Sci-fi / horror TV phenomenon Stranger Things has gathered a huge legion of fans all over the world – and they are desperately waiting for the rest of season 4 to be launched. Interesting enough parts of the story was inspired by a classic anime, and it’s the perfect show to watch while you wait Stranger Thing‘s exciting conclusion to land on Netflix.
In a 2016 interview with the Daily Beast, Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer talked about what influenced the popular series. Matt Duffer said he “had seen an anime called Eleven Song“and notes that it was inspired by Akira. Then he adds that “There were a lot of things in there that I really liked and that came into the show, especially related to the character of the Eleven.”
Eleven Songwritten by Lynn Okamoto, started as a manga in Weekly Young Jump in 2002. In 2004, it was turned into an anime with Mamoru Kanbe as director and Arms as the animator. Eleven Song tells the story of Lucy, who is a Diclonius – a new species that is not human despite appearing like them at first glance. However, they also have horn-like things on their heads and the ability to control vectors.
Vectors are basically telekinetic invisible arms that allow Diclonius to manipulate things in ways a human cannot. Initially, Lucy is being held in a government facility where they are subjected to cruel tests and experiments. Finally, she goes on a rampage, killing her hunters and escaping from the facility.
During the escape, however, Lucy is injured and develops a second personality. This personality is childish and innocent, with limited speech capacity and complete memory loss from the other self. Two students, Kouta and Yuka, find the girl and, who calls her Nyu, choose to take care of her and try to nurse her back to health. However, this subconsciously puts them at the center of a massive government conspiracy when various groups try to recapture Lucy.
It’s easy to see how Eleven Song inspired the character of Eleven in Stranger Things, when she was also held in a secret government facility due to her special powers. Like Lucy, the Student escapes and is taken in by an ignorant person. Both shows also explore the idea of a strange supernatural force that tries to attack and eventually wipe out humanity for its own mysterious goals, turning a formerly worldly world into a terrible battlefield. The idea of young people trying to balance everyday problems and an existential threat is widespread, with Kouta and Yuka having to navigate life and romance while avoiding government agents.
While Eleven Song and Stranger Things has similar themes, anime is darker, more violent and more willing to be extremely cruel to the characters. This leads to several moments that will turn the viewer’s stomach and stick in the memory long after the performance is over. The concept of the human-like Diclonius and the group’s often confusing nature is well handled, and the story puts a fascinating twist on several outsider themes. It also asks what it means to be human in both a biological and philosophical sense. The programs are quite different aesthetically, as Eleven Song uses the anime medium to amazing effect, creating multiple scenes that would be impossible to recreate in live action.
It’s fascinating to see how Eleven Song helped to inspire Stranger Things and many other stories. But while the two share similar themes, they approach and deal with both in very different ways, both aesthetically and thematically. This does Eleven Song well worth seeing, since it is a fantastic and gripping show in itself. Viewers who dive in now will have a whole new understanding of Stranger Things – and a greater understanding of why Matt and Ross Duffer handled the Student the way they did.
Elfen Lied is now streaming on Hulu and Prime Video.