Saturday, March 3, 2012

Haibane Renmei: One Side of the Equation

Main cast with a couple of "young feathers". L-R Kuu, Rakka,
Hikari, Kana, Nemu, & Reki. Credit: Yshitobe Abe, Radix

                                         Haibane Renmei: One Side of the Equation


                                                                          Jay Agan

      I'd heard much of Haibane Renmei (Charcoal Feathers Federation) & those who have seen it have given it nothing but praise. As it has a theological theme to it, I decided to give it a try. I put off for weeks getting it. The price through Amazon (used) I thought to be exorbitant & the gray market vendor (Then also through Amazon.) though quite reasonably priced, I was leery of. (For an account of my experience with gray market, go here.)

      The original U.S. marketer of Haibane Renmei, Geneon, had long since gone. I remember buying three of their live action film noirs at Big Lots. Only one (The Big Combo, starring Cornel Wilde & Richard Conte.) I kept.

      Finally breaking down, I shelled out the bucks for it. The actual vender was Spin Cycle. When it arrived, I was quite disappointed. Instead of the box set I got four standard "clamshell" single disc cases in bubble wrap. The first three were Pioneer, the fourth a Geneon/Pioneer. They had sent me "odds 'n ends"! Needless to say I was a bit ticked off. Howsomever .....

      On further reading about the rarity of this long "out of print" series & the difficulty many others had in obtaining it, I concluded I was fortunate to have it at all. While I considered what I purchased to be pricey, others were asking for much more. Well over a hundered dollars in just about every other case. Mine was well under that. For all I know, I may be the last to have gotten it at such a comparitively low price (A decorative cardboard slipcase for a c-note? No way!). That being said, I sat back, relaxed, & enjoyed the show.

      In the first episodes' opening credits, a young girl experiences a vivid dream of falling toward a town arranged in a spoke wheel fashion. A crow (Which figures later in the series.) tries to save her from her descent but she "rejects" it out of hand. Waking from her dream she finds herself floating in a cocoon like mass & claws her way out. On reviving, she is ministered to by "angelic" beings (They have halos & vestigial wings.) who inform her she is one of them, a Haibane (Hi-bah-nay). In spite of their looks they're not angels. Like them, she has no recollection of her previous life but for a few very vague memories. After being given her name based on her "cocoon dream" (Rakka means falling.) & "fitted" with a halo (It won't stay on at first.) she goes through the painful/feverish process of sprouting wings & her arrival being "finalized". Thus ends ep one.

Credit: Shawn Merrow

      The next 4 1/2 eps are backdrop. The Haibane residence of "Old Home" is a run down dormitory/fort/convent(?) on the outskirts of a town called Gurie/Glie inhabited mostly by normal humans. The area is surrounded by a high wall (Dangerous to be near, the very touch could bring about serious illness, even death.), none allowed in or out thus NO ONE knows anything about the outside world. The Haibane beings are administered directly by the Haibane Renmei (Charcoal Feathers Federation)  composed of the toga, mute semi masked beings led by the fully masked Washi/Communicator (He presides from the Haibane temple.) who alone can speak.

      The Haibane live by strict rules: They aren't allowed to handle money (Only scrip from notebooks), can only own used items, & must work for a living. It is during this period Rakka spends time with some of the others to see what jobs they do & try to figure what she would be good at (Nemu works in the library, the mechanically inclined Kana for a clock maker/repairman, Hikari - who inadvertantly "reinvents" doughnuts with the halo mold - the bakery.). Along the way, she is mentored by Reki & Kuu, an anxious adolescent wanting to be "more adult".

      At first it is not totally clear as to why the Haibane are there & it's gradually revealed the setting is an elaborate "purgatory" where one unloads spiritual/emotional "baggage" before passing on. About the middle of ep 4 we find out in the form of the adolescent Kuu when she departs on her "Day of Flight". When a Haibane attains a profound sense of accomplishment or fulfillment she/he becomes somewhat withdrawn & introspective. After a time the person will, unannounced, go off to the ancient ruins in the western woods & disappear in an upward beam of light, the implications being one has gone to a better place. In Kuus' case it is through her helping out of the "older" Rakka to adjust that a sense of maturity has blossomed.

      Rakkas' adjustment has seemingly been partially undone by this & the fact the others have been holding information from her. She then slowly descends into a depressive funk that over time takes its toll in the revelation of her sin bound state & its' physical & emotional consequences. It turns out she's not the only one & that other has it much worse than she. Therein hangs the rest of the tale. I won't reveal the rest, you can look that up on Wikipedia.

The main protagonst, Rakka, pondering twin cocoons. Credit: Radix

      What I find most intrigueing about this show is its explanation of the realisation of sin & the mental states one is in before & after. In the 9th episode the question is asked if wether or not one is still sin bound if one realizes that one is a sinner. The communicator replies to the effect that if one does not realize one is a sinner (Or perhaps even knowingly refuses to acknowlege it.) he will not break himself out of the "circle of sin" & thus be trapped in it.

      The bad actions/things/results people do are not "sin" themselves. Merely the results of our sin bound state when we let our baser nature have its way. How sad it is one has things standing in the way between God & oneself. Pride (I can't be a sinner! I'm too good!), embarrassment/self hatred (Self explanatory.), foolishness (I'm too good to be bad or at least "bad" enough to be fun.), or perhaps something we don't want to give up &/or stop doing. We rationalise, ignore, evade, "forget", & thus keep ourselves in the vicious cycle.

      How does one get out of it or at least cope with this seemingly endless trap?

      The realisation that one is a sinner is only "one side of the equation", it is but the first step.

       Romans 1:18-32 pretty much states the general mentality of fallen man & why no one is blameless in regard to the state of sin. By the way, it's not because I'm lazy I'm not typing these verses down. I want you to actually look them up yourself. If you really care about this & are not content to just critique or do a "put down" while remaining willingly unknowing then you will actually get a bible & LOOK.

       Romans 3:10, 3:23, & Psalms 14:3 - Again, no one is blameless. If you have trouble wrapping your mind around this, think of it as you would an illness or physical condition. It is a state which we are born under.

      Romans 5:12 - The how & why we are that way. Adam is the reason we're under the weight of sin & trapped in this deadly cycle.

      Romans 5:8 & 6:23 - Jesus is the way out. The other side of the equation. With our acknowledgement of our sinbound state we can go on to have the Lord correct that.

      Romans 10:13 & 10:9-10 - This is the how in regard to Jesus. Do these & the cycle breaks & has no claim on you.

      Of course, it goes without saying, "Go & sin no more". I really stink at this. However, one should always keep going back & asking the Lord for guidance & strength to resist (It's called prayer.). For guidance I strongly suggest one get in touch with a strong bible believing pastor/church in your area.

      Revelation 3:20 - Jesus is waiting for you to answer. He has been there all along knocking. It could be you just didn't (Or didn't want to.) hear it.

What the ..... Kagura & Kaorin didn't make it? Aww man! Makes you wonder how Tomo
got a "pass". Most of the Azumanga kids cosplaying as Haibane. L-R Tomo "Kana" Takino,
 Yomi "Nemu" Mizuhara,Chiyo-chan "Rakka" Mihama, "Reki" Sakaki, & "Hikari" Osaka.

      I understand that Funimation may have the license to market Haibane Renmei here in the U.S. Write/email them to "get on the stick" & get this out. Even if not, try to obtain this 13 ep series. It's well worth your time watching.

A couple of Haibane Renmei fan fiction stories of mine here & here.

On the Rapture, Third Impact, Armageddon & All That similar article here.

Haibane Renmei music video (J. J. Jones' Mad World) here.

Haibane Renmei music video (Credits music from Paprika.) here. Not so good video quality but I like it.

Wikipedia review here.

Angel Beats (Another "purgatory" anime.) review here.

Go to Main Page here.

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  1. Coincidently, Yoshitoshi ABe (Yes, the b is capitalised for some reason) said himself that the series isn't specifically about purgatory/limbo nor are the Charcoal Feathers themselves children who died/committed suicide. (As per the most common interpretations of the series)
    As far as I know ABe hasn't made it publicly known what he's own view about it all is.

    But he has said he enjoys other interpretations and fully encourages fans to do this.

    Regardless, I liked this review.

    1. Sorta like Anno saying he only put the Christian & Kaballic imagery in the Evangelion series/movies because it looked kool. It has led folks into reading things into it that may not be there. Still makes for a great mental exercise if one doesn't take the symbolism too seriously (Providing, of course Anno actually didn't take it seriously.).

      It was made clear in episode two of Angel Beats as well, that suicides didn't enter into their 'world' either.

      Thank you for your info & compliment.