In a village surrounded by high walls that the residents are forbidden to touch or pass, a girl is born from a cocoon after a dream of falling from the sky. Named for her dream, as all born such are, Rakka soon finds herself sprouting wings and sporting a halo as the other members of the Old Home. None of them remember anything but smidgens of a past, but all know they had one. Such are the Haibane, for whose sake the town isolates itself from the outside world. Here they live, working their jobs, accepting no pay and using only things that have been used before. It all seems so peaceful – but no thing in this world is without purpose. There is a reason they became Haibane, and something every Haibane must someday do. And finding what that is – both for her sake and her friends – is soon the most important thing of all.
Noda Junko as Reki
Hirohashi Ryou as Rakka
Yajima Akiko as Kuu
Miyajima Eri as Kana
Orikasa Fumiko as Hikari
Murai Kazusa as Nemu
Fantasy, Drama, Psychological, Mystery,
Thirteen. There is no sequel of any sort.
There are some experiences that are beyond comparison or explanation. You want to try, because something like that begs to be shared, but in the end all you can say is ‘you had to have been there’, or ‘you just have to see it for yourself’. Watching Haibane Renmei, for me, was such an experience: Enchanting, mesmerizing, spell binding, haunting, beautiful beyond words…and none of those are really enough. As a reviewer, I am bound to try and explain the unexplainable, and so I will try to describe the experience of watching this anime. But in the end, you’ll just have to watch it for yourself. It is simply something else.
From the beginning, Haibane Renmei snares the mind with an understated sense of pure magic. Its characters work the same: a soft air of sweetness belies the underlying trials of the heart that are the core of this story. Rakka, the lead, is simply a pleasant, honest, gentle young girl of fifteen or so: somewhat uncertain at first, she spends the first several episodes following the lead of the others as she comes to understand the life expected of her – something that only sounds boring because you have not experienced what simple conversation is like in Haibane Renmei. Life itself, from moment to moment, fascinates and entrances, with gentle beauty that makes you smile and, when the time comes, makes you feel their pain with exquisite directness. The leader of the group is Rekki – tall, black haired, and a smoker, she gives an impression that somehow seamlessly blends biker mom and gentle, nurturing older sister into someone who casually supports almost everything and everyone, especially Rakka, as the newest and least secure member. I suppose the next most noticeable one is Kuu, the youngest. Cute and endearing, with that constant enthusiastic delight in life that characterizes so many children of that age, she shares a special place in the hearts of all who live in Old Home – and before long, an especially close place in Rakka’s. Hikari is blond, blue eyed, and sweet – with a rather rascally curious and irrepressible side that saves her from unholy moe-hood and elevates her to the level of a Haibane character. Kana is black haired, black eyed, and spunky, a tomboyish sort with a cheerful attitude and a quick friendly-cocky grin. Mechanically inclined and gung-ho about it, her complaints about hard work are generally a facade. Last, and oddly suited to it, is Nemu. She is actually the oldest resident of Old Home – Rekki is second. But her quiet, unemphatic nature means that Rekki is the one who takes the lead. Slow, plump, and inclined to sleepiness, she works in the library, where everything is quiet, and she can read and steal naps. Haibane Renmei does not have villains – it is the sort of story where all the enemies are internal. A few outside characters do bear mention though – The Communicator, an old man who wears a mask and communicates with the outside world, is in a way the one who polices the Haibane, but the wellbeing of the Haibane is clearly of real personal importance to him. Old Home is only one of the places in town where Haibane Renmei live – the inhabitants of the Abandoned Factory are a bit rowdier than those of Old Home, a bit street like and tough with a sprinkling of boys in their ranks. Still they’re good hearted, and some have a personal link to Reki – one that plays an important role as time goes on.
The first episodes are pure slice of life – or they would be, if the world we have been plunged into did not softly scream of mystery. Even as we walk, dreamlike, through this new world, seen through Rakka’s eyes, guided by kind, engaging, supportive friends, the fact that something essential remains to be understood about the town and its winged inhabitants – something not quite sinister, but something that, once known, cannot help but bring change – is very clear. And the most important changes in our lives are often, initially, painful. The Haibane are born with no notion of what came before, but they all know that there was something – that they all had once lived lives beyond the wall. The wall that cannot – not should not – be crossed. The truth about the Haibane Renmei – what they are, where they come from, and what they have come for – is the question that drives this story, and there are several layers to the answer. Answers that are both bittersweet and beautiful – and meant to be found. The stories revealed within the story, the truths upon truths, and the redemption hidden within sin, paint in time a world so painfully beautiful as to forever mark the soul. This is the kind of story that leaves a mark on those who see it – you do not forget. And for all that there were tears, you hope that it is real.
Wondrous, fascinating, heartfelt, and sometimes sorrowful – I’m afraid this is one anime for which I am unable to maintain my usual level of distance when reviewing. For a perfectly told story that carves its name in your soul, I can only give it that rare perfect score of five out of five. If you are allergic to slow paces or character focused plots, stay away. Otherwise, see this before you die, or regret it all your remaining days.
Final Rating: 5/5
This review is brought to you by Z.N. Singer
Information such as cast and airtime are taken from the ANN encyclopedia. Everything else is and always will be the creation of the author.
4 Responses to “Haibane Renmei”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.