Rakka and Nemu discussing the ending

Episode 5 of Haibane Renmei is Nemu’s limelight episode. It is quite a sweet episode with a touch of sorrow to balance it.

Nemu is cataloguing, or at least counting, books in the library when she calls out Sumika [1]. As Nemu chats with her Sempai it turns out that the pregnant Sumika will be leaving the library soon, and will shortly be banned from heavy lifting. Nemu is seen with a fond smile on her face as Sumika leaves.

Downstairs Rakka is faced with a heavy trolley of books, and a steep ramp. Despite the earlier comments about heavy lifting Sumika pulls the trolley whilst Rakka pushes. As they climb Sumika asks if Rakka was scared to be born. Rakka’s responds that she doesn’t remember much but she was sure someone was protecting her in her dream. Sumika thanks Rakka for the advice as to how a parent should “frame her mind” – Rakka looks a little confused at this [2].

Rakka and Nemu start dealing with the “new” books acquired by trade with the Toga. “New” is a relative term as a good number end up being sent for repair [3]. Whilst Nemu is doing that Rakka starts labelling but gets distracted by a book [4].

Sumika then helps Rakka catch up but asks what caught her eye. Knowing that the books came from outside, Rakka was looking for clues as to what is outside. This leads to the first mention of the beginning of the world, but it isn’t the one for which the episode is named. Sumika reminisces about looking for the beginning of the world in books, but not ever finding it. Sumika once thought about leaving Glie to find the beginning of the world, but it remains a dream.

Sumika believes that she is much happier with her life in Glie than she would be chasing that dream: “A dream is only beautiful because it remains a dream.”

During this scene I was again seeing The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas [5]. Is Sumika’s happiness natural or imposed by the world? Are the Haibane the sacrifices for her happiness?

As the library opens Nemu becomes “storybook lady” by reading a fairy tale to the Young Feathers. The scene where Nemu is reading to all the Haibane is really quite sweet. However it is quite stressful for Nemu, and she is grateful that it doesn’t happen all the time.

Having Hikari and Kuu there as well does feel a touch contrived. However it enables Reki to head off somewhere whilst the other two return the kids to Old Home.

As the library closes Rakka is drawn to a fossilised book that is on display with some odd symbols [6].

Nemu has been making Sumika a gift but won’t be able to finish it in 4 days. Rakka offers to help but the only clue Nemu gives to the secret is “the beginning of the world” [7]. Apparently Sumika and Nemu tried to complete a book with that title that was in such bad condition that only the first few pages were legible.

As they are walking home Rakka and Nemu see Reki walking alone away from Old Home and follow discretely. Along a river Reki meets someone wheeling her scooter across a bridge. Nemu is initially relieved until some male Haibane arrive on motorbikes. A female Haibane is also on the bikes, and another guy arrives on a skateboard with a baseball cap.

The resulting confrontation between Hyohko and Reki is somewhat tense [8] before Reki rides off.

As they walk home Nemu talks about the Abandoned Factory the coed Haibane nest [9], as well as some old history of a troubled Reki. There was an incident, not explained, that resulted in both Reki and Hyohko being banned from entering the other’s district.

That evening Rakka is confused about her place in the world Rakka has realised that whilst all the Haibane are making their own living, even Kuu, they are also supporting each other in ways that aren’t always obvious.

Rakka can’t shake the feeling that this is the first time she has learnt this lesson in either life [10], and wonders if she deserves to be happy.

Back at the library Rakka is researching the beginning of the world as Nemu slips into a flashback. In the flashback Nemu and Sumika are trying to interpret and complete the book mentioned earlier. More importantly there is a moment when Sumika comforts a crying Nemu [11].

When Rakka returns Nemu admits to writing her own version of “The Beginning of the World” but only agrees to show it to Rakka if she doesn’t laugh [12]. Alas it isn’t finished as Nemu hasn’t been able to decide on an ending. Rakka’s suggestion for an ending is initially met with laughter, but Rakka insists that a story written by Nemu should remind the reader of Nemu.

As Rakka and Kana [13] are heading home, Kuu is making formal goodbyes to people in town.

In the morning Rakka and Reki pack the breakfast that Nemu would otherwise miss. Rakka thinks about asking Reki about Hyohko, but doesn’t.

On the ride into town Nemu admits to completing the book with Rakka’s ending and giving her co-author credit. Of course if Sumika doesn’t like it, Nemu will blame Rakka.

The episode ends with a summary of Nemu’s version of The Beginning of the World, which includes the creation of the Haibane and Glie outside the world. One nice touch is that the narration changes from Nemu’s voice to Rakka’s at the right point.

This is a well balanced episode. The hints of past (Reki’s history), present (Rakka’s doubts), and future (the foreshadowing of Kuu’s day of flight) slip nicely under the cover of Nemu’s work at the library and her deep friendship with Sumika.

The focus on Nemu’s gift to Sumika makes it easy to miss the sense of serenity that Kuu is developing, which is a nice piece of misdirection. This is especially true for first viewings of the series.

The creation story that Nemu and Rakka come up with is also a sweet, if slightly poignant, end to the episode. The tempering of the sweetness comes from not knowing how Sumika reacted to it.

Day 1 – Cocoon – Dream of Falling from the Sky – Old Home
Day 2 – Town and Wall – Toga – Haibane Renmei
Day 3 – The World of Haibane Renmei
Day 4 – Temple – Communicator – Pancakes
Day 5 – Trash Day – Clock Tower – Birds Flying Over the Walls
Day 6 – Gender and Haibnane Renmei
Day 7 – Library – Abandoned Factory – The Beginning of the World
Day 8 – End of Summer – Rain – Loss
Day 9 – Dub vs Sub?
Day 10 – Scar – Illness – Arrival of Winter
Day 11 – The Bird
Day 12 – ???
Day 13 – Well – Rebirth – Riddle
Day 14 – Kuramori – Haibane of Abandoned Factory – Rakka’s Job
Day 15 – ???
Day 16 – Parting – Darkness in the Heart – Irreplaceable Thing
Day 17 – Bell Nuts – Passing of the Year Festival – Reconciliation
Day 18 – ????
Day 19 – Reki’s World – Prayer – Reconciliation
Day 20 – Looking Back At Haibane Renmei

[1] The sound of her heels gave Sumika away.

[2] To be honest it confused me a little, until I realised that Sumika was setting herself as the protector.

[3] Including the one that Rakka picks up before Nemu warns her…

[4] That wouldn’t happen to me. Much. Well, not for more than an hour at a time.

[5] As discussed in the World of Haibane Renmei post.

[6] This will become important later.

[7] But this still isn’t the event referenced by the episode title.

[8] He pulls her cigarette out of her mouth, she pulls his cap off revealing the halo and wings. Overall I’m calling this about even, but Hyohko’s companions think he lost.

[9] Nemu seems a bit jealous of the coed business, but isn’t too keen on any of the boys who are actually there.

[10] Given my own theory as to why Rakka is a Haibane, Rakka is right.

[11] I believe that this would have occurred just after Kuramori’s Day of Flight. More on that in a later post.

[12] She doesn’t.

[13] Nemu is working overtime.