts. Let’s just get to the cute anime pics already!
Rei Ayanami – Neon Genesis Evangelion
Eva is full of complex and tragic characters, but I think Rei Ayanami has it the hardest of all. She goes through hell throughout the series, but continues to pilot because she has nothing else. She has a hard time outwardly expressing emotions or understanding social cues, and her blunt nature causes others to see her as heartless. But behind her steely red eyes is a compassionate young girl with a rich inner world, desperate for genuine human connection.
(I also wanted to talk about Kensuke, the military otaku, but he’s basically an irrelevant character after Episode 4. Sorry bud!)
Shigeo Kageyama (Mob) – Mob Psycho 100
Mob’s greatest weapon is not his incredible psychic powers, but his strong morals and empathy. His autistic quirks, such as not knowing when someone is lying and difficulty “reading the room”, make it easy for others to bully and manipulate him. When it gets too much, he melts down, completely losing control of himself and his powers. But he always tries to solve problems without violence and see the best in people, which inspires others to see the good in themselves and change their lives for the better.
Riko – Made in Abyss
A cheerful, impulsive girl like Riko might not fit the stereotypical definition of autism, but I actually relate to her a lot! She’s exceptionally curious about the nature of the Abyss (you might even say she has a special interest in it…) and she’s the youngest person to explore the Abyss on her own. She’s physically frail, and often gets into trouble for not understanding others. But her resourcefulness, booksmarts, and ability to keep a cool head under pressure make her invaluable, and her charming personality makes it easy to empathize with her despite her differences.
Mafuyu Sato – Given
Not all autistic people are into computers or card counting! For many of us, music is a way to express ourselves in ways that words can’t. Mafuyu is a young singer and guitarist, who is often seen as an oddball because of his quiet nature and monotone speech. It often seems like he is on a different wavelength from everyone else, but inside his mind is a whirlwind of emotions. When Mafuyu gets on stage – or during his adorably blunt love confession – you can see how much of a kind, sensitive soul he truly is.
Violet – Violet Evergarden
I watched Violet Evergarden when it came out back in 2018, and by the end of the first episode I was already in tears. So much of what she struggles with in the early parts of the series, like her difficulty understanding social norms or other people’s emotions, are things I’ve struggled with for my entire life. Because of her differences, she’s unfairly held back at school, almost loses her job as a letter writer, and feels crippingly isolated from the rest of the world. But she thrives through the support of her friends, who believe that her kindness and ability to reach people who are suffering more than makes up for any of her disabilities.
I don’t think any of these are meant to be perfect (or even canon) representations, or that you should watch them if you really want to understand autism (well, maybe Violet would help). I just really like all of these characters and relate to them for their wonderful quirks. They helped me understand a bit more about myself and connect better with other people. And really, isn’t that the most important thing?