Haibane-Renmei is a show that has haunted me since I first found out about it by browsing the used anime at my local CD Warehouse. The cover art was highly attractive and caught my eye. They only had two volumes, so I refrained from making the purchase, but read up about the show and decided it a must-see. RightStuf still had copies of the box set, however I wasn’t about to put down $100 for a series. Still, when RightStuf had one of their patented 40% off sales I decided the time was ripe and struck. (A good thing too, considering the title is out of print and RightStuf sold out.) A week and a half later I get the package in the mail and I excitedly sat down.
I watched the whole first volume (episodes 1-4) in one sitting without even thinking about it. Never before has the first four episodes of a series gone by as quickly as those four episodes did. In fact, the only other time four episodes have been so easy to watch is last year when I marathoned Naruto– some of those canon arcs fly by. Haibane-Renmei was, from the opening sequence to the ending credits, one of the greatest things I had seen. I tried to space out the remaining discs in an appropriate manner (forced more by my busy schedule than a desire to save the experience), but only found the series more and more engaging as it went on.
Imagine, for a moment, that you wake up with nothing more than a vague sense of a past life and a dream. You are in a world different from anything your hazy sense of the past can pinpoint as normal, however, a group takes you under their wings and guides you. Such is the scenario Rakka is presented with: a rebirth, a strange land, and the need to relearn what it means to exist.
The series starts off feeling very comfortable in the slice-of-life genre (with the assumed fantasy twist) before suddenly spiraling into something darker–a change both blessed and cursed. On the one hand, 13 episodes that were as happy-go-lucky as the first four would continue to go down as smooth as the first four did. Still, the sudden turmoil brings about necessary change in the characters which gives the series depth.
The series is chock full of great characters, from those who are in Rakka’s immediate group to those whom they interact with. The storyline is engaging and well written (albeit with a few a few minor plot holes). Just about everything about this series says “win.” The only people who might be put off by the series are those who overload easily on cute–but if they stuck around beyond the first handful of episodes even their minds might be changed. Definitely a landmark series in the annals of anime history and a must-see.
US Distributor: Geneon
Number of Episodes: 13
Availability: Out of print, although the singles are still available off RightStuf for a pretty good price. Used are readily available, too, though be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for any edition with an art box.
Links: ANN Encyclopedia