April—the month of blooming sakura and fresh anime releases—also puts a spotlight on raising autism awareness. It is time to shed light on the amazing individuals on the autism spectrum: to help us ditch the inaccurate (and offensive) portrayals in popular culture, we’re looking toward a show that’s truly epic in scope.
In the anime My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv999!, viewers get to follow the dynamic duo of Yamada, an autistic-coded pro gamer, and his lively companion, Akane, as they conquer the gaming universe and beyond. Throughout, their unique bond showcases that being different is not a barrier, but a gateway to a thrilling journey loaded with giggles and thrills.
The story kicks off when the heartbroken Akane, a college girl fresh off a breakup, meets Yamada in real life. In their previous dealings online, she believed that Yamada, a shy gamer boy, was as unapproachable as a mountain of ice, with a seeming addiction to gaming that left him little room for social interaction. His blunt, no-nonsense communication style in-game only added fuel to her theory of aloofness. However, all of that changed once she attended a game event with the sole intention of getting back at her ex-boyfriend. Through a series of unexpected events, Akane discovers that Yamada—hardcore gamer though he may be—is actually a kind-hearted and famous FPS pro gamer who loves playing “Forest of Savior” in his free time. Talk about a revelation!
This captivating anime version of the cherished manga series is already causing a stir and showing creators that autistic deserve to be just as fleshed-out and three-dimensional as neurotypical ones, not just fodder for laughs.
While the representation of autism in anime and TV series such as Atypical, Barakamon, Death Note, Love on the Spectrum, and Violet Evergarden is appreciated, it’s still not enough. One immensely problematic character that keeps haunting the small screen is that of Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory, an autistic-coded character whose autism is mostly played for insulting laughs. Even though the show, as well as Young Sheldon, its spinoff, belong to another era of bad representation, pop culture is still painfully lagging behind when it comes to showing folks on the spectrum as we really are.
As a lover of both manga and anime, I was thrilled to witness yet another treasured manga turning into an epic anime series. It’s a match made in fandom heaven! What makes this particular show all the more special is the fact that it has already won the hearts of my neurodivergent peers, a community hungry to see ourselves reflected in mainstream media. Having recently passed the three-episode test, it is safe to say My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv999! has already struck a chord with its viewers.
Yamada and his squad represent the gamer community in a way that is pure fire. Forget about the played-out stereotype of weirdos and creepy cave-dwellers—this bunch is the real deal. They are genuine, multifaceted individuals with dynamic personalities and thriving lives outside the virtual realm. The show is funny and irreverent without resorting to the use of tired tropes that make gamers look bad, mean, or like losers. It’s especially sweet to see the relationship between Yamada and Akane develop as they each grow to understand each other better, taking into account their different communication styles and senses of the world
In a world that often struggles to understand, accept, and include those who are different, Yamada and Akane’s story is a beacon of hope. They teach us that we all have something valuable to offer, no matter how unique our perspectives may be.
A game-changing delight, My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv999! has everything you could ever want — from the charming portrayal of the autistic-coded Yamada-kun to the adorable newbie gamer Akane, with an array of interesting characters in between. It’s an overall celebration of gaming culture that gives us the kind, thoughtful representation we’ve been waiting for all these years.