Haibane Renmei - Reviews

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vivafruit's avatar
Apr 13, 2007

Story

One of my pet peeves is when people imply that a work is good solely because it's allegorical. Pompous assholes will come up with something like, "If you didnt like Haibane Renmei, it must be because you didnt catch all the symbolism!" and then end their argument right there, as if people can be entertained with empty metaphors alone. This is obviously absurd.

Ok, you say. If you’re so smart and symbolism isn’t what makes Haibane Renmei so freaking awesome, what is?

…good question. I’ll get to that later.

The story won’t be grabbing anyone at first; the beginning consists primarily of mundane world building. At this stage, the show is rather easy to dismiss. Nothing important seems to be happening, and one wonders if the entire show will continue in the same mild, slice-of-life vein.

Only after the series has taken its time to set up shop does it begin to shine. Observant viewers will begin to notice how the seemingly disparate symbols in the show – Reki’s cigarette, the crows, grey wings, etc. – all tie together into a single coherent message. Two of the characters begin to deepen past the meaningless smiles and docile attitudes, and the story begins to shift from the expository themes of rebirth and friendship to the show’s true focus: redemption. All of this culminates into the final episode, which is one of the most masterful pieces of drama that I have ever seen.


Animation

Haibane Renmei certainly can’t be considered a classic from its animation. While the character designs and backgrounds are clean-cut and generally eye-pleasing, motion is often choppy and there’s nothing in the series that anyone could remotely consider “eye-candy.”


Sound

For that matter, while the music fits well with the series and the voice acting is fine, there’s certainly nothing awe-inspiringly awesome in the audio.


Characters

Just like the story, the characters are forgettable for the first few episodes. All of them have a sort of bland and pleasant small-mindedness that makes them difficult to actually care for. At this stage, few people will actually dislike any of the characters, but fewer still will love them.

However, the eventual development of the two protagonists - Rakka and Reki - is almost unparalleled. In most series of this nature, the characters often take a backseat to the high-falluting storyline (see: Texhnolyze, Boogiepop Phantom). However, even as the series begins to allegorically add themes like lost innocence and personal forgiveness, the characters remain loveable on their own terms. For this reason, Haibane Renmei has some of the best characters ever conceived in an anime.


Overall

In the end, what makes Haibane Renmei so great isn’t the symbolism, but how the anime combines this symbolism with its excellent character development to create a powerful human fable. Haibane Renmei delves deeply into the true nature of forgiveness and personal salvation, and returns with some of the most thought provoking material to ever be put in an anime. That said, many people may dislike the show.

I have already talked about the first “flaw” of the show – the deliberate pace of the exposition. This is NOT a series that should be watched with a short attention span. Furthermore, if you commit yourself to watching any Haibane Renmei at all, you should commit to seeing its entirety; because of the revelations of the final episode, it’s entirely possible that your opinion may change near the very end.

The second major complaint that I’ve read is that the show concludes with too many loose ends. However, these so-called plot holes are not accidents, but purposeful omissions. In my opinion, the details that are not explained are either irrelevant to the show’s purpose or would be cheapened by a simple explanation. Like all truly great works of art, Haibane Renmei requires the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions on the show’s actual meaning.

Overall, Haibane Renmei is a wonderful anime. Come for the thought-provoking existentialist themes, stay for the beautiful story.

10/10 story
6/10 animation
6.5/10 sound
10/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Jun 30, 2012

Haibane Renmei was for a long time a very special show for being the only one that could be called slice of unlife. It plays out like a typical “nothing ever happens” type of story, when in actuality it takes place in the afterlife and shows a possible way for the soul to atone and move on. This is no longer the case since there are now more anime dealing with the same concept, such as Angel Beats and Death Parade. It is still the most down on earth of this bunch, but it’s also ignored by most for the same reason. Like most classics of the early 2000s it is very slow paced, it doesn’t have harem or waifu baiting, or plays out like a goddamn videogame.

With that said, it does a fine job at fleshing out the main characters without openly explaining what is going on about them. It’s all very indirect and why they can come off as generic at face value. I wouldn’t dare to say they use symbolism for showing us who they were before, but since amnesia is a big part of the mystery surrounding them you have to connect the dots. Does this mean the show is one big mysterybait which I always make fun of? Yes, but it’s done in a very indirect way so I give it a pass. They are not rubbing it in your face like they do in modern shows. You can ignore it altogether and you will still have an iyashikei type of show, something you watch to relax. You don’t want that? Okay, you still have the mysterybait and the world building and the character backdrops. What’s the deal with the cocoons and the feathers and the weirdly dressed priests? You can choose what you want and nothing will feel like you are being baited into watching further. That’s the beauty of the slow paced early 2000 anime. Both relaxing and mysterious at the same time.

Of course if you want something thrilling and full of excitement, you are not going to like the show. It will seem like a bunch of typical girls doing chores because they have nothing better to do. It’s like a journey of self acknowledgement where they are not actually going anywhere because they can’t leave the city. It’s like a detective story where there is no rush to find the answers. It’s like a drama where nobody is given much to be sad about. Yes, it can be boring and dull at times, but when you finish it and look back you realize a lot of mini things have happened. And no, it doesn’t even need 500 episodes of build up before it gets good. A dozen are more than enough, meaning it doesn’t overstay its welcome and it doesn’t give you blue balls for over a decade.

So it’s basically a slice of life about spirituality and people becoming better by having positive interactions with those around them, until they are ready to move to the next thing, whatever that is. So it’s not even slice of nothing happens, because there is legit progress with a solid ending. It’s not about doing pseudo-lesbian shit for 50 episodes, then they drink tea, eat cookies, and they are instantly able to play the guitar before they go back to doing more pseudo-lesbian shit for another 50 episodes.

Anyways, I recommend this show, not as something entertaining or exciting, but rather as relaxing and artsy. It’s not following the clichés of typical mainstream anime and it has substance without tiring the mind.

9/10 story
7/10 animation
8/10 sound
9/10 characters
8/10 overall
SpanglishJC's avatar
Dec 25, 2016

Now where do I start with this one? I can start by saying that I had a wonderful time watching Haibane Renmei, it had an intriguing story, very strong characters and a world shrouded in mystery. Everything comes together to create a show that I have to consider a masterpiece.

Any ways, let's have enough of my waffling and move on with my waffling review.

Story and characters

Our anime follows the lives of a group of Haibane, angelic-like beings with charcoal grey feathers and amnesia. They live in a moderately sized complex named ‘Old Home’, a fairly run down complex on the outskirts of a town. We see things through the protagonist, Rakka’s, perspective as she tries to adjust to her new life as a Haibane. I won't delve into the story much further as I believe one should experience it for themselves. The show has plenty of symbolism but I'll leave that to you to discover.

The show moves at a slow pace, a speed at which I consider perfect for what the anime wants to achieve. With its pacing we are given the right amount of build-up before the heavy plot elements begin to unfold. Had the show of breezed past those episodes, where Rakka spent time becoming accustomed to her new surroundings, we wouldn’t have made that crucial connection with her or the rest of the cast and the heavier moments would have had less impact. These first episodes are akin to the slice of life genre and very good slice of life episodes at that.

Moving onto the characters, the two stars of the show are Rakka and Reki. These two characters see most development in the show and the relationship between the two is one of the best parts of the anime. The friendship between Rakka and Reki is one of the strongest suits of the anime. I really felt for the two of them as events occurred and found their relationship to be believable. They both develop as people throughout the show on their own and together. They are two characters that I'll never forget.

The supporting cast is very good in their own right, despite not having much in the way of a personal arc. They do serve their purpose in the show’s story very well. They comprise of interesting characters with their own personalities and aspirations.

Technical stuff

On the animation side of things the anime is very solid, everything moves with a lot of fluidity between frames. There is the occasional hiccup, nothing major although there is one amusing scene where there is a character dismounting from a scooter, with a bird’s eye view. A second character miraculously appears on the scooter behind them as the first is dismounting.

The art style is truly fantastic, I was enamoured by the background art and I was a big fan of the character designs. They were not too elaborate and fit into the world perfectly.

The OST is fantastic. There is plenty of slow, relaxing tracks during the calmer moments with higher tempo stuff mixed in as things ramp up. The opening theme is a standout track for me, I didn't skip it once and is one of the best openings I have seen and heard. The ending theme is also very good, quite melancholic which fits some of the themes explored in the show.

Conclusion

There was nothing here that I could pick out as a negative and if I were to try I would have to dive deep into the realm of nit picking. Every aspect of the show, the music, the story, the characters, the art it all comes together and makes something very special. If you are looking for a thought provoking anime, one which doesn't tell you everything and leaves you with questions to interpret for yourself at the end then this is for you.

A SpanglishJC ‘Review’

Secret Santa 2016 review

10/10 story
8/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
Omurqi's avatar
Oct 2, 2009

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.

10/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
9/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
Reki507's avatar
Jun 12, 2015

While I will try to remain unbiased as possible, there will still be a large element of bias present in this review since this anime is one of my top favorites.

Story:

The story is very slow-paced, so if you are looking for something that's constantly full of action or drama, this may not be the show for you. It's easy to drop this show after the first few episodes because the beginning largely serves to set up the rest of the story, but is not as memorable as the rest at first glance. I would highly suggest that anyone considering dropping the series watches it to the end however as the story does pick up eventually and is one of the best I've seen. While somewhat preachy narration can take detract from the show a bit at times, the series uses symbolism to artfully analyze topics that are taboo to or very poorly represented in many other shows. Some metaphors are immediately obvious, others you might not catch until you've seen the series a few times over. It doesn't explain more than it needs to, but rather gives the viewer the liberty to fill in the gaps with their own experiences and interpretations. The setting also has some loose inspiration from the novel Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World which is an interesting read, but largely separate from the plotline of this series.

Animation:

I'm honestly torn on whether to give the animation a high score or a low one. Backgrounds have almost the appearance of watercolors, but don't have the level of detail that many shows include and the animation itself would greatly benefit from more frames/a higher frame rate since movements can be rough or jerky at times. However, I still found both the art and animation very pleasant to look at and think the muted colors are very fitting for this series.

Sound:

The soundtrack to this series is very pleasant and calming. The music always fits the tone of the moment and sets the scene instead of standing out unnaturally. The entire soundtrack can be found on YouTube and is great to listen to while writing or working on art since it is very melodic and peaceful and isn't too distracting.

Characters:

Although the cast is largely female, I highly applaud the show for not sexualizing any characters or character designs in any way. The only two characters who undergo significant development are the two mains (Rakka and Reki), but most others still have a place in the story and dialogue is largely realistic. Minor humor is included in interactions between charactes where it would logical in the real world, and when characters say something intended to be funny or cheerful at a clearly innapropriate time, the impact of or pain caused by their words is clear. There are plenty of mudane conversations, but the lines are blurred between when these words are sincere and when they are just a mask used to pretend that everything is alright.

Overall:

This show is more than simply the sum of its parts. This series is not something that you would necessarily watch for fun, but it very realistically represents the build-up of pain and suffering for those who are afraid that they have no one. Many anime show you tragedies and expect you to make the emotions yourself, this series shows the emotions and lets you apply them to what is significant to you.

9/10 story
7/10 animation
9/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
9.5/10 overall