A link symbol  A lot of people in the MILGRAM fandom (especially English-speaking MILGRAM fandom) state that Haruka is autistic-coded, as if it's fact. Most recognize that Haruka is coded as disabled. (If you didn't recognize that, I hope this essay will help to explain why.) However, to state that he is coded as autistic specifically is incorrect. Haruka is coded as intellectually disabled.

Now, there are likely two things that contribute to this issue. One is the invisibility of intellectual disability as a whole, and another is the fact that a lot of this has to do with things that only someone who speaks Japanese would understand (such as complex vs non-complex words in Japanese).

In this essay, I plan to lay out what an intellectual disability is and how it differs from neurodivergencies such as autism or ADHD. After that, I want to discuss the way Haruka speaks and uses words, the symbolism in his MVs, and how this lends to him being coded as intellectually disabled. Finally, I want to discuss why this even matters at all. Because, in truth, viewing Haruka as autistic instead of intellectually disabled leaves the viewer misunderstanding his story in a huge way that seems far too common in English-speaking MILGRAM fandom. So, I hope you listen to what I have to say.

What does it mean to be intellectually disabled?

Confusing autism and intellectual disability (henceforth referred to as ID) is not an issue unique to the MILGRAM fandom. They are quite commonly mistaken for each other, in the same way that autism and ADHD are both commonly mistaken for each other. And for the same reason, too – autism and ID are comorbid. This means that, if someone is autistic, they are more likely to have an ID. For this reason, it makes perfect sense to headcanon Haruka as autistic. I headcanon him as autistic, myself, actually. But, in this post, I'm going to be strictly talking about his coding, not headcanons, and he is very specifically coded with an ID.

So, what's the difference? In the words of the National Institutes of Health, "Whereas ID is associated with general deficits across developmental domains, ASD is in fact defined by the observation that social communication deficits are particularly impairing." (Source)

To say this in layman's terms, autism is primarily characterized by difficulties in social communications. Cognitive abilities in autistic individuals vary, just like with allistic individuals, but the defining features are issues with social interaction and nonverbal communication. Autism by itself effects how effectively one communicates, but not intelligence. On the other hand, ID is a limitation on intellectual functioning, just like the name implies. This causes issues in areas like learning, problem-solving, and abstract reasoning.

A lot of people think ID is a synonym for 'learning disability'. 'Learning disability' is an umbrella term that covers things such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. This isn't the case. For one thing, ID can be a diagnosis on its own. ID is subdivided into syndromic ID, where intellectual deficits are present with other signs and symptoms, and nonsyndromic ID, where ID is, itself, the diagnosis. Examples of syndromic IDs include fragile X syndrome, and Down syndrome. For another, those with learning disabilities tend to have average to above-average intellectual abilities. Their disorder affects their ability to acquire and process information, but they are still able to learn. In contrast, ID affects the ability to learn at all, as well as affecting development and general function.

ID is a debilitating disorder. Many people with an ID cannot live independently, require help with self-care activities, and have limited communicative abilities. Understanding this – particularly, how ID is often a disability that requires a caregiver – is a key point to understanding Haruka as a character. But that's to be covered later.


The reason why this is a problem in the English fandom specifically is because the main thing tipping off the viewer to Haruka's ID is the way that he speaks.

'Weakness', Haruka's first-trial song, is written entirely in INCREDIBLY basic, elementary-level kanji – mostly hiragana and katakana. In fact, his first-trial song is misspelled in a lot of official releases of the song ('Weekness'), which is a good way to get the same effect across. This is not the case across all platforms, though, for whatever reason. He also writes, in his trial 1 interrogation, with only that elementary-level kanji; often only one-word answers. The only complicated characters he knows are usually ones that mean something along the lines of, "I'm a stupid, idiot child," which can be assumed to be because that's what he has heard his whole life.

While I'm unsure if it is ENTIRELY in this basic kanji, his second trial song and interrogation is at least mostly written like this, as well. At this point, Muu is teaching him how to read and write (or, that's what's implied), but, even with that one-on-one attention, he is still speaking like a child most of the time to the Japanese ear.

When he's forced to use or listen to words outside of this elementary-level kanji, he gets audibly confused, as well. In the AVIOT earbud collab, he has the voiceline, "Pairing seems to be in progress," but, if you listen, he says "pairing" like it's a question. ("Pair-ing?") He doesn't know the word is an English loanword that isn't often used in everyday conversation, so he's struggling to say it.

He also struggles when speaking to Es in his interrogations. He tries to say, "I will acknowledge any falsehood or silence," but the words used are very advanced in Japanese. As such, he struggles with it, repeating, "False-hood? Si-lence?" Multiple similar exchanges happen in his interrogations, with Haruka misunderstanding words Es uses, and stuttering over unfamiliar words. The implication is that Haruka struggles with higher vocabulary or unfamiliar words, and with speaking and communication in general. He apologizes multiple times to Es for struggling, saying that he is not intelligent as an explanation multiple times. Additionally, in his second trial investigation, he talks about how he could never do the same things as everyone around him. When Es calls him stupid, he agrees. Es even states, "You really have no learning ability whatsoever." When, mind you, having delayed or slowed learning is, like, the symptom of intellectual disability. It's quite blatant. (Why is this not fandom consensus yet, again?)

Moving on from the point of how Haruka uses words, we can talk about other forms of word-based MILGRAM media. For example: when introducing himself, he says he thinks he's 17, which implies that he isn't actually sure. Additionally, there is lots of evidence for his intellectual disability in his interrogation questions:

Finally, we have the lyrics to his songs. Again, on top of being written in very basic kanji, we have lines like the following, which include repeated themes of needing a caregiver (being 'hopeless' by himself), not being able to do what others can do, hating how he was born, and struggling to function. (I have bolded examples that I think are especially apt.)

With regards to his relationship with Muu, he doesn't understand why Muu using him would be a bad thing, or how she is manipulating him. People with ID tend to have poor judgment, and Haruka not being able to tell the difference and not caring about the difference between negative and positive attention shows this (although his trauma definitely also plays a role).

Finally, we have the trial song titles.

We've already discussed how "Weakness" is sometimes alternatively misspelled as "Weekness", and that is because the title in Japanese is, arguably, misspelled, too. The Japanese title is a play on the phrase jakuniku kyoushoku, which is equivalent to the English phrase, "Survival of the fittest." More directly, it translates to, "The weak are meat, the strong do eat." The character for "strong" (kyou) is replaced by "together" (also kyou) – with the implication being that Haruka forgot which version of the word was correct for this situation. This also works to create a pun, of sorts, as this makes the title more like, "The weak are meat, communal eating", creating an emphasis on the fact that there are more people eating than there are 'weak people'. There are differing ways to interpret this pun, but one way is to view it as a statement on Haruka's status as a minority, oppressed ('eaten') by the majority.

On the other hand, we have All-Knowing and All-Agony. In Japanese, this song title is Zenchi Zennou, which can be translated as "Omniscient and Omnipotent", used to describe the Christian God. Once again, we have what we can assume is Haruka misspelling the title, creating a pun. One that is much more on the nose, as the character for "ability" (nou) is replaced with the character for "worry, distress, pain" (also nou).

It seems that the reason why Haruka uses new complicated words (aside from the words meaning "idiot" and the like) in All-Knowing and All-Agony is because Muu is teaching him. It features the more complicated 食 (shoku; food), when we know from Haruka's 2023 birthday portal that Muu is bringing him meals. It also prominently features Muu's name, 夢 (yume; dream), which is more complicated, as well.


Now, we get on to the non-verbal, more visually-based evidence for Haruka's ID. Be prepared for a lot more images!

Going back to Muu teaching Haruka how to write: it's not just clear in his usage of kanji, but also how he writes. Comparing his handwriting, it becomes much easier to read after Trial 2's start, and his writing is soft and bubbly; much like a teen girl's writing might be.

One of Haruka's trial one answers, which shows his handwriting. It is a little bit scribbled, and very unsteady. One of Haruka's trial two answers, which shows his handwriting. His handwriting is easier to read, more confident, and is more bubbly and rounded.

All of these improvements are able to be linked back to Muu (both his style of writing and in the more complicated words that he knows), who we know is looking after him. Considering this, it's pretty clear why he sees her like a maternal figure.

One of the Minigram comics shows the prisoners eating curry udon together. Of the four shown (Amane, Haruka, Shidou and Mahiru), Amane and Haruka are the only two who make messes out of their clothes. Since the other two characters in the comic have active roles, and Haruka has the most passive one, Haruka's inclusion can be assumed to be because he is the only prisoner aside from the child, Amane, who would make a mess while eating.

A screenshot from Minigram, showing a panel where Amane and Haruka both have dirty clothes, after having eaten and gotten food on them.

Childish themes and imagery are seen scattered throughout his MV, as well, especially his first one. He draws with the skill level of a child, which is a very prevalent motif, and he is shown to sleep with a plushie.

A screenshot from Weakness, showing a silhouette of Haruka against a background of crude, childish drawings. These are presumed to be his. A screenshot of Weakness, showing Haruka waking up in his bed. He is sleeping with a plush bunny toy.

Additionally, he seems to have trouble putting on his clothes. He wears two entirely different socks – not just different colors, but also two different lengths. His pant legs are also two different lengths when he tries to roll them up in his Trial 2 art, and he seems to exclusively wear slip-on shoes up until he befriends Muu (where we can presume that she begins helping him, and even then, they're not done properly).

A screenshot from All-Knowing and All-Agony, showing Haruka's slip-on shoes and two different socks. They are two different shades of blue, and two different lengths. Haruka's trial 2 art, cropped in on his legs to show that his pant legs are rolled up unevenly, and his shoelaces are undone.

There are various visual parallels drawn between himself as a child and himself as he is now (for example, the way that his clothes are a mix of his current shirt and the vest he wore as a child in All-Knowing and All-Agony), and he often compares himself to a child wanting praise.

A screenshot from All-Knowing and All-Agony, showing that Haruka's shirt is partially made of his current shirt, and partially made of the vest he wore as a child.

Even the violent acts that Haruka is shown committing are also a sign of an ID. People with IDs tend to have meltdowns, and devolve into fits of violence. The reasons for these meltdowns vary depending on the person, but reasons can include anger / frustration (especially in reaction to not being able to communicate well), sensory overload, and confusion.

You may note that Haruka's mother reacts the exact wrong way for dealing with these meltdowns. When trying to help someone experiencing a meltdown, especially a violent meltdown, the last thing you want to do is appear frightened. The number one piece of advice everyone gives for helping someone experiencing a meltdown is to remain calm. It's also not advised to leave the person alone, either, because that sends the message, "I want to avoid you when you feel this way." (Which I suppose, for a neglectful mother like Haruka's, would be technically accurate, but still not at all helpful.)

A screenshot from All-Knowing and All-Agony, showing Haruka's mother. She looks frightened, holding her hands up to and over her mouth in fear.

It only makes sense that Haruka's meltdowns continue to get worse and worse.

A screenshot from All-Knowing and All-Agony showing Haruka on the floor, looking at his mom as she closes the door on him. He's crying, and has a painful smile.

But after the meltdowns fade, he seems to not understand what he's done. He's shown experiencing fear and confusion after he hurts something, even shown as his child self at one point. A major part of IDs is being unable to connect actions to consequences.

A screenshot from Weakness, after Haruka kills his dog. It is his child self, looking at his hands. A screenshot from Weakness. It is the shot immediately following the previous, showing stylized blood on his hands. A screenshot from Weakness. It is the shot immediately following the previous, teen Haruka looking down at his hands in horror.

Finally, we go onto his body language. Frankly, I considered putting, "Imagine this as a real person doing these things and not an anime boy, and you'll see my point." Which is true. But I decided to go a little more in depth.

Swaying is heavily associated with people with IDs. This is, in part, because people with IDs have reduced postural balance, and general body balance. Because of that lack of postural balance, people with IDs tend to slump quite heavily, as well. Both of these traits are shown very obviously with Haruka, in All-Knowing and All-Agony.

A gif of a clip from All-Knowing and All-Agony. Haruka is swaying side to side with his legs crossed on top of a chair. The side which his head is tilting is changing with his swaying. His arms are awkwardly hanging down in front of him. A screenshot from All Knowing and All Agony, where Haruka is slumped over in his chair. His arms are hanging awkwardly in front of him.

In the same MV, he's also shown biting his nails. Like autistic people, people with IDs stim, and this could also be a version of hand mouthing (repetitive contact between the hands and the mouth / tongue), which is also heavily associated with / often seen in intellectually disabled people. He's also shown doing this in promo art.

A screenshot from All Knowing and All Agony, where Haruka is holding a hand to his mouth, looking up and chewing on his pinkie finger's nail. Promo art where Haruka has his index finger pressed against his lip. The position of it implies that he just opened his mouth to speak after having previously been chewing on his nail.

So, why does this matter?

Haruka being intellectually disabled is a huge part of his story, and, when taking it into consideration, it changes how one views his story a lot.

Haruka being treated better as a child makes more sense with this framework. He wants to return to when he was a child because his level of intellect then was seen as more 'normal'. There wasn't as much obviously 'wrong' with him yet. Children are expected to be a little slow, but it's when they remain that way that many parents begin to become concerned. He yearns for when his mother didn't know he was disabled, and when she treated him better for that reason.

Haruka being severely neglected / abused by his mother would be awful, no matter what, but him being intellectually disabled makes it so much worse. He needs attention and care from his caregivers even more so than the average child does, because he has trouble even functioning on the day-to-day without help. This is why he thrives under Muu's care; she is meeting his support needs. Likely not perfectly (she's just a teenage girl, and she is almost certainly not trained or educated in this regard), but even with the amount of support that she is able to give, Haruka is thriving. He's more confident, he's learning how to write, and he's eating more consistently.

Without that care, he struggles so severely that he melts down regularly, going into fits of violence over the fact that his support needs aren't being met (on top of all of the other emotional baggage that comes with any child being neglected by their parent). Haruka's mother continued to ignore these cries for attention, for help, for care… Until it went too far.

The way that Haruka's story is viewed changes drastically with this information. If Haruka was autistic, it would affect very few of the things that I listed. So much of Haruka's story hinges on specifically his intelligence level, not how he socializes. And do you have any idea how many people I've seen say, "He’s a neurodivergent with a shitty mom, but so am I, and I didn’t kill anyone about it"? No. If you are not intellectually disabled, you do not get to compare your experiences as if they are equal. If you don't have an ID, your experiences cannot be compared in this way.

Haruka has a debilitating disability that requires support which he was not getting. He was experiencing ableist abuse at the hands of his mother, and he didn't know how to handle it. All of his violence happened during his meltdowns, and his disability makes it harder for him to connect his actions to the consequences, or find alternate ways to solve his problems – this is all extremely important information and context when you're discussing whether or not his crime is forgivable.

If you still don't forgive him, that's alright. This isn't a 'why you should forgive Haruka' essay. But to neglect this aspect of his character is, to be frank, baffling, if you're trying to participate in the spirit of the series and understand everyone's crime to the fullest extent. And to make jokes, comparing your own experiences to Haruka's, since you assume him to be neurodivergent and nothing else, does a huge disservice to his story! And, when it's done to demean him? It honestly comes off a slight bit ableist.

So, I'd like everyone to keep this information in mind moving forward. Don't infantilize Haruka for his disability. But do consider this information in your analysis posts, your discussions, and so on. I'd like to see this become common knowledge in the MILGRAM fandom, especially since the idea of him being specifically autistic-coded is so widespread by this point.

Thank you!

A panel of Haruka from Minigram, looking nervous and blushing