Haibane Renmei

(13 episodes, 2002)

My previous exposure

The second series I watched that was suggested by this thread ! And, er, that’s it : your descriptions didn’t give me much of an image of the show, and I tried to stay as unspoilt as possible anyway.

What’s it about ?

In what looks like a rural European city (but could really be anywhere), lives a small community of winged teenagers and kids (the titular Haibane, or “Grey Wings”) who hatch full-grown from eggs, get jobs helping around the villagers if they’re old enough, and eventually “fly off” when it’s time for them to move on.

The series follows the viewpoint of Rakka, the latest hatched Haibane, who thus gets to learn the strange customs and rules of the community and grow familiar with the other Haibane along with the audience.

What did I think of it ?

It’s been two weeks since I’ve watched this, and I’m still not sure what I thought of it.

Part of the problem comes from the initial episodes, where some of the Haibane’s customs (as well as the false impression that there are only female Haibane) leave a strong bad taste of Patriarchy. Now, further episodes makes it clear that’s not the case at all (there ARE male Haibane, who are treated exactly the same way ; and the few old men in charge of the system are all but stated to be failed Haibane who try and help the new ones), but that was still not the best first impression for a series to start off with.

Obviously, the series is a blatant metaphor for purgatory, what with the otherwise useless wings/aureolas that the Haibane have, and the general theme of moving beyond one’s past issues in order to go forward. Heck, the climax even deals with a Haibane who committed suicide in her previous life. The symbolism couldn’t be more obvious.

But I don’t particularly care about that. Fortunately, the show also works on a more prosaic level – a newcomer entering a community and progressively blending in, despite learning that she’ll have to go eventually. The slice of life episodes about each girl’s job are my favourite, as are the bits explaining how the community actually works. Who the Haibane were before and where they go after is mostly irrelevant (besides the way it affects their personalities), and I kinda get the feeling that the show agrees with me (what with never showing any of it, or the general message of “you need to get past it”).

Don’t mistake me, I’ve enjoyed watching this show ; I have a thing for slightly off-kilter slice-of-life/drama, Kana’s job pleased my tech geek side, and I enjoyed those characters’ company. But the heavy-handed symbolism didn’t quite click for me, which prevents the series from entering my hall of favourites. Still, I don’t regret buying that boxset sight unseen.

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I've been kinda blogging about anime for years... but mostly on forums (such as RPG.net's Tangency) and other sites. This site is an archive for all that stuff, just in case.

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