'Stranger Things' Anime Influence Is More Than Just A Viral Short

There's no denying Stranger Things is a cultural phenomenon, albeit a short-lived one given the binge-centric distribution offered by Netflix. There's always mad hype before a premiere, then it's everywhere for a week as fans devour the episodes. It fades until we get teases for the next season, then we start all over again. So it's no surprise an anime-style short from animation studio Humouring the Fates went viral shortly after the premiere. But it's fueled by more than just association. Stranger Things fans might not know it, but what they're watching is basically an anime.

"Teenagers teaming up together and vanquishing evil with the power of friendship is the predominant theme in manga and anime aimed at kids," Adi Tantimedh, a writer at Humouring the Fates who scripted the now-viral short, told Newsweek. "The way the Upside Down is portrayed throughout the three seasons is reminiscent of how 'jigoku' - Hell or the Underworld - is often portrayed in Japanese movies, folklore and anime."

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Tantimedh cites other tropes too. Evil scientists experimenting on kids, the kaiju-esque Mindflayer, Eleven's superpowers coming from her will and determination, all are common tropes across anime and manga. For inspiration, Humouring the Fates looked at Japanese-produced intros for American cartoons. Fans of '80s staples like The Real Ghostbusters, Thundercats, and M.A.S.K. will recognize the similarities. Director Jesse Norton gives credit to Octopie, the new animation network that produced the short, for allowing Humouring the Fates to follow their instincts.

"They basically said 'do something cool and fan-made for Stranger Things.' They gave us the creative freedom to just go nuts," Norton told Newsweek.

It worked. The video has drawn more than 150k views since it premiered, and is among the most viewed videos on Octopie's YouTube channel. It also caught the attention of the media frenzy surrounding the Stranger Things zeitgeist, appearing on Gizmodo, Mashable and Polygon, among many other places. Tantimedh chalks it up to a great premise and perfect timing.

The Duffer Brothers, a.k.a the creative minds behind Stranger Things, are anime fans as well. When the series first debuted they cited Elfen Lied, a lesser-known anime series from 2005, as one of the primary inspirations for Eleven. Elfen Lied follows the story of a girl named Lucy who, like Eleven, develops powers as a result of torturous psychological experiments. They told The Hollywood Reporter that Elfen Lied's "DNA" is part of Eleven's character. The team at Humouring the Fates picked up on that, too.

"She echoes Lucy with her psychic powers; how she was raised as a child weapon, her escape from the lab, and how she was even adopted by good-natured people who took the edge off her will to kill," LD Walker, a lead animator at Humouring the Fates, told Newsweek.

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Stranger Things could serve as a gateway of sorts for non-anime fans to find their way into the genre. People who enjoy the stories and characters can find a lot of the same among the offerings on services like Funimation and Crunchyroll. If you enjoyed Humoring the Fates take on Stranger Things, the team has a hefty list of anime you should consider: Mob Psycho 100, Deadman Wonderland, Death Parade, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Fate/Zero and Violet Evergarden. Of course, for something that truly captures the spirit of this viral short you should go to the source itself.

"I would suggest checking out the shows we've been developing like Captain Europa, Rapture Burgers, and especially Joe is Japanese," said Norton.

More work from Octopie can be found on its YouTube channel. You can keep up with Humouring the Fates on their website, too. And, if you somehow missed this news, Stranger Things season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.