Page 1 of 1

Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2005 2:42 pm
by howardschumann(d)

Directed by Tomokazu Tokoro (2002)

The best-kept secret in the world of Japanese animation is Tomokazu Tokoro's Haibane Renmei, a thought provoking and very moving 13-part 2002 TV series that is part fantasy, part coming-of-age story, and part religious allegory. Haibane Renmie is a creation of Yoshitoshi ABe who designed the characters for Serial Experiments Lain and inspired the science fiction series NieA_7. The story is very simple, yet it is full of understated poetry and rich meaning that can be enjoyed by people of all ages (but may be too dark for children under the age of ten).

The story is inspired by Haruki Murakami's novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World in which a man suddenly appears without memory of a previous life in a strange village surrounded by a high wall and ends up working in the library, replacing another who simply disappears. Set in a village called Glie, angel-like people with wings and halos called Haibane or "charcoal feathers" live alongside humans in the town, also surrounded by impenetrable walls. The laws are made by a council called the Haibane Renmie who decreed that the Haibane cannot own anything new, cannot go outside the wall and are forbidden to even touch it. Only the Toga, mysterious masked men who provide for and protect the Haibane, can leave the town.

The Haibane live in an abandoned building called Old Home and have no memory of a previous life, only a vague recollection of a dream they had inside the cocoon in which they were hatched fully-grown. Others live in the Waste Factory and are said to be "rowdy". Every so often, without warning, one of the Haibane disappears beyond the wall to an uncertain destination. This is the "day of flight" that is the fate of all Haibane except those that are "sin-bound" and must remain in darkness. As the series begins, a girl dreams of falling and, when she emerges from her giant cocoon, is named "Rakka" for falling. The early episodes deal with Rakka's arrival and adjustment to life as a Haibane.

Rakka's best friend is Reki who takes care of the younger children and is very protective of Rakka, caring for her when her wings emerge. Reki's name means "stones" because in her dream she was walking on a path of stones. Rakka goes with each of the Haibane to their jobs to see where she would best fit in. Other characters include Nemu who works at the library, Kuu, a boyish-looking girl who is the youngest of the group, Kana, also a tomboy, and Hikari who works at a bakery. Halfway through the series, Rakka must deal with an unexpected loss of a member of the group who has taken flight. Rakka's wings begin to turn black and both she and Reki are haunted by incomplete memories of their cocoon dreams and recollections of committing harm to others.

As the plot slowly unravels, both Reki and Rakka must overcome their feelings of inadequacy before they can move on and the atmosphere often becomes heavy and foreboding. Timeless questions are raised and left for us to ponder, yet the story has the simplicity of a children's book with a sense of mystery and awe about our place in the universe. Is this an allegory of our own after-life or is it about our waking life where no one knows for certain where they have come from and where they are going?

Although the story line about sin and salvation strike a more conventional note, to the credit of the authors, they have emphasized personal responsibility and the need for us to take charge of our own lives. Haibane Renmie has just the right combination of magic and realism, and the visuals are beautiful to experience. With a lovely musical score, characters you can identify with, and a story that builds to a moving conclusion, Haibane Renmie is the best animated film I have seen.


Re: Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 1:48 pm
by trevor826
Hi Howard, I've just started watching Haibane Renmie and must say it seems thoughtful and very different from the majority of anime series. Thank's for posting your thoughts, I'm sure I'll have something to add once I've completed the series.

Cheers Trev.

P.S. You mentioned Serial Experiments Lain, have you seen it and if so, what did you think of it?

Re: Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 4:57 pm
by howardschumann(d)
Very nice that you are seeing this series. It deserves a wider audience. I have not seen Serial Experiments Lain or any other anime by this director. Looking forward to your review.


Re: Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:09 am
by A
Thanks for your review Howard. It reallymade me interested in the series, and I'm a person who almost never cares about anime-series. The only one I've actually seen through was Neon genesis evangelion
But If I can lay my hands on this one I'll give it a try.
Would also like to read your comments Trev!

Re: Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 7:57 pm
by trevor826
Haibane Renmei

I wont tread over old ground as Howard has already given a good outline for the series, Ill just write a few notes as to how I felt about it.

A couple of months ago I rented volume. 1 of Haibane Renmei from our central library, I thought it was pleasant but reserved judgement till I had seen more. Unfortunately I then had to wait till last week before I could get hold of the other episodes so I rented them all out including volume. 1 again figuring that a week would be enough to watch the thirteen episodes plus any extras.

Boy was my time judgement wrong, I re-watched volume. 1, in a way it is reminiscent of the first part of Innocence, with the rebirth into a strange new world and the gradual discovery of your locale which (also as in Innocence) is hemmed in on all sides by walls.

I then thought I might as well have a quick look at the first episode on volume. 2, a couple of hours later I had watched the whole series, I have seen most of it again since as well, it really is that good.

Graphically there are some nice effects, the cgi has been rendered to fit in beautifully with the standard animation, the characters are well drawn and although it isnt as stylish as the artwork in Serial Experiments Lain its certainly better than a lot of anime series Ive seen.

The soundtrack is beautiful, really fitting well with the story and the world of the Haibane. There is a slightly religious feel but as Howard has already said, to the credit of the authors, they have emphasized personal responsibility and the need for us to take charge of our own lives.

Its a wonderfully emotive series and although it doesnt have the psychoanalytical depth of Evangelion (some would say thats a good thing) it certainly does hit the spot.

A highly recommended short series that you wont be able to put down after the first few episodes.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC ratings, volumes 1-3 PG, volume 4 12.

R2 dvds available from MVM. R1 dvds available from Pioneer.

Re: Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 8:12 pm
by howardschumann(d)
Thanks very much for your comments on this series. Not having seen any others I wasn't able to call upon the in-depth comparison that you brought to your review. I hope this will encourage others to see it.


Re: Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 8:56 pm
by arsaib4
"Graphically there are some nice effects, the cgi has been rendered to fit in beautifully with the standard animation, the characters are well drawn and although it isnt as stylish as the artwork in Serial Experiments Lain its certainly better than a lot of anime series Ive seen."

Sounds interesting, Trev. How would you compare it with the work of Miyazaki, tomo, etc.? Or perhaps I should ask if it's equivalent at all?

Re: Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2006 3:13 pm
by trevor826

I was thinking (especially in regards to character design), more of series like Evangelion, Nadesico, Full Metal Panic etc.

With the majority of series the character designs are done by one artist which often leads to them having a very similar design which is only differentiated by hair style, colour and clothing. Indeed with some series, the facial resemblance is so similar, you could even interchange the male and female characters.

I'd compare the character designs in Haibane Renmie with those of series like Azumanga Daioh, each character is different facially and build wise. This neccessitates more work but is instantly noticable and more effective.

As for the cgi, I love to see it used sparingly and unobtrusively as in this series and Miyazaki's recent films. In these cases it adds to the production whereas in Wonderful days (aka Sky Blue) and to a point Ghost in the Shell 2 - Innocence it is too showy, this may work well in a cinema but pulls you out of the story especially on the small screen.

Haibane Renmie is a fine series and in fact as Howard noted, it is one of "anime's best-kept secrets" and is one of the few that does actually make you open your mind.

As for Miyazaki, his animes have proved to be timeless. As styles and story types fall in and out of fashion, his films are ever present and ever popular. He uses cgi to benefit the story but even before the introduction of computors as animation tools he was producing incredibly complex images. A couple of good examples are the train movement in Kiki's Delivery Service or the giant "Ohmu" in Nausicaa. You can see that his animes would still be beautifully executed without the use of cgi, it just makes the job easier and quicker.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Haibane Renmie (2002) (Japan)

PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2006 2:21 am
by arsaib4
Thanks, Trev -- very helpful!