The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Haibane Renmei

Title: Haibane Renmei aka Charcoal Feather Foundation
Company: Triangle Staff
Genre: Drama
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 10 Oct 2002 – 19 Dec 2002

Synopsis: A girl dreams that she is falling. When she wakes up, she realizes that she cannot remember anything about whom she is, or her entire life experience. The new world she finds herself in, the city of Glie, is populated by winged beings with halos, known as Haibane. The girl is given the name Rakka, and told that she too, is now a Haibane. No one knows anything about what, or who any of the Haibane are, or what lies outside the city’s protective walls. What is this mysterious city surrounded by towering walls? Will the mysteries of the Haibane ever become clear?

The Highlights
Plot: Mysterious and deep.
Symbolism: Fascinating.
Characters: Realistic, but some remain undeveloped.
Lows: Slow early on.

The only word that begins to describe Haibane Renmei is “masterpiece”. No other anime has ever kept me so hypnotically in its grasp, while being as fascinating as it is intelligent. What kept me watching more than anything else, was not the artwork, which was some of, if not the most amazing, I have ever seen, but the burning desire to find out the answers to the mysteries of the world the Haibane live in. As the show progresses, more and more things become clear about the world, the Haibane, and what is going on, but nothing is ever explained outright, which may upset some.

Not only are there many mysteries to ponder, there is more symbolism galore. Themes range from the theological to the inner self, and never get in the way of the storytelling. Nor does Haibane Renmei bombard you with its symbolism like Neon Genesis Evangelion does. This show is a flawless example of how to integrate symbolism into a story.

All would be for nothing without believable characters, and once again Haibane Renmei succeeds with flying colors. The characters have normal, down to earth personalities and act in believable ways, making them very easy to relate to. I found myself caring for the characters more and more as their personalities unfolded, and some moments almost had me in tears. The character designs by Abe Yoshitoshi are superb, to say the least. Once again, Abe proves that you don’t have to draw bimbos and bishonen to have great character designs.

The artwork and music are, naturally, just as well done as the rest of the show. Emphasizing Earth tones, such as green and brown, some of the artwork is so amazing I couldn’t help but say, “wow.” The music, by Outani Kou, consists of haunting, Celtic-esque melodies that add to the mysterious atmosphere of the show.

Haibane Renmei nearly attains perfection, but two flaws clip its wings. The first is the slow placing up until episode six. While it did not bother me, some people will, unfortunately, be turned away from the show by the lack of a jumpstart. The second flaw is that while some characters are extremely fleshed out and developed, we learn next to nothing about most of the Haibane. There is little background on Nemu and Kuu, and nothing at all about Kana and Hikari. Some of those earlier episodes could have been put to better use by digging deeper into these characters.

I recommend Haibane Renmei to everyone, save those who can’t sit through five minutes of anime without some sort of action on the screen. There is nothing out there remotely like Haibane Renmei, and those who watch it will be trapped within its mystery, just like the Haibane themselves.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Kuma

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