AKA: Charcoal Feather Federation , Ailes Grises, Une fille qui a des Ailes Grises, A Girl Who Has Gray Wings, The Haibanes of Old Home
-This anime was scored by Ko Otani who’s also worked on Shadow of the Colossus, Outlaw Star, Diablo III, and the Gundam Wing franchise.
To be honest, there are times when I tire of movies and anime that get praised to high heaven. More often than not, I end up being disappointed or in some cases, enraged by how things can be overrated especially when it comes to mega-popular titles. I tend to purvey hype backlash whenever I deal with this stuff.
Haibane Renmei is not one of those series.
I remember watching this over a decade ago after hearing some glowing reviews about this series. Sure, it never had the popularity of the Dragon Ball franchise or even mainstream acceptance like Cowboy Bebop, but I would say that it has way more artistic integrity and took more chances than a lot of productions.
Haibane Renmei takes place in this fictional countryside town called Glie. It’s walled up and people live in small communities in the area. The population consists of humans and creatures called Haibane (literally meaning charcoal feather[s] in Japanese). The Haibane look like humans except they have halos and small charcoal flightless wings on their back. No, they are not angels. Let me make that clear. They are “born” by hatching out of these large eggs and they come out as children or teens. The newest member of the community is Rakka who’s this naive girl who’s trying to learn about what it’s like living in this mysterious town while not remembering anything. There’s Reki who becomes Rakka’s role model/big sister figure who has a tendency to be a chain smoker. The rest of the main cast includes Kana who is this very tomboyish girl who’s brash and loudmouthed. There’s Hikari who’s slightly ditzy but tries to be serious. There’s Kuu who is hyperactive yet slightly socially awkward. Nemu is the oldest of the bunch, but she’s such a sleepyhead, yet she’s very calm and is the voice of reason.
The early episodes act as slice-of-life stories as Rakka learns about Glie from the other Haibane Renmei and tries to find her place in this small town. The world-building is superb when it comes to the human/Haibane relationships with how the latter can only get secondhand items, the Communicators who operate silently most of the time while using these bells, or how certain Haibane can become “sin-bound” and get black wings. Even the wall itself has a major role which I won’t spoil, but it affects one character in a very serious way when she touches it.
Another strong aspect is the music. Seriously, Haibane Renmei has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard in anime. Ko Otani doesn’t get as much credit as Yoko Kanno or Joe Hisaishi, but when he makes some scores, they can be really good. The music uses an electric mix of folk, Celtic, and chamber-based numbers. The opening theme song called “Free Bird” (no, not THAT Free Bird) fits the anime perfectly with its lush instrumentation. The ending theme “Blue Flow” by Heart of Air is a beautiful ambient pop piece. I still can’t believe that the lead singer of that band Masumi Ito was also involved with Oranges & Lemons who did the theme songs for Azumanga Daioh which are completely different.
-A couple of instances of dodgy CGI like the windmills
-Can be too quiet and contemplative at times
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