published in Empire No.84, Sydney
Instead of concentrating too much on plot action and character motivation, a better way to consider anime is via the subtle poetic nuances which distinguish each title’s tone and sensibility. If you’re not predisposed to considering the poetic, then Haibane Renmei is unlikely to appeal. Its gentle strength lies in the visualisation and symbolism of its obtusely maternal and feminine narrative.
Haibane Renmei opens with Rakka dreaming of falling from the sky. This is her cosmic birth, wherein she is being formed inside a strange egg, discovered in what appears to be a deserted European convent. But this is anime: the convent is in the town Grie, which sits within a walled domain beyond which is the unspeakable outside world. The town of Grie has humans, but also the clan of Haibane angels like Rakka living in the convent. The Haibane are like a mystical sect accepted by the humans of Grie. And their time in Grie is disturbingly brief compared to human life-span. The story of Haibane Renmei charts Rakka’s gradual understanding of the world into which she has been born. It’s not a high-tech pyrotechnical realm, but has a disquieting appeal all of its own.