Previously this week, we covered many physically-disabled anime characters, counting the likes of Zoro from One Piece and Shouko from A Silent Voice. Now's the turn to look at the representation of mental disorders in the anime medium.
Keep in mind though, it’s a speculative list at best. The greater half of these characters are internet-diagnosed — guesswork, entirely. Unlike anime characters who are physically disabled, mental disabilities are invisible and difficult to single out. We need to be more deliberate and careful while diagnosing a mental disorder, especially if it’s not canonically verified. As a measure of safety, this list excludes characters that don’t manifest very easily discernible symptoms of a mental disorder. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have it. We just want to play safe.
Mental disorders also tend to be comorbid, which means they come in a “buy one, get one free” package. If you think a character has some other disorder and not the ones we have identified, it’s probably because they have more than one.
With that having said, here's an index of popular anime characters with a mental/personality disorder!
10. Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul:Re)
Kaneki became amnesiac after facing defeat at the hands of Arima. Yes, a spear through the head makes a good case for brain damage, but it seems his amnesia was induced by the psychological torture administered by Arima rather than the injury. He must have suppressed his memories to survive the pain of bereavement.
9. Eren Yeager (Shingeki no Kyojin)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a recurrent anxiety disorder in anime. You could argue most shonen protagonists go through PTSD, which often frames their motives for the rest of the show. But Eren stands out in how far it affects his actions and the scale of consequences that follow. He develops PTSD after watching a titan eat his mother while he's unwillingly carried away. He gets vivid flashbacks of his helplessness from time to time.
8. Light Yagami (Death Note)
What better psychopath than someone who feels giddy after staring at all the names he's just written in a death note and killed? But you could also make a case for Light suffering rather from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. After all, the notebook doesn't really help with his god complex, instead fosters it to its Machiavellian extremes.
7. Shinji Ikari (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
Displaying extreme fear of criticism and rejection, Shinji tends to push people away, despite his longing for human connection. It's likely Shinji suffers from Avoidant Personality Disorder and the severe depression that accompanies it.
6. Shikamaru Nara (Naruto)
What a drag! Disinterested and disenchanted from his surroundings all the time, Shikamaru can't be bothered to pay attention unless he's personally invested in something. Don't mistake his laziness for insolence though. Shikamaru very likely has ADHD-PI which doesn't allow him to focus. It manifests in his intense moments of "hyperfocus" where he strategizes and reveals his true intelligence.
5. Saiki Kusuo (The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.)
Saiki's a sucker for routine, prefers to maintain distance, rather devoted to his comfort food (coffee jelly), doesn't/can't express his emotions, is very sensitive to sounds, and doesn't ever talk — all quite indicative that he might be on the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Or maybe these are just byproducts of his powers. I wouldn't fuss over this one — the show's not that deep and meant to be enjoyed!
4. Mima Kirigoe (Perfect Blue)
Both Mima, the pop culture idol, and her manager Rumi Hidaka, display symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder (earlier known as split personality disorder). The descent into this condition is particularly well-captured by the anime. You see it happen, as opposed to being introduced to a character who already has DID.
3. Yuri Katsuki (Yuri!!! On Ice)
The self-esteem issues that Yuri experiences come from his crippling anxiety, which also takes shape in the form of depression and an eating disorder. It's a realistic take on a pervasive illness that has managed to start mental health conversations around the world.
2. Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)
The number one hyperactive knucklehead ninja makes it quite obvious. Naruto, like Shikamaru, makes a good example of a student with ADHD-PH who fails to retain focus no matter how hard he tries. Unlike Shikamaru, however, Naruto is rather loud, hyperactive and impulsive.
1. Reiner Braun (Attack on Titan)
There were breadcrumbs along the way, but when Reiner's dissociation was revealed, it still came as a massive shock. His Dissociative Identity Disorder must've been a coping mechanism to deal with his PTSD as well as to delude himself into the role of an honest Eldian soldier. A figurative armour over his heart, quite appropriate, isn't it?