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Haibane Renmei Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

June 25, 2008 by  



“A series that one can mistake as only lighthearted and innocent humor, by episode 6, the viewer is taken into one heck of an emotional rollercoaster ride and the results are possibly one of the most unique, impressive anime series to come out in a long time!”

DVD INFORMATION:

DVD TITLE: Haibane Renmei Box Set

DURATION: 325 minutes (13 episodes)

DVD INFORMATION: Animated, Box set, Color, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC

CATALOG #: 013023262393

COMPANY: Geneon Entertainment (USA)

RATING: 13 and up

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

STAFF INFORMATION:

DIRECTOR: Tokoro Tomokazu and Negishi Hiroshi

SERIES COMPOSITION AND SCRIPT: ABe Yoshitoshi

ORIGINAL CREATOR: ABe Yoshitoshi

CHARACTER DESIGN: Takata Akira

ART DIRECTOR: Katahira Shinji

PRODUCER: Haruna Go, Goto Hideki and Ueda Yasuyuki

In a long-forgotten walled town, humans coexist with the Haibane, angelic-like beings of unknown origin. Rakka becomes the newest Haibane, after she awakens from a strange dream and finds herself hatching from a massive cocoon. With no memories of her previous life, Rakka struggles to adjust to her new surroundings, however burning questions remain in the back of her mind. What is Haibane and what is their purpose? What lies beyond the huge, forbidden town walls? Thus Rakka begins her wistful journey of self-discovery and wonderment.

I have heard from many anime fans that “Haibane Renmei” is one of their favorite series of all time. Also, with the series created by ABe Yoshitoshi known for his last work “Serial Experiments Lain” (which I loved), I decided that I had to check this anime out.

The series focuses on a girl named Rakka who was born from a large cocoon located in an old building titled “Old Home”. In the beginning, you see Rakka dreaming that she is falling through the sky.

Upon birth, she is greeted by a group five women/girls.

Reki: The caretaker of “Old Home”. Very caring towards everyone at the home especially towards Rakka. Smokes a cigarette.

Nemu: The eldest of “Old Home”. Very close to Reki and loves to sleep. She also is fond of books and works at the library.

Kana: The tomboy of the group. Loves to fix things.

Hikari: The cook of the home. Works at a bakery.

Kuu: The youngest of the home. Very playful and has a close friendship with Rakka.

The term “Haibane Renmei” is the title they are given which mean “grey wings” and each have halos and in the first episode, Rakka grows her wings and also gets used to sporting a halo.

In the town they live in, Haibane exists with humans and Toga (the Federation who watches over the “Haibane” and has special rules for them. They do not talk but only one person named Washi) and enclosed around a city is a huge wall which everyone is not allowed to touch or leave.

From episode 1-5, these episodes are very much all character development storylines and Rakka gets to know each person by observing their work or hanging around them.

I have to admit that I had questions in my mind of where the storyline was going. Everything was so lighthearted and fun and I started to wonder if this series was geared more towards children.

That was until I got to episode 6. By this time, Rakka starts to question a lot of things at the village. What lies over that wall? Why are Haibane trapped in the village? What is her role in society because she feels she has no special skills and more. Does she have a family? Why is she a Haibane?

So, by this episode I was starting to wonder if the “wings” and “halos” and something related to religion would come into play but the anime series really doesn’t go to that direction. If anything, it becomes about self-discovery and self-doubt.

As Rakka’s dreams start to become clearer as she starts to remember being close to a crow and then seeing the crows start to talk to her and everything in her life crashes into the darkness when something happens to one of the Haibane and to make matters worse, her gray wings start to develop dark black spots. What is happening to Rakka?

And from that moment on, the viewer is taken to one emotional rollercoaster and the series begins to focus on Reki and a setup for the final explosive episode.

VIDEO:

The series came out back in 2002 in Japan but for this 2005 DVD, the series is presented with an original aspect ratio of 1:78:1. If anything, I really enjoyed the setting of the series. Somewhat of an old city within Europe. Lush with color and the character designs by Takata Akira (key animation for “Cardcaptor Sakura movie 2″, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and worked in series such as “Blood+” and “Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu”) were pretty cool.

AUDIO:

I watched this series primarily in Japanese and there is not much action, mostly dialogue between the characters which was very clear. If anything, the strength is the music that plays within the background and actually caught my attention. Hearing the violins really help the setting of the village they live in. Pretty cool!

SPECIAL FEATURES:
This box set contains: Next episode trailers, art gallery, textless opening, textless ending, Japanese commercials, production art gallery, promotional videos, cover art gallery, a humorous “Got Wings” short, interview with producer Ueda Yasuyuki and series creator ABe Yoshitoshi and also original ending which is nothing different from the original story but features new music.

I have to say that by episode 5, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch anymore because it was lighthearted and just finished watching another lighthearted series “piano” from almost a marathon setting, I was craving for something a bit different.

But I realize that the first five episodes were primarily character development episodes and after all, so many people say this anime was one of the best anime series out there, I’m already halfway into it…just keep watching.

And what can I say, by episode 6, the storyline kicks into high gear and from then on, it doesn’t stop. The way how things start to prepare the viewer for the final episode, I was definitely impressed. This is a unique series and I can very much see why so many people have clamored and voiced their love for the series.

I have to admit that I thought this was going to be a series that dwelved into religion because of the angel wings and halos but the series doesn’t really directly touch upon that subject but without being direct, it gives a new perspective of things and definitely an interesting take (which I can’t go into without spoiling it).

All in all, it was another series that I couldn’t stop watching after I started. Watched every episode within one setting and it goes to show how strong the storyline was to attract my attention because it’s that good!

The DVD’s came out back in 2005 but of course, three years later, you can find it much cheaper now for each volume or for the box set.

So, I join the others and say this series is definitely awesome and a series that is highly recommended!

+ A unique anime series

+ Another impressive work by ABe Yoshitoshi

+ Really good voice acting, the setting was lush and beautiful and music to match.

+ Really cool bonus features and a box set that you can find at a low price these days.

– I can see very few viewers, where religion comes to play, maybe questioning an anime series that involves people with halos and wings (and immediately think that it’s an anime about religion) that have faults and even have sinned and possibly seeing it as blasphemous.

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