Thursday, February 18 2010

Haibane Renmei - Review

Haibane Renmei

A girl named Rakka suddenly wakes up in a place totally unknown to her. She doesn't remember much of her life prior to the moment she hatched from a large cocoon-like thing. Overnight, Rakka sprouts a pair of wings from her back, a most painful process, during which a woman named Reki tends to her. While Rakka recovers, Reki explains a bit about the place she is in. She is in a large manor named Old Home, which is close to a village called Glie. Reki explains that Rakka is one of the Haibane, who appear in this world from time to time and are permitted to live there by the villagers in exchange for them taking on a job that needs fulfilling in the village. As time progresses we learn more about the Haibane, as well as the world they live in. I won't say more about the plot to avoid serious spoilers, but suffice to say there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Rakka is at the centre of the story told in Haibane Renmei. We follow her from the moment she is born into this strange world, as she tries to figure out why she is there and what happened to her family.
Reki:The unofficial leader of Old Home, Reki is the one who found Rakka's cocoon and cared for her as she grew her wings. She is strong and reliable, both qualities which earned her great respect from her fellow Haibane.

Nemu:One of the eldest Haibane at Old Home. She is always calm and kind-hearted. She works at the library.
Kuu:The last Haibane to join the family at Old Home before Rakka. She is almost always cheerful and full of energy, and becomes close friends with Rakka soon after she arrives. She works in a cafe.
Hikari:The eldest Haibane at Old Home next to Nemu and Reki, she is always kind and helpful. She works in a bakery.
Kana:Probably the least cheerful of the Haibane, on the outside at least. She is good with tools and works with the town's clockmaker in the clock tower.
HyoukoHyouko:One of the Haibane who live away from Old Home, instead choosing to live in an abandoned factory.
Washii, The CommunicatorWashii:Also known as The Communicator, he is the head of the Haibane Renmei, a group of people who loosely govern the Haibane. He is the only one permitted to speak with the people outside the village walls.

I've not seen that much anime yet, but it's safe to say this is the best I've seen so far. Not only is the plot amazingly well constructed, it also has some of the best character development I've ever seen in any work of fiction.

Furthermore, it has a brilliant tension arc. It starts off very slow, which emphasises Rakka's confusion about the place she suddenly finds herself in. The first half dozen episodes or so focus purely on the other Haibane and what they do, as Rakka attempts to find a suitable job in the village. Then, slowly, the pace of the story begins to pick up as we learn more and more about the world she is in, until it finally culminates in one of the most intense finales I have ever seen.

Aside from the story and characters, I also love the visual style of this series. The artwork and the animation is not of supreme quality, but it has a very unique, somewhat surreal feel to it that fits perfectly with the story.

The voice acting on the other hand is of exquisite quality. I could not imagine the casting being better. I incidentally noticed that the seiyū who did the voice of Reki also did that of Konno Mitsune in Love Hina, which is something I would never have guessed judging from the voices of the two characters themselves.

My only complaint would be that it only consists of 13 episodes. Then again, I guess a writer takes as many episodes as needed, no more, no less.

Overall I would say it is a true masterpiece.

High, although I must admit I have not taken the time to watch it again myself.

Full StarFull StarFull StarFull Star

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 18:30 | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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1 I think you'll be glad to spend the time to watch it again. The second time you'll spot all kinds of cases of plot parallels and subtle foreshadowing that you completely missed the first time.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at 02:23 on February 19, 2010 (+rSRq)

2 Actually, 12-13 episodes is typical for a single season (1/4 year) series. 24-26 episodes gets you a half year series, 50-52 episodes gets you a year long series. Sometimes, the producers pick the wrong length series for a story and the writers then have to pad (or more rarely) hurry the story.

Posted by: at 06:52 on February 19, 2010 (TDlSn)

3 I realise 13 episodes is quite normal (though 26 seems to be the prevailing length), but I just wish it wouldn't have been over so soon.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 13:29 on February 19, 2010 (5EMw1)

4 Usually that sort of feeling is a good thing though.  It's much better to be left wanting more than to get bogged down in filler (in my experience, 26 episode series tend to get repetitive, drag  or get repetitive at some point - the one exception being series which are split up into two 13  episode narratives, such as Crest/Banner of the Stars)  Then again, I'm far from an expert in anime, so don't mind me:p

Posted by: Mark at 14:25 on February 19, 2010 (aUPJJ)

5 Of course such a feeling is better than having 26 episodes or more and thinking it was too much; it was meant more as a testimony to how good it was than a serious point of criticism.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 15:26 on February 19, 2010 (5EMw1)

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