Haibane Renmei Vol. #4 - Mania.com

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  • 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
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     February 17, 2004
Release Date: February 24, 2004

Haibane Renmei Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Amidst the Passing of the Year Festival, Reki begins to distance herself from everyone and prepares to face the bitter darkness that will soon engulf her, resigned to her fate as a cursed and unforgiven Haibane.

With little time remaining, Rakka painstakingly attempts to set into motion a course of redemption that may provide salvation and help Reki achieve her "Day of Flight" Can Reki be saved after all, especially when she doesn't even want to save herself?

The Review!
While emotional, the end to Haibane Renmei plays out both as an ending and a new beginning, much as the seasons of the Haibane are.

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 good 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.

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. The rolling "rendering? problem that was lightly visible on the earlier volumes appears to be gone with this one.

With an interior shot that focuses on Reki, the final cover sets up the feeling that she's going to become the focus of things. There's such detail to these covers in the backgrounds that you can really just gaze at them for quite some time and still take something new in. The back cover pushes the green shade more by mixing it in with the halo that's the central image here. There are a few shots from the show itself throughout as well as a brief episode summary. The discs technical features are nice and clearly listed (including mentioning anamorphic). 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 part of the front cover. The insert has another shot of the front cover and opens up to a full piece spread done in browns of Rakka laying in bed in her schoolgirl outfit.

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.

The last round of extras provide some good material, though in general they should be avoided until after you finish the series itself. The previews for episodes twelve and thirteen are once again located here and there's the brief art gallery of still images once more also. There's a very strange short extra called "Hane Haeterun? which comes across as a parody of "Got Milk? with "Got Wings?. It's short but disturbingly fascinating at the same time. The original ending to the last episode is presented here with its apparently original English subtitles; the piece plays out by using a new song not heard elsewhere to the best of my knowledge and it uses pieces of Reki's artwork as its visual display. There's a listed "Cover Art Gallery? but that's deceptive as it's actually the cover art used for the scripts for each episode. And rounding things out is the interview with ueda and ABe, which was done at a convention in 2003 and has been used for other releases as well (such as Texhnolyze, where they simply swap out the artwork and do a "new? interview).

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After all that's come with the series so far, as we've gotten to see the world of the Haibane through the eyes of Rakka, it all turns with a slight nudge and the sense that we're really here to focus upon Reki comes about. Through our time with Rakka we've learned how much of the world here operates, what the strange limits are on the Haibane as well as the normal people who live in the town. The importance of ones dreams, both today and from the time in the cocoon. And most importantly, the value of forgiveness.

Rakka comes to this discovery after spending her time doing her job under the walls of the city in cleaning and collecting along the waterways. When she realizes that she's hearing Kuu there, and finding a symbol that has a variant on Kuu's name as well, she brings her discoveries to the attention of the guardian who has helped her previously. He confirms her suspicions and explains at some length, for him at least, about how the Haibane all have the name that they get when they arrive, but that they also have a true name. This turns surprisingly to Reki, of whom he causally mentions that she's still not found her true path yet in the world and is likely to pass on without a Day of Flight and end up living out her days till death claims her away from both human and Haibane.

The knowledge of this, combined with the importance of true names and Rakka's own path to salvation from being a Sin-bound, sets it upon herself to try and understand Reki more and to do more to try and help her. Reki's continual smile and always helpful nature belies something darker and more unsettling underneath, and it's a journey that both she and Rakka end up going through together as Rakka does her best to help her, much as Reki helped Rakka when she was born into this world. The paths of these two come very much intertwined here as the barriers and walls that Reki has put up over the years start to crumble and the real person behind her starts to come out.

Much of this is played out before the climactic scenes where the secrets of Reki are revealed. In meeting with some of the Haibane out in the Factory, Rakka starts to learn more about the relationships of the past and how Reki had been helped in an attempt to climb over the wall and escape into the world, as she feared what would come without her friend there any longer. This rift separated up the two sides as we've seen in past episodes, but now there's a clearer picture of why. Rakka's presence, as she tries to understand everything, serves to bring things together once more and that allows her to gain more knowledge about Reki.

As the series turned its focus more towards Reki, though keeping Rakka very much prominent, it felt like the right way to go with the storyline. With the salvation of Rakka previously with her Sin-bound nature, that theme seemed to work well in allowing her to move forward and to try and help others. With Reki being the most important person in her life, it's not surprising that she focuses all of her energy there. It's a natural turn of events as Rakka now starts to care for Reki and help her along to the next phase of her journey.

These final episodes play out much like the rest of the series with the melancholy feel to the surroundings, the dark greens that give an almost oppressive feel to the world. Then that background feeling I continually got of just what kind of disturbing reality that this is with the city that nobody can leave and it being something that nobody questioned. All of the things that really got me curious with the series though are things that ABe did not want to focus on. The characters and the story of forgiveness and salvation in religious tones are what he wanted to focus on. Usually it's easy to keep on with where the creators want to go, but there were so many intriguing ideas that were passed over that this became somewhat frustrating, but not surprising considering the freewheeling nature of how this script and concept came about.

In Summary:
It's generally unfair to compare series to each other in my mind, but the works ABe's involved in often have such a strong presence of his style and intent that it's difficult to not compare them. Haibane Renmei was an interesting series in how it was designed and conceived, allowing the show to work itself out as it went along with only the barest of structure to keep it all together. It's one of the few series that used its thirteen episode run properly and didn't feel like it should have been longer or shorter, but managed it just right. There were areas that I enjoyed and were intrigued by, but they were not the areas the storyteller wanted to focus on. Haibane Renmei is an interesting experimental anime, which we need more of, and the fans of it are likely in love with the treatment Geneon has given it. For me, it was an interesting journey but not one I'll retake anytime soon.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Special Ending, Interview with the Creators, Line Art Gallery, Script Cover Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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