Haibane Renmei Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/34.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     August 21, 2003
Release Date: August 26, 2003


Haibane Renmei Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
In a long-forgotten walled town, humans coexist with the Haibane, angelic-like beings of unknown origin. Rakka becomes the newest Haibane, after she awakens from a strange dream and finds herself hatching from a massive cocoon. With no memories of her previous life, Rakka struggles to adjust to her new surroundings, however burning questions remain in the back of her mind. What is Haibane and what is their purpose? What lies beyond the huge, forbidden town walls? Thus Rakka begins her wistful journey of self-discovery and wonderment.

A limited edition Haibane Renmei pencil board will be included with this volume and a second pencil board will be included in the limited edition boxed set!

The Review!
With only a few images to work with, Abe has fostered the creation of an intriguing new series, but does it actually go anywhere?

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series features a solid stereo mix that makes great use of directionality for the dialogue throughout it. This series, so far, is very dialogue heavy as well as using a lot of small quiet incidental music to fill out scenes. The tracks here replicate that faithfully and without any technical issues.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2002, Haibane Renmei is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and encoded for anamorphic playback. The resulting transfer is a very solid piece that really brings to life the amount of detail in the show as well as the subtle and beautifully shaded backgrounds. The transfer looks beautiful throughout the majority of it, free of cross coloration and aliasing. There are a few areas throughout the episodes where things pan left and right though and you almost feel like it had a slightly slow “render” of sorts, causing a slight rolling in the animation. It’s very subtle and hard to notice for the most part. Beyond this, this was a very clean look transfer.

Packaging:
Almost everything from Pioneer these days come in clear keepcases and Haibane is no exception. Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, though brightened up a bit I believe, you get the very attractive shot of Rakka with her wings and halo fairly prominent set against a greenish sky backdrop. The look and feel is more illustration and manga style than an anime shot, adding nicely to the rough look but also highlighting the really beautiful colors within it. The back cover pushes the green shade more by mixing it in with the halo that’s the central image here. There’s a few shots from the show itself throughout as well as a brief premise summary. The discs technical features are nice and clearly listed (including mentioning anamorphic playback and the type of audio channels). Episode numbers and titles are also listed in addition to the basic production credits for both crews. Volume numbering is unfortunately completely absent. The reverse side of the cover, which is not the same as a reversible cover, uses the green again and uses it with a white pencil sketch of Rakka that looks interesting. Included in the keepcase is a pencilboard of the main front cover as well as an insert that has it as well, but opens to a gorgeous piece of green shaded character artwork.

With the first volume, a box+ version was also offered. The box itself is a nice solid type that I like the best from all the studios. It’s done in a soft brown rustic feel to it on all sides covered with bits of symbols from the show itself. With the box+ version, you get a couple more bonus items. One of them is another pencilboard, this time of Reiki against what looks to be a lake that looks dreary and grim but still gorgeous in its own way. Even better, you get a good sized booklet that is done in the same style as the box that’s full color throughout, providing some bits of origin on the show as well as shots of the various characters, locations and more. This is a fantastic booklet that feels like they could have done more pages. It’s full but not crowded.

Menu:
The menus throughout are solid simple pieces that build upon the quiet nature of the show, using things such as the halo as a centerpiece and the little circle with wings symbol as the cursor throughout. The menus are laid out nicely and are easy to navigate. Access times are nice and fast and submenus load very quickly and without issue.

Extras:
There’s a nice little set of extras included in this first volume on the disc in case all the pack-ins didn’t satisfy. The next episode previews are included here (as they weren’t tied with the episodes on the Japanese release either) and are undubbed, there’s a textless opening sequence as well as the opening with its original Japanese text. There’s also a good art gallery that showcases a number of good looking pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the success of Serial Experiments Lain and then the release of NieA_7, Yoshitoshi Abe certainly had plenty of avenues he could explore for doing something new. Intending to keep doing things that are more experimental than anything else, he opted to do some work for a dojinshi magazine and created Haibane Renmei. As things going, dojinshi creations very rarely (if ever) become anime. While artists and writers will hone their craft there and move up into the professional ranks, it’s almost taboo to make an anime series based off of a dojinshi.

Suffice to say, some friends of Abe really liked what they saw and pushed hard to get it done. Add in that Pioneer USA is included in the production credits and you can guess that they were eager to get Abe to do just about anything since his material goes over quite well here. When Haibane actually started going into production, according to the included booklet, only two episodes were actually ready to be done and no real overall plot was in mind. Abe was continuing in his experimental mode and just letting his subconscious bubble things up to the top. With this method, can you really get a good show?

So far, I’m leaning towards the yes side. Going through that method you can at the least come up with an interesting premise and some surrounding ideas to work with as well as some really interesting visuals. Haibane Renmei, especially in this first volume, works strongly with Abe’s style and experimental ideas. We’re initially introduced to a young girl falling straight down in midair, only to come across a crow flying alongside her. The crow tries to lift her up, but she finds herself resigned to what’s going on. Suddenly, she’s surrounded by liquid and unsure of her new situation. She can breathe, but there’s something solid around her now. With a bit of clawing, she eventually breaks through into the open ear, effectively breaking the cocoon that she was in.

On the other side, as we learn a bit before and after, is the house where Reki lives. Growing within her house in one of the rooms was the cocoon that the young girl came out of. As we learn, this is how all the Haibane are born. Haibane is the name given to the people of the town who are born this way and have wings and halos. Each of them, through tradition, is named based on what they dreamed about before being ‘born”. Our lead here, since she mostly remembers falling, is named Rakka. She has no memory of the past, though some urge to go there, and no knowledge of where she is. Through Reki and the help of others who live in and about the same house, Rakka is slowly brought up to speed.

The Haibane are an interesting people, if they can be grouped like that. Living within a large walled area that includes a town of humans down the way a bit, they aren’t allowed outside that area. For so long, both Haibane and human have lived this way that they don’t quite know why anymore but simply that they must. The Haibane also have some interesting rules to live by, such as only being able to wear second hand clothing, not having money but using a notebook system as well as some other strange bits to it. Watching the humans and Haibane interact, you definitely get the feeling that they’re second class citizens.

But they do have their uses, as they act as intermediaries with the Toga, a group of humans (presumably) that travel from town to town and bring goods to be bought and sold. Humans can’t deal with them directly, but a Haibane acts as a Communicator between the two. The pecking order between these three is interesting, particularly in that it seems as if nobody is allowed to talk to a Toga, nor can they respond. Their only dialogue is done through sign-language at that, adding more to the confusion.

With these first four episodes, we get to know the situation of the town of Glie through the new arrived Rakka and her interactions with people such as Reki and her friends as well as the Young Feathers, the children who are born into the world. This all plays out nicely and with a certain level of intrigue as you can feel that there’s something bigger to be told here in terms of discovery, particularly with the way the society is built around staying inside the wall and not going outside, not even knowing what’s there. Whether it works or not is where I’m hesitant, where Abe’s experimental style could either produce an amazing result or can crash and flame out. It holds a lot of promise though.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Japanese Opening,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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