For Rakka the only way is up as she passes Reki who is on the way down. Nevertheless the core message of this episode
of Haibane Renmei is hope, even as Rakka manages to make herself very sick.
Well – Rebirth – Riddle continues where The Bird left off: with Rakka sitting in the well. She is still wondering who the bird was but tries out “Mum” and “Dad” before admitting that she doesn’t know.
Rakka hears bells as a member of the Toga carrying a lamp comes to the edge of the well. This is very odd given that the Toga should only be seen at the gates .
Rakka calls out to the Toga but doesn’t receive an answer. After a while a two Toga return and one climbs down into the well with Rakka. The Toga’s attempt at sign language  doesn’t really go anywhere. Resorting to somewhat simpler signals Rakka finally climbs onto the Toga’s back  to reach the rungs of the ladder that haven’t rusted away.
I think that exiting the well is the moment of rebirth for Rakka. Certainly from this point onwards there is no sign of the sin-bound feathers, even if Rakka doesn’t realise it in this episode.
Her thanks to the two Toga inevitably go unanswered as they start to walk away, taking the lantern with them. When Rakka asks about Kuu they briefly stop, look at each other, before moving on.
Prior to this episode Rakka has regarded Kuu as lost: she was grieving for a death. Now her questions about Kuu’s welfare clearly assume that Kuu is alive. This is a very positive sign even if it doesn’t sound that way when you hear how frantic those questions become.
Rakka’s insistence on pushing past the pain and cold of walking barefoot in the woods is also positive, even if it leads her to the Wall. In her mind Rakka hears Kuu laughing and makes the mistake of touching the freezing cold wall.
At that moment the Communicator arrives and rebukes Rakka for touching the wall. As Rakka stumbles the Communicator hands her his cane and he begins to guide Rakka out of the woods.
The guidance is both physical and spiritual.
After scolding her for attempting to communicate with the Toga, he advises her that the Wall was only echoing her concerns rather than actually hearing Kuu’s voice.
As the conversation turns to why Rakka was called to the woods, and the well, the seemingly stern Communicator repeats the legends Rakka heard from Kana.
He then asks if Rakka was afraid of the corpse of the bird. When she denies it he says that the dead bird is proof that Rakka knows all that she needs to, that the bird was proud of having completed its task.
Rakka then blurts out the true meaning of her dream, that she grieves for the hurt she caused even though she can’t remember.
This is important and the Communicator asks the Rakka to go into more detail. This leads to Rakka revealing that she is  Sin Bound. Believing that she does not deserve to be in Old Home, in Glie, Rakka asks to be taken to where she deserves to be.
This is when the Communicator reveals the riddle of the Circle of Sin: to recognise one’s own sin is to have no sin.
The key here is the paradox: recognising your own sin means that you are not a sinner, but if you then answer “Are you a sinner?” with “no” you again become a sinner.
To be Sin Bound is to be trapped in a diminishing circle without seeing a way out. I think that the way out is to have apologised to those you have wronged and then to forgive yourself.
Rakka did the former in The Bird, and the latter happens at some point between exiting the well and hearing the riddle, although she doesn’t realise it yet.
At the exit of the woods the Communicator leaves and Rakka limps down to the road as Reki rides up on the scooter.
Reki’s hug is more than a little enthusiastic, but Reki’s relief turns to worry when Rakka’s hands are ice cold and the pain in her ankle disappears.
Rakka has gone numb, and Reki asks if she touched the wall. Reki races back to Old Home with Rakka, and begins treatment in the guest room.
A dazed Rakka mentions the dream and Reki examines Rakka’s wings closely. Reki sends Kana into town for fever medicine. Hikari disagrees given how cold Rakka is and demands more information when Reki says that the fever will break out after midnight.
Nemu diverts Hikari, for now, and drags her away. Alone again Reki cleans the increasingly numb Rakka. Rakka thanks Reki for always taking care of her.
As Rakka drifts off to sleep Reki observes that “you no longer…” in the subtitle, and “You’re free, and now I’m alone” in the dub as Reki’s body language becomes pure depression. The subtitle is more subtle than the dub script, but Erika Weinstein’s delivery is superb here so I’m not altering my opinion of the dub.
As Hikari and Nemu come back, Reki is taking charge of Rakka’s care but Hikari insists on helping out. Hikari may not know everything, and admits this, but her heart is clearly in the right place.
Reki apologises, asks Hikari to take the first watch, and returns to her own room.
Reki “shares” her cigarette with a statue in her room whilst admitting that Rakka doesn’t need her. I’m not sure whether this sequence is heartbreaking, or just disturbing.
Reki tries to be happy about Rakka no longer being Sin Bound, after all she’s gotten used to being abandoned again and again over the past seven years.
Reki enters the other part of her suite, the room that she kept Rakka out of in Temple – Communicator – Pancakes. At this stage we still don’t see what’s in there, and the episode ends when the door closes behind her.
When I first saw Well – Rebirth – Riddle, it felt like Rakka was still the primary character, that the business with Reki was a sidestory, albeit an increasingly important sidestory. From memory the next episode (Kuramori – Haibane of Abandoned Factory – Rakka’s Job) continued in this vein.
However, now, Well – Rebirth – Riddle feels like a clean baton pass in a relay. Rakka is still running to cool down, but her story is largely told.
The baton is the Circle of Sin.
I suspect that the Communicator is fully aware that Rakka has already solved the riddle, and that his provision of the riddle is to prepare Rakka to help Reki who hasn’t.
The realisation that Reki is still trapped is softened by the demonstrated fact of Rakka’s freedom. Hope of redemption is provided even as the viewer starts to realise that the problem exists.
Overall this is a strong episode, with an equally strong message of hope. The latter is a definite relief after the previous two episodes.
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 Haibane 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 – The Sound of Charcoal Feathers
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
- Twenty Days of Haibane Renmei – Day 10: Scar – Illness – Arrival of Winter (piratesobg.wordpress.com)
- Twenty Days of Haibane Renmei – Day 11: The Bird (piratesobg.wordpress.com)
- Twenty Days of Haibane Renmei – Day 12: The Sound of Charcoal Feathers (piratesobg.wordpress.com)