Friday, December 11 2009

Haibane Renmei - First Impressions

My first real blog post! I'm a real blogging noob, and even anime is something I have not really gone into in any significant detail before, so please bear in mind that this is all very new to me.

I will not go into the content of the show in too great detail, as that has undoubtedly been done many times before in a much more comprehensive way than I could achieve. I will simply give my opinion on what I think of the show, what I find good and bad, and what it makes me think about.

My first impression of the show was complete and utter confusion. We are introduced to Rakka (in fact that name is only given to her about halfway through the first episode), a girl who inexplicably wakes up in a totally unfamiliar place, inhabited by total strangers. She actually doesn't as much wake up as hatch from a giant egg that had nested itself in one of the rooms of this strange place.

Incredibly enough, things get even weirder from there, when she meets the people that inhabit this place. They are manlike in appearance, except for the fact that they have a pair of feathery wings protruding from their shoulders and a glowing halo floating over their craniums. They seem to represent all age groups from small children up to around the mid-twenties range, and apparently are exclusively females. Naturally, all of them speak fluid Japanese, even though some of them appear to be from a slightly more European origin.

Rakka rather quickly sprouts a pair of wings herself (which the subtitles claim to be charcoal grey, though they definitely seem plain white to me), and is given a halo of her own. However, she can't manage to balance it on her head, so she has to use some sort of holding device (read: a headband with some iron wire attached) in order to keep it in place, much to the amusement of the younger residents.

When she finally starts to recover from this entire ordeal, we finally get some amount of information about what this place is. The manor itself (which seems somewhat Mediterranean in fashion, though I could be mistaken) is known as “Old Home”, and the people who inhabit it are called the “Haibane”. All of them were born in a similar fashion to Rakka, and none seem to know where they came from or what their life was like before they woke up there. For some reason though all of them are sure they had a life and family somewhere else before they came to Old Home, which seems kind of weird to me as there is no evidence whatsoever pointing in that direction, but let's just put it down to the sub-conscience for the time being.

The Haibane are not confined to Old Home, nor is their existence unknown to other people. There is a village not too far from where they live, who all know that they inhabit the house. The village itself is secluded, however, and its inhabitants (including the Haibane) are not permitted to venture outside the walls. This leads to some interesting customs, as they do need to trade with the outside world. This is done through the Toga, the only people who are allowed to communicate with these traders from the outside world.

That's pretty much a basic outline of the setting in the first two episodes.

So what do I think of it so far? I mentioned before that the first episode (and the second one as well, though to a lesser extent) confused me enormously, and frankly this is the prevalent feeling I get so far. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing – far from it in fact. I would even go as far as to say that this is the series' greatest strength so far. It perfectly reflects the state of mind of Rakka, who can also feel nothing but confusion about this sudden and dramatic change of environment. The viewer is as surprised by everything he sees as she is, and I think this is a rare quality seldom seen in even the best series or films.

I must admit though that I also find it slightly annoying to have absolutely no sense of where the story is going, though I think this is largely due to watching a lot of series and films where the protagonist's ultimate goal is defined in the first ten minutes, followed by never ending action (something I have become increasingly intolerant for over the last year or so). In a sense, being used to this kind of material has ruined my viewing experience of many things, but that is something I will possibly go into in more detail later.

To get back to my ideas about Haibane Renmei, I am very interested in finding out more about what the relations between the Haibane and the village are like. So far it seems like the Haibane are somewhat of a repressed minority, bordering on slaves to be honest. For one, they are not allowed to posses money and can only use what the townspeople no longer need, but they do need to get a job in the village (unpaid, I assume). This is currently said to be in repayment of the village allowing them to stay in Old Home, but I have a hunch that there is more to it than that. Also the role of the so-called Haibane Renmei, whom are apparently some sort of liaisons between the Haibane and the village, is as of yet unclear and therefore very intriguing.

On a different note, I already have begun to like all the characters presented so far. They seem to be very diverse, all with their own personality and background. I am also rather fond of the art style, the characters are rendered and animated beautifully, and the at times somewhat more rough, almost impressionistic backgrounds go with the atmosphere very well.s

My greatest fear thus far is that I have so many and such high expectations that the series will be one giant anticlimax. I have watched so many Hollywood-styled films and series that I have come to expect everything to not be as it seems, whereas it is of course perfectly possible that such schemes and plot twists are not the driving force behind a series. I'm trying my best not to expect anything, but this is proving to be harder than I thought. I simply naturally assume that something is terribly wrong with that village and the Haibane Renmei, just as I naturally assume we will learn more about where the Haibane come from.

I guess only time will tell.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 15:23 | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 Well, how did it go?

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 02:10 on February 05, 2010 (/ppBw)

2 It was absolutely wonderful, I expect to have a post on the rest of the series soon.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 02:37 on February 05, 2010 (5EMw1)

3 Also: yay my first comment ^^

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 02:38 on February 05, 2010 (5EMw1)

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