Directed by: Tomokazu Tokoro
Studio: Radix Ace Entertainment
Episode count: 1-13 (Complete)
Audio: English, Japanese
Certification: 12 (BBFC)
Format: BluRay, DVD
Licensed by: MVM Entertainment
Release date: Collector’s Edition 28/2/22, BluRay 25/4/22, DVD out since 2016
Rakka is a newly hatched Haibane, a human with the flightless wings of an angel. She awakens from a cocoon after experiencing a realistic dream about falling from the sky. Rakka has no memories of her past, but is soon comforted by a number of other Haibane that live within the same building. Rakka’s mind is tormented with questions of her own existence, she learns the rules of living as a Haibane, the dark truth behind the charcoal wings and the heart ache associated with losing a close friend. There is nowhere for Rakka to run to, as she must now reside herself to living within this sleepy town surrounded by impenetrable walls – where only the crows and a mysterious group known as the Toga may come and go.
This is a rather odd series I have to say, however there is much to unpack when it comes to each of the characters and the existence of the Haibane. Although they appear similar to angels, they can not use their wings but do indeed have halos above their heads. This is a very painful process we learn in the first episode, as Rakka goes through the bloody transformation when two wings begin to sprout from her back. It’s not entirely explained as to why this town is sealed off from the outside world, but my interpretation is that they are in purgatory. A rest stop before going to heaven of hell, to see if their spirits/souls can be cleansed. Which would make sense in my mind. However the series is still left up to interpretation by the end.
Rakka is the latest Haibane to arrive in the town and we mostly see the world through her eyes. However we do also meet several other Haibane who are struggling with their own issues, either emotionally, responsibility, communicating with others or are simply so racked up in quilt from their past actions that they were born sin-bound with black charcoal wings. The series soon turns to one about breaking the ‘Circle of Sin’ when Rakka becomes infected and later learns of another’s’ struggle. The series has a somewhat satisfying ending, although is left open for future development – which never occurred unfortunately.
Haibane Renmei was directed by Tomokaze Tokoro, a Japanese animator who has also directed Hellsing Ultimate, Seven Deadly Sins: Signs of Holy War and Maria Holic Alive. With studio Radix Ace Entertainment handling the animation. Unfortunately this studio closed back in 2006, but was responsible for bringing us the Sakura Wars movies.
Bonus features include:
The Collector’s Edition will arrive in a hardback art box, featuring an artistic image of Rakka as though she has been immortalized in a painting. This edition will also include four artcards, which will be the pack art design from the original four volumed DVD releases.
- Interview with the creators
- Special ending
- TV Commercials
- Clean opening & closing
- Promontional trailer
Haibane Renmei was originally created and published as a dójinshi manga series by Yoshitoshi ABe back in 1998. He is probably best known for his earlier work: Serial Experiments Lain. He has since worked on a number of other media, including anime, music videos, games and even art books. His artistic career first began when he was a teenager in Tokyo, as he used to be a graffiti artist who had regular run-ins with the police due to his artwork. ABe continued to expand the Haibane Renmei universe with a total of five dójinshi released between 1998 and 2002, but I am unaware if these were ever professionally published or translated. The 13 episode anime series was later adapted and released in 2002.
This isn’t your typical high budget, fan favorite modern anime series, it’s more or a trip to the not too distant past and the types of anime that were released back then. This will be a nostalgic trip for some and a complete bore for others. For myself, this was the first time I have watched this show, it took some time to get into it, it left me with more questions than answers, but still somehow makes me want to go back and watch it all again.
Haibane Renmei is currently available for Pre-Order for both the Collector’s edition and Standard BluRay.