I come to you today a wiser woman. Aren't we always saying, how good it would be to see ourselves as the world sees us? Well, thanks to a new Japanese anime show, I did just that. For the first time in my life, I saw what I look like from the outside.
Readers, this is not a paid review or anything officially linked to the Watamote, the anime. This is purely my response to something which, hum, how can I put it? Well, if I tell you that I sat through the whole show, with an expression of horror and recognition on my face, would that tell you how it was?
IT Teen had told me to watch it. He bought the manga first, the Japanese version. He waved it in my face and said, 'This is about yoooo!' I remember scowling at the book cover, to find a edgily-drawn girl scowling back at me. Yes, already it was accurate.
IT told me that it's a 'slice of life' story, all about this socially awkward girl called Tomoko. I thought, well, yes, I am socially awkward but that doesn't sound like it would be much of a story.
So, we sat down to watch it. Within the first minute, I was hooked. Tomoko has just moved up to high school - she has reached that part of the teenage years which we aspies often don't get past. She is old enough to really suffer.
She can't speak to people, she spends all her time in her room, playing dating games on her pc. She believes that going up to high school will mean a new life, a place where she can make friends and be like everyone else. And yet, once there, she can barely lift her head from her work.
There is a scene in a restaurant which really brought things home to me. Some classmates have come in and Tomoko needs to get past them without risking any contact. The image zooms out and we see a map of the restaurant, with arrows plotting her various escape routes as she works out which way she can go to avoid them seeing her or speaking to her.
I was thinking to myself, 'There is no escape, she'll have to go into the toilets.' And then she went into the toilets, to work out what to do next and I felt like I was with her, cowering behind the temporary safety of a locked door.
What hit me hardest by the end of the first episode was that this poor girl has more in common with me as I am now than when I was a teenager. I was like her then, too, but I've actually developed into a more socially awkward person over time. I hide it better, I pretend more, but on the inside I am a teenage girl, plotting her escape routes.
Any aspie will identify with some of this story. Many will identify with most of it. If, like me, you sit there with your face contorted, hiding behind your hands at the parts which are too familiar to watch, then you are not alone.
Friends, families and best beloveds of aspies should be made to watch this show. Strap 'em down, readers and sellotape their eyes open. They must watch it. For all those times when you've tried to explain why you can't speak to people or why you find something hard to do. Make them see how it is.
This anime shows our lives from the inside, the outside and also from the viewpoint of other people. Within the story, we get to see how society sees Tomoko, who can only interact with her brother by blackmailing him to sit and talk to her.
The message I came away with by the end is that this is an anime about a socially awkward girl. She is not labelled as aspie or anything else, just awkward. To anyone who knows aspergers, she is very obviously an aspie.
Share it with anyone you know who might benefit from seeing the aspie life from all angles and don't let them wriggle out of it. They can ignore the textbooks if they like, or avoid the letter from school, work or the doctor. Let their eyes glaze over when you explain aspergers to them. But make them watch this show.
You have twenty-something minutes to see the truth!
Watamote is available in the UK from Crunchyroll, who have a 14 day free trial. Searching the anime itself should give you access in other parts of the world. I should point out, this show has an 18 rating, though it would probably be a 15 in the UK.