Monday, May 13, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Haibane-Renmei

Last week I dug up an anime gem called Serial Experiments Lain. Yoshitoshi ABe, who did the character designs for that series, went on to create the anime I'm telling you about today: Haibane-Renmei. It is a tale of love, loss, mystery and redemption.

The story takes place in a mysterious town that is surrounded by a huge wall. Within the town is Old Home, a residence for people with wings and halos. One day, a cocoon is discovered in an unused room of Old Home, and a young girl emerges from it. She awakes in a bedroom to discover she has no memories of her life before popping out of the cocoon. The residents of Old Home, mostly other young women, explain to her that this is commonplace and she, like them, is a mysterious angelic creature called a Haibane. One of the Haibane, the chain-smoking Reki, names her Raka. Soon, wings burst from Raka's back and she is given a halo (which, in a particularly humorous scene, has to be taped to her head because it has trouble attaching itself to her). From there, she becomes a member of the mysterious Haibane-Renmei [Charcoal Feather Federation]. As you can imagine, she has many questions. Just what are the Haibane and what is their purpose? Why do none of the Haibane have any memories of their pre-cocoon life? What lies beyond the walls? Where is this strange town actually located? What's the deal with the masked Haibane-Renmei overseers? And what happens during the Day of Flight? As Raka becomes closer to the various Haibane, she discovers the answers she seeks are few and do not always bring happiness.

There is so much to like about Haibane-Renmei. The story is heartfelt and thought-provoking (though as with Serial Experiments Lain it doesn't explain everything). The characters are compelling. The soundtrack, composed by Kou Ootani, is a beautiful orchestral score which evokes feelings akin to standing in the breeze of a warm summer day. Those looking for plenty of action should keep looking, however; for all the fantasy trappings, this series remains for the most part a drama. Nonetheless, if you have an open mind and are looking for something different--and high-quality--you'd be hard-pressed to find a better anime than this. It's really the cream of the crop.

                                                                 Available on Amazon

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