Incredible, but incredibly sad
theskeptic | Jersey | 05/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When you watch the first episode or two, you might think that you are in store for a light-hearted comedy like Azumanga Daioh... all the usual cute anime kids are there. But this is not a comedy. It gets deeper and darker, and you'll probably find yourself crying by the end. Although the AnimeNfo description makes it sound like some kind of a Matrix-style science fiction mystery, it really isn't. There's no Shyamalan-esque twist at the end with some dime-store revelation. It is much more of a spiritual and emotional journey that artfully plays on timeless themes of salvation, meaning, purpose, love, loss, and trust. In many ways it is a metaphor for our own experience: We come into this world from some unknown place, and try to figure out why we're here. Along the way, we have to say goodbye to people we love, knowing not where they are going, but certain that soon enough we ourselves will be following them, and having never really understood what anything was all about. And yet, we somehow find a meaning in all the confusion and sadness. I think that's what this series is about. And it's both saddening and uplifting, because that's what life is like."
An Anime Milestone
David L. Van Slyke | Eugene, OR United States | 03/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a minister, and enjoy seeing thought-provoking presentations of theological ideas in mainstream culture.
This anime is all about one girl's experiences learning what makes someone a complete and mature and helpful person.
She is reborn as a somewhat-angel-like creature with very little memory of her past life, in a community with others like her. We follow her experiences as she wonders what she is, where she is, and how she fits in.
Although she is a fairly good and kind person, she has a few small vices which get her in trouble. Notably, after a friend departs she is burdened until she learns how to cope. Then it is her turn to help someone else with their coping issues.
The presentation is slow-paced but impeccably done. I couldn't ask for anything to be improved.
Don't read any spoilers! Let the story guide you the first time you watch it. Afterwards, the Wikipedia page on this series is well written and might be of help in processing thoughts."
"I Wanted to Be With You Much Longer."
Suzanne | Oklahoma City, OK United States | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
What a divine series this is - in every aspect of the word. I finished watching Haibane Renmei I began enthusiastically recommending it to my friends. When one asked "So what makes it good?", funny thing was, I couldn't really answer it. There's almost no conflict or action in the series. There's no traditional good guys VS bad guys, no spellbinding magic, no science fiction - not a trace of computers, aliens or mecha. There are fantasy elements, but they're kept to such a small, human level that you can't really call this series a fantasy in the traditional sense. So what is Haibane Renmei?
It tells the story of a group of angel-like beings called Haibane. They're born from cocoons, grow wings, given halos, and have no memories of their past other than the dream each has in the cocoon. They all live in a protected city called Glie, where nobody is allowed to go beyond the walls. The Haibane are watched over and protected by a group called the Haibane Renmei. Haibane must each work to support themselves, and do their best to be a "good Haibane". It tells the story of one such Haibane - Rakka - coming into the world, and learning how to live in it. The supporting cast of Old Home (where they live) is equally essential. Towards the finale, much of the focus shifts from Rakka to Reki - one of the elder Haibane, who is a mother figure to those in Old Home. Then there's Kuu, Kana, Hikari, and Nemu whom all have very different, but likable personalities.
Haibane Renmei moves at life's pace. Slow and deliberately it moves through its stages - dealing with many humanistic themes along the way. Moving through seasons and emotions with dignity and grace. It would be very easy for fans of traditional anime to consider this series "boring", as it's certainly not exciting in any traditional sense. You really have to be in a certain mood to appreciate Haibane Renmei's charm.
Yoshitoshi ABe (Original Story, Character Designs) said when he began Haibane Renmei that he had no set idea where he was going with it all, creating the story in the moment. In this light, Haibane Renmei becomes like a stream of conscious meditation on life. He also said that while Haibane Renmei has a religious feel, it is not about any particular religion. It is really a type of spiritual and emotional journey. There are anime series that that are very much allegorical. Haibane Renmei works more like CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia in that it deals more in allusions than strict allegory. This means its more open to personal interpretations - and all the better because of it.
In a way, this series reminds me of the anime equivalent of Yasujiro Ozu's films. Ozu is a director who focused on regular people in everyday life confronting life's small, but meaningful moments. His films, like Haibane Renmei, rarely have any big emotion or big drama. It's all about calm reflection as we move through life. The viewer is never forced into the story or the characters. Rather, we're given time to relate these characters to our own life. Their moments of sorrow and pain, as well as joy and triumph has been our own. Their search for meaning has been our own. It's through this very human level that we're able to connect with the Haibane and share in their emotions. This makes moments like Rakka's monologue inside Kuu's room profoundly moving.
The animation is superb. It's easy to miss in such a quiet setting, but almost every frame reveals subtleties of the Haibane's world. They use a wealth of Earth hues - wonderful greens and browns - that provide a very warm and inviting tone. The animation itself is beautifully fluid as well. But it's probably the town itself that's best rendered. The world of Glie is so well conceived and drawn, giving a real sense of a heartwarming environment. The skies, for example, are almost always drawn like beautiful paintings - often reflecting the seasons. Beyond the animation, the direction and cinematography is superb as well. The ease at which the viewer can get lost in this beautiful world is astounding. ABe mentioned that previous to working on anime he was a Japanese style artist, and his works show it. I think more than anyone currently working in anime, ABe understands what a visually powerful medium anime can be. The music is equally as accomplished; consisting of mostly simple, elegant orchestral pieces. The infusion of music in the series is adeptly applied as well - entering at all the right times and evoking all the right moods.
If there are flaws in the series, they are almost too insignificant to mention. The voice acting is not the best (sub or dub), but the cringe worthy moments are kept to a minimum. The finale perhaps comes too suddenly, making it perhaps less dramatic than it should have been. I also felt some of the characters could've been better developed, and a bit more history and background given about them. I especially wish they would've slowly developed Reki's history, instead of saving it for the end. But all of these are minor grievances, and really not worth even subtracting a single star for.
I've seen Haibane Renmei three times, and each time I'm extremely saddened by the end. Not because the story is sad, but because theirs is a world I'd never want to leave. This series has a great, meditative "zen" like quality, and for those in the right frame of mind, you will become thoroughly engrossed in both the lives of its characters and the world in which they exist. You'll smile at their joys and triumphs, and you'll cry at their losses and sorrows. In the end you will be left with a wonderful feeling akin to a spiritual cleansing. The result is nothing short of divine.
This box set is nice, if unspectacular. The box has a sturdy feel, and the drawings of the characters are very nice. The DVDs themselves come in 4 regular cases, with a collector's book in case one, detailing much of the Haibane's world including characters. There's 3 episodes per disc except for disc 1 that has 4. This low episode per disc allows for a high quality transfer, which is a good thing for my money. The presentation is in 16:9, anamorphic widescreen, but stereo only. The extras are nice but scarce. Including original drawings and an interview with the creator and producer on the last episode. Overall a nice set, but perhaps a bit pricey.
UPDATE ON AVAILABILITY:
In the past few years since I wrote this review, Haibane Renmei has gone Out of Print in the US because of the folding of its distributor. However, there is hope: This set is available at Amazon.UK. But, be warned, these discs are Region 2. For those with region-free DVD players (or for those who have made their player region free) this won't be a problem. For those who don't have a region-free DVD player it's often possible to play region-locked DVDs on your PC. You should certainly check before buying, but this is a series that deserves to be seen without paying the high prices asked by sellers."
Original and Emotional
Mark Drobenak | Charleston, WV USA | 07/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This anime is a very original one in all aspects. It introduces you to a strange old-fashioned society where there are two kinds of people. The two are Humans and Haibane. The Haibane are people with wings and halos that they are supposed to wear to help them stand out.
The characters are very similar looking because of the style in which this anime is drawn but they all have their own flare that sets them apart from the others. The environment and setting are warm and charming. But above all else this movie is sad. Although you watch it and know that you should be sad for certain people you still are. It shows real life emotions very accuratly, in that they are confusing and sometimes come all at once.
In the end it is a very enjoyable anime, It is worth watching more than once, and is good enough that you can get people that "don't like anime" to watch and enjoy.
Another MUST HAVE anime."