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[R1 DVD box art.]
AKA: 灰羽連盟, Charcoal Feather Federation
Genre: Fantasy drama
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by FUNimation.
Content Rating: PG-13 (adult themes)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: NieA_7, Serial Experiments Lain
Notes: The creator of Haibane Renmei is also the creator for NieA_7 and Serial Experiments Lain.

Editor's Note:
Since the author of this review resides in Singapore, this review is based on the release available in that area, rather than the R1 DVD release. Reader's discretion is advised.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars
 

Haibane Renmei

Synopsis

A giant cocoon has been discovered by the Haibane: angel-like creatures, complete with wings and halos. An important event is about to unfold - the birth of a new Haibane.

CRACK! WHOOOSH! The cocoon burst with a rush of water! A new Haibane is born but...

Instead of a kicking, screaming baby, we have a full-grown fifteen-year-old girl. And what's with the wings and halos? Is she even human?


Review

I've seen the show. I've heard the music. I love them both. And I thought, "Hey! How hard can it be to put up a review for an anime that I love? It'd be a piece of cake, right?"

WRONG!

I knew I was setting myself up for the uphill task of writing a review that will do this anime justice. Lest I sound like a broken record player, Haibane Renmei is an anime to be experienced.

The premise of the story is a charming little village where humans and Haibane live and work together. It is essentially a Haibane nest, where they are born, learn, and are sheltered until they are ready to leave. The main character of the story is a Haibane named Rakka, and the story is told through her point of view. We follow her from the time of her birth until the end of the series. Through Rakka, we are also introduced to the assortment of unique and interesting characters from Old Home: Reki, the Haibane that looks after all the children of Old Home and harbors a dark and secret past; Nemu, Reki's long-time friend and confident; Hikari, the usual good girl; Kana, the somewhat boyish character with a devil-may-care attitude, and finally Kuu, the precocious child who is vital to the turning point of the plot.

The first part of the series is relatively light-hearted, as it concentrates on the bond building between Rakka and the other inhabitants of the town. As Rakka slowly begins to find her footing, she starts questioning, what are Haibane? Where do they come from? Where do they go from here? In fact, these are the questions that are constantly being raised and they climax at the end of the series. It definitely has links to us (or at least, me!) as curious humans that wonder about our own origin. How did we become what we
are?

The artwork is good and the setting is exactly what I imagine a Haibane town would look like, but the overall animation is blurry. I'm not sure if this effect was done on purpose to create a surreal feel or just simply bad encoding.

Relative newcomer Hirohashi Ryou does an excellent job as Rakka, injecting the correct blend of bewilderment, naivety, and gentleness of the newborn Haibane. She effectively draws you in and you can understand how Rakka feels almost like she is a real being.

The music by Ootani Kou is very subtle and brings out the best of the anime. I especially love the opening 'Free Bird' and the ending 'Blue Flow'. The CD comes with a nicely illustrated insert booklet.

This anime is, in a nutshell, a philosophical one that concentrates on character development. So expect no high octane, fast and furious action. At thirteen episodes, the focus, plot and pacing is just right. It neither drags nor contain unnecessary fillers or recaps. Granted, the ending was a little...well, *very* open-ended but such is to be expected of an anime that is in its own class.

This anime would have gotten five stars if not for the blurry animation. Yes, folks! I deduct one full star for eye-candy that fails to deliver! — Diane Tiu

Recommended Audience: Teens and above. The philosophy behind the show is rather hard to grasp, and there are lots of talking scenes. The characters deal with situations like regrets and loss, which are painful and possibly best understood by older audiences who have gone through similar crises. Although the overall feel of the show is very gentle and optimistic, parental guidance is probably required to explain much of this anime to younger audiences.



Version(s) Viewed: Asian DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Haibane Renmei © 2002 ABe Yoshitoshi / Aureole Secret Factory
 
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