Haibane Renmei Vol. 1: New Feathers – Anime DVD Review

Haibane Renmei.jpg

So my huge ass anime order from RightStuf came in a few days ago. I decided to watch Haibane Renmei first, since it seemed the most interesting.

Story:
Rakka is the newest of the Haibane, a mysterious race of angel-like beings. In this world, Haibane are born from giant alien-looking pods. Rakka is greeted by the other Haibane, given a name, and grows her wings (which seems more painful than necessary).

She starts getting accustomed to the new world, but for everything she learns, there are always more questions that come up. Haibane are treated like second class citizens. They can only receive used things from humans. They can’t handle money. They have to sit in the back of the bus. Okay, I made that last one up… Will Rakka eventually uncover the mystery behind this new world?

Analysis:
Haibane Renmei has been recommended strongly by a lot of people, which is one of the reasons I bought it. This means that going into it, I had some pretty high expectations. Luckily, those expectations were fulfilled pretty well.

This anime is part slice of life, part mystery. As much as I’d like to know what the heck is outside of the walls, and what’s going on with the Haibane, the idyllic setting makes me want to see nothing change at all. Of course, the underlying calm is probably a setup for some crazy Twilight Zone twist! I mean, this anime is from the person who did Serial Experiments Lain, after all…

The slice of life parts really are nice, though. I guess that since it’s not your typical slice of life (like Japanese school kid or whatever), it’s more interesting that way. The characters all have their own personalities, and right now the anime is doing a sort of “character of the week” thing. I’m sure in the next volume things will get more interesting.

The DVD:
I was a little disappointed with the video quality on the DVD. The picture seemed blurry almost all the time. This anime came out in 2002, so there really shouldn’t be any excuse for this.

There are two audio language tracks and a few different subtitle tracks. I listened to this anime in Japanese with English subtitles. Just for fun, I switched to the English track for a few minutes. It wasn’t bad, but I’ll always take Japanese over English any day.

There were a few DVD extras, including a credit-less intro, the original Japanese intro, and the next episode previews (which don’t show up in the episodes themselves). The gallery seemed pretty interesting. There wasn’t really anything super special, but it’s better than nothing.

Conclusion:
It seems like the first volume of Haibane Renmei is just a setup volume for the rest of the anime. Either that, or the whole series is like this, and the mystery never gets resolved…

Luckily, I bought the whole series in one shot, so I don’t have to worry about waiting for more episodes! For now, Haibane Renmei is looking really good. I’ll write up another review once I’ve finished volume 2.

10 thoughts on “Haibane Renmei Vol. 1: New Feathers – Anime DVD Review”

  1. The slice of life aspect was really enjoyable for me, seeing how these people live in this odd, yet somehow normal feeling place. Really got to love the design for that. Anyway, sit back and enjoy it.

  2. The (unsubbed) Japanese DVDs might be a _tiny_ bit sharper — but not significantly so. It seems that the softness was a deliberate stylistic choice by the creators. Actually, it is the sound on the Japanese DVDs that is most noticeably better (uncompressed PCM).

    The story arc of Haibane Renmei is quite sophisticated — more so than most 2 hour movies. Be patient — and you will be rewarded.

    In the event you ultimately become a devotee of the series, I’d recommend the following bulletin board:

    Sekai no hajimari — http://cff.ssw.net/

    and its associated bulletin board:

    Old Home Bulletin Board — http://cff.ssw.net/forum/index.php

    BTW — Yoshitoshi Abe contributed only character designs for “Lain”. He contributed both the story and the visual design of “Niea_7”, he provided story, script and visual design for “Haibane Renmei”, and visual design for “Texhnolyze” (the script for which was provided by Lains’ script writer).

  3. There is an economy to the story telling in this series. There’s nothing extra, nothing unnecessary. For the first DVD it may seem as if the story is wandering a bit aimlessly, but nothing could be further from the truth. Everything that happens, everything you see, is essential to the long term story arc.

    As Michael says, be patient because you will be rewarded.

  4. I think that reviewing Haibane Renmei volume by volume makes no sense, except to document how the viewer’s reaction unfolds. But in the latter case it may be better to go event by event. Volume boundaries are rather arbitrary.

    BTW, if you insist on paying attention to packaging, DVD, and other such immaterial details, then I should note how by a series of coincidences, it was the first series for me which contained mini pencil boards. It turned out that these boards are immensely useful for doing Japanese homework. Because of that, I started to pay attention to these boards, and so I am thinking about getting U.S. release of Kamichu just for the boards. And another thing, my DVD viewer (VLC – videolan.org) shows everything quite sharp, at least compared to all other anime which were transferred from tape. I have screenshots at http://www.flickr.com/photos/zaitcev/tags/haibane/ . The transfer is not 100% ideal, for example the black bars are present. Also, the animation quality varies quite a bit. It’s definitely a medium- to low-budget production. In the first volume, the spot where Kana fights crows was especially bad, I thought.

    Now I feel bad talking about the mundane in context of Haibane Renmei.

  5. > Everything that happens, everything you see, is essential to the long term
    > story arc.

    Absolutely true. This show has an “economy” that is equal to that found in the classics of Japanese cinema (such as the films of Ozu, Mizoguchi and Naruse). Interestingly, Abe had no links to anime prior to “Lain” — but was a recent fine arts graduate. His primary influences seem to have been cinematic and literary — though he has also cited the work of a few manga artists (Kenji Tsuruta, Akihiro Yamada, Range Murata, Yukinobu Hoshino) as inspirations.

    If one likes “Haibane Renmei”, one might find Hirokazu Kore’eda’s “Wandafaru raifu” (After Life) interesting — as it too involves a way station between life and after life (and Abe has acknowledged his admiration for Kore’eda’s films). A prior film by the same director, “Maborosi”, also has a main character who foreshadows certain aspects of Rakka’s character and behavior (saying more would be spoiler-ish).

  6. I viewed Haibane Renmei for the first time over the past weekend. The art is quite amazing, as well as soundtrack, etc etc. The story is a bit dark and mysterious, but I didn’t really know how it would be until about halfway through. “bittersweet” is a good word, and slice-of-life, but the world almost seems like a fantasy. I really felt that if Miyazaki was to do dark (not disturbing/tragic/etc) that this would fit in that realm.

    Its good that you can watch them without extensive waits! This series works well as a steady, long movie with a couple intermissions. Ill be looking forward to what you have to say about the other volumes ^^

  7. He put his eye to the hole. He just managed to spy some people sitting in deckchairs chanting, before a finger came out of nowhere and poked him in the eye. As he staggered back, the people started chanting, “Fourteen, fourteen, fourteen…”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *