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Old 2011-05-11, 22:35   Link #1
TheLastPsychiatrist
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Why does anime attract people with autism/Asperger's?

There's really no good way to ask this without the appearance of stereotyping, but it's important enough to ask anyway.

First, I have no idea if individuals with ASD in general prefer anime over other entertainment/stories, it's a speculation, though I will say that in my own experience (as a psychiatrist) I've seen this repeat enough times to be significant.

We've come up with some possibilities:

anime is "clean" and not noisy: everything depicted on the screen is relevant to the story (e.g. there isn't someone just passing by ordering coffee in the background)

the variable frame rate: CGI is 29 f/s and traditional animation is recorded at 23 f/s, and static images drop to 8 f/s-- does this stimulate some with neurological impairments?

"coming of age story" in anime is about a character's relation to others (in American stories it's about a character "finding himself.")

The eyes: people with ASD have difficulties with interpreting people's eyes) and anime particularly interesting to kids with ASD (e.g. Moomins) feature eyes prominently.
I admit I don't know too much about anime, I've seen some of the basics (FMA, Claymore, Paprika (terrifying), NGE, Ghost in The Shell(s), Spirited Away, Witch Hunter Ronin-- all of which are similar in some respects but are a different style than say, Bleach) but these are the ones that are popular among the ASD patients I meet.

I bring the question here (we had been chewing on it on another site) because
I'm hoping that people more "expert" in anime culture may have some insights.
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Old 2011-05-11, 22:41   Link #2
Vexx
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hmmm, I don't know if anime has a 'special attraction' as I notice what seems to be a higher percentage of similar social dysfunction in other "off the main rut" hobbies as well. Hobbies like gaming, sci-fi, railroading, etc.

It may be more a case of the "specialized intricate knowledge" nature is what is attractive???
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Old 2011-05-12, 00:23   Link #3
MisaoFan
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I'm a victim of Asperger syndrom (which I'm almost recovered), I watched a bunch of moe anime.
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Old 2011-05-12, 00:38   Link #4
SilverSyko
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Being someone who has contracted Asperger's since birth, I'm intrigued at your theories and observations, and I can say it's certainly possible. Lacking in my ability to socially interact with people perhaps I find it enjoyable to see a series where a character learns to connect with others.

I didn't get into anime until quite recently though, about 3 years ago, so I don't know if that affects anything. I was more into video games before then, which I suppose are a form of Japanese media arts in a way like anime is.

But I personally think I'm getting better thanks to taking up this interest. It's expanded my horizons a bit and I'm made a few new friends because of it. Comparing myself to my pre-2008 self, yeah, there's definitely a change there.
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Old 2011-05-12, 04:34   Link #5
HasuMasu
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well this is new...
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Old 2011-05-12, 05:08   Link #6
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I don't know about asperger's syndrome but as a former autistic, in a way, the reason is obvious. Autistic people or those with similar conditions have problems dealing with people and they cannot socialise with other people. Anime or manga are good alternatives for me to make better use of time. It's quite a good way to know other people who has similar interests.

Without anime my mind becomes quite restless and distracted. Like Silversyko said it's entertaining to watch how the characters connect with others. With cute anime, it's simply an escape from the reality.
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Old 2011-05-12, 12:41   Link #7
NightbatŪ
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That's a big statement that may just as well say
"Why do Video Games attract people with autism/Asperger's?"

I'm willing to bet the numbers are much more in favor there (non social, structured interaction/entertainment that gives a linear challenge)
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Old 2011-05-12, 13:15   Link #8
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I have mild Aspergers , but i liked anime cause of the backgrounds & High details (namely in mecha,plant life, texture imitation) but i Still like such comic book artists like Frank Miller & Jack Kirby
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Old 2011-05-12, 13:26   Link #9
Vexx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NightbatŪ View Post
That's a big statement that may just as well say
"Why do Video Games attract people with autism/Asperger's?"

I'm willing to bet the numbers are much more in favor there (non social, structured interaction/entertainment that gives a linear challenge)
Aye, as I implied in my earlier post... I find (anecdotally) higher numbers of people with a variety of social behavior variants in almost any hobby that requires high concentration/attention focus, large mental archives of data, acquisition/collection aspects, etc.

Basically any hobby that's been labelled "geeky" since the 1950s... ones that the "mainstream" often have trouble handling (and therefore feel the need to belittle). There's also the vector that there's more tolerance and acceptance of the "different" and the "other" in, say, an anime club than there is, say, at the church gardening club.
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Old 2011-05-12, 13:54   Link #10
Rajura
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As a psychiatrist, I am not sure I have noticed this phenomenon.

I am on call with an admission pending, so I will have to post a more thorough comment later that conveys my understanding and experience.
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Old 2011-05-12, 17:10   Link #11
DonQuigleone
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I don't see why Anime would appeal to the autistic spectrum. I would have thought more systemic hobbies (EG strategy games) would be more appealing.
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Old 2011-05-13, 15:35   Link #12
cyberbeing
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Considering the series you mentioned, I'll assume you are referring higher-functioning ASD patients with above-average IQ. There is such a large range of functionality and symptoms among ASD patients, it's really hard to lump them together. Some have many autistic traits, others have barely any. Below I've listed some possible reasons why ASD patients may like anime, but it would be a stretch to say some of these things apply to everybody with ASD. They are people just like anybody else. Many hobbies and interests begin in childhood and continue into adulthood out of habit. Asking someone what genres and shows first introduced them to anime, would likely give better insight into what benefit/enjoyment they get out it today.
  • Visually simulating. (Autism-spectrum w/ above-average visual-discrimination)
  • Thought provoking. (Autism-spectrum w/ high IQ)
  • Increased comfort level compared to watching live-action (Social difficulties)
  • Fantastical fictional settings (Escapism)
  • Watching social interactions among characters (Lonely? Desires social interaction, but has difficultly going out in real-life to do so)
  • Japanese language (Enjoys the sound of Japanese dialog or possibly not needing to listen to what is being said?)
  • Subtitles (Processes information better visually?)
  • Never-ending supply of free entertainment (official-streams and fansubs released often)
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Old 2011-05-13, 19:14   Link #13
gsilver
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Speaking as someone with Aspergers, one of the things that drew me to anime in the first place was the simplified (and thus more understandable) usage of facial expressions and other non-verbal information. This also has something to do with my liking of standup comedy, with similarly exaggerated non-verbals.

In live-action drama (not to mention real life), these can be far more nuanced and difficult to understand. It's always frustrating to watch a movie and simply be unable to understand what's going on, because they rely so heavily on complex non-verbal gestures in their drama, rather than spoken word (or using non-verbals to negate what is spoken).

Another thing that makes American movies (especially action ones) difficult for me is what I've come to call "scream-boom", with a high amount of screen time devoted to, well, screaming and explosions. I don't know if this has anything to do with Aspergers, but i just find it hard to take.

Now, a big thing that anime has going for it is that it's an activity that can be essentially an infinite time sync that does not require a social network to partake in. Constant social rejection necessitates that kind of hobby, though anime is only one of many such outlets available. In my case, I started with computers and games, and anime has largely replaced gaming at this point (while I work with computers as my job).
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Old 2011-05-13, 19:38   Link #14
Vexx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gsilver View Post
Speaking as someone with Aspergers, one of the things that drew me to anime in the first place was the simplified (and thus more understandable) usage of facial expressions and other non-verbal information. This also has something to do with my liking of standup comedy, with similarly exaggerated non-verbals.

In live-action drama (not to mention real life), these can be far more nuanced and difficult to understand. It's always frustrating to watch a movie and simply be unable to understand what's going on, because they rely so heavily on complex non-verbal gestures in their drama, rather than spoken word (or using non-verbals to negate what is spoken).

Another thing that makes American movies (especially action ones) difficult for me is what I've come to call "scream-boom", with a high amount of screen time devoted to, well, screaming and explosions. I don't know if this has anything to do with Aspergers, but i just find it hard to take.

Now, a big thing that anime has going for it is that it's an activity that can be essentially an infinite time sync that does not require a social network to partake in. Constant social rejection necessitates that kind of hobby, though anime is only one of many such outlets available. In my case, I started with computers and games, and anime has largely replaced gaming at this point (while I work with computers as my job).
Believe me, you don't have to have AS to find "American movie scream boom" hard to take. Along with the one-inch deep plot or characterizations....

But yeah.. the *option* to hobby in anime either solo or with others makes it appealing.
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Old 2011-05-13, 20:13   Link #15
ahelo
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Wow there ARE a lot of people here who have Aspergers. I'd say TheLastPsychiatrist is right.
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Old 2011-05-13, 21:19   Link #16
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I've come to notice this also. I would like to add that it is also because of narrative structure in episodes and series. Anime itself is just too very "clean" and contributes/plays in on what some people fear or are not good at (such as socializing). The characters always portray the same stereotypes, seeing them succeed at what other people cannot or do not dare to brings an uplifting feeling which makes it pleasing to watch. This si why anime is imo too clean sometimes, in many series there are hardly any negatives the entire world is filled into the tunnel vision of what the story is and leaves out the things that can connect it to what we have around us. It is a sort of escapism, you get to see a world/characters and/or get to see someone succeed a goal without all too much trouble because of the tunnelvision. If anything bad happens or something allong those lines ut has always given me a feeling of something special happened to this character, like an escape out of the loop hole of every day life (an every day life that is so dumbed and easy mode that you can hardly compare it) this is also why I call it escapism, a boring routine of every day life when you lack a lot of things and want to find an escape, watching stories that are about that exact subject give the viewer an escapism.

It is comparable to why some chewed out genres in other media categories are still a success eventhough the show itself might not be very good. I mean why do people watch all those idols shows? As a sort of escapism, it gives them a feeling of bliss/joy/happiness.

My guess is that for people with autism and or aspergers the whole media concept on narrative structure gives them a kind of an uplifting feeling. Someone who hardly has friends or socialices might find enjoyment in watching someone else succeed in it with ease (like a feel good movie when you are feeling down). The whole tunnelvision however is also a bad thing because it keeps some people away from what actually matters and simply put spawns the mass horde of weabo fans that no one really likes.

That and appearance, there are no skin flaws and in most series the characters are not overweight and are mostly always beautiful beyond compare. This fake sense of beauty also attracts people that in combination of a narrative structure solely focussed on a small portion of what should be happening can attract people who find a lack of it in their own direct surroundings.
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Old 2011-05-14, 03:12   Link #17
0utf0xZer0
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As someone with a mild case of Asperger’s, I do find anime helps deal with social awkwardness, but not for the reasons people seem to be speculating about. Hobbies like anime allow me to connect with other people. Granted, only certain kinds of other people, but those are usually the kinds I’m interested in connecting with. My girlfriend and several of my close friends are anime fans… and most of my other friends have other geeky hobbies. I don’t consider myself to lack friends.

Other appeals…

[QUOTE=cyberbeing;3611226]Subtitles (Processes information better visually?[QUOTE]

A relatively minor factor, but I concentrate way better on text than spoken words.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gsilver View Post
Speaking as someone with Aspergers, one of the things that drew me to anime in the first place was the simplified (and thus more understandable) usage of facial expressions and other non-verbal information.
I’ve never found expressions in live action that hard to understand, but anime seems to be able to elicit response from me that live action simply can’t.

I also like how I can follow a series for like 13 or 26 weeks, but only need to devote 25 minutes a week to that series… useful when I’m freaking out about whether I need to be spending more time on my paper.

Finally, I’ve always been a bit of a sap and cute-o-phile… anime just seems to have really brought it out in me. I wouldn’t say that I’m using anime to cover up dissatisfactions about anything, but I definitely do get a bit of a “high” out of much of the cuter, more romantic stuff. Even if a pairing isn’t that well written I can still enjoy the show immensely if I find it cute and romantic enough (*cough* Angel Beats’ lead couple *cough*).

For the record, the “anime that got me into anime” was Moon Phase – which combined cuteness with some typically slick Shaft visuals (another thing I love).
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Old 2011-05-14, 03:53   Link #18
NightbatŪ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
Aye, as I implied in my earlier post... I find (anecdotally) higher numbers of people with a variety of social behavior variants in almost any hobby that requires high concentration/attention focus, large mental archives of data, acquisition/collection aspects, etc.
Why do I suddenly get the idea that World of Warcraft would be the perfect medium for these people
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Old 2011-05-16, 03:45   Link #19
Gault
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just a quesion from what I understand about people with AS , not trying to sound like a cxnt or anything

but don't they prefer non-fiction over fictitional stuff?
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Old 2011-05-16, 09:17   Link #20
Zenemis
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I think it's also due to the more extreme characterizations in anime; the majority of anime have very somewhat binary characters.

Mainstream television tends to have characters that more closely fit social norms, which autistics and those with Asperger's may a bit more find it difficult to relate to.

@ Gault - I don't believe autistics have a preference on fiction or non-fiction, but rather tend (as Vexx stated above) to prefer any topic where they can devote their time to accumulating a great deal of specific information.

@ Nightbat - Jokes aside, you're right. Relatively complex games like World of Warcraft do suit autistics, as there is a large amount of information involved, in which deep involvement can bring rewards (theorycrafting!)

What KarumA's stated about escapism is probably the primary reason however. Those who struggle socially tend to gravitate towards more fantastic, escapist fiction.
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