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A lovely custom, a magical new years eve, and a poignant reconciliation as Reki prepares to depart.  Sweet and sad in equal measures Bell Nuts – Passing of the Year Festival – Reconciliation, the second last episode of Haibane Renmei, sees other Haibane connecting with Reki even as Reki prepares to say goodbye forever.

It is another winter morning with snow all around Old Home.  As Reki told Rakka in Kuramori – Haibane of Abandoned Factory – Rakka’s Job it will be spring before green is seen again.  A tired Reki emerges from her room followed by Rakka.  Rakka attempts to return the lighter that Reki left on the guest room table but Reki gives it to her, saying that she doesn’t need it anymore.

Bell Nuts! Bell Nuts! Get your Bell Nuts Here!

Hikari is unimpressed by the painting clothes Reki is wearing and tells her to get changed. The Haibane head into Glie for the Bell Nuts festival. 

The Bell Nuts are grown from a special plant, and changing the soil can change the colour.  In a moment of silence during the Passing of the Year Festival the nuts can be shaken on strings to express feelings based on their colour [1].

I think that this is a lovely custom, and despite being info dumped on the viewer at the last second [2], adds a lot of depth to this episode, especially in the variants that come up later [3].  Once again Hikari serves as Ms Infodump for Rakka, pointing out that Red is the thank you colour [4]

Rakka shakes a nut and becomes lost in the sound until Reki interrupts to continue the explanation.  As the Bell Nut festival only happens on one day it isn’t that much of a stretch to find Hyohko and Midori in the crowd.

Reki’s meeting with them is subdued as she apologises for getting them into trouble and passes a White nut to Hyohko.  The White nut clearly shocks Midori and Hyohko. 

When Hyohko points out that the Passing of the Year festival isn’t until next week, Reki responds by saying she hasn’t much time and might not see them again.

On the bridge Hyohko tells Rakka how he met Reki, and how he tried to climb over the walls. 

It did not end well. Hyohko also drove a stake in the walls, and nearly died as a result.

Midori is still bitter about the whole exercise until Rakka points out how good Reki has become at maintaining a facade, the ability to smile whilst bleeding inside.

This is the start of the reconciliation as both Hyohko and Midori agree to help Reki with Rakka.  Hyohko even has a plan, despite being banned from the South District.  He also claims to have a brain, which Midori scoffs at.

Next morning Reki is again not in the guest room at breakfast.  When Rakka wonders what can be done, Nemu provides some gentle encouragement and reminds Rakka to have faith in Reki.

In her room Reki is waiting for the medicine to finish dripping from her wings.  Contemplating her portrait of Kuramori Reki comments to the empty room that soon she will be forgotten by everybody and vanish.  Reki asks where did she go wrong.

It is clear that Reki is settling her affairs on the assumption that she won’t achieve Flight.  I do find this to be sad, and yet there is good that comes of it.  Reki is healing old wounds with others and, however unintentionally, may be healing herself a little at the same time.

At work in the Walls Rakka wonders what it is she can do to help Reki as the laughter begins again.  Drawn to one of the tags she recognises it as Kuu’s somehow, and then realises that the letters are hand symbols.

Rakka demonstrates these symbols to the Communicator and is promptly asked where she learned how.

The discussion that follows rests on the idea that in Japanese there are often multiple kanji with the same sound: change the kanji, change the meaning, keep the sound.

The letters on Kuu’s tag in the walls do not mean “Air”, they mean the true name that was her real identity [5].  The tag in the walls must change before the Day of Flight or it will not come.

Rakka’s has already changed to “Involved Nut”, and the Communicator asks Rakka why that is now her name.  Rakka gives the latter half: that she had isolated herself in a shell, like a nut.

The Communicator gives the former: Rakka has sprouted and connected with others in Old Home.

Reki does not know her true name because she is unable to forgive herself for the incident with Hyohko.  The Communicator reminds Rakka that The Bird’s forgiveness is what freed Rakka from the Circle of Sin.

The key is to have someone by your side.

At this point the Communicator hands Rakka a box with Reki (Small Stone) on the sliding lid to give to Reki after the festival.  I know what the Communicator is trying to do here, but it is a very risky strategy.

Then again after seven years of trying to help Reki in other ways maybe there wasn’t anything else that the Communicator could try.

The next morning Reki is showing Hikari how to cook a lemon meringue as Rakka enters the guest room. 

On the balcony Reki tells Rakka that she won’t be going into town for the Passing of the Year festival.  That she wants to etch the memories of Old Home into her mind.

The balcony is now where Rakka feels most secure, and it is because of Reki. This is a sadly sweet moment because Reki is why Rakka feels secure here, and she doesn’t want to forget Reki…even though Reki is expecting exactly that.

The sequence with the Passing of the Year and the gifts of the Bell Nuts to the many minor characters seen throughout the series is just fun.  The bakers, the thrift shop guy, the master of the clock tower, Sumika and her new baby, the housemother for the Young Feathers, and the restaurant owner who gave Rakka soup once are all remembered with the Red nuts of thanks.

In Old Home Reki is on the balcony as Rakka arrives at the Abandoned Factory.  Midori was not expecting to find that Reki wasn’t in town.  They race to Old Home to let Reki know that something is happening, and manage to get her to open her window just as the fireworks start from Abandoned Factory.

Yellow fireworks: the answer to the White nut from Hyohko and Midori.  Yellow apparently means “I’ve been stupid” according to Reki, but I suspect it is probably closer to “I was wrong and I’m sorry.”

This is when Midori pulls out the White and thinks “Goodbye and Thank You” before sitting down against the wall of Old Home, and starting to cry.  When Reki comes down Midori grabs her like she’s drowning.

Rakka meets the others at the courtyard entrance and keeps them out for a while.

As the bells stop the ethereal sound from inside the walls is heard throughout Glie as the walls send the thoughts of all from the year into the sky.  Seeing the entire walls begin to glow  as the night sky lights up is just a beautiful way to end the episode.

Timing this episode for a new year’s eve is a very clever piece of writing as it creates a general environment of hope for a good year to come.  Whilst this makes Reki’s fatalism stand out more, it also lets the viewer see the good in the reconciliations, in Nemu’s quiet faith, and Rakka’s somewhat more scrappy determination to help somehow or other.

I do think that the apparent ease with which Rakka ropes Hyohko and Midori in is deceptive.  It is clear that Hyohko never really blamed Reki for what happened, and Midori may have overreacted from a sense of betrayal.  This made a reconciliation at the right time a relatively easy choice.

Bell Nuts – Passing of the Year Festival – Reconciliation is one of my favourite episodes in the series, the sweet customs and overall message of hope resonate with me and provide a basis for wrapping up the series in the next episode.

Despite the interesting and challenging suggestions for tomorrow’s meta post I received on Who Were They Before They Were Haibane, I’ll be reviewing the various extras on the DVDs instead.  A series of posts like this is both rewarding and draining so I’m going to do an easy one before tackling the final episode and the wrapup.

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 – Who Were They Before They Were Haibane?
Day 16 – Parting – Darkness in the Heart – Irreplaceable Thing
Day 17 – Bell Nuts – Passing of the Year Festival – Reconciliation
Day 18 – The Extra Bits
Day 19 – Reki’s World – Prayer – Epilogue
Day 20 – Looking Back At Haibane Renmei

 



[1] If somewhat limited: the only colours seen on screen are Brown (the natural colour presumably), Red, Green, Yellow, and White.


[2] Given the extent to which ABe was making it up as he went along (more about that tomorrow) this isn’t that much of a surprise.


[3] Including one variant in the last episode


[4] I’ll reveal the other meanings as they come up.  Except for Green and Brown where no explanation is given.


[5] The viewer does not, unfortunately, get to find out what that name is.