Are They Autistic?, Autism, Reviews

Are They Autistic? – Reggie Abbot (Twelve Forever) – Part 2

Continued from Part 1 (Are They Autistic? – Reggie Abbot (Twelve Forever) – Part 1 | The Autistic Blogger (

Before I begin, I need to give you all some context. I started writing Part 1 of this article before watching any episodes of Twelve Forever. The rest of it was written after I’d finished the series. I did things this way because I wanted to make a point about first impressions. 

When you’re introduced to something for the first time, there’s little information to go on. All you have is what you see on the surface, like a TV trailer or someone’s appearance. It’s easy to draw conclusions from this simple information – perhaps because you’ve been taught the most likely outcomes. However, the crucial thing to remember about first impressions is they often turn out wrong. Maybe not entirely false. But there’s always more to something than what you initially perceived. It’s like judging a book by its cover. The title, blub and artwork can give you an idea of what to expect inside. But until you experience what’s written yourself, you’ll never understand what makes the book unique.

The same can be applied to people. Too often, those with Autism have their behaviours misidentified. Struggling to process information, for example, could be viewed as laziness or having hearing problems. It results in those people not getting the proper help they need. And all because the observing party didn’t understand the individual. It can work in reverse as well. Sometimes it’s easy to tell if someone is Autistic. Like when they’re obsessed with doing something a specific way, even if it appears strange to everyone else. But in most cases, it takes time and careful observation to determine whether someone is on the spectrum. That was the mindset I had going into Twelve Forever.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to work out if Reggie was Autistic or not. As explained in Part 1, I had many things in common with her character. But these similarities weren’t enough to be definitive proof. I needed to see something that would leave no doubt it was anything other than Autism.

So what did I learn from watching this series’ 25 episodes? Well, more than I was expecting. But also not what I expected at all. Let’s take a look.


Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the series’ art direction. It uses a simplified style that appeals to both kids and young adults. When looking at the human characters, for example, some of their features do have realistic proportions. However, others use basic shapes, like circles and squares, to give them a slightly exaggerated appearance. As for the residents of Endless, their designs are certainly creative. But they’re not overly complex. You could believe they were imagined by a 12-year-old or younger (as the series implies they are). 

Furthermore, the series has two distinct colour pallets. In the real world (for whatever reason), it’s always snowy where the main characters live – even during Spring time. So there are always dull, boring colours everywhere, like whites, browns and greys. In contrast, Endless is a sunny paradise, forever bursting with warm, brighter colours. 

I think balancing these different aesthetics was essential for the series. Not only does it reflect how Reggie views both worlds, but it visually attracts the right sort of audience. Remember that the series’ primary goal is to show the characters’ growing maturity. So it makes sense to have an art style that draws in younger viewers but still emphasises the show’s coming-of-age themes. Speaking of which, let’s observe how Twelve Forever presents some of these themes through its stories. A good example is the first episode.

Episode 1 begins with Reggie celebrating her Twelfth birthday. It’s a simple party with only three guests: her mother, Judy; her brother, Dustin; and her best friend, Todd. The first time we see Reggie, she’s sitting at the table playing with an action figure. She and Todd are having a blast. But Judy and Dustin’s expressions show how they feel about this juvenile behaviour. Then Reggie gets given her birthday presents. However, aside from a music CD and a used gift card, they mostly turn out to be clothes or hygiene products. Reggie tries to act grateful. But she ultimately feels depressed at not getting anything she asked for. Her mother then reminds her they talked about her birthday being different this year; she won’t need so many toys now that she’s older. Besides, what she’s been given can be fun too. It’s just fun in a different way.

An opening scene can tell a lot about a series and its direction. In this case, it does a fine job of setting the tone and establishing the characters’ personalities. As mentioned above, the cold weather and muted colours contrast the happy celebration. Also, the party takes place in a small kitchen without decorations, and even the presents don’t have the fanciest wrapping paper. It makes our introduction to Endless feel more appealing later. 

As for the characters, the series wastes no time showcasing Reggie’s immaturity. Besides playing with toys, her first line of dialogue is, “Come on, mom, I’m not that grown-up.” So she’s instantly dismissive of her age. Plus, we see how tormented she is by her gifts. Making room in her life for these mature things doesn’t excite her one bit. And her mother’s words do nothing to change that. It seems her birthday has become less of a celebration and more of a reminder that she’s losing the best years of her life.

The scene isn’t entirely depressing, though. Todd is a welcomed presence because he provides comic relief whenever necessary. More importantly, though, he’s shown to be close friends with Reggie. He indulges in her childish ways, and she appreciates his company. However, given Todd is her only friend at the party, it’s an early indication of how few she has.

As for Dustin and Judy, they each represent what I despise and love about the sub-characters in this series respectively. 

Dustin, you see, is portrayed as a stereotypical teenager; someone who’s laidback, bitter, and puts little care or effort into anything – he’s the one who gave Reggie the used gift card. Not to mention he’s later revealed to be a conspiracy theorist and has a blog dedicated to spreading crazy stories (ep6). Unfortunately, several other human characters in the series have these generic personalities. Sometimes you get teen bands trying too hard to act cool (ep22) or teachers who’re overly timid or unprofessional (ep9). They’re just feeble attempts at comedy that weaken the series’ credibility. Fortunately, though, they aren’t featured too often. And they do nothing to harm the series’ more serious aspects. There’s even an episode where Reggie reconnects with her estranged brother over something they made when they were younger (ep6).

On the other hand, Judy is one of the series’ most down-to-earth characters; she embodies every parent who worries about their child’s natural growth. Truthfully, it shouldn’t be an issue that Reggie has particular interests. Or they’re so different from her mother’s when she was younger. But it’s sad for Judy knowing they have nothing in common – especially when she seems to relate more to other girls Reggie’s age (ep8). Also, since her daughter is reluctant to try new things, Judy worries that Reggie won’t move forward with her life and will struggle with adulthood. 

Parental figures are a delicate aspect of children’s media. If a series is more comedy-based, it’s natural to portray them as goofy or eccentric. Their roles aren’t meant to be taken seriously there. However, for a series like Twelve Forever, the writers knew it was important for Judy to be as believable as possible. Sometimes the episodes needed someone to ground them in reality to convey their messages. And it works exceedingly well here. Any time Judy is onscreen, we feel the stress she’s under to be a good mother. She has to put her foot down when Reggie acts too immaturely sometimes (ep8). But she also doesn’t want to upset or peer pressure her. Growing up is a stressful process. So whenever she has to talk to Reggie about it, she uses a soft-spoken tone and looks for ways of making the transition smoother. The first episode demonstrates this approach quite well.

While preparing for a garage sale, Judy finds a box of Reggie’s old things. Since her daughter hasn’t touched it in years, she decides to sell it. However, Reggie is adamant about the idea. The box is filled with remnants of her childhood, and she can’t bear the thought of parting with them. It’s frustrating for Judy at first. But she comes up with a compromise. She gives Reggie until the end of the day to go through her stuff and decide what she can’t live without – anything else has to go. It seems like a good plan. But Reggie is too emotionally attached and feels she can’t get rid of any of it. 

Personally speaking, I can understand Reggie’s feelings. Usually, in hoarding situations, you have to ask yourself logical questions. For example, what’s the difference in not owning something if you never use it anymore? Maybe you could argue you’ll use it eventually. But are you more likely to use something else when the time comes? Is the item as valuable to you as other things you own? Does it make any significant difference in your life? When you ask yourself these questions, the choice of whether to keep something becomes easier to decide. 

However, just because something isn’t useful doesn’t mean it has no sentimental value. For example, I own a teddy bear that I’ve had since the day I was born. I don’t sleep with it anymore, of course. But I still hold onto it because it was given to me by my late grandmother. Throwing it away would be like throwing away a part of her and the connection we had. 

Reggie feels the same about her old toys and sketches. Precious memories are attached to them, and she doesn’t want to risk forgetting. So instead of throwing them out, she decides she’ll keep them in her special place. Somewhere no adult can reach them.

Surprisingly, it’s revealed that Reggie and Todd already have the power to go to Endless. And they’ve been visiting the island for some time now. It’s not until later in the series that we learn how everything started. 

About a year ago (episode 17), Reggie didn’t fit in well at school; her fantasies made her seem weird to other kids, and even her family looked down on her. One day, during art class, she made a key out of modelling clay, telling her teacher she wanted it to take her away from her boring town forever. Following another conflict at home, Reggie wished with all her might to go someplace where she could just be herself. Her desire granted the key its magic and whisked her away to Endless. Initially, she was freaked out by what happened (episode 18); especially when meeting the strange, abstract creatures who inhabited the island. However, she soon realised Endless was everything she’d ever hoped for. The residents admire her fun-loving attitude. She can do whatever she wants without consequence. And there are so many activities to discover that the only limit is her imagination. It’s a perfect child’s paradise. 

Shortly afterwards, Reggie met Todd – the only person at school who seemed interested in her abnormalities. While spending time with him, she learned he was also stressed about getting older; he’s always having to look after his boisterous younger siblings, among other new responsibilities. Sensing Todd’s need for escapism, Reggie showed him the way to Endless. And they’ve been sharing adventures there ever since.

From a writer’s perspective, this backstory does everything it’s meant to. It establishes the main characters’ personalities and motivations. It also sets up their ordinary world before introducing the new one with its different rules. However, my only objection is that it comes too late in the series. It would’ve been better to have it as the opening episode so we could’ve followed the characters’ development from the beginning. Also, given Reggie and Todd are very familiar with Endless (in episode 1), and the audience isn’t, there’s a bit of disconnection. Sometimes they need to learn things along with the characters to form an emotional bond.

That being said, when the series does teach moral lessons, they’re some of the most personal I’ve ever experienced. They’re not simple run-of-the-mill lessons or even widely-appealing ones; they’re specifically chosen to guide viewers in Reggie and Todd’s age group. Young adult problems take centre stage in Twelve Forever.

For instance, going back to episode 1, Reggie takes the box of her old things to Endless and buries it in the sand. Surprisingly, it brings all of her toys and sketches to life. It also turns a label-maker into a monster which Reggie and Todd defeat with their superpowers. After things quiet down, though, we learn something intriguing. According to Reggie, once something is brought to Endless, it can never return to the real world. So even though she has some new friends on Endlesss, things will never be the same back home. It’s symbolic because the island represents Reggie’s childhood. By leaving her old things here, she’s essentially letting go of a piece of her past. However, that doesn’t mean she has to forget the positive memories they’ve left her. Plus, she can revisit them anytime she needs a break from her stressful life.

The series is very clever in how it teaches things metaphorically like this. In Part 3, I’ll give you some more examples. As well as answer the all-important question: is Reggie Autistic? Stay tuned.

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Are They Autistic?, Autism, Reviews

Are They Autistic? – Reggie Abbot (Twelve Forever) – Part 1

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). Welcome to another instalment of Are They Autistic?: the series where I look at characters from various forms of media and analyse whether I think they’re on the spectrum or not.

Today we’ll be looking at Regina “Reggie” Abbot, the main character of the Netflix animated series Twelve Forever. It’s a series I’ve been interested in seeing for a while now but never got around to it. Either because I couldn’t find the time to or because I didn’t have a Netflix account. However, the series has stayed on my mind because parts of the trailer intrigued me about Reggie’s character. Let me explain.

From what I could tell, Reggie is a preteen girl struggling with the reality that she’s growing up. She’s embarrassed to get a bra for her birthday, feels awkward going clothes shopping, and shows no interest in things like makeup or beauty magazines – much to her mother’s disappointment. Furthermore, Reggie seems determined to stay a child no matter what. She spends her time drawing pictures and making costumes; she paints her face black and white, claiming to be a “dead skunk bride“, and has a collection of stuffed animals and action figures. In her own words, she describes herself as “some weird loser who’s loud and awkward and still plays with toys.” 

As you can imagine, Reggie’s desire to stay young causes problems in her social life; she has few friends who share her interests, and it even puts her at odds with her family. Moreover, the situation causes her stress. She knows growing up is inevitable. But she’s worried it’ll mean giving up everything she loves and condemning herself to a life of boredom and misery. Nobody wants that. But it feels like there’s nothing she can do about it. The world is bearing down on her.

One day, Reggie gets so frustrated that she can’t bear reality anymore. She wants to go someplace where she can just be herself. “Where everyone’s cool, and no one ever tells [her] to grow up.” Amazingly, she gets her wish. Through the power of her desires – and a magical key – Reggie and her friends (Todd and Esther) can visit the world of Endless: an island full of bizarre creatures and neverending fun. They’re also granted superpowers, which come in handy when protecting the island from threats such as the Butt Witch. It’s the perfect place for Reggie to escape her worries and live out her fantasies. But it also allows her time to work through her growing pains and resolve conflicts with her friends. Maybe then she’ll learn getting older isn’t as dull and depressing as it seems.

So you might be wondering why I’ve chosen this series and character, specifically. After all, dealing with maturity is a relatable story we’ve heard many times before. Even the addition of a fantasy world easing us through the transition is nothing new – think of classic novels like Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland. However, I couldn’t help drawing comparisons between Reggie and myself. It’s a little farfetched to say so, but I think her behaviour is similar to someone with Autism. Let me give you some examples.

Firstly, there’s Reggie’s reluctance to change. As mentioned before, getting older is never easy; it comes with many new challenges and experiences. For people with Autism, though, these changes are especially harsh. Understanding the world around us can be difficult, given how differently our minds process information. Because of that, we tend to fixate on whatever we find familiar or amusing. We take comfort in these things because they’re simple to understand, and we know the rules. However, when stepping out of these comfort zones, we know our disabilities will sometimes make new experiences longer and harder to learn. Plus, there’s no guarantee we’ll succeed in them as well as most people. Usually, that’s not the case, and we manage just fine or even better. But it doesn’t make the learning period any less stressful or scary. Consequently, we’re more hesitant to commit to it and often default to what we know.

In Reggie’s case, it’s similar. The thought of becoming a young adult is off-putting to her because it’s entirely different from the life she’s always known. I couldn’t tell from the trailer if she has trouble understanding the world. But her childish antics are more extreme for someone her age – even by some Autistic standards. I’ve already given a few examples above. However, we’re also shown a comparison with Reggie’s brother, Dustin; he’s adjusted to being a teenager much better than his sister – who he now sees as an annoying pest. With so much changing in her life, Reggie takes comfort in the remnants of her childhood. They’re reminders of times when everything was fun and familiar. Maybe she acts the way she does because she doesn’t want to grow up. Or perhaps something inside her is affecting her confidence, which makes moving on too emotionally demanding.

There’s also the fact that Reggie has specific interests. Having a different perspective of the world means Autistic people are sometimes fascinated by the most unusual things. For example, Maud Pie and Mud Briar (Friendship is Magic) are interested in rocks and sticks, respectively. Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) is drawn to anything not remotely normal. I’m someone who watches a show about colourful talking ponies that’s aimed primarily at young girls. And Reggie loves toys and being creative. For an outsider looking in, these things are strange or irrelevant to obsess over. Thus it often creates distance between them and the Autistic person. We see this with Reggie’s mother trying to get her daughter interested in fashion. However, anything can be fascinating if you take the time to understand what makes them so uniquely appealing. The problem is finding people who share that passion for something so specific. Or a least know why you love it so much. Most people usually gravitate to what’s popular with everyone, and that’s that.

Out of everything I took from Twelve Forever‘s trailer, though, the most intriguing part was when Reggie’s mother explains that her daughter “locks herself in her room for hours, making up stories and living in her own little world.” Hearing these words, I couldn’t help thinking back to my preteen days. I’ve expressed it before, but when I was younger, I always thought about my favourite TV shows, games and characters. I’d relive them inside my head, even at the most inopportune times. I then started coming up with my own stories and ideas, which led me to want to pursue a career in creative writing. Could it be that Reggie is also at this stage? Could she unknowingly be setting herself up to make a living off her passions? It’s entirely possible. After all, parts of Endless are created from her imagination, drawings and toys. Not to mention “living in their own world” is a common way of describing Autistic behaviour. This similarity with me was the most convincing evidence I had thus far.

So you might think I have a solid case for proving that Reggie is Autistic. However, keep in mind everything I’ve mentioned so far comes from my impressions of the trailer – and a few short clips on YouTube. You also have to remember that Autism is several different conditions working together. And they can affect people in different ways. For example, I have a girlfriend who’s also on the spectrum. But unlike me, she doesn’t have Asperger’s Syndrome. So whereas I find it difficult to talk in most social situations, she can talk for hours about almost anything non-stop. 

Just because there are similarities between Reggie and me doesn’t mean we’re both Autistic. The only way I’d know for sure is if I watched the series for myself. Did it confirm or disprove any of my theories? Find out in Part 2 (Are They Autistic? – Reggie Abbot (Twelve Forever) – Part 2 | The Autistic Blogger (

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General, Updates

New Year Update (2023)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I hope you’ve all been enjoying the holidays and are looking forward to a bright and prosperous New Year. As for me, I’d like to update you all on what I’ve been up to and what you can (hopefully) expect in the coming months.

Firstly, I want to apologise for taking somewhat of a sabbatical lately. 2022 wasn’t the most active year for this blog, and I’ve noticed it’s caused a drop in viewership. It wasn’t my worst year by any means. But the lack of new material meant it failed to outperform 2020 or 2021. I have been busy working on other projects for websites like Amazon and YouTube. However, I would like to get back into the swing of things here. For example, I know what my next instalment of Are They Autistic? will be. I just need time to watch the source material and write the article. It will probably take a while because I’m getting ready to star in a pantomime with my local drama group. But I should have it done within a couple of months. I’d also like to try making YouTube content similar to my articles. Maybe by taking some of my older posts and adapting them into video form. In particular, I want to recreate my review of the first episode of The Promised Neverland – the one I made into three YouTube videos before copyright issues completely butchered them. I’ll try to make that my goal for the 8th Anniversary Special. I have a whole backlog of other ideas as well. But everything will depend on how much free time I have outside of work.

Once again, I’m sorry for being less active on this blog than in previous years. I will work hard to change that in 2023 and bring you posts more frequently. In the meantime, thank you for continuing to visit this site. I never imagined my content would reach thousands of people worldwide. If you enjoy my work, please visit my second blog, Autistic Blogger Creates – Creative Works by The Autistic Blogger (, where I talk about some of my previous writing projects. And my YouTube Channel, where I make video content: GeoStar The Autistic Vlogger – YouTube.

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay tuned.

General, Updates

October 5th (2022) Update

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I just wanted to give you a quick update on what’s been happening with me and where I currently stand with this blog.

Firstly, I understand that new content has been rather scarce this past year. I’ve been busy working on other projects that haven’t necessarily been Autism-related. There was my first blind-reaction video, which I uploaded last June. After that, I was involved in my latest drama production. And then, I watched two seasons of an anime series, Sword Art Online, which resulted in me writing my longest review to date (see my previous post). As mentioned before, I might discuss this and other reviews in more detail on Autistic Blogger Creates. I’m also looking to create more video content, which will inevitably take time away from this blog.

That being said, I’m not going to stop writing Autism-related content. I still check my blog’s status regularly, and it always makes me happy to see so many people enjoying my posts. I want to keep giving back to them and make a difference wherever possible. 

So what does this mean exactly? Well, I do have plans for what I want to write for this blog. I’m just not sure how frequently I’ll be able to post. I’m currently experimenting with new kinds of online content, and I want to make sure I give it the attention it needs. But I also don’t want to neglect everything else. Rest assured, whenever I do post something new, I will make sure it’s worth your time.

That’s all I have to say for now. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay tuned.

See also:

GeoStar The Autistic Vlogger – YouTube

Autistic Blogger Creates – Creative Works by The Autistic Blogger (

Anime Reviews, General DVD Reviews, Reviews

The Review Too Long for Amazon

Sword Art Online: Alicization War of Underworld – Part 2

Back in 2019, I watched Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale for the first time. After two incredible seasons, with some of the most true-to-life characters I’d ever seen, I thought the franchise couldn’t get any better. Then this movie was released, and it defied my expectations. The action was thrilling, the gaming mechanics were well-integrated, and the heart of the series was on full display, with numerous callbacks, epic battles and passionate relationships. I even went so far as saying this movie was everything the franchise had ever been building towards. As it turns out, though, I was wrong – I was wrong about everything. Why? Because this volume right here – the grand finale to a 7-part saga that’s covered two whole seasons – THIS is the climax everyone has been waiting for. How is War of Underworld Part 2 the grandest thing to ever come out of SAO? Let’s start with the story.

As war rages on in the Dark Territory, Alice is separated from the human army. Many of her allies attempt to save her, but their efforts are slowed by a seemingly endless supply of red knights – players who’ve been fooled into thinking Underworld is a hack and slash game. Reinforcements soon arrive, with 2000 Japanese players (including Asuna’s friends) joining the fight. Unfortunately, they’re still heavily outnumbered. With Alice’s safety vital to Underworld’s survival, and Rath still dealing with invading mercenaries, their last hope may be to revive a fallen warrior: the duel-wielding black swordsman, Kirito.

Before I get into the bulk of this review, I need to clarify something. As much as I enjoyed this volume, I can’t honestly say it’s flawless. When looking at its aspects together, it’s easy to see which ones were given less attention. One example is the plot. At its core, the story has two primary goals. The first is finding a way to revive Kirito so he can fight for the human army. The other is making sure Alice escapes to the real world safely. Both goals have incredibly high stakes when you consider the consequences of failing. But they’ve also been in place since the start of the season. At this point, their outcomes feel inevitable. Also, while the plot points in-between are engaging in their own right, not everything contributes to these end goals. Instead, they feel more like they’re needlessly drawing out the story.

Speaking of drawing things out, the first episode of this volume embodies that. It’s a recap, reminding us of everything that’s happened in the season so far. The information is helpful to know for the upcoming episodes. However, I’ve made my opinions on recaps clear in previous reviews. Also, unlike the Season 4 opener, the information hasn’t had time to fade from our memories, so reminding us feels pointless. It’s just a way of adding another episode to your lineup when you don’t know how to fill the gaps in your season.

That being said, though, I don’t think these weaker aspects deter the viewing experience. Smaller nitpicks can be forgiven if everything else in the series is strong enough to compensate for them. Let me put it into context.

There are two ways of making your series a guaranteed success. The first is using an all-around method. When presenting a series for the first time, you want to ensure your audience knows you’re taking what you create seriously. In these cases, it’s best to consider even the tiniest aspects of every episode: the dialogue, the camera shots, body gestures, and so on. If every little detail builds to a payoff, it’ll be seen as expert writing. Series like A Certain Scientific Railgun and The Promised Neverland (Season 1) adopt this method.

The second option is making your series a crowd-pleaser. If a franchise has already been well-established, you need to give returning fans what they want to see on the grandest scale possible. Even if everything else isn’t the most unique or complex (like the story), if the audience knows they’ll be in for the best time while watching, that’s all the convincing they’ll need. War of Underworld Part 2 is an example of the latter method. It pulls off being a crowd-pleaser by drawing on its most powerful aspect.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: what’s made Sword Art Online so successful over the years has been its characters. Much like Ordinal Scale, they included every familiar character from every season of the show in one giant battle. Only now, there’s the addition of Underworld’s characters. It’s incredible seeing old allies like Liz and Silica interacting with Renly (ep14). Or Sinon with Tiese and Ronye (ep13). Or Leafa with the chief of the orcs (ep13). There are even appearances from characters you’d never expect to see. I won’t give away spoilers here. But let’s say not even death can keep them out of the action.

Regrettably, though, there is a setback with this ‘Avengers Assemble‘ moment. Due to the sheer number of characters, it was inevitable that some would get featured less than others. The most prominent case seems to be with the Integrity Knights. The first half of the season spent time getting to know each of them individually. However, aside from Commander Bercouli – whose love life and paternal demeanour were expanded on quite unexpectedly (ep14) – none of the other knights have much screentime for further development. They’re mostly just there to support the returning characters.

That’s not to say the secondary characters don’t have their moments. I can point to numerous examples which prove otherwise. Sheyta and the pugilist leader (Iskahn) strengthen their bond by continuing to fight alongside each other (ep15). Sakuya sacrifices herself to protect Rue (ep16). The Sleeping Knights try desperately to convince the red knights of their deceit (ep16). Tiese’s love for Eugeo helps restore the Blue Rose Sword (ep19). And Royne shows true bravery by standing up to a man who almost killed her (twice) and defiantly shielding Kirito (ep16). These are by no means weak characters; whenever they’re on screen, they show us a fleshed-out personality is there. It’s just that with everything else going on, the episodes don’t have long to develop many subplots. If they did, however, you could build an entire arc around any of these characters, and they wouldn’t struggle to carry them. If the problem is we want to see these characters more often, not less, the writers must have done something right.

Now it’s time to get into the bulk of this review: the part where I talk about the characters most actively involved with the story.

First of all, I have to admit, there have been some great characters in this saga I’ve overlooked. Not because they weren’t featured a lot. But because I never realised how three-dimensional they were. It started with Kikuoka. Before Season 3, I always saw him as a character who was just there. But then the Alicization project was revealed, putting his actions in a new light. He also gets some minor development here, where he accepts that achieving his ultimate goal isn’t worth the expense of other people (ep19).

Another overlooked character is Higa, Rath’s technical expert. On first impression, he seems to be the generic ‘brains behind the keyboard’. However, Season 3 established his background early on and why he’s motivated to do his work. His personality also grows with every new development in the series. He feels guilty for letting numerous security breaches occur (ep14). He’s determined to save Kirito after the guy has risked so much for Rath (ep14). He even has a chance to play the hero when Underworld’s saboteur is finally revealed (ep15).

I’ll say right now that you’ll never guess who the traitor is. Because although they’ve technically been around since the beginning, they’ve blended in at Rath so well we never even knew they were a character. Regardless, the writing justifies why they’re the culprit. For one thing, they had a personal relationship with the Administrator – sabotaging Underworld was an act of love. They also worked closely with a sick-minded scientist who got what he deserved at the end of Season 1 – I refuse to say his name. Given the fates of both these tyrants, it makes sense why the traitor wants Kirito dead and is desperate for just one part of their ruined plans to succeed. A twist-villain is always a risky move. But the series executes theirs in a way that’s both shocking and believable.

Out of all the characters I’ve overlooked, however, the most significant one has been Vassago. In the last volume, I described the lieutenant as someone who “just loves the thrill of killing.” I never could’ve imagined how much I was understating things. Because after returning to Underworld as a different avatar (ep15), Vassago reveals himself to be PoH: the leader of Laughing Coffin! This murderous guild has caused hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths throughout the franchise. And now their leader is on the battlefield, wielding a hatchet and growing stronger with every death he causes. 

If that wasn’t enough, we find out how such a heinous monster came into being. PoH’s backstory reveals his childhood was an unholy nightmare (ep17). Born out of wedlock to a poverty-stricken family, his mother called him a “curse” and declared she should’ve had him aborted. His Japanese father later returned. Only to force Vassago into donating a kidney to his other (legitimate) son in a blatant act of favouritism. Exploited, unloved and fuelled by a sieving hatred toward the Japanese, Vassago swore to kill as many of them as possible. He even stole a NerveGear rig and logged into SAO (after the incident began) to have a convenient platform to do so.

Perhaps scarier than PoH’s motivations, though, are his intentions. It’s revealed he once exposed Laughing Coffin’s hideout to prove that the players coming after them were also cold-blooded killers (ep16). In particular, he wanted Kirito – a player he somewhat respected for being persistently true to himself – to suffer the guilt of murder and be traumatised for life (ep19). Statements like this show how personally PoH takes things; he’s furious at Kirito’s vegetative state and wants him revived so he can break the kid himself.

In just four episodes, Vassago goes from being a generic killer to the most fleshed-out villain the franchise has ever had. Debatably he’s even more three-dimensional than Gabriel – aka Emperor Vecta, aka Subtiliser. 

There’s no doubt Gabriel still poses an intimidating threat; he has disturbing intentions for Alice, wields dark magical powers, and uses them to best other skilled warriors like Bercouli (ep13-4) and Sinon (ep15-7). However, I’d be lying if I said I was still invested in him as much as before. There’s nothing flawed about his character. It’s just that compared to PoH’s story, his actions feel overshadowed. Regardless, both men (along with the traitor) are exceptional antagonists; they provide us with the high stakes needed to keep the series exciting. Also, without revealing too much, they’re eventually punished in ways each befitting their characters – it’s pretty gruesome (ep17-21).

Before I go on, I need to give a couple of warnings. First of all, I still have several main characters to talk about. But secondly, I need to go into spoiler territory to do so. I know I said the season’s goals and outcomes were predictable. But I have to give precise details to emphasise what each character contributes. So, if you’ve never watched this volume before, I’d recommend you stop reading here (for now) – or take a break since this review is already exceedingly long.

Here’s the first spoiler: Kirito is revived. At the end of episode 18, he’s freed from his vegetative state and joins the battle before its climax. It’s no surprise, given how integral he is to the franchise. But what is surprising is how he’s brought back. It’s not one particular action that does it, but the actions of several people closest to him. Let me elaborate.

Firstly, there’s Asuna. After being out of the action for most of Season 3, War of Underworld reminded us how valuable her character is. She’s thrown into battle with godlike abilities and even shares a complex dynamic with Alice. In this volume, she exemplifies her leadership skills by commanding the reinforcements, knowing where to put everyone’s efforts and making the most of their strengths (ep14). However, she’s also conscious of the real-life pain they feel. It gets to a point where she’s so overwhelmed by the suffering that she makes the difficult decision to surrender (ep16) – the battle isn’t worth everyone being massacred. But even when all hope seems lost, two things keep her fighting. One is the spirit of her deceased friend, Yuki Konno (ep16), and the other is her love for Kirito. Some would say her relationship with him feels too hammered in. But their genuine feelings for one another make their characters more realistic, giving the series its heart. Asuna proves she would live another 200 years to stay by Kirito’s side (ep20-2).

There’s also Leafa and Sinon. I’ll be the first to admit they haven’t always been used as well as they could be. The Alfheim and Phantom Bullet arcs showed us their full potential. But the series never knew how to develop them further. There is more of an effort to do that here, but it’s challenging with their limited time on screen. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. If Liz’s speech from episode 11 (last volume) proved anything, it’s that even the most underdeveloped recurring characters can instantly achieve legendary status under the right circumstances. 

Beginning with Sinon, I appreciate the franchise trying to keep her character relevant after resolving her PTSD in Phantom Bullet. Season 3 updated us on her personal life and growing friendship with Kirito and Asuna. Adding to this, she has a history with Gabriel. The latter once defeated her in battle and claimed he would consume her soul, instilling a new trauma in her. They face off again here in Underworld (ep15-7). And although Sinon isn’t able to defeat him, she fends him off with some unexpected help. It’s been well-established throughout this saga that willpower plays a significant role in Underworld. Sinon feels Kirito’s willpower protecting her from Gabriel’s dark magic and motivating her to enhance her weapons. She feels this subconscious bond because they know each other so well. As she tells Alice, Kirito is someone who will go to extreme lengths to protect those he cares about in either the real or virtual worlds (ep15).

Then there’s Leafa. It’s sad to say, but despite being Kirito’s relative, she’s been shortlisted more than any other recurring character. Even when she arrives in Underworld, her entrance is far from graceful and gets played more for comedy (ep13). Worst still, she falls victim to SAO’s terrible habit of sexually exploiting one or more of its female characters per season. Asuna was first (Season 1), then Sinon (Season 2), then Tiese and Royne (Season 3), and now it’s Leafa’s turn. But like everyone else in this volume, Leafa proves herself by showing off the depth of her character. For example, she has a soft side for unusual creatures – like Tonki from the Extra Edition Special. When she first encounters Lilipin, the chief of the orcs, she isn’t afraid of him (ep13). Instead, she’s friendly and tries to negotiate. She’s aware that even the Dark Territory’s residents have human souls, so she sees him as an equal. This lack of discrimination ends up being her saving grace. Because when a dark mage tries to drain her life force, Lilipin goes against his superior and sides with the one species who didn’t treat him like an animal. Afterwards, Leafa holds her own in battle (ep17). Even when she’s beaten to a pulp numerous times, she uses her avatar powers to keep healing herself and carry on. Just like her cousin, Kirito, would.

Now, you may have noticed there’s a pattern with these three characters. They all draw inner strength from their memories of Kirito. This detail turns out to be the key to reviving him. Since he’s left such a powerful impression on them, those mental images can be linked to his mind and used to repair the damaged portions of his brain (ep14-8). It’s a moment that shows just how influential he’s been throughout the franchise. Some fans have complained that he’s always at the centre of everyone’s lives. So this volume provides a payoff for that. Also, it proves how misguided Gabriel was: a person’s soul doesn’t reside in their head; it’s in the hearts of everyone closest to them – hence why Gabriel has no soul (ep20).

Speaking of Kirito, despite only being active for one-quarter of the season, he makes the most of his time back in the spotlight. It doesn’t start with him being revived; we see the turmoils he faces beforehand. Inside his mind, he’s forced to remember everyone he’s killed or watched die over the years (ep18). It’s so unbearable that he gives up on life and (literally) tries to tear his own heart out. It takes the combined spirits of Asuna, Leafa, Sinon and Eugeo to remind him of all the good he’s done and why he’s still needed. On the battlefield, he defeats PoH. But he also has him gruesomely punished without needing to kill him (ep19). He then shares a proper reunion with Asuna, but he wonders if he has to leave her again for Underworld’s survival – and if choosing to stay in a world he’s always dreamed of makes him selfish (ep19-20). Even after the battle, he mourns the death of Eugeo and takes on new responsibilities with Alice (ep22-3). The series hasn’t always needed Kirito. But without everything his character stands for, it never would’ve been the same.

The last two characters worth mentioning are Rinko and Alice. I’ve saved them for last because they tie into the season’s other major spoiler: Alice makes it to the real world. Her fluctlight is extracted and ends up in the safe hands of Rath (ep20-1). Additionally, thanks to their advanced technology, she’s given a mechanical body that perfectly resembles her Underworld appearance, allowing her to live as a near-perfect human (ep22-3). I say “near-perfect” because she still has troubles to face. Aside from her fish-out-of-water moments and needing to charge her body, some people see her as a robot and think AIs should be used for manual labour. That’s where Rinko comes in.

It’s a pity I’ve never mentioned Rinko in my previous reviews. Her character has always been an interesting one. She’s the former assistant and lover of Akihiko Kayaba, the man responsible for the original SAO incident. After all these years, she isn’t sure why she chose to suffer through the guilt of helping him. But after her experiences at Rath, she understands (ep21). Her partner had a goal to make the world a better place through virtual technology. How exactly remains a mystery. But she knows it involves Alice, and somebody needed to carry on for him after his death. That’s why she defends Alice (ep22). She justifies how true AIs are born, raised and develop personalities like real-world people. Using them as a labour force would be no different than slavery.

Alice also stands up for herself (ep22). She accepts that real-world people created her. But she won’t surrender her life any more than they would. Inside her metal casing is a human soul with human emotions. She hopes that by extending the hand of friendship, they’ll show this stranger to their world the best humanity can offer. It’s a powerful speech that shows just how human she truly is.

The final episode further solidifies Alice’s humanity. Both when she confronts Kirito and defends him. However, the real highlight is when we learn what Alice means to Kirito – why he’s gone through so much trouble for her wellbeing. She represents hope. Everybody’s hopes in Underworld. And Kirito’s hopes for the future. Someone like Alice was never supposed to exist: a human being born inside a virtual world that’s able to walk among real-world people. The fact she does exist is a miracle. Kirito believes Alice could one day change the world for the better and wants to protect her at all costs.

And with that – you’ll be glad to hear – this review is done. I’m sorry for how ungodly long it is, but I needed to express how committed the volume was to its audience. No character is forgotten about. The plot might feel linear and predictable at times. But it’s everything a devoted fan could ask for. And the best part is, the series might not even be over. At the time of writing, a fifth season hasn’t been commissioned. But the last episode perfectly sets one up should A-1 Pictures decide to. Also, a film series retelling Season 1 from Asuna’s perspective is underway. So the franchise shows no signs of slowing down. Maybe I’ll review them in the future. But until then, take care and stay tuned.


Author’s note:

I apologise for posting something that’s very long and not Autism-related. For context, this is a review I’ve been working on for the last few months. I tried posting in on Amazon, but they only allow 20,000 characters for their customer reviews – this one is over 3500 words long. I just needed to post it somewhere for people to read after all the work I put in. Sometime in the future, I’ll see about posting all of the Sword Art Online reviews I’ve written onto my Autistic Blogger Creates blog. That way, I can show you how my reviewing skills have improved over the years. Until then, stay tuned.

Image sourced from:

Autism, Experiences

Love and Autism

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). Today I’m taking a break from writing analytical pieces to share something personal with you. Three years ago today, something remarkable happened to me. It was a moment I thought may never happen because of my Autism. But it did. And I can honestly say I’m a more sociable person because of it. It’s even helped me to get out of the house and do things I never would’ve considered. What do I mean? It was three years ago today that I began devoting myself to another person. July 23rd is the anniversary of when I first met my girlfriend.

Before I go into details, let me rewind the clock a few years. 

I’ve sometimes wondered when it is somebody first starts thinking about love. Of course, when you’re younger, you have the love from your family, your school friends, and other adults who care for your wellbeing. But I mean romantic love. The feelings you get when you want to be with someone forever. Or show them they’re more than just a friend to you. Primary School, in most cases, seems too early. You’re still experiencing the basics of life, and romance can feel as far off as driving a car or getting a job. There are exceptions, of course. True love can blossom almost anywhere. But the most you get from younger children is pretending to be in love or having imaginary weddings. It’s not something they usually take so seriously. 

Early Secondary School – or late Primary – is when things start changing. At this stage, you’re more aware of what life offers you outside of school. Admittedly, some parts can be stressful; schoolwork is challenging, daily routines are busier, and you have to take on many new responsibilities. However, there’s also a sense of pride that comes with it. Reaching this stage in your life proves you’ve worked hard to get there. You realise you’re closer to adulthood and want to experience its benefits. These include choosing a career, being more independent, and, of course, falling in love.

When it comes to romantic feelings, your first time can be something simple. Maybe there’s someone in your school you like because they’re attractive. Or there’s a celebrity you admire because of their wealth and success. In these cases, though, you’re missing the essential component of a relationship: compatibility. Two people need to have something in common for a relationship to work. It could be a hobby, an interest or something more personal. But there has to be common ground: something that makes you want to keep meeting and talking with that person. If you just like somebody for their appearance, then – as the old saying goes – “take a picture, it will last longer.” There’s also nothing wrong with admiring celebrities. Just so long as you remember, there’s a difference between loving someone and idolising them. Realistically, someone like a celebrity is beyond your reach. Even if you spent years building yourself up to their status, they’d likely already be taken by that point. Plus, setting your standards too high will cause you to miss opportunities in your younger years. There could be someone perfect for you right under your nose, and you’d never notice because you’re busy obsessing over a hopeless fantasy. It’s harsh, but it’s true.

Another harsh reality is that everyone looking to find love will inevitably experience heartbreak. Finding the right match can be tricky. And, along the way, you will end up loving the wrong person – someone who won’t always love you back or for the right reasons. Regardless, it’s essential to keep searching and persevere. A day will come when your efforts will pay off. Trust me, I know.

My first experience of “young love” was back in Primary School. My mum was close friends with someone whose daughter was in the same year group as my sister and me. We’d spend time together outside of school, and she became one of our closest friends. I don’t know when it started exactly, but I liked this girl enough that I began fantasising we were boyfriend and girlfriend. It never turned into anything genuine, though. It was similar to when I imagined meeting my favourite TV characters in the playground at breaktimes. It was just words and make-believe. I knew nothing about romance at that age. And even if I did, I wouldn’t have known how I’d make our relationship into a serious one. After Primary School, we started seeing each other less and less. At which point, I knew it was time to move on.

In Secondary School, I took things more seriously. Not just in terms of romance, though. Starting a new school felt very intimidating to me because everything was unfamiliar. I also knew schoolwork and punishments could be harsher if you stepped out of line. I had it in my head that if I kept misbehaving as I did in Primary School, I would never survive this stage in my life. So while everyone else became louder and more rebellious, I was determined to become the best model pupil I could be. 

Anyway, throughout Secondary School, there was a girl in my year I couldn’t help admiring. She wasn’t as boisterous as my other classmates and generally seemed like a nice person. However, I didn’t know anything about her besides that. Also, rather shamefully, I admit that I liked her because she looked like my pretend girlfriend from Primary School. Part of me wanted to know her better. But I was always too nervous to talk to her. Usually, it was better just admiring her from afar. It wasn’t until a week before graduating that I finally found the courage to confess my secret crush on her. She was okay with it. And I was glad I told her. But by that point, of course, it was too little too late.

So now let’s talk about when my life changed for the better; that moment when I met the perfect girl three years ago.

Since leaving Secondary School, I’d never made much effort to find a girlfriend. But I had gotten better at talking to people. I’d made some close friends in college, where I graduated with professional and creative writing degrees. I’d gotten my driver’s licence. I had a well-paid job and a stable living. I was interacting with more people as part of a drama society, and I even managed to rent my first property and move out of my mum’s house. However, despite all of that, I knew something was missing. Because aside from meeting with family members or talking to colleagues at work or drama, I rarely got out and did anything. There was no one to share my life experiences with or encourage me to try new things. I knew if this didn’t change, I would spend the rest of my life alone. Even my mum realised this and told me I had to start looking for a girlfriend. Unfortunately, with no experience in dating and all those years of missed opportunities, I had no idea where to begin. I did create a profile on And I also downloaded an app which showed suggestions of people’s names, ages and appearances. But before I got into those too deeply, fate unexpectedly smiled on me.

One afternoon, I was visiting my dad and stepmom. They both knew I was looking for a girlfriend. But I never expected how helpful they’d be. My stepmom told me she knew somebody who knew someone whose relative was a lot like me: being Autistic as well. She also said that if I was interested, she could put me in contact with this girl by giving me her phone number. Part of me was hesitant about diving into this head-first. But I decided to take the chance anyway. After a few days of putting it off (due to nerves), I sent this girl a text message introducing myself. A day or so later, she replied to me, saying she’d be happy to get to know me too. For several weeks, we exchanged texts back and forth, learning more about each other and what we were doing. I was a little thrown off when I found out she was nine years older than me. But as the old saying goes, “age is just a number.” And by the time we met properly, the difference was hardly noticeable. 

Speaking of which, I still remember the first day we met. It was around the time when Disney’s The Lion King (2019) was playing at cinemas. Since we both enjoyed Disney, we arranged to meet and go and see it together. That afternoon, I waited outside Cineworld between some giant movie posters. I sent her a text saying where I was and what I’d be wearing. After several minutes, I saw someone crossing the road towards me. And I knew it had to be her. I wasn’t sure how to think or feel at that moment. Here I was, somebody who’d never been on a date in his life, meeting a girl he’d never seen or spoken to (except through text messages), and now we’d be spending the next few hours together. As it turned out, though, I needn’t have worried. Because when we spoke for the first time, it was clear that she was just as nervous about meeting me. Being on equal footing like this was reassuring to both of us. 

After a friendly exchange, we went inside and talked some more before the movie started. I was astonished by how much we had in common. It wasn’t just our Autism; many of our tastes and interests were similar. We talked about old TV shows we’d seen, what some of our experiences in education were like, and the kinds of jobs we’d had. She also told me how one of her favourite dinners was a burger and chips, with nothing in the burger except the meat and some ketchup. I couldn’t believe it – that was exactly how I enjoyed that meal too. When the movie was over, we had a couple of drinks at a local bar – where I learned she didn’t care for alcohol either – we said our goodbyes and agreed to stay in touch.

Overall, I felt the evening had gone very well. This girl was certainly easy to talk to, and she didn’t seem to have any negative traits. I didn’t know if our relationship would be permanent yet. But I was more than happy to meet with her again. And so we did, several times. Whether walking through the park, going to a bowling alley, eating dinner or just shopping together, we tried to do something different every time we met. Slowly but surely, our relationship developed. I met with her family; she met with mine, and our feelings for one another grew. There was even a moment when I decided to kiss her – instead of hugging as we always did. It was only meant to be on the cheek. But then she leaned forward, and we shared a passionate kiss on the lips. It was then I knew for sure we’d become boyfriend and girlfriend. 

Another memorable day was when my mum met her. After getting to know her, she took me aside and told me how much she liked her. She even said she thought she was the perfect girl for me. And, in all honesty, I had to agree. My girlfriend and I understood each other’s needs and desires. We had that common ground that made us want to keep meeting and doing new things together. Above all else, though, I loved how understanding she could be. Admittedly, I haven’t always been the best boyfriend to her. Sometimes I’ve had to call off our meetings due to work commitments. Sometimes I don’t compliment her enough on her appearance. Even when we’re talking, I sometimes miss parts of what she says because my mind wanders off. I feel ashamed when this happens. So one time, I spoke to her in the car. I told her that if there was anything about me she thought I needed to work on, she should let me know straight away. I wanted our relationship to work out. However, she told me I didn’t need to improve anything. She accepted me for who I was, including my flaws. Plus, she admired my honesty. She’d never had anything like that with her previous boyfriends. It was then that she told me, in her own words, that I was “the best thing that’s ever happened to [her].” Coming from someone who was nine years older and had more experience with romance, that meant a lot to me.

They say that true love is when you have someone in your life you can’t bear to live without. I didn’t know if I felt that way about my girlfriend. But a rather scary situation convinced me otherwise. One evening in 2020, I was home alone when I received the most dreadful news: my girlfriend (and her mum) had caught Covid-19. A wave of concern rushed over me. I knew how deadly the virus could be if you had medical issues. And my girlfriend once told me she’d had problems with asthma, which would put her at greater risk. After everything we’d been through together, all the memories we’d made, and the experiences we’d shared, I didn’t know what I would do if the worst happened. How could I ever find somebody else as perfect as her? Every day I video-called her to see how she was doing. She stayed in high spirits, despite her coughing fits. And I did my best to reassure her. Finally, after two weeks, her (and her mum’s) condition improved, and it was clear she was going to be alright. Since then, I’ve never doubted how much I genuinely love her.

So there you have it: a brief history of this Autistic Blogger’s love life. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that I’ve given you some reassurance for the future. The road to finding true love is never easy. It’s full of trial and error. But never let the hardships deter you. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what condition you may have, or if you’ve never had experience with love or dating. There’s somebody out there for everyone. You don’t even need to do what everyone else does, like go on dating sites. Sometimes it’s just a case of taking a chance with the right person at the right time. You never know if that moment will change your life forever.

That’s all I have to say for now. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, to that special girl I met three years ago today, I just wanted to say, I love you to the moon and back. Happy Anniversary!

See also:

GeoStar The Autistic Vlogger – YouTube

Autistic Blogger Creates – Creative Works by The Autistic Blogger (

General, Reviews, Video

7th Anniversary Special – A New YouTube Channel and my First Blind Reaction

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I know it’s a couple of days late, but I’ve finally finished my 7th Anniversary Special. I’ve wanted to try something like this for a while now, so I hope you’ll forgive me if it’s a bit different.

In the past, I’ve talked about how much I admire films and TV series like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. What you may not know, however, is that I also admire people who share their initial reactions (blind reactors). Seeing someone else watch something for the first time adds a new layer of entertainment to your viewing experience. However, it can also form a connection between you and the reactor. Maybe you laughed and cried in the same places they did. Maybe you agreed with a comment they made. Or perhaps they noticed something you didn’t, giving you a new perspective on the film or series. It can feel very relatable if your reactions are similar. 

Considering how much I want to reach out to other people, I’ve decided to try making these videos myself. However, I also don’t want to run into any more copyright issues as I did before. So that’s why I won’t be posting anything here. 

Below is a link to my new YouTube channel: GeoStar The Autistic Vlogger. By following it, you can view my first ever blind reaction to the My Little Pony: A New Generation movie – or just its highlights. I’m hoping this will start a new venture where I can make videos based on my interests and express how influential they are. Of course, I will still be writing for this blog. But it might mean I have to limit my posts to once every 2 to 3 months – my shifts at work tend to keep me busy most evenings.

With all that said, I want to thank everyone who’s continued supporting me these last seven years. It’s been reassuring to know you all still enjoy my work even when it’s not put out too frequently. I’ll be sure to bring you more written content in the future. So, until then, stay tuned.

My new YouTube channel – GeoStar The Autistic Vlogger – YouTube

General, Updates

May 7th (2022) Update

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I seem to be getting into a habit of this, aren’t I? Every once in a while, I post something like a review or an article. Then I go months without posting anything else – unless it’s an update or something even shorter. It’s not without good reason. I like to make sure the content I put out is the very best it can be. That means spending several days writing, rewriting and polishing things up. The trouble, however, is finding the right amount of time to do everything. As I’ve said before, I have a job where my work hours change week to week. Plus, I can never predict when I’ll be meeting friends or family on my days off. Or even if something more time consuming will cause a change of plans. That brings me to right now. 

These last two months have been some of the most eventful of my entire life. There have been positive moments like celebrating family members’ birthdays, taking my girlfriend for her first driving experience, and even performing on stage in All Shook Up. Unfortunately, I’ve also suffered through a lot of hardships. My girlfriend caught Covid for the second time. My old phone broke – and it was a whole week before I got a new one. I’ve struggled to save money after my rent went up. My grandad and great aunt both passed away. And the less said about certain world events stressing me out, the better – please, EVERYONE, watch the video clip I posted two months ago. As you can imagine, it’s been hard for me to get into the right state of mind and start any new projects.

That said, I haven’t just been sitting and doing nothing. To take my mind off my worries, I’ve been writing reviews for one of my favourite anime series: Sword Art Online. It started in 2014 when I watched the first series, and I’ve continued with every new season (and movie) the franchise has released. When I get the chance, I might post all of them to Autistic Blogger Creates and show you how my reviewing skills have developed over the years. As for my main blog, I doubt I’ll have anything written for the 7th anniversary. But I do have something else in mind as a backup. Let’s just say I’m trying a new approach to creating video content.

In the meantime, I want to thank everyone around the world – and I do mean EVERYONE – who continues to follow and support this blog. It’s always a pleasure for me to see how much it’s being viewed. New content will be coming soon. So until then, stay tuned.

See also: Autistic Blogger Creates (

Are They Autistic?, Autism, Reviews

Are They Autistic? – Renee (Pixar’s Loop)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). Welcome to another instalment of Are They Autistic?: the series where I look at characters from various forms of media and analyse whether I think they’re on the spectrum or not.

Today I decided to try something a little bit different. Instead of a character from a book or TV series, I’ll be analysing one from a short film. Specifically: Renee from Disney Pixar’s Loop (2020). Also, my reasons for choosing her are somewhat different too. Usually, when selecting characters for this series, I prefer those who haven’t been confirmed to be Autistic. The reason is it gives me more leeway to observe their behaviours and make assessments of my own. In Renee’s case, she is confirmed to have Autism. But it’s not the kind I usually analyse. Let me explain.

What’s important to remember about Autism is that it’s not one condition but several neurological ones acting together. Also, these combinations affect different people to varying degrees. Hence why there’s a spectrum. True, there are minor cases where a person only has repetitive behaviours or learning difficulties. Or milder cases (like mine) where it’s hard to process information and socialise. But then there are higher forms. In these cases, people struggle to develop basic motor skills where even speech is difficult. I may not have this form myself. But I have witnessed firsthand how severe it can be when visiting special needs schools. It gave me a newfound appreciation for the personal carers who’re committed to helping such people.

Going back to Renee, she’s advertised as a non-verbal Autistic character. I was keen to see how well-handled her condition would be in this short. After all, it’s one thing to claim a character is highly Autistic; it’s another to portray them as such – there have been misinterpretations before. That being said, I was confident in the studio behind this story. Why? Because it’s Pixar. Yes, the company responsible for innovating mainstream computer animation has also produced multiple short films over the years. Whether it’s their classics like Luxo Jr. (1986), award-winners like Bao (2018), or visual masterpieces like Piper (2016), they always make sure to research the subject thoroughly before putting pen to paper. With this in mind, I knew they wouldn’t take a topic like Autism lightly. So let’s take a look.

As the short begins, we’re immediately introduced to Renee. She’s sitting in a canoe at a campground, listening to a ringtone on her phone. Other kids have already gone paddling ahead, but Renee is too fixated on playing the sound over and over again.

Within the first 30 seconds, the animation establishes a common Autistic trait. When you’re on the spectrum, it’s easy to focus on just one thing rather than everything around you – it’s less stressful that way. As an audience, we can see the other kids paddling away in the distance. But when looking through Renee’s eyes, they’re almost out of focus. All that’s clear to her is the phone and the sound it makes. There are other indications of her condition, as well. She doesn’t look at people when they approach her; she retracts if they get too close and makes loud groans to show her displeasure. Even her facial expressions are realistic, with her glassy eyes and limp smile. Director Erica Milsom knew she had to get Renee’s character across to the audience quickly. And with everything that’s presented visually, it’s clear Renee is Autistic without anyone needing to say it.

However, the short isn’t really about discovering Renee’s condition. Instead, it wants to teach viewers about its effects and how best to interact with someone who has it. To do this, they pair Renee with someone who’s her opposite.

Back on the riverbank, a boy named Marcus arrives. He’s running late and eager to catch up. But the camp counsellor asks him to go with Renee today. He’s somewhat reluctant at first because of her reputation, but the counsellor assures him she likes canoeing too. He also gives Renee some reassurance before pushing them off.

Two things are highlighted in this scene for me. First off, Marcus probably doesn’t know about Renee’s Autism. The way he describes her as “that girl who doesn’t talk” is evidence of this. As such, the audience identifies with him as someone who’s learning about the condition for the first time – maybe like they are. The other point is with the camp councillor. He’s actively trying to encourage better interactions among his campers. It’s mentioned, for example, that he usually goes with Renee in the canoe – implying the other kids keep their distance. However, he knows that’s not the way forward. Although he’s aware putting her with someone else will make her uneasy – because making the slightest change to an Autistic person’s routine can do that – he wants to ease her out of her comfort zone. That way, she’ll be more willing to try new experiences. He also wants Marcus to get along with different kinds of people. It’s a learning experience for both kids.

Out on the lake, things are challenging for Marcus and Renee. At first, Marcus tries speaking to her like any other teenager. But he quickly realises that’s not going to work. She’s too focused on something ahead, keeps listening to her ringtone and doesn’t take notice of him. But it’s not because she’s ignoring him; it’s how her mind processes what’s around her.

As I alluded to before, there are times when we’re shown Renee’s point of view directly through her eyes. Whenever that happens, almost everything we see becomes light and blurry. It emphasises how Renee struggles to focus on anything that isn’t at the centre of her attention. She prefers to concentrate on things she’s familiar with and for everything else to be quiet. 

That being said, there are also moments when she’s overly sensitive to her surroundings. For example, as Marcus tries speaking again, his voice sounds like a distant echo to Renee. She’s still fixated on something else, so his words aren’t processed very well. Meanwhile, sounds such as Marcus knocking his paddle or sniffing are magnified in volume. To almost any other person, these sounds would barely register. But for Renee, they’re so sudden and unexpected that it shocks her attention to them. It’s usually louder and scarier noises that set her off.

I can think of one other time I’ve seen something that displays an Autistic person’s perspective so efficiently. Several years ago, I attended an Autism Awareness convention in London. While there, a tech company showed me a video program they’d made on a virtual reality headset. Watching the video, you’re looking through the eyes of a boy who’s at a regular shopping centre with his mum. The mother tells you to wait while she does something at a counter. There’s nothing unusual about that. But then things start to happen around you. Footsteps, ringing mobiles, people talking; all these everyday sounds are made much louder in the video, and you can even see the vibrations emanating off them. Eventually, you’re being overwhelmed by so many sounds you can’t help looking around at where they’re all coming from. By this point, the mother has returned and is trying to ask you what’s wrong. But you barely notice her because you’re still trying to locate all the sounds. Soon it becomes too much to bear, and the footage blacks out. For anyone who’s not highly Autistic, this video shows exactly what kind of stress those people experience almost every day.

Now, to be clear, although Renee finds it hard to process what people say, that doesn’t mean she can’t understand them at all. She does, for example, register when Marcus asks her what she wants to do. It seems she wants to tell him something but can’t express it in words. So instead, she looks around, groaning and breathing heavily, as if trying to find some other way of letting him know.

Assuming Renee can’t think of anything, Marcus decides they’ll do a quick paddle around and then get her back to camp. She seems fine with what he says at first. But then he starts talking too fast and spinning the canoe in a circle. The movement freaks her out, and she begins physically rocking the boat from side to side – almost tipping them over. Marcus understands and stops to try and calm Renee down. He suggests taking her back to camp. But that only sets her off rocking the canoe again. It’s not what she wants. 

As the scene progresses, we can see Marcus is getting more frustrated. It’s understandable why. He has no idea how Renee will react to anything he says or does, and it might end up being dangerous. Even so, he manages to stay calm and asks her what she wants again. Once more, his voice sounds like an echo to Renee. She doesn’t even look at him when he speaks because she’s anticipating another noise to happen somewhere. She does, however, pick up on something he says: if she wants to do something specific, she’s got to help him out.

That’s when Renee gets an idea. She shows Marcus a ‘poop’ emoji on her phone. He’s confused at first, but then he notices some portable outhouses on a nearby riverbank. Renee somewhat gestures at them too, and he realises that’s where she wants to head. Smiling, he begins slowly paddling over.

I want to say, at this point, how much I admire the short for highlighting technology as a means of communication; many video programs and applications are being made nowadays to help Autistic people develop life skills. Going back to the time I visited a special needs school, there was a boy there who was just as non-verbal as Renee. To help him communicate, the care workers gave him an iPad with an application that spoke simple sentences. All he had to do was remember the right combination of buttons they’d taught him, and he could let them know how he was feeling or what he wanted at any given time. It was a simple repetitive action that helped make all the difference.

Repetitiveness is also shown in Renee. As she and Marcus approach the riverbank, they pass by some water reeds. Renee reaches out because she likes how they feel on her skin. It’s then Marcus realises she never wanted to use the restrooms at all. Renee only wanted to go through the reeds and used the emoji to clue him in on the direction. After passing through them several times, Renee starts listening to her ringtone over and over again. Seeing how much she enjoys it, Marcus has an idea. 

It’s clear by now the ringtone is a source of comfort for Renee. Unlike many other sounds, it’s one she has control over and likes hearing. It’s similar to me in a way. When working on long articles like this one, I sometimes have to stop for a few minutes and watch short videos online. It gives me a brief moment of entertainment, so I’m not overwhelmed by the workload and can reset my focus. Other people listen to music or play games for similar results. Everyone needs something they’re familiar with to guide them along.

Marcus paddles the canoe inside a large sewer pipe. The confined space echoes the sound of Renee’s ringtone, which seems to please her. Marcus admits he likes it in there, too: “[it’s] a good place to be when there’s too much other stuff happening out there.” 

So perhaps Marcus does understand Renee a little. This dialogue implies he knows what it’s like to be overwhelmed by problems in the outside world. He thinks it might be an idea if they stay there a while, so Renee doesn’t have to deal with sensory overload.

Suddenly there’s a problem. Renee hears the sound of a speedboat approaching outside. Terrified of the monstrous noise being amplified within the pipe, she frantically paddles for the exit. Marcus doesn’t seem to understand and tries fighting against it. He steers them clear of the oncoming boat, but the force of his paddling knocks them both ashore with the canoe. He demands to know why Renee did that. But Renee has gone into a complete meltdown. She cries out in fear and rage, refuses to let Marcus touch her, and even throws her phone in the water by accident. She then hides under the canoe, still crying and trying to block out everything around her.

I respect the short for not shying away from this drama; sometimes, no matter how cautious you are, an Autistic person will have emotional breakdowns. And they will be challenging to deal with because you don’t know how that person will act in their state. However, when they do occur, it’s essential to stay calm and work out the cause of stress so you can put them at ease.

Marcus immediately realises his mistake. But rather than do anything that might worsen the situation, he leaves Renee to calm down. A long time passes, and she still hasn’t come out. So he sits down to talk to her. He admits that she’s an “intense” person to deal with at times. But he “messed up” by shouting at her. He doesn’t always know what to do – not like their councillor – but he understands he needs to be patient. 

I love how Marcus is honest in this scene; of course, he wouldn’t know what to do in this situation; it’s a first-time experience for him. And someone like Renee would intimidate him at first; he isn’t familiar with how her condition makes her behave. But the experience is meant to be a realistic one for the audience. It’s something they can learn from along with Marcus. 

Eventually, Renee comes out and plays with the water reed that Marcus left her. Marcus copies the sound of her ringtone, and she repeats it back to him. It’s then that she finally looks at him and gives him a half-smile. With everything calm now, and the sun beginning to set, they both get back in the canoe and paddle towards camp. In a post-credits scene, it’s revealed they’ve stayed in contact and occasionally go canoeing together still.

And that’s Disney Pixar’s Loop. In summary, it does an excellent job of representing non-verbal Autistic people. Not to mention what first interactions with them could be like for others. The plot may not have much of a set-up, and the ending is a little ambiguous. But Renee’s condition is always at the forefront of the story. Whether it’s her facial expressions, her unique point of view or her emotional outbursts, the animators did everything they could to make sure Renee was portrayed accurately – which isn’t surprising considering they consulted the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). Even if I went into this not knowing about Renee’s condition, it would still be clear to me that she’s on the spectrum.

So yes, it goes without saying that I believe Renee is highly Autistic. However, I also can’t stress how appealing this 8-minute short is. My descriptions don’t even begin to do it justice. So, if you have Disney+ and ever get a spare moment, definitely watch it for yourselves. You might find it teaches empathy in ways you never could’ve imagined.

That’s all I have to say. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below. And, until next time, stay tuned.

PS. I am still recovering from having Covid 19, but I think I’m past the worst of it. Also, I’d like to give a special thank you to Wendy Jones. She commented on my last post and asked if I’d like my blog to be included on her list of resources, which she provides to parents to help share Autism with their children. I’m always happy to share my work with others.

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