Aizawa Ayumu is spending the summer visiting his father in the quiet, rural town of Tana; but before long, he begins to notice that things aren't quite right. Flowers are blooming out of season and stories of ghosts and kappa abound, but for Ayumu, the strangest thing of all is the appearance of mysterious creatures who take the form of floating balls of light. Adding to this mystery is Wakkun - a boy who seems to be connected to the lights and claims to know Ayumu from the past. Now, Ayumu begins to search for the truth about the lights and Wakkun, as a summer like no other begins...
A young woman quietly falls to the earth, escorted by a solitary crow. This sort of dream, as many other before have dreamed, comes just before being reborn as a Haibane, a charcoal-winged angel. On the outskirts of the walled-in city lies Old Home, a haven for Haibane to study, live, and learn, while waiting for their chance to ascend to the heavens and escape the confines of their new world. Rakka is the newest inhabitant of Old Home who wants nothing more than to remember her past and discover the secrets of her kind. Together with Reki, Kuu and plenty of other new friends, Rakka will laugh, explore, and search for the meaning of their existence in the process.
If there's any anime out there that could be regarded as similar to Haibane Renmei, it's Zettai Shonen. Both series are very slow paced, whimsical, slice-of-life sorts of stories, and both make strong use of literary elements and leave many things up to the viewer's interpretation. Zettai Shonen doesn't have the stellar artwork of Haibane, opting for a more simplified style, but aside from that there's little reason why someone who enjoyed one would not like the other.
Both Zettai Shonen and Haibane Renmei are strongly character-driven dramas where 9/10ths of their stories are simply the interactions between the different characters. If you had the patience to sit through one and the frame of mind to enjoy it, I can heartily recommend the other.
Karada is an elementary school student who acts mature for her age, and asks that people treat her like an adult. While praying at a wishing stone (negai ishi), she meets an older girl named Shouko. Shouko had moved to this small town to start a new life, but the same day she meets Karada, she encounters her brother, Hiro. Tension builds as Shouko and Hiro reflect on their past relationship while sending Karada home alone, and by the end of the day, both Shouko and Karada end up at the wishing stone hoping for change. Karada wishes to become an adult, while Shouko wishes for things to go back as they were in the past. That night under the bright moon, the wishing stone grants their wish, and an unbelievable transformation occurs: Shouko becomes a child and Karada becomes an adult. Now the two girls must struggle with their new bodies while finding a way to return back to what they once were.
So, you have human drama, deep characterization, a lovely, vaguely slice-of-life story, and all of this based on a rather silly premise that somehow fails to undermine all the good stuff built on top of it. That's probably the only way I can describe either of these series.
In a futuristic world, the virtual world is merely a layer on top of reality; within it, cyberpets are abundant and information is plentiful, and it is only visible by wearing special cyberglasses. In Daikoku City, this cyberspace is behaving strangely: cyberpets are going missing, dark entities known as "the Illegal" roam obsolete space that shouldn’t exist, and a large pink antivirus program known as Satchii wanders the streets, attacking both virus and pets alike. Sixth grader Yuko Okonogi has just moved to Daikoku City, and after cyberdetective children help her rescue her lost dog, she soon joins the others in a search for the truth behind these strange occurances.
In both series we have a pack of friends with their little problems and quirks. Both series have lovely slices-of-life part which is not so common in anime, so instead of watching another seventy thousand rockets being hurled at an enemy in a badass giant robot we can see how children interact with each other, gradually grow up and form bonds, now isn't that epic ? :-)
Finally both series have the mystery part to them, each plot being interesting and dealing with rather serious stuff (no REAL viiolence though which is good too for a change).
All in all if you liked one then the other won't disappoint you.
Tarou has dreams - distressing dreams, related to the trauma he suffered as a child. His dreams and visions disturb his ease of mind, constantly reminding him of the darkness of his fear at the time he lost his sister all those years ago. He relives the fear, but can't recall any of the details of the time. Now, a new transfer student, Masayuki, takes an interest in Tarou's troubled past, as well as their school mate Makoto's connection to the dark incident. Under his persistence, the three boys end up visiting the site where Tarou was held hostage as a child: a decrepit hospital beyond the dam. The three venture forward to face their pasts and fears, unsuspecting of the bizarre world they are about to enter...
In a massive online world, people act only as well as their conscience demands. When one player's punishment is to be trapped in this world, a disparate group of people seek the answers why. Their motives are varied; their methods even more so. What stands between when we tear down the walls of reality? Where does our soul end and we begin?
In .hack//Sign and Zettai Shonen, you have two slow-paced anime which revolve around their characters' relationships both to a large mystery at hand as well as to one another. Although .hack doesn't have as much literary/thematic depth as Zettai Shonen, fans of ZS should still enjoy it. Likewise, although the music isn't exactly Yuki Kajiura, fans of .hack should consider ZS a solid option to watch, if not an upgrade.