Warning: This contains spoilers for both Stranger Things and Elfen Lied.


Ever since it first premiered on Netflix back in 2016, Stranger Things has held international popularity that just seems to grow with each season. Between relatable and lovable characters, fast-paced action, hilarious moments, scary monsters, and gripping writing, the show has won the hearts of so many kinds of people. But where did the ideas for all of those things come from?

The creators of Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers, said in an interview in 2017 that one of their many inspirations for the character Eleven and the themes in the show is none other than cult horror classic anime Elfen Lied! And when we compare some major plot points, Eleven’s characterization and progression, and the main themes of the show – well, that checks out. Keep reading to see how Stranger Things parallels with Elfen Lied in more ways than you realized!

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Lucy and Eleven

Lucy is the main character in Elfen Lied, and Eleven in Stranger Things. Both are young girls with extraordinary telekinetic powers and were held in a mysterious facility that experimented on them and used them for their powers during the formative years of their lives. Eventually, both of these girls used their powers to wreak havoc and escape (though not without blood on their hands), and find themselves out in the real world alone and afraid.

The parallels between Lucy and Eleven don’t stop there, though. Both are eventually found and rescued by people that have no idea what they are getting themselves into. Kouta and Yuka in Elfen Lied and Mike, Will, and the others in Stranger Things then have to go up against Special Forces teams that are determined to recapture these telekinetic girls. They all risk their lives to protect their new friend, whether they truly understand what she is and what she is capable of or not.

Main Themes

Stranger Things and Elfen Lied touch on many of the same themes. First, both deal with discrimination. One of Elfen Lied‘s central themes is highlighting how humans separate themselves based on differences that they have from one another. Even the constant struggle between the humans and the Diclonius like Lucy touches on this idea. Due to the time period Stranger Things is set in, there is an underlying theme of racism and discrimination, especially in regard to Max and Lucas’ relationship and how it is perceived by some other characters.

Stranger Things also often shows Eleven’s internal struggle trying to make peace with who she is and what she can do, and trying to live as a normal young woman. She knows that she has committed acts of violence with her powers, and is often pushed to do so again either by other people or by her circumstances. This makes her question whether or not she deserves to have things like her familial bond with Hopper, and her relationship with Mike. Elfen Lied puts Lucy through the same kind of trials, contrasting her need for vengeance and the things she does with human compassion.

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Finally, both stories are meant to make people question if others can be driven to do unspeakable acts by other humans, and what they might have been without that influence. Lucy and Eleven are both products of the adults that pushed them, used them, and made them what they are, robbing them of what they could have been (even though Lucy is a Diclonius and not a human). They were both driven by desperation, fear, and abuse to violence, and have to keep facing their past again and again and again.

What Genre is This?

It is hard to put Stranger Things and Elfen Lied into just one genre, because they do not really fit that nicely into any one category. First and foremost, they are both horror stories; they have monsters, blood, psychological torture, and more. But they also both have love stories happening as sub-plots, and they both break up the dark and heavy themes with comedic moments and funny dialogue. Both also have their fair share of tragedy, too, bringing many viewers to tears as they see the ways the characters suffer, and yes, even die.

While the Duffer Brothers have not gone into detail about how heavily they were influenced by Elfen Lied, only saying that the anime’s themes and specifically Eleven did serve as an inspiration, it can be argued it must have influenced the show strongly! There are so many parallels between the cult classic anime and the modern favorite. The leading ladies have gone on similar journeys, and the stories are being told with similar ideas, spanning across multiple genres.

Stranger Things is more palatable and less controversial than Elfen Lied for sure, but it was made in a different time. The next time you watch either of them, you can look for as many similarities as you can, and maybe you can even find some parallels that we missed between Lucy and Eleven’s journeys. Plus Stranger Things still has more to come, so there might be even more in the coming seasons!

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