In the final episode of Haibane Renmei, Reki becomes the mask she has worn for so long, asks for help, and wins redemption.

Reki’s World – Prayer – Epilogue opens as the Passing of the Year winds down.  The guest room of Old Home is littered with the detritus of a party, and also with sleeping Haibane.  Reki pulls a blanket over Dai before moving to the door, quietly says goodbye, and leaves.  Reki’s halo is flickering throughout this scene, the time for Flight or failure is close.

Rakka wakes and quietly says “Reki” as the opening credits roll.

Rakka follows Reki to her room, hesitates, but enters without knocking.  The first room looks abandoned, desolate, and a cloth is covering Kuramori’s portrait.  The bedroom is likewise abandoned.

Finally Rakka enters the third room to find a scene that is nightmare made flesh. 

This is Reki’s World: It is Reki’s cocoon nightmare and for the first time you see the railroad tracks bracketing the path of small stones that Reki had managed to remember.

This is when Rakka gives Reki the box with her true name, the Communicator’s final attempt to save Reki.  He has included a letter that Reki only partially reads as far as the alternate meaning of “Reki”: to be run over.

There is more to the letter but Reki doesn’t read it, and drops the box with the name stone.

This is the moment when Reki’s wings suddenly blacken, and Reki remembers the dream in full.

Remembers abandoning herself as the cold wind stung cheeks wet from crying.

As she spins and falls backwards to the floor Reki recalls the incident with Hyohko and Midori, describes the painted room as her cocoon, the Walls as a prison.

In anger at the salvation she waited for never coming, in her pain at being continually betrayed, continually abandoned, Reki lashes out at Rakka. 

What Reki says to Rakka is true, after a fashion, and succeeds in driving Rakka from the room.  Where it isn’t true is the true emotions behind Reki’s actions, but there is too much pain there for Reki to face that.

Crying on the other side of the door, Rakka collapses.

Inside the room the sound of a train can be heard, and Reki asks the cocoon dream version of herself [1] if she will vanish forever once the sound gets her.

Cocoon-Reki points out that Rakka came to help Reki. Reki says that she doesn’t deserve help, and Cocoon-Reki asks why she never gets to ask for help.

As Cocoon-Reki turns to black rock that crumbles and falls upwards, Cocoon-Reki asks why Reki can’t trust someone.

Reki repeats the feelings of betrayal, of not being helped no matter what she does.

Cocoon-Reki points out that Reki never actually asked for help, the only thing she did was wait.

This is where Reki’s fear truly, deeply lies: what if she calls for help and no-one answers? What if she truly is alone?

The sound of the train draws nearer, and Reki fearfully turns to the wall to face it.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the door, Rakka is wishing that she hadn’t heard what Reki said.  As the wind blows through the window it reveals Kuramori’s portrait, and a book behind the easel.

In the diary, Reki apologises to Kuramori for not being forgiven.  Reki also describes her emotions at finding Rakka’s cocoon, and Rakka also remembers hearing Reki whilst in the cocoon.

Reki promised to always be by Rakka’s side, to always protect her.

Determined to be Reki’s Bird, Rakka reenters the room to hear the train, feel the wind, and tries to reach Reki only to be held back by Cocoon-Reki.

Rakka desperately calls out to Reki as she faces the train.  Reki finally utters the prayer: “Rakka. Please help me.”

Cocoon-Reki disappears in green light again leaving behind the broken stone with Reki’s true name.

As the train emerges from the painted wall, Rakka rushes to Reki’s side and pushes her out of the way.

Beautiful Wings

Reki awakens with beautiful charcoal grey wings, and a revived halo. 

As Rakka awakens she opens her hand to discover that the broken name stone is intact again but the character on it is “small stone” instead of “to be run over”.

The Communicator’s voice is heard completing a new story: of a Haibane who made herself into the stepping stone in the woods that other Haibane use on their Day of Flight.

A Haibane who truly is “Small Stone”, the stepping stone to Flight.

Reki asks Rakka to close her eyes to preserve the tradition of Haibane disappearing without notice and walks into the woods to achieve Flight.

Reki's Flight

There is some beautiful symbology here: Cocoon-Reki represents the way that Reki always did things backwards.  Most Haibane will receive the false name from the cocoon dream, and achieve their true name later. 

For Reki, who received her wings first, the names are reversed.  Her cocoon name is hidden, and the real name is given first for her to grow into.  At the critical moment “To Be Run Over” holds Rakka back until “Small Stone” asks for help.

It is then that “To Be Run Over” disappears, and “Small Stone” becomes who Reki truly is in all ways.

Hyohko's Halo Put To Good Use

The epilogue starts with Hyohko not wanting the watch the western skies: he has the White Bell Nut (goodbye and thankyou) and accepts that as his answer.  Midori is unimpressed and asks if he wants some lemon soufflé that Reki made.  He doesn’t want it until Midori angrily asks him what colour a lemon is and leaves it on top of his halo. In Bell Nuts – Passing of the Year Festival – Reconciliation yellow is the colour of apology.

Life goes on in Old Home as the Haibane accept Reki’s flight with grace and even joy.  The guest room is decorated with many of Reki’s paintings which show how much she loved Old Home.

It also shows, too subtly in my opinion, Nemu beginning to draw away and it is clear that her Day of Flight cannot be far away.

The final scene book ends the series by having Rakka finding new cocoons [2] and react in the same excited way that Reki did in Cocoon – Dream of Falling from the Sky – Old Home when Reki found Rakka’s cocoon. Rakka’s panic is just as funny as Reki’s was.

The real test of an ending is the emotional response it generates.

I cried.

Even when I was stop-starting the dub to catch pieces to include in the synopsis: I cried.

This is, ultimately, a joyful ending for a character I care about.  To me Reki has earned her redemption, especially when she takes the hardest step of actually asking for help.

There have been anime where the ending doesn’t quite live up to what went before [3], but Haibane Renmei isn’t one of them.  About the only complaint I have is that Nemu’s impending Flight should have been more obvious, maybe a flicker of the halo in her last scene on the balcony.  This would tie in better to Nemu deliberately delaying her Flight [4] until Reki went first.

I’ll say more tomorrow but Reki’s World – Prayer – Epilogue is the perfect ending to what remains one of my favourite series.

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] Cocoon-Reki is how Reki would have looked before exiting her cocoon: younger, shorter, white robe, no wings, no halo.

[2] Twins! Incidentally I’ve seen references to an omake doujinshi that indicates that Lain is one of the twins. Yes, THAT Lain. Make of that what you will.

[3] Last Exile, Scrapped Princess, and Witch Hunter Robin spring to mind.

[4] As mentioned by the Communicator in Parting – Darkness in the Heart – Irreplaceable Thing.