Haibane Renmei

Image via Wikipedia

So here I am at the end of Haibane Renmei, and for the first time it has taken me weeks to get here [1].  Along the way some of the reasons why I love this show have crystallised in my mind.

The Play Stage is the thing, wherein to catch the Spirit Play.

In The World of Haibane Renmei I discussed the feel but not the look of Old Home.  Which is a pity since Old Home is exactly what it says on the tin

The designers clearly went to a lot of effort to get that used feeling right: the dust clouds when entering rarely used corridors, the damaged doors, that odd bits and pieces in corners that speak of little maintenance.

In any part of Old Home the atmosphere reflects how the Haibane interact with the space, both individually and as a group.  The guest room where they gather is a bright, cheery, place that is still shaped by Kuramori’s gentle spirit.  Kuu’s bedroom was also a comfortable, happy space, and Rakka’s room would have been heading in that direction.

In contrast, Reki’s suite was a place of loneliness and despair, and was usually lit accordingly. 

This careful design of the staging of Haibane Renmei supports the story well and is an aspect that I adore [2].

The Play question is the thing, wherein to catch the Spirit mind.

Back when I did the Thirty Days of Anime posts I pegged Kyuuketsuki Miyu as the first anime that I bought [3].  One of the defining elements of Miyu is not telling the viewer everything.  Such answers as are there must be worked for, and failing that speculated wildly about.

Series with an air of intrigue or mystery, like Miyu, Key the Metal Idol [4], or RahXephon have a good chance of catching my interest.   This aspect hooked me when I first saw Haibane Renmei, and it hooked me again this time around. 

I had an absolute ball writing Who Were They Before They Were Haibane, and that is only one of the topics where wild guesses can run free.

The Play flaw is the thing, wherein to catch the Spirit heart.

A mysterious setting, or a story where all the answers are not given, might be enough to catch my interest; it is not enough to keep it.

I have to be able to connect to the characters, to care about them.  At one end there is the vague [5] concept of the Mary Sue who is so perfect that no one can really relate.  At the other end there is the set of basket cases and bastards that the viewer either doesn’t care about, or hopes will die horrible bloody deaths [6].

Haibane Renmei has neither of these problems. Hikari may be a touch generic but that is the biggest issue I have with the characters.

Generally speaking the characters of Haibane Renmei are well balanced characters: nice people with problems or issues that the viewer can relate to.  These problems may run a lot deeper for Reki and Rakka but never break my sympathy or hope that they will recover.

Having those hopes realised is what makes the series work.

It is what made me cry when Reki achieves her Day of Flight.

For the most part there is a sense of depth to the other Haibane that make them work well as characters: Nemu’s quiet loyalty to atone for her earlier rejection of Reki, Kana’s sensitivity hidden behind the brash tomboy, and Kuu’s serenity as she accepts her identity all spring to mind. 

In Conclusion [7]

The experience of Haibane Renmei will change between viewings, and a more measured pace is definitely recommended for later viewings.  I expected this having experienced the same effect with both Lodoss War and The Vision of Escaflowne.

Haibane Renmei is not always an easy show to watch, but it is a deeply satisfying and rewarding one.  It has one of the few perfect endings in anime, and would be worth treasuring for that alone.

The complete package of a rich setting, a sense of mystery, and characters to care deeply about, lift Haibane Renmei to the level of a classic that I will come back to again and again.

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] Usually it takes 3, maybe 4 sessions.

[2] This really shouldn’t surprise anyone given my fondness for the pure Scenery Porn that is ARIA.

[3] On Laser Disc as it happens. I still have them, but do need to get the player repaired.

[4] Key the Metal Idol is a candidate for a 20 Days series as it happens, albeit one with fewer meta posts.

[5] And often misused: I’ve seen a lot of commentary recently about “Mary Sue” being increasingly used in a misogynistic manner.

[6] Exhibit 1: Eva Jelly Donut.  (Thanks to Seawasp for that well deserved mangling).

[7] Sorry. Couldn’t come up with another riff on the theme.