In an isolated town, people live a peaceful life. An angelic race called Haibane are occasionally born from cocoons, and work in the town. Rakka is the latest to arrive. She adjusts well, but can't seem to find her place in the world. Haunted by visions of a crow, she wonders what purpose her new life serves.
It's rare to find a show as unique as Haibane Renmei. It's slice of life show surrounded by an aura of mystery. It focuses on a group of girls who are Haibane - basically angels. While Haibane are angelic in appearance, their lives aren't particularly divine. Birthing and sprouting wings for example are natural organic processes.
Most interesting about Haibane Renmei is the exotic environment. The town isolated from the world by a wall surrounding it, Haibane are forbidden to even approach. Priests act as an intermediate with the outside, and there is a fair amount of ceremony around everything. The culture in the town is quite normal, only highlighting the more exotic customs. The backdrop is very immersive.
The anime mostly follows Rakka learning the ways of the world, and her struggles to find her place in it. I have patience, but the slow pacing did push my limits by the half way point. One of the Haibane "ascends" (to somewhere), leaving Rakka to moping around depressed for a few episodes. Haibane Renmei lost me at this point, until Rakka comes to a crossroads requiring her make peace with her past (I guess), then focus shifts to an older Haibane. At the final episode, I realized I didn't have this anime figured out as I thought I did. The true story covered anime was something different, and I'm really impressed by that.
Haibane Renmei's biggest fault lies in poor visuals. Character designs are fair, but they're crudely rendered. The show has high potential for beautiful scenery and cinematography, but it's not realized. The show often lingers in quiet moments, meaning things would have improved tremendously with better animation/design. That said, the audience who'd truly appreciate this anime, aren't the kind distracted by shiny things (even if those are always a plus).
I was often indifferent about Haibane Renmei. The environment is certainly intriguing but the pacing wasn't correctly spread out which causes some parts to drag. In the end, I liked how the overall theme and story turned around, so it's a net positive. It's an unusual anime worth checking into.
Rakka: I wish it was always today. Then I'd be with you forever.
Reiki: There is no such thing as forever. Everything ends sooner or later. Just as it should. Because now is only now, is what makes this moment precious.
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