Stranger Things is a series has several very obvious points of inspiration. Those are mostly films from the 1980s, including the works of Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Steven Spielberg.
A less obvious inspiration may be anime, specifically Akira, the classic anime film that also debuted in the 1980s.
“Akira was obviously a big one,” co-creator Ross Duffer tells the Daily Beast. Ross's twin brother and fellow Stranger Things co-creator Matt Duffer admit that Akira is a touchpoint for him, but a more recent anime series helped as well.
“I haven't seen [Akira] for a long time. More recently I had seen an anime called Elfen Lied that is clearly inspired by Akira. And that was really influential. When I watched it I though it felt like an ultraviolent E.T. There were a lot of things in there that I really liked and that made their way into the show, particularly related to the character of Eleven.”
Both Akira and Elfen Lied deal with young people with psychic abilities who are experimented on while kept in facilities, similar to what Eleven experienced before escaping at the start of Stranger Things.
In Akira, it is a trio of young espers who are being experimented on by the Japanese military. The titular Akira was one of them and caused a disaster sometime prior to the events of the film. The attempted rescue of one of these children by revolutionary forces is the catalyst for the film’s plot.
In Elfen Lied, an entirely new mutant species of psychics have appeared. The series follows on such psychic, Lucy, who was kept in an experimental facility.
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In Stranger Things, in a small town where everyone knows everyone, a peculiar incident starts a chain of events that leads to the disappearance of a child - which begins to tear at the fabric of an otherwise peaceful community. Dark government agencies and seemingly malevolent supernatural forces converge on the town, while a few locals begin to understand that there's more going on than meets the eye.
Stranger Things is written and directed by the Duffer Brothers and stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, and Dacre Montgomery.