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Haibane Renmie Box Set

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Haibane Renmie, otherwise known as Charcoal Feather Federation, is the finalised product from an ill-fated dojinshi series entitled The Haibanes of Old Home. The legendary Yoshitoshi ABe, who also created the Serial Experiments Lain series, created this superseded manga and anime series. This ambitious series deals with various themes, and owing to its easily misinterpreted storyline, it’s been debated heavily since its release.

Based in a long forgotten area called Glie, the Haibane are a group of people, similar to angels, who have been mysteriously born into the town. Bound by the walls of the local area, and intricate traditions that occur on a day-to-day basis. A Haibane does not earn money; however, they work for very specific areas in the town in exchange for free residence at Old Home or the Abandoned Factory as well as being given a book – where they log their expenses. Any product that they do decide to buy has to be either second hand, or unwanted by standard humans. Along with many other rules, the Haibane Renmei strictly regulates this lifestyle, which is an organisation, which oversees the life of the Haibane and much of Glie.

No one from Glie is allowed to leave, and the only people who are able to enter and leave are traders called the Toga; the Toga are not allowed to speak when inside Glie, but speak with only one member of the Haibane Renmie in a form of complex sign language.

There are many characters throughout the show; however, the main two protagonists are Rakka and Reki. Rakka is part of the opening scenes to the show, which is a double scene as Rakka is inside the pod where the Haibane are born. The other side of the scene shows Reki and the other members of Old Home finding the pod and preparing the area for her eventual birth. All Haibane are born from a pod, and should have a distinct memory of the time that they spent in the pod, along with a sense that they used to live somewhere else and have family. The dream that they have in the pod becomes their name; however, whatever name they do have they later find has additional meanings.

The Haibane are not born with wings initially, or with halos either. The wings develop after the first day of their birth, this incredibly painful experience is made worse by the fact that a terrible fever develops at the same time, which miraculously disappears the night after the wings have developed. The Halo is made by the Haibane, using a special type of metal that’s developed from inside of the Walls of the town.

Rakka manages to build bonds very quickly with everyone, and particularly so with Reki and Kuu. Kuu is the youngest “adult” Haibane, and has always felt the need to prove to everyone that she’s an adult. She is the first Haibane in five years to take her Day of Flight. The Day of Flight is when a Haibane has reached a point in their life in the town when they are able to leave the town. To the Haibane in the town this is a sad event, as it’s likely that they will never see this person again.

Rakka has to overcome this sorrow, whilst trying to save Reki from herself and understand the world around her. Not to mention come to terms with loosing Kuu and then understand that things change all the time. She also discovers that not everything is as it seems in the area, and that although everyone looks angelic and happy people are harbouring deep secrets and sins. All of these realisations ultimately lead to a level of depression that has to shed aside so that she is able to aid a friend in need towards the end of the series.

This seemingly easy storyline becomes very complex when more of the details are unveiled and there’s a strong sense of history and character development from the main characters. There’s clearly much more to be told about the history between all of the characters, and the cast is vast. With a cast of this size, it’s easy to loose track of who is who, fortunately all of the characters are unique and it’s easy to distinguish them apart.

Fortunately the quality of the writing and the designs of the characters are also echoed in the animation quality, which is to a good standard, and the background and general design of the towns and scenes are stunning. With expansive and wide views, it’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has been put into making the town look as real as possible.

The accompanying soundtrack is really what sets Haibane Renmei apart from many others in its respective genres, as it’s emotive, vivid and pure. The music compliments all scenes of the series, and in fact the lack of music or sound effects at some points only heightens the interest in the show. Fortunately the quality of the Japanese and the English cast is matched, and works well with the original music for the show. It’s just a shame that it’s only in 2.0 surround sound and not 5.1.

There are plenty of extras in this box set, such as credit less opening titles, the original Japanese opening, art galleries, episodes previews, and trailers. All of these are worthwhile additions to the box set.

Final Score

10

This beautifully crafted, emotive, insightful and touching anime is a necessary staple. Although it’s not perfect, its simplicity intertwined with complex storylines makes it a worthwhile show at all times.