And here I thought I had a solid top 10 that wouldn’t get titles added one after another anymore. I couldn’t have been more wrong, with the last two series I’ve watched now both in that area; first being Kino’s Journey at #8, and now Haibane Renmei at #3!
Needless to say, I was amazed by Haibane Renmei. It was quite possibly the only anime I’ve seen so far that excelled in both the journey and the (build- up towards the) conclusion to this level: leave one of the two out and it would still receive a spot on my top 10.
Enough praising while you still have no f*cking clue what the anime is about. Haibane Renmei follows the lives of a group of Haibane, winged beings similar to humans, living in an old mansion close to a town inhabited with people, in a large area isolated by huge walls. The anime starts with the main character, Rakka, “entering” this mansion and meeting with its residents.
During the episodes, you’ll find yourself raising a great deal of questions about almost everything surrounding the Haibane. Almost none of these questions will be explained to you directly, but the anime is filled with clues, usually in the form of symbolism, to provide you with indirect answers. It definitely is a thought-provoking anime, and if you’re into those kinds of shows, you’ll love piecing the clues together, in order to find out new things each time. While it does this, even if you aren’t paying full attention all the time, you’ll still have a pretty good idea what’s going on and you’ll most likely figure out the big lines behind the story of the Haibane without too much effort, unlike some other shows that do this, like Serial Experiments Lain.
It really pains me not to go further into the story, but any more than this will spoil the experience. Basically, Haibane Renmei starts off by giving you a friendly, and while not perfect enough to be called a Utopia, a peaceful feeling. The anime won’t actually corrupt these feelings, but not everything is as perfect as it appears to be at first sight.
On to the animation department. It was incredibly well animated. I’m not specifically talking about the quality of the static art here (although it was very well done, albeit a bit aged), but more about the quality of how the animation “flows”. The scooter scene in the OP is an excellent example of what I’m talking about.
The music was, or is actually (listening to the OST as I’m writing this) very soothing and is the perfect fit for this series. The opening theme, in combination with its visuals, instantly became one of my favorite OPs, not even once while watching this did I skip it. The ending theme is also very fitting. While it’s just as soothing, it’s also very melancholic and feels especially in place in the later episodes.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, in which case I suggest you actually read the above, I just became a huge Haibane Renmei fan. Don’t let this beacon of praise fool you though; I can definitely see why some people wouldn’t like Haibane Renmei.
First of all, it’s slow-paced. While I had no moments of boredom while watching this, someone less interested in the slice-of-life genre probably will have a couple of dull ones during the first half of the series. Another big one: the show gives no complete closure. The finale really is incredible in more ways than one, but not all of your questions will be answered, leaving plenty to the imagination, which is either a very positive thing, or a big turnoff, depending on what you’re looking for in anime.