26 May 2008 | alexlehmann4
Meaningful and deep
Haibane Renmei I usually don't like TV-series. I also don't really like anime, except for the films of Miyazaki. But Haibane Renmei is hard to classify as a standard anime. There's no flying limbs, nor any immature humor and attempts at getting you to look up girls skirts. Men who look like women and have stupid hair are also wonderfully absent. I might seem a bit biased here, but this is my impression of anime, and I've seen quite a bit randomly or through friends. On the surface Haibane Renmei seems like a fairly simple drama. This is because it's the impression the series tries to give us. On the first couple of episodes, there is an underlying uncertainty and darkness. As the series progresses in its 13 episode span, it becomes deeper and more thought provoking. It never spells out things clearly to the audience, and never answers all our questions. It remains wonderfully subtle, and after I finished watching it I thought about the series and its themes for several days.
The series is set in a small town surrounded by high walls. In the city, together with human people live angelic like creatures called the Haibane, who are not allowed to leave the city. As the series starts, we see the birth of a new Haibane, Rakka, who is named after the dream she had while being born. Like all Haibane, she cannot remember her past or where she comes from. The series spends most its time exploring her living with her new Haibane friends. We are also introduced to them as the series starts. One problem with series is that they have very shallow characters, but not Haibane Renmei. The characters here feel painfully real and sincere. The series also explores several of the supporting characters, giving them all an amount of depth. This is also connected to the wonderful character design, and immediately as we see the visually we can assume what kind of characters they are. But the designs are not overdone, and they all reveal in time a certain amount of layers and depth.
The animation isn't as high quality as some other popular anime, however, the backgrounds look beautiful and show great detail and artistry. The music also needs mention, using wonderful strings and soft acoustic guitars, as well as some beautiful piano work. Haibane Renmei spends a surprising amount of time layering and building its themes and symbolism. It takes situations that are common to us, but puts it into a slightly supernatural setting. And although all the main characters have wings and halos, they always seem extremely grounded and realistic. The series go through several moods and emotions, but always make it heartfelt. When the characters are happy, we feel happy, and when they are sad, we feel sad. But it avoids becoming melodramatic nor over the top. Some of the series saddest parts will truly sting your heart, unless you're made of stone.
For a series that takes such a serious tone, Haibane Renmei gracefully avoids such series greatest clichés. The symbolism is subtle and layered, but never seems overdone. There are truly intense moments, but the series also takes several moments to sit back and let the audience reflect, showing wonderful imagery of the landscape with beautiful music in the background. The themes are universal, but I'll not list them, in fear of spoiling the series for people who hasn't seen it. Make sure not to read too much about the story and what happens, and rather let the series unfold without knowing what might happen.
Haibane Renmei is probably one of the finest audio-visual experiences I've had. Not many have seen it, which is sad, as it's so universal and could be enjoyed by so many people. I would recommend it to anyone, it could even work for ten year old kids and older. Although it's layered, it's never overtly complicated. Although it never answers many of our questions, it still isn't surreal and hard to penetrate. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend you go out and get it as soon as possible.