Yeah so this anime is like nearly 15 years old, but I only remembered it recently and it’s worth talking about so in case you missed it so long ago here’s a sort of retro review/random mumbling of Haibane Renmei. In a nut shell it’s about not angels (totally angels) existing in a walled off town, they are both accepted as part of the community and also not, kind of forming their own community really. I won’t go too much into the plot as I believe it should be experienced for yourselves but there is a lot of emphasis on the past and finding redemption.
The entire anime is set in the town of Glie, this town is completely shut off from the outside world (whatever it may be) and gets its goods from special merchants (The Toga) that enter and don’t speak to anyone except to the ‘Communicator’. The reason for this is… well not truly explained but probably has to do with the Haibane. These cutesy folk grow from something like a dandelion seed, it produces a cocoon the size of a person until they ‘hatch’ or claw their way out! These, as far as the series goes, are always children or teenagers. This is where we are introduced to our main character Rakka; all Haibane have a dream within the cocoon. Rakka’s involves her falling while a crow tries to stop her, her name literally meaning falling. All Haibane are named this way (some of the young kids change their name, cause damn kids can’t just obey the rules!) and thus begins our journey into what the goodness is going on. What are Haibane? Why are they already grown ass kids? Why do they have no memory of where they were before but a feeling? What do their dreams mean? AHHHHH!
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your outlook, a lot of this is left to interpretation but I will give as spoiler free explanation as possible. Soon after the Haibane are ‘born’ they grow their wings in a horrific blood splurty manner! These are then cleaned by another Haibane, they also are given a halo for maximum angel cosplay effect (as far as I’m aware there is no reason given why they grow wings or why they give them a halo). In Rakka’s case the kind Reki looks after her and generally becomes her mentor for the series. The audience is introduced to the world through Rakka’s eyes and what a world it is. The Haibane can only live in abandoned buildings the villagers no longer use, they cannot touch or own money, nor can they own new things. Everything they have is paid for by coupons they earn while working at old establishments so yeah there’s some really weird insular nature to this. However the people like the Haibane despite living quite separately and there doesn’t seem to be any malice in it. Where Rakka lives is old home, this also is where any young Haibane are taken as it doubles as a school but there is also an old factory where they shove the teenagers xD This creates another layer of segregation, as old home and the old factory don’t always get on because of past events…
Now I know this is a lot to take in, believe it or not the anime is only 13 episodes long but there is a lot to it! All this is slowly introduced to the viewer to set us up for what really is a personal journey for both Rakka and Reki, as I’ve said previously I don’t want to spoil it as it really is a good series that you should watch for yourself but it deals with the cycle of guilt, forgiveness and salvation. I should also mention the other characters; there’s Kuu who is the youngest of the teenagers, she’s a little awkward but really helps Rakka out, she also brings about a huge upheaval by achieving her day of flight. This is where a Haibane achieves what they need to do (which is different for each one) and then disappears in a beam of light or flies over the wall or is taken by aliens? Sorry xP you never see what actually happens except the beam of light from a distance but it is inferred they move on somehow and are never seen again. This loss causes a lot of change in Rakka and opens up more about what the Haibane actually are and how Rakka copes. There is also Nemu, Kana and Hikari; these three represent the rest of the older Haibane that take care of the children and each provide Rakka with support and knowledge about her new life and the town.
Reki is the mother figure of the group, she takes care of Rakka the most and along with Nemu has been there the longest. She’s a little different as she can’t remember her cocoon dream which causes her to have nightmares and so she paints to try to figure them out. She is very loving but ultimately carries a lot of self loathing and despair that she hides as she cares for everyone else.
Rakka is quite shy being the newest member of the group but forms strong attachments early on, this is also what causes her great pain when Kuu leaves and forces her to come to terms with her loss and her own feelings regarding her dream and the Haibane.
As you can probably guess there is a lot of symbology to this anime, the music for it is really folksy and cute but also very sombre and sad. It’s really able to set the tone in a simple way. The art style was ok but I felt it was a little bland but maybe that was the point? Keep everything muted and subtle to focus on the depth of the characters.
I could go on forever about theories and all the extra stuff behind this (and maybe I will make a separate spoiler post if you really want ;P) but this is a deeply emotional anime; tied to faith, death, love, friendship and ultimately salvation. If you want a sweet anime that will really get your curiosity going I would definitely recommend it. It should be noted that although a lot is inferred rather than shown it does deal with dark themes so be prepared. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though so enjoy!