Haibane Renmei Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • 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

By Kim Wolstenholme     April 27, 2005
Release Date: April 18, 2005


Haibane Renmei Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
A dream of falling from the sky... and then birth. Rakka is born from a large cocoon into the Old Home, greeted by a group of females with small wings on their backs and shining halos above their heads. Soon Rakka's own wings grow, a halo is placed on her head and she is told that she must work in the nearby town of Brie. She soon realizes that the town and the entire world they live in are confined behind the Wall, a tall, impenetrable wall that none except the mysterious Toga is allowed to exit.

Episode comprise:

1. Cocoon * Dream Of Falling From The Sky * Old Home
2. Town And Wall *Toga* Haibane-Renmei
3. Temple *Communicator* Pancakes
4. Trash Day *Clock Tower* Birds Flying Over The Walls

The Review!
In a walled town humans co-exist with Haibane, beings with halo’s and wings. But what exactly are the Haibane and where do they come from?

Audio:

There are a choice of two audio tracks, Japanese 2.0 and English 2.0. I watched the show in its entirety in Japanese and noticed no problems. The dialogue comes across crisp and clear from the centre speakers, while the left and right front speakers are used occasionally for sound effects and music. I also spot checked the English track and noticed no problems with this option either.

Video:

Haibane Renmei is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for widescreen TV’s. The picture quality is what you would expect for a newish show (it originally aired in 2002), and I noticed no major problems with the picture quality. The only minor problem I noticed were a few ‘jaggies’ that normally occurred during a few camera pans where horizontal lines were present. The colour palate used for the show is calm and gentle with bright colours being reserved for the scenery around the Old Home and the town, all the colours used are well represented with no obvious bleeding of colour.

The subtitles are also in an easy to read yellow font, and I noticed no grammar or spelling mistakes

Packaging:

No packaging was available as only a review disk was supplied.

Menu:

The menu starts with the Haibane Renmei logo with feathers flying across the screen, this then segues into a static picture of the Old Home seen from the outside. The title music plays over the menu and the options are to the left of the screen. Sub menus are silent but each menu option can be accessed quickly. Overall, it’s not a particularly exciting menu, but it’s perfectly functional.

Extras:

A nice set of extras accompanies the first disk in the series. Firstly there is the ubiquitous clean opening sequence, which is a staple for many disks these days. Also included is the original Japanese credit sequence, which is the credit sequence once again but with the Japanese titles (surprisingly enough). These are usually not included in anime releases so it’s a nice little addition.

The art gallery displays 30 conceptual drawings for the show; these drawings include the characters as well as their bikes, equipment and the halo-maker. Each picture has to be selected manually, but they are nice to look through and give a fair indication of the amount of detail included in the show. The Episode Previews originally aired separately from the show, and are not tacked onto the end of the closing credits, as is usually the case, therefore they have been included in the extras. Episode Previews for episodes 2, 3, 4 and 5 are present on this disk.

Finally there are 2 trailers for other MVM shows, Chobits and Trigun.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

Haibane Renmei, to me, is a show that defies categorisation. There’s no handy genre title that can be given to the show, it simply shows you the characters everyday life. However, that doesn’t mean the show is boring and has no story to tell. In fact nothing could be further from the truth, as the first four episodes on this disk prove.

Somewhere in the world (although exactly where is never explained) there lies the town of Glie. Glie is cut off from the world around it by huge walls that none of the inhabitants of the town are allowed through. No-one seems to question this rule and the townsfolk all seem happy with their lot in life, they also don’t seem to mind sharing their town with the Haibane, who look like normal people apart from the fact that they grow wings shortly after being ‘born’ and also wear halo’s.

The series begins with a girl falling from the sky, she doesn’t know who she is or why she is falling but doesn’t seem to be worried about her situation. She quickly decides that she must be dreaming, and this thought is borne out when she awakens to find herself in a liquid filled cocoon. Hearing voices from outside the cocoon she breaks free and is ‘born’ into the world of the Haibane. Later the girl re-awakens to find herself in a strange room, and she still has no memories of her previous life. Shortly after waking up she is greeted by the Haibane who were present when she broke out of the cocoon - Reki, Nemu, Hikari, Kuu and Kana. According to tradition all Haibane are given names that relate to their cocoon dream, the girl is asked to recount her dream and after she has done so is given the name Rakka (falling).

After being named Rakka is given her halo by Hikari, (which refuses to stay in place), and is told a bit more about the world which she has found herself in. However, Rakka still has one more rite of passage to go through – her wings are growing and will shortly break through. Reki helps Rakka through this final ordeal and once Rakkas wings have grown, Reki spends the night cleaning Rakka’s wings to prevent them from being stained.

The following day Rakka has recovered from the fever brought on by growing her new wings, and decides to go into town with the other girls who are keen to get to know Rakka and show her more about their lives. On her first day she finds out that though Haibane work they are not paid with money, instead they have a notebook in which they write everything they have earned and in return use this to ‘buy’ goods. Haibane are also not allowed to buy new goods – instead they recycle things the townspeople don’t need anymore, or buy things second hand (like clothes). The Haibane also live away from the main town, and have adopted an old schoolhouse for their home, which they affectionately refer to as Old Home.

Throughout the day Rakka finds out a bit more about the town, like the fact that none of the inhabitants of Glie (human or Haibane) are allowed outside of the city walls. The only exception to this rule is a race known as the Toga - traders who are allowed to sell their goods onto the townsfolk. However even this is not as straightforward as it seems, as the Toga are not allowed to talk to the general population. They can only communicate (in sign language) with the Haibane Renmei who not only look after the Haibane, but the townsfolk as well.

Upon returning to the Old Home after her day in town, Rakka receives a note accepting her as a Haibane and asking her to visit the Temple of the Haibane Renmei the following morning. Hikari offers to accompany Rakka as she has to return the halo mould and the following morning the two of them set off. When they reach the temple they are given bells on each of their wings and wrists with which to communicate with the Haibane Renmei. This is something that Rakka has problems with as she has not yet got used to her new wings and finds that they move independently. Here Rakka comes face to face with the communicator who welcomes her and gives her the Haibane notebook. Finally the communicator tells Rakka that she must now find a job in order to support herself, and also that if she is in trouble she can go to the communicator for help.

Rakka soon finds out that finding work in the town might not be as easy as it seems, as Haibane are only allowed to work for certain companies. Reki suggests that Rakka visits the work place of each of the others until she finds something that she’d like to do, thus begins Rakkas search for work.

During these first four episodes we get to know a bit more about the Haibane as seen through the eye’s of Rakka, who as a newborn is reliant on the other Haibane in the Old Home to a great extent. Rakka has to get used to her new surrounding quite quickly and this results in many questions being asked early on in the establishing episodes. While some of the simpler questions are answered these four episodes spawn a whole raft of more complex questions relating to the world of the Haibane and this indicates that Haibane Renmei could turn into quite a “thinking mans” show.

Several of the characters who are initially introduced are explored in more detail during these initial episodes, namely Reki, Kuu and Kana. In fact, character development forms a substantial part of Haibane Renmei and is given the attention it rightly deserves. All the characters are well developed and it’s fascinating to see how their personalities affect the way they interact with Rakka and the people who live in Glie. For me this was the most important element of the show, after all why bother to create such a wonderfully realistic environment, and then fill it with stereotypical characters with nothing new to offer.

Reki, one of the older Haibane feels a duty to look after the young feathers and while she occasionally complains it’s clear that this is something she enjoys doing. Reki also has artistic tenancies and has her own studio set-up in the Old Home, however she seems reluctant to show people her paintings. It’s also clear from the outset that there is something more to Reki than being the ‘caring’ Haibane, she has a habit of sitting in quiet contemplation and you can’t help but wonder what she’s thinking about. Kuu, while the youngest of the older feathers, sometimes appears to be older than her years suggest, but she also has a wonderfully gleeful side to her. Kana is the ubiquitous toy boy, who probably feels more at home working with the men that help maintain the clock tower where she works. Kana also has an immense dislike for the crows that seem to hang around both Old Home and the town, much to Rakkas bemusement.

In creating Haibane Renmei, Yoshitoshi ABe has created a world that is not dissimilar to the one we live in now in terms of design. The setting of Glie has a slightly European feel and brings to mind some of the towns created by Hayao Miyazaki. ABe has also made his world seem as real as possible with the level of detail included in the show, the backgrounds are richly detailed and are beautiful to look at. This also extends to the character designs that are instantly recognisable as ABe’s work and are very realistic. The colour scheme used also evokes the real world as opposed to the normal anime settings as the colours are more natural and not at all like the kaleidoscope of bright colours that are frequently used. The effect of all this is to totally immerse the viewer in this imagined world that, in truth, feels all too real.

In summary-

For me Haibane Renmei is a breath of anime fresh air, while I enjoy action oriented shows it’s refreshing to come across a show that is wholly devoted to its characters and their environment. The setting for the show is also intriguing and raises many questions, some of which might be important and others that most definitely are not (like what are those halo’s made of?). I’m already looking forward to the next volume and it’s going to be interesting finding out whether any of these questions are actually answered, and what direction the series, as a whole, is going to take.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Creditless opening,Original Japanese opening,Art gallery,Episode previews

Review Equipment
Panasonic 42” Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jnager 3/13/2012 2:18:27 PM

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