During their summer vacation, 15 children are enjoying summer camp together. One day, they decide to go explore a cave by the sea, inside they meet a mysterious man named Kokopelli who is surrounded by high-tech equipment. Kokopelli claims to be a game developer and asks if the children would help him test it. Each child signs a contract, but instead of playing a game, they are actually piloting a giant mech to defend the earth from 15 different alien invasions.
While the children feel like glorious heroes at first, things take a dark turn when it is discovered that after piloting the mech for one battle, the child who was commanding it will die.
Feeling kind of emotionally and mentally raped after Bokurano, yet strangely hungry for more? For all your gluttons for punishment, try these great anime recommendations.
For Fans of Watching Kids Die
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Madoka Kaname and her friend Sayaka Miki are normal middle school girls until one day when they have a fateful run-in with a strange creature called Kyuubey and the mysterious transfer student Homura Akemi. Kyuubey makes the girls a proposition: in exchange for becoming a magical girl and fighting witches, he will grant their wishes. It seems like the perfect opportunity, but Homura, a magical girl herself, begs them not to accept.
Madoka Magica seems so cute and innocent on the outside, but the deeper you go, the darker it gets. As with Bokurano, each death hits you more brutally as you bond with the characters. It is not so much that they are visually shocking, but rather tug on your mind. In each anime, the characters are guided by a cute being with dark motives, as well as tasked with winning their fights or watching the world be destroyed.
For Kei Kurono, his death was only the beginning of his story. After being hit by a train, he wakes up to find himself in a room with several strangers and tasked by a giant black ball to play a deadly game. In this game, you either kill the aliens or die trying. If enough aliens are killed, Kei might just make it out alive.
Only a couple deaths in Bokurano can be described as “brutal,” but if you enjoy watching young people die horribly, then Gantz is your wheelhouse. In both anime series, the participants are forced to play a death game against their will, and in competing, the participants must overcome the unfairness of their lot and deal with their unavoidable doom.
Yukiteru Amono spends his precious youth on his cell phone, writing a diary of events that happen around him and talking with his imaginary god friend. However, one day, his god friend Deus Ex Machina grants him the power of the diary, something that allows his cell phone to update with events that will happen in his future. However, he must now kill eleven other people with similarly powerful diaries in order to get the ultimate prize – Godhood.
Another death game, another long list of characters with psychological problems. If Bokurano was a gem for its dark, violent plot, then Future Diary will become your new love. Both series ultimately deal with a bit of a multiverse theory as well as tell the sad tales of kids who know they are likely to die.
In the distant future, Kouji Aiba and Aoi Housen are training to be astronauts in the Liebe Delta. However, when saboteurs strike the station while the kids are on a dive procedure, the space station plummets into a plasma field linking the planets. With all the adults on board killed, it is up to the young astronauts-in-training to make the journey home and deal with the growing tension between them.
Infinite Ryvius is like Lord of the Flies on a space ship. While the characters in Bokurano have their tensions, they grow absolutely out of control in this anime. Both are dark, both are brutal, the only difference is the enemy.
For Fans of Not Getting in the F*cking Robot
Neon Genesis Evangelion
With the world on the brink of destruction, its fate lies with Nerv, a special agency that defends the world from invading Angels with Evangelion mechs. In order to effectively pilot the Evangelions, the pilots must be compatible, and for Gendo Ikari, one of those compatible pilots is his 14-year-old son, Shinji.
After meeting his father for the first time in years, Shinji’s life is turned upside down as he holds the fate of mankind on his shoulders. However, when ancient secrets begin to bubble to the surface, can Shinji’s mind weather the storm?
Bokurano and Evangelion. Evangelion and Bokurano. They are like the creepy hand-holding, French-kissing best friends of the Mecha genre. Both credited with reinventing the genre as more than just yelling and flashy attacks, as well as giving the stories something darker than just fighting. Both try to tackle more dramatic and psychological topics that come with a young child being entrusted with mankind’s fate, and both feature children not wanting to get in the god-damned robot.
For Fans of Mechs Fighting Mysterious Enemies
Fafner of the Blue Sky
The children on the sleepy backwater island of Tatsuyajima all go to school thinking their lives will always be peaceful. However, little do they know that their island is the last line of defense against a hostile alien enemy. When the enemy finally attacks, the island’s defense systems fail, and their last hope rests on the robot Fafner. With the real pilot killed en route to the hangar, the young Kazuki Makabe is forced to take his place.
In both Fafner and Bokurano, young kids are forced to pilot something that should be beyond their reckoning. Throughout the series, the kids are also at the mercy of corrupted adults and must face enemies, whose mystery is slowly unfurled, as they fight against both chaos and greed. Where the similarities between these two truly shine is in the emotional connections between the pilots and those around them that are forged.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
In the distant future, humans have abandoned Earth and live in space to ensure that mankind lives on. However, they are plagued by strange and deadly creatures called the Hideauze which seek to destroy them. Just a soldier among the war between these two species, Ledo and his mech Chamber find themselves tossed out into space during battle, crash landing on the water-logged planet Gargantia. Rescued by a community of humans living on a fleet of boats, Ledo must attempt to return to his old life or adjust to a new one.
While nowhere near as violent and depressing as Bokurano, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet also features a young pilot that has to acclimate to a new situation. Like the pilots in Bokurano discover, in Gargantia, there is more to the enemies that Ledo fights than meets the eye. The major difference between the two is that Gargantia has some of the most beautiful animation you’ll see in any anime.
Have your own recommendations for anime series like Bokurano? Tell us about it in the comments section below.