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Sick of stereotypical anime? No need for big robots, big chests, lots of
yelling and immature humor? Check out Haibane Renmei. In my opinion, it's
a class by itself.
HR begins with a young girl 'hatching' from a cocoon, unable to remember her name, her life, or anything else. She is greeted by 5 other females (looking to be between 10 and 25) who have wings and a halo. She is given a name, based on her dream in the cocoon (Rakka, which means "falling), as are the others. Soon she grows wings and is given a halo as well. The winged creatures are called "Haibane."
The first 5 or so episodes are intentionally slow going, as we are given a view of Rakka's adjustment to life as a Haibane. However, as slow going as they are, the episodes are very engaging. By episode 6, Rakka suffers a major loss, as she spends the rest of the series dealing with the loss and trying to answer the question: What are the Haibane?
This series was created by the same person who created Serial Experiments: Lain. Rakka even looks a little like Lain. However, HR is a bit more straight-forward than Lain. It is an especally quiet series, the use of classical and baroque music add to the feel of the show. We're told a little about the Haibane, the rules they must follow, and the world they live in.
The animation is intentionally not very flashy, however it is detailed and quite immaculate. We get the feeling that the Haibane live in a quaint little town which hasn't changed much over the years. The show is much the same in its feel of timelessness. It could take place now, 100 years ago, or even 100 years from now.
In short, this is a show to show off to non-anime fans who have stereotyped all of it as either Pokemon or porn. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend...
The best-kept secret in the world of Japanese animation is Tomokazu
Tokoro's Haibane Renmei, a thought provoking and very moving 13-part
2002 TV series that is part fantasy, part coming-of-age story, and part
religious allegory. Haibane is a creation of Yoshitoshi ABe who
designed the characters for Serial Experiments Lain and inspired the
science fiction series NieA_7. The story is very simple, yet it is full
of understated poetry and rich meaning that can be enjoyed by people of
all ages (but may be too dark for children under the age of ten).
The story is inspired by Haruki Murakami's novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World in which a man suddenly appears without memory of a previous life in a strange village surrounded by a high wall and ends up working in the library, replacing another who simply disappears. Set in a village called Glie, angel-like people with wings and halos called Haibane or "charcoal feathers" live alongside humans in the town, also surrounded by impenetrable walls. The laws are made by a council called the Haibane Renmie who decreed that the Haibane cannot own anything new, cannot go outside the wall and are forbidden to even touch it. Only the Toga, mysterious masked men who provide for and protect the Haibane, can leave the town.
The Haibane live in an abandoned building called Old Home and have no memory of a previous life, only a vague recollection of a dream they had inside the cocoon in which they were hatched fully-grown. Others live in the Waste Factory and are said to be "rowdy". Every so often, without warning, one of the Haibane disappears beyond the wall to an uncertain destination. This is the "day of flight" that is the fate of all Haibane except those that are "sin-bound" and must remain in darkness. As the series begins, a girl dreams of falling and, when she emerges from her giant cocoon, is named "Rakka" for falling. The early episodes deal with Rakka's arrival and adjustment to life as a Haibane.
Rakka's best friend is Reki who takes care of the younger children and is very protective of Rakka, caring for her when her wings emerge. Reki's name means "stones" because in her dream she was walking on a path of stones. Rakka goes with each of the Haibane to their jobs to see where she would best fit in. Other characters include Nemu who works at the library, Kuu, a boyish-looking girl who is the youngest of the group, Kana, also a tomboy, and Hikari who works at a bakery. Halfway through the series, Rakka must deal with an unexpected loss of a member of the group who has taken flight. Rakka's wings begin to turn black and both she and Reki are haunted by incomplete memories of their cocoon dreams and recollections of committing harm to others.
As the plot slowly unravels, both Reki and Rakka must overcome their feelings of inadequacy before they can move on and the atmosphere often becomes heavy and foreboding. Timeless questions are raised and left for us to ponder, yet the story has the simplicity of a children's book with a sense of mystery and awe about our place in the universe. Is this an allegory of our own after-life or is it about our waking life where no one knows for certain where they have come from and where they are going? Although the story line about sin and salvation strike a more conventional note, to the credit of the authors, they have emphasized personal responsibility and the need for us to take charge of our own lives. Haibane Renmie has just the right combination of magic and realism, and the visuals are beautiful to experience. With a lovely musical score, characters you can identify with, and a story that builds to a moving conclusion, Haibane Renmie is the best animated film I have seen.
Let me start by explaining that I am not a religion hater, but I have
had several bad childhood experiences involving threats of Hell and
general hatred. So, when I saw this anime described as a 'Christian
fairytale', I sighed and decided to forget about it...And yet, half a
year later, I realised just how wrong I was.
It is difficult to pin a genre on Haibane Renmei - it begins in almost Kafkaesque fashion, with a young girl falling through the air. Then a group of angel-like creatures, the Haibane, find a cocoon growing in the basement of their sprawling old-fashioned residence, with the girl inside. She hatches into a world surrounded by walls, populated by Haibane and humans, and run by a race of untouchable masked beings. She grows her wings, receives the name Rakka ("fall"), ponders her origin, befriends endearing but mysterious Reki, and, in her first winter, suffers a sad loss. Thus begins her journey, and the viewer's, to understand those recesses of our minds we are sometimes afraid to know.
Haibane Renmei's success lies in its depiction of human emotions. There are no guns, explosions, annoying voices and large breasts here. The viewer is simply invited to clear their mind and watch as the lives of the Haibane unfold against a backdrop of a town pleasantly embedded in the past but holding its own secrets. The joy of friendship; the pain and guilt of losing a loved one; the quest towards finding one's identity are the predominant themes of Haibane Renmei.
Another great success is the openness for interpretation. Although the story can be seen as religious, it never preaches, never attempts to convert, and ensures that 'sin', 'heaven', and 'salvation' remain only particular words chosen to describe universal concepts. Certain questions pertaining to beliefs are intentionally left unanswered. What lies beyond the walls? Where do the Haibane eventually fly to? And, most importantly, what are the Haibane and what is their purpose?
Although the first few episodes seem innocent enough, Haibane Renmei quickly becomes deep, dark, and sometimes filled with nightmarish imagery and symbolism. There is also a subtle, but definitely present theme of suicide and self-injury (both physical and psychological) that is more disturbing than most 'horror' anime. Add to that the slow storyline, and lovers of light entertainment will certainly not find much in Haibane Renmei, unless of course they are willing to look.
So, my advice to potential viewers: approach this beautiful series with an open mind, and a willingness to do some soul-searching. At times, Haibane Renmei does leave one feeling like a soul trapped in an endless painted tunnel. But be willing to see the light at the end of this tunnel, that is what Haibane Renmei urges the viewer. Be it faith in a higher power, be it faith in humanity, be it faith in a specific person or be it faith in oneself, the light never truly fades.
After watching Haibane Renmei early this year, I thought it was a bit
different than Yoshitoshi Abes other works, (like Lain, which is a bit of
puzzler). This series (Haibane Renmei) has an air of sadness to it, but
also moments of happiness and joy, and doesn't mess around to much with
I really enjoyed it and would watch it several more times, enjoying it as much as the first. The ending had me virtually in tears, it really was perfect. If you're gonna purchase any anime on DVD in the future, this one should be next on your list. No doubt about that. This one makes the top of my favourite list without problems.
Haibane Renmei is one of the most beautiful, original and meaningful
animes. A young girl is born from a cocoon in an old building inhabited
by Haibane, angel-like beings, without knowing anything about the world
she has just entered and about her past. Very soon she learns that she
is a Haibane herself, makes new friends and starts to explore the
surroundings. She also gets a name: Rakka. In the first episodes we
follow her as she gets to know the other Haibane and some nice people
in a nearby town.
It all looks quite peaceful, relaxing and a bit childish but as Rakka learns more about herself we begin to understand there are quite a few similarities between our life and that of the Haibane and a significantly darker and deeper tone kicks in. The whole series begins to reveal itself as a metaphor without losing in the process a driving force that has nothing to do with sterile intellectual analogies. The creator, Abe Yoshitoshi, has a message to tell but he does it with such artistic talent, emotional intensity and subtlety that you can fall in love with the series even if you notice its flaws. Haibane Renmei is for the child in every one of us who is still charmed by a wonderful Christmas tree even if he has reasons to believe there is no Santa.
What I see in the show, is the great, great, GREAT animation and
artwork of Yoshitoshi ABe. its not to show off what anime really is to
people surrounded by Pokémon or dragonballZ...but to show off how well
ABe can build characters and towns and an entire world with so many
differences that it would astound the minds of "hit" movie watchers.
Its not mass marketed for everyone. I would relate it to movies like SLC punk, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Chungking Express, and Requiem for a Dream. They all try and challenge you to see the deep meanings behind the screen.
Music. Music can make or break a movie, and if it makes it, it either builds it up, or points it in a direction you didn't see before. The music in Haibane Renmei made it and it built up big time. The music gives it a deep RPG feeling, without the tedious and repetitive battles.
final opinion: not everyone will want to watch it, but having it in your collection is the anime version of having a 1830's bottle of wine in your wine cellar.
"I really enjoyed it and would watch it several more times, enjoying it
as much as the first. The ending had me virtually in tears, it really
was perfect. If you're gonna purchase any anime on DVD in the future,
this one should be next on your list. No doubt about that. This one
makes the top of my favourite list without problems"
I would like to add to this user's comment, that although perhaps he/she was "virtually" in tears, by the pile of tissues laying beside me i can attest that there wasn't anything "virtual" about my tears. However, although there is a sad depressing side to the later half of the anime, it swings through the whole gamut of emotions. As another poster noted, this anime does require a calm attitude and patience to let it all sink in and notice many subtle clues about the characters. So if you've read this far, stop wasting time and go watch it.. in fact I think I'll go see it again (#3rd time).
If you like this anime... go see "Jacob's Ladder".
"Haibane Renmei" is on my Top5 'Best Anime Ever' list. It got there
instantly, and remains even though I'm continuously filling my DVD
shelf with new titles as they come out. And it's been there for some
time. Why? Hm... let's talk about that for a moment.
First of, it's a journey. Don't be unprepared, this isn't something You watch as a Sunday Timewaster. In short - it's deep, entertaining and full of... well, me. And you. And everyone else.
At first, some may think it's about the main character and the events that unfold in regard to her. Then, it quickly becomes a psychological tale about a community, centered around Charcoal and Feathers Federation. But soon afterwards you lose track of things and just watch...
This anime becomes your mirror. I know - it may sound almost impossible, but that's the way it is. It has its own storyline and characters, granted, but it really talks about human emotions, the way we react to those emotions and events, and finally - how, and why we interact with each other. I won't say more.
It's not just a ride, it's a journey deep into yourself, into that dark room psychologists and psychiatrists always tell you to open. This title slams the door open and drags whatever's inside - out. By definition, this journey must be made alone...
... and it must be made, even if only to know - why.
Haibane Renmei I usually don't like TV-series. I also don't really like
anime, except for the films of Miyazaki. But Haibane Renmei is hard to
classify as a standard anime. There's no flying limbs, nor any immature
humor and attempts at getting you to look up girls skirts. Men who look
like women and have stupid hair are also wonderfully absent. I might
seem a bit biased here, but this is my impression of anime, and I've
seen quite a bit randomly or through friends. On the surface Haibane
Renmei seems like a fairly simple drama. This is because it's the
impression the series tries to give us. On the first couple of
episodes, there is an underlying uncertainty and darkness. As the
series progresses in its 13 episode span, it becomes deeper and more
thought provoking. It never spells out things clearly to the audience,
and never answers all our questions. It remains wonderfully subtle, and
after I finished watching it I thought about the series and its themes
for several days.
The series is set in a small town surrounded by high walls. In the city, together with human people live angelic like creatures called the Haibane, who are not allowed to leave the city. As the series starts, we see the birth of a new Haibane, Rakka, who is named after the dream she had while being born. Like all Haibane, she cannot remember her past or where she comes from. The series spends most its time exploring her living with her new Haibane friends. We are also introduced to them as the series starts. One problem with series is that they have very shallow characters, but not Haibane Renmei. The characters here feel painfully real and sincere. The series also explores several of the supporting characters, giving them all an amount of depth. This is also connected to the wonderful character design, and immediately as we see the visually we can assume what kind of characters they are. But the designs are not overdone, and they all reveal in time a certain amount of layers and depth.
The animation isn't as high quality as some other popular anime, however, the backgrounds look beautiful and show great detail and artistry. The music also needs mention, using wonderful strings and soft acoustic guitars, as well as some beautiful piano work. Haibane Renmei spends a surprising amount of time layering and building its themes and symbolism. It takes situations that are common to us, but puts it into a slightly supernatural setting. And although all the main characters have wings and halos, they always seem extremely grounded and realistic. The series go through several moods and emotions, but always make it heartfelt. When the characters are happy, we feel happy, and when they are sad, we feel sad. But it avoids becoming melodramatic nor over the top. Some of the series saddest parts will truly sting your heart, unless you're made of stone.
For a series that takes such a serious tone, Haibane Renmei gracefully avoids such series greatest clichés. The symbolism is subtle and layered, but never seems overdone. There are truly intense moments, but the series also takes several moments to sit back and let the audience reflect, showing wonderful imagery of the landscape with beautiful music in the background. The themes are universal, but I'll not list them, in fear of spoiling the series for people who hasn't seen it. Make sure not to read too much about the story and what happens, and rather let the series unfold without knowing what might happen.
Haibane Renmei is probably one of the finest audio-visual experiences I've had. Not many have seen it, which is sad, as it's so universal and could be enjoyed by so many people. I would recommend it to anyone, it could even work for ten year old kids and older. Although it's layered, it's never overtly complicated. Although it never answers many of our questions, it still isn't surreal and hard to penetrate. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend you go out and get it as soon as possible.
While skimming through the series again, I just realized what makes
Haibane Renmei such a great work.
Haibane Renmei doesn't tell you the answer. It lets you question, ponder and contemplate about it.
"Starting an important question in life and letting it maintain in you."
... that is why Haibane Renmei is a great work. There is no meaning nor need for an answer. The answer would only become a mere piece of knowledge if you simply tell someone. It is something you should go through all the experiences and realize for yourself. Having the question and keeping it will be the starting point which evokes you to find the 'real' answer.
* p.s. * There is a type of a question -somewhat a strange oxymoron-isque question- Buddhists throw at someone when the question of 'truth' is sought after. The way to go through this question is just to keep questioning it in the head ALL the time, even when you're asleep. Suddenly, all the dots will be connected and the answer will just pop up in the blink of an eye, like 'ah, that's so obvious...!' The basis theory behind it is on the assumption that you already know everything, it's just that you haven't 'realized' it yet. Haibane Renmei makes you do that.
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