Already steamed straight through season 4 of Stranger Things? Us, too. So… now what do we do? Besides rewatching seasons 1-3 and dusting off our old Kate Bush albums, we’re searching for those nerdy, otherworldly vibes elsewhere. Fortunately, the hit Netflix series shares plenty of tropes with anime.
Whether you watch for the family drama, heroic kids, creepy superpowers, or upside-down worldbuilding, there’s something out there for you. Here are a few that top our personal lists.
Stranger Things is home to the Upside Down, a parallel world that plays host to monstrous creatures. Finding yourself there is a deadly affair — increasingly so with each season. If paranormal parallel worlds and the kids who find them are your jam, have a look at Sonny Boy: a Madhouse original about dimension-hopping students. The series takes some inspiration from Kazuo Umezu’s horror manga Drifting Classroom, as a group of students find themselves playing by the rules of a strange new world.
They also discover that in “This World,” they each have a supernatural power. And, much like the Upside Down, This World (and others) have other residents: some who have been there for a very long time.
Want the horrifying monsters and telekinetic kids of Stranger Things, but with a heaping helping of wholesomeness? Dig in to GaoGaiGar, Sunrise’s final entry in their 1990s yuusha series. Young protagonist Mamoru is his class’s resident magical kid, sporting alien powers that play a major role in the protection of Earth. The attacking aliens are pretty gnarly, too: not D&D-themed so much as vehicle- and Italian-food-themed. But at least as creepy as a Demogorgon.
In the midst of all the battle, secrecy, and action, there are lots of sweet (and sometimes painful) family and love stories. Mamoru’s parents want to protect him, while knowing he has a big job to do. Mecha-piloting cyborg Guy has a slow-burn romance with Mikoto, who’s in charge of okaying his deadliest attacks. And once you hit the OVA, the drama really hits.
Round Vernian Vifam
Based on a concept by Yoshiyuki Tomino — a concept inspired by the Jules Verne story Two Years’ Vacation — Round Vernian Vifam combines the Stranger Things tropes of kids in peril, a mysterious girl with a secret past, and big reveals that change the show’s entire worldview. There are a lots fewer grown-ups, though.
The kids of Vifam get separate from their parents during a planet-wide evacuation, finding themselves adrift aboard a training vessel. They range in age from teenagers to basically babies. The good news? Like we said, they’re on a training vessel. So these kids do pretty well for themselves, learning to pilot the ship and its robots. As for the scary aliens known as Astrogaters that they’re escaping? Well… no spoiler, but they’re not what you’re expecting.