Don’t take this title the wrong way. I’m not trying to bash therapy or say that watching TV is “better” somehow. But from trying to navigate the world as a late-diagnosed autistic trans girl, I’ve realized the things that have helped me the most weren’t therapy or medication. What helped me most was meeting other neurodivergent people, playing music, and watching anime. That last one might seem silly, but I think anime has a lot of inspiring qualities that many don’t talk about!
1. It Helps Me Understand Other People (And Social Norms)
Social interaction is often confusing and alien to autistics, so many of us learn from TV and movies. The scripted interactions help us better understand the many unwritten rules of communication, and the dynamic character writing helps us better empathize with people who are different. Since Japanese culture puts more emphasis on “reading the room” than most Western cultures do, watching anime can help me identify common social misunderstandings that I sometimes struggle with. (The exaggerated emotions and facial expressions also make it much easier for me to understand what anime characters are thinking and feeling, compared to people in real life!)
2. The Art And Music Is Amazing For My Sensory Needs
One of my biggest issues regarding my autism is that my senses are often much stronger than they are for most people. Fluorescent lights are so bright that they give me a headache, and background noise that others might not notice sounds deafening to me. This makes navigating the world understandably difficult, but in the right context, it can be euphoric. When I listen to a song I love, it feels like the music is flowing throughout my entire body. And when I see the beautiful art, animation, and music in something like Your Name or a Miyazaki film, it’s so mesmerizing that I can’t look away. It helps me recover from daily sensory overload, and inspires me to make art and music of my own!
3. It’s Weird (And That’s A Good Thing)
We all need an escape from reality sometimes, but often “realistic” fiction just reminds me how awful the world really is. But one of the things I love about anime is how damn weird it is! The art styles are unique and unconventional, the characters are quirky outcasts, and the writers often subvert our expectations about genre, story structure, and even the medium itself. Some people might get it – but as someone who’s always been marginalized for being different and “weird”, seeing shows like FLCL or Mob Psycho 100 own their weirdness and make amazing art out of it makes me feel like I can do the same thing!
4. It Gives Me Something To Nerd About
One of the few things about autism that neurotypicals seem to actually understand is that we tend to have a few intense special interests. Some might call it an “obsession” (and it can get that way sometimes), but I see it as being passionate and giving a shit! My special interests are music, the humanities, and film – and anime is a combination of all of these and more! And there are so many ways to show your passion in the fandom – from reading manga, to learning all sorts of lore or useless trivia from the wikis, to making fan art or fan fiction, to watching and talking about it with your friends or folks on the internet. Some people geek out about sports, others are gamers or love Marvel movies, but I guess anime is just my special thing!
5. It Makes Me Feel Less Alone
I’ll level with y’all. I’ve been feeling extra lonely lately. It’s not just the usual coronavirus worries, but a lot of my friends have been going through hard times as well and it’s hard for me to know how to support them or when it’s appropriate for me to ask for help. Shit is just hard right now, and honesty this blog has been a lifesaver for my mental health. Even if it’s just talking to folks on here, every blogger I follow is amazing and I love the sense of community we have. Anime is all about the power of friendship, so I am so grateful to the community here for taking me in as one of their own. 💜