Haibane Renmei: Bitter-sweet & Uplifting

Haibane Renmei is an anme based off of a doujinshi manga by Abe Yoshitoshi, the same bloke who wrote the Serial Experiments Lain manga. The anime version was handled by Radix, the same studio behind Divergence Eve. Which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence but we’ll give it a shot. After all, most anime studios work on series of varying quality. Let’s just hope it doesn’t feature a bunch of awkward CG scenes or any of the other elements that were bad in Divergence Eve.

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Story:

We open with a girl falling. Shortly after, we cut to a winged woman finding a cocoon. She and her winged friends gather around the cocoon to prepare for the new life that’s going to emerge from it. We quickly see the girl from the beginning inside the cocoon. After her emergence, she’s told that she’s a haibane and given the name “Rakka” based on her cocoon dream. The series continues to explore haibane culture and the town they’re a part of as Rakka gets to know her compatriots and finds her place.

The biggest criticism that I can levy against the series is that it’s slow at times. There are a lot of scenes that don’t really do anything for the narrative itself. They’re more about being cutesy and reiterating aspects of the various characters. That being said, I can’t deny that a lot of those scenes are quite good and they do help with the atmosphere.

There’s a lot of good in the series. I like that every question that gets brought up during the course of the series gets addressed. I also a appreciate that the series doesn’t always give definitive answers when it addresses those questions. Rather, they let you figure out a lot of it for yourself while giving you enough information to do so. The series has a very strong calming atmosphere with strong bitter-sweet and uplifting moments throughout. The ending in particular is a perfect mix of those two aspects. One other thing the series excels at is investment. Throughout the series there are questions that get brought up and various sources of tension that stem from them and it really serves to bring you into the world. Not only does it get you interested in what’s happening but it legitimately makes you care about it. Which isn’t a simple feat.

Characters:

Psychological series really depend on strong characters, quite possibly more than any other genre. Fortunately, that’s an area where Haibane Renmei excels. The characters and their interactions are a major focus of the series. Which not only serves to develop and flesh out the characters, but it also gives you a sense of connection to them. You really feel a sense of empathy for the haibane, Rakka & Reki in particular. Even the secondary characters have enough development that they feel like actual people.

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Art:

Thankfully, the art in this is really nicely done. Unlike that other series from Radix. The character designs look nice. The backgrounds are nicely detailed. They draw crows really well, which is worth mentioning because crows are a bit of a motif for the series. The scene where Rakka’s wings come in is superbly animated as is the climax. Overall, the aesthetic is just really well done. When the series is going for a soothing feel, it does it well. When it’s trying to be disconcerting the visuals can get really interesting. The only thing I can really criticise is that hats are used on multiple occasions to hide characters’ halos and it doesn’t make visual sense. You can’t really see any bulge from them like you should be able to.

Sound:

The two performances that really stand out are Hirohashi Ryou (who also voiced Tails in Sonic) & Noda Junko (who also voiced Zakuro in Tokyo Mew Mew.) There are no bad performances, though. Yajima Akiko, Miyajima Eri, Orikasa Fumiko & Murai Kazusa are all good in this too. The music within the series was handled by Otani Kow, who also did the music for Another, Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino & Gundam Wing. He did a superb job with this one. The music really suits and contributes to the atmosphere.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any. While the main girls do have strong bonds, there’s never really a point that elevates those bonds above friendship.

Final Thoughts:

Haibane Renmei is a pretty superb series. While it can be slow at points, it has a strong atmosphere, excellent characters, a compelling narrative with a lot of praise-worthy elements, really good art & a strong cast. Compared to my other experience with either the writer or studio, this series is superior. I thoroughly enjoyed it and my final rating is going to be an enthusiastic 9/10. Next week we’ll begin horror anime month with a look at the horror mystery Kagewani. And remember to stay fabulous.

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