Haibane Renmei. Wow.

(This post is spoiler free.)

I’ve heard so many good things about Haibane Renmei that I’ve been angling to watch it for a while now. I didn’t know much about it though, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But it was indeed as great as I’ve heard.

Haibane Renmei is a tough show to classify. The show has a very slow-paced, slice-of-life feel to it. But its dramatic moments are extremely powerful. The best comparison that comes to mind is Aria (in a similar, but totally different sort of way). They both touch upon similar feelings, but come at it from completely different angles. Whereas Aria’s bright and ever optimistic nature helped me to appreciate the joy in all the little things in life, the subdued, grungy world of Haibane Renmei showed the preciousness of each moment through the fleetingness of existence. It’s both saddening and uplifting at the same time. Somewhat similar to the experience of throwing a goodbye party for a good friend. You enjoy the good times of that moment, but with a tinge of sadness knowing that you won’t see them again. All the while, you realize life will continue to move on.

I was less compelled by the imagery and symbolism as I was by the relationships and the very personal struggles of both Rakka and Reki. Not that the symbolism wasn’t interesting, but I was just stunned by how very real the relationships felt – the highs and the lows. I couldn’t help but be bemused at the somber thought of how people have such a penchant for self-destruction. From those that know they need to ask for help and refuse to ask for it, to those that reject the very helping hand they’ve been praying and wishing so much for. The emotions in this show are raw and honest. When the show picks up, your heart will pound in response to the developments and out of concern for the characters. And although there weren’t any traditional cliffhangers per se, there were several episodes where I said #%$%!!! and watched the next episode, because I had to know what happened.

I wish they would have explained a little more about the Togas, their background and function, and the role of the Haibane Renmei. I would’ve also loved to have learned a little bit more about how the Haibane and the town of Glie came about. But that mystery is part of the charm, and adds to the unsettling atmosphere. It’s hard to predict where the story will go, because so much about the world and its characters is unknown.

I wonder how much I’d want to rewatch Haibane Renmei in the future, because while it’s somewhat uplifting, it is still a sad show (although if you’re watching for the symbolism, you could probably watch it endlessly). But if you haven’t watched it yet, I wholeheartedly recommend it. It takes a little bit of patience, but it’s shows like this that make me believe in the power of anime as a unique and powerful storytelling medium.

10 Replies to “Haibane Renmei. Wow.”

  1. I really hope there’s a sequel some day since I love this show and there’s so much potential left (and it would be nice to find out more about the world of haibane renmei).

    It didn’t lose any of it’s punch the second time I watched it and I enjoyed it just as much. If you want an excuse to watch it again in the future, find someone to introduce it too and watch it with them.

    1. That’s a good point. Haibane Renmei would be one of the top shows on my list for introducing anime to a non-fan (or introducing a good show for any kind of fan for that matter).

  2. Haibane Renmei is one of those series I keep putting off for irrational reasons — pretty much why I avoided something like, say, Citizen Kane for so long. Right now I kind of think I owe it to the series to be in the perfect mood to see it, like, “I want to watch Haibane Renmei right now, and nothing else!”

    1. I feel the same way about a bunch of other series I have queued up to watch, but I figured the lackluster fall season was a perfect time to dive right in. :p

  3. Haibane Renmei is also one of my top recommendations to people-who-aren’t-into-anime, but not as an introduction to the medium, just as a stand alone work. It’s an anime that transcends “being anime”, like the best ones usually are. It has a wealth of meaning to offer to any individual, regardless of age, sex, race, or disposition.

    On a tangent topic, philosophically I think its quite a bit deceitful, though well meaning, to introduce someone to anime with a Cowboy Bebop or Haibane Renmei, titles that are terribly atypical of the medium and at its apex of quality, its not like all anime are like CB and HR, but I guess that’s a discussion for another time.

    So yeah, Haibane Renmei should be recommended to anime fans and nonfans alike.

    1. Well, you could argue that there’s going to be a little bit of deceit in properly introducing someone to almost anything. Whether it’s picking and choosing movies from the top IMDB100 or giving someone a top 10 Beethoven album.

      Not all anime are like CB or HR, but I think it’s more important to know how good it can get, rather than how uninspired it might usually be. That way, you’ll think that there’s very cool opportunities and experiences that you may be missing out on.

  4. There’s an ideal HR-rewatch period between Xmas and New Year – try it, it’s weirdly right. Not just to match up with the series timeline at the end, but because of the whole birth-of-magical-child theme, the oddly churchy tone of the story, the proliferation of winged folks & small children (“Keiki, keiki!”), the medieval-village setting, even the music. It fits.

    1. Hmm, I can definitely see the reasoning behind that. Actually when I watched it just recently, the weather was pretty cold and drab here. Somewhat similar to the winter months of Glie I’d imagine. I’ll keep that in mind once Xmas rolls around and I’m sitting around looking for something to do.

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