(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.