Greatest Unknown Anime – Part 3: Haibane Renmei

Haibane RenmeiAn entire genre of anime exists that is dedicated to exploring quotidian events that can culminate in life-altering experiences. These shows are often very slowly paced, colored in soft pastels and set to light, whimsical scores. Little happens in the plot and there is much comic relief (from boredom, I guess). ABe Yoshitoshi’s Haibane Renmei (2002, 13 episodes) might have suffered the same shortfalls of much of this ‘slice of life’ anime were it not for one major discrepancy: the characters in this slice of life are all dead.

The Renmei, young girls with halos and painfully sprouted angel wings, are born from cocoons into the walled town of Glie, where they live together sequestered from the center of the town and its non-Renmei inhabitants. Speculation abounds as to what the town is—heaven, hell, purgatory, something entirely different. Perhaps the girls are victims of murder, or suicide. Signs point in all directions.

As viewers, we follow the arrival of Rakka, whose wings sprout stained a charcoal black color, an indication of something that remains mysterious for much of the show. Through Rakka we discover that the Renmei are second-class citizens of Glie, forced to work simple jobs for second hand clothing and foodstuffs. They are generally ignored by the townspeople, but as Rakka’s curiosity gets the better of her, we come to realize that something disturbing is at work in the town’s hidden spaces.

Haibane Renmei does meet several standards of those slices of life described above, but never does the show flirt with them without subverting them with a contemplative darkness. ABe, best known for his weirdly wired Serial Experiments: Lain, is a master of omission, giving us just so much that we absolutely need to know more, and it is this longing for resolution, for completion that not only colors the lives (afterlives?) of his characters, but also keeps us viewers hooked.

Haibane Renmei Blue Flow

Subscribe to Unwinnable Weekly
Categories:
Animation, Dan Imperiale
Unwinnable On The Web:
  • nintendonerd

    Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, while i totally agree with your current picks HnNKn is far greater.

  • Tsumanai

    I see several errors with this review. One, they are not called the "Renmei," which I believe means "association," they are called "Haibane," which I believe means "charcoal wings". Two, Rakka's wings do not "sprout stained a charcoal black color," as the person watching over her, Reki, says at the time, "Pretty wings. Not white, not black, beautiful charcoal gray." I also wouldn't say they're "sequestered" or "forced" to work jobs or second-class citizens, but that may depend on each person's interpretation.

  • http://japanesedudegirl.blogspot.com/ Charles Francis Mora

    AWWWWW SHIT! Tsumanai put you on blast, G!

  • Stu Horvath

    Thanks Tsumanai.

    Dan, you're fired.

  • MugiKomugi

    This IS the best anime I have ever seen in the "makes you think" genre. Remarkably relaxing and interesting.

  • Kipras

    Haibane Renmei is a masterpiece, just like a masterpiece painting, you can either like it or not, but you cannot say there is too much color or it lacks lines.
    I wanted to ask, as you mentioned in your review “An entire genre of anime exists that is dedicated to exploring quotidian events that can culminate in life-altering experiences.”, how is this genre called D:?