25 January 2006

Addicted to Angels: Haibane Renmei 1

I've mentioned I'm a sucker for angels. Angel stories, angel paraphernalia, etc. I had a neighbor once who was addicted to all things elephant: pictures in the bathroom, ceramic elephants in the living room-- that's going to be me when I'm older, except with angels. I think you get it.

I rent from Netflix and love it, but don't particularly trust the recommendations they give me, so when they suggested Haibane Renmei I had to pause and think about it. The cover has a girl with a halo and wings. So I said..sure, why not? I got the first disc, and by the end of the first episode I was hooked. It has religious philosophy in a non-forceful kind of way, instantly lovable characters, a wonderful plotline and absolutely stunning art. The opening and closing songs/sequences to anime also tend to be important to me (maybe I shall do a whole post on this), and Haibane Renmei has a moving opening and closing.

I know. I'm gushing about an anime I haven't finished. As far as I know, though, it's only 14 episodes so I'm halfway through. I have not noticed any re-used sequences, just some beautiful animation work (can we say expensive?).

If you want a little bit of a teaser about plotline, the Haibane Renmei are an isolated group of angel looking creatures with a halo and wings, surrounded by a town of humans which is promptly walled off from the rest of the world. The Haibane Renmei provide services for the town but are not allowed to accept actual money. They work through a tally marker system of payment instead and accept used clothes from a local goodwill kind of store. The opening sequence shows a seed "planting" itself in a room at the Haibane Renmei's home, which grows into a cocoon and eventually breaks, and thus the main character Rekka is born into this new world with no knowledge of her prior life. She looks around 10 years old and is born this way. The other Haibane are anywhere from toddlers to 20 year olds. Who are the Haibane and why are they there? Why are they isolated? Each Haibane is named for what they dream while they are in their cocoon. What significance do these dreams have? I have many questions and am interested to see how they are addressed through the series.

One of the more recent episodes I watched had a "beginning of the world" story which was a partial fabrication based on a rotting book of that title, gaps filled in by two of the Haibane. The story they made up to fill it out went as follows: In the beginning there was nothingness. God took his halo and cast it above him and made the sun. Then he tore the nothingness in two making the sky and the land. The line wasn't perfect, so valleys and mountains were born. Then God drew and drew and made the landscape and animals. Then he created a creature in his own likeness, only with a hole in their halo and charcoal wings; these are the Haibane. God didn't like these creatures because they were too much like himself, so he put them in the back of his mind and created man without any halo or any wings. He was sufficiently happy with this and so went to sleep for a long time. The Haibane escaped from his head while he was sleeping and took refuge in the small town of Glie. God figured they couldn't do harm in their small vilage existance and thus let them be.

I can't wait to finish the series. After this I will be watching Grave of the Fireflies (movie) and then Nightwalker (series). Stay tuned.


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