I have no idea if I should recommend Haibane Renmei.
On a seemingly unrelated note, I didn’t particularly like the film Pan’s Labyrinth. I didn’t dislike it either. It just never quite entertained me, moved me enough for me to really like it. But technically it was brilliant. There’s no denying the quality of the movie or the skill in its creation.
Haibane Renmei is similar in this regard.
For one thing, it’s beautiful. The art, animation and the music. Even the sound effects are quality. (I’d recommend subs over dub on this one, by the way)
It has a slow pace (not as slow as Kino’s Journey) but the intrigue of the early episodes carries it well. That very intrigue is the the reason that if you’re going to watch it, you must go in blind.
Don’t Wikipedia it, don’t ask anyone for a summary or find any clips. Just let it take you for a ride. I’m even resisting putting pictures or embedding music for this reason.
I can’t promise it will be worth the time, but I think if you have it to spare, you should give this anime a try. It’s exceptionally well crafted. It’s just that opinion on the story is up to you, I’m afraid.
Hell, it might just be worth it to see that anime can do something other than robots and ninjas.
(and remember – I’m in the minority about Pan’s Labyrinth!)
Continues for bullet-point-esque spoiler discussion:
No, seriously. Spoilers.
You need to go in blind if you haven’t seen it.
Don’t read this even if you have no plans to watch the series.
This is for people who watched it. Not you other people!
Come back here when you’ve watched it!
The temple thing of the Federation/Renmei and the people there really reminded me of Shadow of the Colossus. Later in the series I noticed a fair bit of music reminded me of it as well. Halfway through the series I was shocked to spot the name (albeit one of the many spellings of his name) Kō Ōtani in the opening – it was the same composer all along.
I just thought that was kinda cool. It also makes me wonder, because I think the composer of the first Fullmetal Alchemist did the Ico soundtrack, and because they’re currently robbing music from Miller’s Crossing, it begs the question of who will compose the Last Guardian. But enough about Team Ico.
The following tune doesn’t sound very SotC-esque, I just thought it was nice:
So, the art in the series is pretty amazing. It was a little blurry and/or rough at times, but still, the detail in everything were pretty impressive. I wanted to be in that luscious countryside with the windmills.
The animation early really reminded me of Studio Ghibli work as well.
All I knew about the series was what I’d seen in the opening sequence. Which wasn’t much. The music only seemed average when I first watched it. And all the normality and angelic design made me think I would despise the anime.
Funnily enough, by the second episode (which was the debut of the opening), it suddenly took on new meaning and the music seemed considerably better. My preconceptions of hatred were also shattered by that point. (with the exception of Rakka – the main character – having that one loud and high pitched little girl voice)
I didn’t like the warbling ending song, but it was used well in the last episode.
I really liked the detail paid to the wings. It was shockingly realistic. From their painful emergence, to the brushing the blood out of them, learning how to move them and covering them in winter. They’d really put in thought to what it would be like if humans grew them. It really added something for me.
On a more critical matter; the big event midway through totally hit the wrong note for me. Kuu seemed to be an underdeveloped character that was shown as having little interaction with Rakka. To suddenly be telling us that they were best friends is jarring and doesn’t help the audience empathise with Rakka or feel sad about Kuu.
Then Rakka’s actions following this were downright infuriating. It’s one thing for her to be sad and hung up on a friend that has gone. But her freakouts in the town, her hiding the wings, and worst of all her selfish actions – despite finding out Reki had gone through the exact same thing? It made her totally unlikable.
I also think the pacing takes a hit after this, with it setting up character arcs and the gradual distancing between Reki and the group. It felt dragged out, especially with Rakka never directly confronting Reki about what she had learned.
It’s also a shame the largely likable supporting cast take such a back seat after the first half as well. They literally sleep through most of the final episode.
I have to admit that I was confused by a lot of things introduced near the end (not just the trippy Reki dream), rules about the wall insides, the ‘real name’ boxes the Communicator gave out, etc.
The ending was somewhat underwhelming. They never reveal what’s beyond the walls or some of the deeper mysteries of the Haibane, but that’s okay. On the other hand, I expected to learn more about the crow, or see what they seemed to be setting up about the inside of the walls where Rakka worked.
Either way, the final episode still managed to be incredibly emotional. Aside from the brilliant atmosphere in the room, it was dramatically very effective. Reki was always such a likable character, so when she turned like that, it angered me – I didn’t want it to be true and wreck one of my favourite characters. It really makes you sympathise with Rakka and feel the betrayal.
Lighter notes and a nitpick: Rakka and Reki are really similar names. I know there isn’t really a way around that, but it just annoyed me.
The show is not as philosophical as a lot of people seem to think it is.
And I was shocked to find out Kana and Kuu were female.