What’s the fascination with anime anyway?

Anime has a huge following in our household, so much so that my son’s bedroom walls are covered with images of anime characters, figurines and other anime paraphernalia decorate his room. His computer screen explodes with images of anime characters as does his social media feed and his sketch pad.

So, what is all they hype about? What is anime? And, why do autistic teens seem to be so fascinated by it?

I did a bit of digging to find out more to help myself and our readers understand why our children seem to be drawn to these animated creations.

First of all, a definition of what anime is. Basically, it’s hand-drawn computer animation originating from Japan. It has a particular style to it, generally portraying characters with large emotive eyes.

I think it became popular in the 1980’s and 90’s particularly with cartoons such as Astro Boy and later Pokémon which I remember watching in my early teens.

Since then it seems to have come a long way, and with commercialisation there is now shops that specialise in anime products, and events such as the Madman Anime Festival, that fans attend dressing up in what’s known as Cosplay (costume play) where they dress as their favourite anime character.

There is also plenty of anime shows to watch online with Netflix having an entire section dedicated to the genre, plus you can stream various shows on YouTube and most likely other sites.

To say that only autistic teens or young adolescents are the only people fascinated with anime is incorrect, as the genre attracts a wide variety of fans from all different backgrounds and age groups. However, there are some interesting reasons why people with autism may be more drawn to the likes of anime.

One thing I’ve noticed is the look of the characters. Their huge emotive eyes and expressive faces may be attractive to someone with autism who often finds it difficult to read the emotions of other people. Perhaps they seem to resonate more with these characters who clearly demonstrate their emotions both visually and verbally.

People with autism can have tendencies to like to escape from the reality of the real world. Many consume themselves with video games and shows that offer a fantasy world. Anime does just that, it offers an escape to another place and time.

There may also be some connectedness to the characters personalities and their stories which people with autism can relate too. Anime can often portray bullying, thus normalising some of the feelings and emotions or even social scenarios that an autistic child experiences in their everyday life.

One thing I’ve come to realise and understand is that there is a huge following of anime, bigger than I could have imagined. There’s a community of like-minded people who love this fantasy world and all that it has to offer. They have an affiliation with certain characters and the common interest is something that lovers of this genre can discuss for hours. Their knowledge of anime seems to be infinite, and yet they want to know more and more. The community of anime fans seems to be supportive and non-judgemental, providing a safe place to discuss and share your love for all thing’s anime.

I can understand this fascination and escapism. We all do it to some extent, be it through a good book, a movie or a TV or Netflix series. It provides us with a chance to relax and forget about the real world and escape to another, for a brief time at least. The difference perhaps for people who are not on the spectrum is that it doesn’t consume our whole being and we can disconnect from the fantasy world more readily and land back in reality often with a huge thud.

I hope this insight has helped to provide you with more of an understanding about anime and why some find it so fascinating. From researching and writing this blog I certainly have a much better understanding and appreciation for it and for my son’s love of it.

SASI Guest Parent Blogger

Image courtesy of pixabay.com   


anime girl character smiling and making a peace sign