Region: 2 - UK
Length: 130 minutes
English Dolby Digital Stereo
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Haibane Renmei is a thirteen episode anime focused on Rakka, a new Haibane, and her friends and fellow Haibane. The Haibane or 'Ash Wings' as they are known in English are ordinary girls who have been reborn with small wings and are given a halo. The anime is set in a walled city with a single gate that only the mysterious Toga, the federation that monitors the Haibane Renmei, can go through. Rakka is cared for by her fellow Haibane as they try to figure out the meaning of their existence and what lies beyond the wall.
Many anime fans claim that Haibane Renmei is one of their favourite titles, and it is easy to see why. Yoshitoshi ABe's unique creation is light-hearted and innocent, with gentle humour and wonderful characters.
The series focuses on the main character, Rakka, and her fellow Haibane or 'Ash-wings'. The gentle tone of the anime is set from the beginning where Rakka is dreaming that she is falling slowly through the sky until she is born from a large cocoon located in an old building titled "Old Home". The humour is very sweet and silly, such as Rakka donning a halo that causes her hair to go static and keep sticking up all over the place no matter what she does.
The Haibane live in a walled land, which no one can leave, just outside a city. They work with the humans who live in the town, and in the same area is the Toga, a sort of federation that watches over the Haibane.
At first Haibane Renmei seems quite slow and can cause the viewer to wonder where exactly it's going, if anywhere, but episode six really starts things moving. The characters have been fleshed out by now and Rakka starts questioning everything around her and the story of self-discovery really begins. The story also begins to focus more on Reki once things start moving, and the viewer ends up being taken on an emotional rollercoaster towards an explosive ending.
The series came out originally in Japan in 2002, and came out as an English dubbed DVD box set in 2007 in the UK and 2005 in the US. The settings and scenery are beautiful and everything is drawn in a lovely soft style. The voices are wonderful, both in Japanese and English. Unlike so many dubs where the English voices don't match up with the character very well and are often a little disappointing, the voices are actually well matched, with only a few lacklustre lines, usually from the young children. The music is also surprisingly nice, and it's not just the opening and ending themes that catch your attention but also simple pieces such as when the girls are walking through the village.
The special features such as an art gallery, text-less opening and ending, a funny little "Got Wings" short, interview with producer Ueda Yasuyuki and series creator Yoshitoshi ABe and more make this a lovely box set to own, and makes the buyer feel that their money was well spent. Also despite the box set having only recently been released in the UK, in 2007, it is not too expensive, another plus for an awesome series.
Haibane Renmei is a unique anime and is definitely a must watch for anime fans. The first five episodes introduce and flesh out the characters, and after that the story kicks it up a notch. Don't let the angel wings and halos mislead you into thinking this is going to be a religious anime, because the series never directly touches on the subject but does give an interesting perspective on things. If you haven't seen it already, don't miss out on something wonderful.