The last season of stranger things has whetted an appetite for all things retro yet again. Netflix has confirmed that a fifth season is coming, but it will likely be a long wait. You can still watch reruns of scooby-doo meanwhile or you can broaden the scope a bit. Aesthetically speaking, stranger things borrows from 1980s American pop culture, but the themes are pretty universal. Whether it’s experimenting on orphaned children, alien parasites, or portals to other worlds, there are plenty of Japanese anime series with similar themes to stranger things. Here are a few to check out.
1. Akira: Secret experiments and destructive superpowers
Let’s start with the one that the creators of stranger things listing as one of their many inspirations for the show. Akira is a cult classic from 1988, which is still worth a watch. For those looking for similarities with stranger things, Akira has many. Although set in a neo-Tokyo future, the anime was set in the 80s, the decade that stranger things is put in place. So there are overlaps in terms of fashion and hairstyles, as well as music. But more importantly, the plots are very similar. Both Tetsuo and Eleven are kids with superpowers locked away in a secret facility and subjected to experiments. The two have an epic superpowered fusion with major consequences. In particular, in AkiraTetsuo destroys Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, an ominous prediction given the postponement of the 2020 Games.
What else to expect: Unlike a multi-season show, you only have a short amount of time to spend with Akira’s characters. The vibe is also a bit more grown up, so instead of kids on bikes, we follow a biker gang in Akira.
2. Elfen Lied: A super-powered girl comes out of a medical facility…
And so the mystery begins and the plot thickens. A girl raised in a lab who doesn’t speak well escapes in the first episode, leaving behind a bloodshed. Sound familiar? This is both the beginning of the story of Eleven and Lucy in elf lied. After Lucy escapes, she loses her memory and is found and taken in by a group of well-meaning children. As they get her to safety, they find themselves in the crossfire of several government conspiracies and groups who are after Lucy. The stranger things the creators also named elf lied as one of the shows that inspired them.
What else to expect: Similar to Akira, elf lied is much bloodier and bloodier than stranger things. Consider yourself savvy.
3. Charlotte: More overpowered children in dangerous situations
This idea of a charming group of children who stay together during times of great danger was a great attraction for stranger things. Likewise, in Charlotte, the children form a tight-knit group at Hoshinoumi Academy to protect each other. Terrorist groups want to kidnap children who have developed superpowers influenced by the passage of comet Charlotte. There’s a lot of wrestling with power and responsibility, memory loss and leaking and hiding from different organizations.
What else to expect: Contrary to stranger thingsall the main characters of Charlotte have a super power. They’re not locked in the world like Eleven, so expect school scenes and some comic relief from a slice of life. Less horror and darkness compared to stranger things.
4. The Promised Neverland: Orphans and Horrors
Let’s go back to the theme of orphaned children locked up together in an institution, The promised never-never land is a horror anime with the perfect dose of mystery. Emma is the 11-year-old protagonist. Children grow up with a mom (similar to dad in stranger things) and have numbers tattooed on it. They have no knowledge of the outside world or the demons that await them.
What else to expect: The orphans of The promised never-never land have an idyllic life in their confinement, unlike the kids with fashionable haircuts and hospital gowns at Dad’s facility. They don’t have superpowers, only strong friendships like the Hawkins kids.
5. Fantastic Children: The Special Girl and the Other World
A group of children are looking for a special little orphan who barely speaks. It’s Tina (or Helga for some people) and although most of the characters around her don’t know it, she has latent supernatural powers. She often has strange visions and compulsively draws them. There are also secret government experiments on people, lost memories, ancient mysteries, and dark shadows that attack children’s minds and throw them into a trance-like state. This last part is eerily similar to the fourth season of stranger things.
What else to expect: fantastic children goes further into the past (mainly late 19th century Europe) and presents early scientific innovations and classical myths. There isn’t much horror in the anime, but no comedy either. Mystery drives the plot, aided by action scenes. However, it seems slower than stranger things.
6. Parasite The Maxim: Demogorgons come for everyone
In this anime, a teenager fights alien monsters coming to Earth and possessing humans. And with faces that open like horrible flowers with teeth, they look a lot like the Demogorgon of stranger things. The original manga story is from the 80s, while the anime and movie adaptations are from 2014 and 2015. So just like strange things, there’s a bit of an 80s flavor to it. Most of the similarities, however, end there.
What else to expect: The shows differ in plot, as well as character personalities. Parasite is often more philosophical, reflecting on themes of what it means to be human. It’s still bloody, since it was banned in China.
Image courtesy of 3D Animation Studio Humor the destinies.
Check out their anime version of the Stranger Things video here.