The Dream of Redemption in Haibane Renmei

New essay is up! This one’s all about that fractured classic Haibane Renmei, full of rich ideas and held back by unfortunate technical issues completely outside its control. I enjoyed Haibane Renmei, but didn’t love it, and I go into all of that in my piece, so let’s get right to it!

The Dream of Redemption in Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei’s full of more detail than just one piece can really handle, though, so you can check out all my episodic notes below.

Haibane Renmei

Episode 1

0:30 – Starts with the girl falling from the sky, crow beside her

0:45 – “I’m falling. Strange, I’m not afraid. Are you worried for me?”

0:58 – “I’m not afraid, but my heart is cold.”

2:07 – The backgrounds are nicely painted and very early 00’s. Kinda reminds me of Kino’s Journey, in color palette, architecture, and age style

2:17 – A haloed angel carrying boxes and smoking a cigarette. Nice image

3:00 – Finds a cocoon in a storeroom. Understandably surprised

3:42 – Oh wow, this world is gorgeous. Classic European countryside, painted in watercolor-style backgrounds

4:20 – There are child angels too, apparently. If they’re angels at all – wings and halos actually probably just imply the dead

4:45 – “This is a great event for us Haibane.” So they’re the Haibane

5:00 – Talking about getting time off work. A fairly practical afterlife

6:00 – “Let’s at least clean this room. To be born in a room full of junk like this is kind of sad.”

8:03 – “We can’t crack the egg ourselves. It’s a custom. If you can’t crack your own egg, you won’t grow strong.”

9:10 – This show’s color palette is so light and fluffy and warm

9:43 – “These clothes feel rough, though everything was soft in the dream. Smells like nuts.” This show is definitely trying to create a specific mood through whatever means are available

10:31 – Reki is the smoker

Man, this makes me want a smoke

11:07 – Now, first, tell us about your dream

12:03 – Each Haibane is named after the dream they had. “Light” for floating in light, “Kana” (river fish) for drifting in a river

She’s “Rakka” for Falling. Because their old names disappear

And then they take a halo out of a halo press. Lol

16:25 – “Are we not human?” “Nobody knows what we are. For lack of a name, we call ourselves the Haibane.”

16:40 – “The Haibane cannot leave this town. And as you cannot remember, no one remembers you.”

17:10 – “Why me? I was just an ordinary girl.” “Nobody knows why.”

18:30 – “I feel the wings becoming a part of my body. I’m afraid my body is becoming something else.”

19:30 – “Beautiful wings. Not white, not black, beautiful charcoal grey.” This show has some pretty effortless beautiful dialogue. And the world is obviously great

Episode Two

1:12 – So the Haibane fall from the sky and create a seed that eventually becomes a cocoon. Rebirth, cycles, identity. The afterlife imagery. The closed space they inhabit

2:05 – “Feeling pain means they really are a part of my hobby, huh.”

Jeez, that early 00s digipaint is not doing this show any favors

3:42 – “Even though I can’t remember the town I was born in, I know that I don’t know this town.” Ideas of home?

6:22 – Nemu is the sleepy one. Just enjoying a kinda idyllic breakfast here

7:20 – Reki seems conflicted about her dream – walking on a stone path in the moonlight

9:08 – Their home used to be a dormitory, but everyone left. Transitions seem important to this show

9:12 – They call it “old home” and refer to it as a Haibane “nest”

Rakka just sort of accepts this whole situation as her new reality

9:56 – “The humans are letting the Haibane live in their town, and it’s supposed to be the Haibane’s obligation to use things the humans no longer use.” Hm

10:15 – Really nice music track here. Great music in general, actually

10:45 – Long shots of Rakka feeling kind of insecure in her outfit. This show definitely wants to create a sense of place and mood

11:00 – “It’s a rule that Haibane can only wear used clothes.” Interesting. Rebirth again?

11:39 – Headphones plugged into an old-timey radio. Cute

11:46 – “Oh, it’s just some Haibane.” So it seems like they’re a lower class in this society, in spite of the Haibanes’ attempts to put a brave face on it

12:30 – And they each get a charity piece of clothing

13:20 – And they don’t use money

The thrift store dude seems pleasant enough

14:16 – So they work, but they aren’t allowed to receive money, and thus use the notebook to deal with finances. A very weird system

16:00 – The “Toga” come from outside the walls to trade, but are not allowed to speak with anyone but the interpreter for the town. The townspeople and Haibane can never leave the walls. Interesting

The Haibane Renmei serve as an interpreter between the Toga and town

16:33 – “Let’s go. We’ll stay in trouble if we stay close to the wall for too long.” So they’re not actually accepted here

16:40 – And then Rakka is startled by a crow, again, like at the opening. Symbol of flight, freedom, wisdom. The Toga also notices, and makes eye contact with her

16:50 – The Haibane complain that the crow is a scavenger. Aren’t they scavengers?

17:34 – “What’s beyond the walls?” “Nobody knows.”

The Hardboiled Wonderland/End of the World influence does seem pretty strong

17:55 – “I wonder if the town I used to live in is beyond those walls”

18:09 – So the Haibane Renmei is like the official Haibane association or something

21:15 – Reki and Rakka have an interesting, kinda intimate bond

Episode 3

1:30 – This show’s environments sure are lovely

2:18 – So much of this show is dedicated to slowly revealing its world

4:30 – “The same dream again…” Reki still troubled by her original dream

Hikari is the blond one with glasses/ponytail

5:17 – The Haibane temple is “on the outskirts of the outskirts of town. Nobody goes near there unless they have to”

The temple is actually along a cliffside, across a bridge, etc. They keep it far from the village

7:20 – There are very specific rules about communicating with the Communicators. So contact with the Haibane has to be limited in a variety of ways?

Man, I do love these environments, though. Reminds me of Ico, kinda

7:33 – “We’re not allowed to speak inside.”

7:50 – Their wings, the physical symbol of their other-ness, are the only way they are allowed to communicate. Great stuff

This wing-speech also kinda reduces them to infants

8:48 – Rakka accidentally waving both wings is adorable

9:08 – “For yourself, for your dwelling place, and for the Young Feathers, you must be a good Haibane.” The hell is this arrangement?

9:22 – “We are here. Come here when you are in trouble.”

Man, this show’s world is soooo preeeetty

This world is a prison, but the lush framing makes it seem like a paradise. A really great disconnect between the aesthetic framing and all these creepy narrative clues

12:05 – “A Haibane must work, right?” So what else could the Haibane represent?

12:29 – “The places a Haibane can work are limited.” I’m guessing they can’t do very visible work

13:47 – Little kids with tiny wings pouting about having to eat carrots. I can see why this show is popular

Kuu is the kid

16:03 – “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could really fly?” “We can! If you really believe, you can fly someday. I believe that.” “Maybe so.”

17:40 – “Kana calls the crows scavengers, but I think they want to be friends with us.” ALERT ALERT

17:46 – “What is trash for us is food for the crows.” Making the crows-are-Haibane thing preeetty damn overt

18:05 – “Because the crows look scary and can only caw, they cannot become friends with us.” And communication has already been established as a Thing. We’re going places fast!

18:20 – The Haibane are only allowed to work at one bakery, the oldest bakery in town

Episode 4

1:16 – Episode title is “Birds Flying Over the Walls”

1:55 – Rakka has a dream. Alone in the fog, and then a bird comes

Kana’s the black-outfit, boyish looking one. She seems more pragmatic, and isn’t a fan of the crows

5:16 – “Feeding the crows like that, what are you gonna do if they become dependent and can’t live outside this town?”

5:40 – “The birds are the only creatures allowed to go beyond the walls in this town. If by feeding them we create a place where they can survive without any struggle, they’ll only inhabit this town and will probably never fly free again.” Well, uh, okay then. Thanks for spelling that out

“It might be happy for them, but I feel sorry for them.”

Kana’s personality is established quickly and well. Opinionated, confident, kinda brash, a tinkerer

8:31 – “Whoever was living here before seemed to be trying to make this work electrically instead of by pendulum.” Raises the question of people coming and going through this place

9:06 – Kana gets things done

11:37 – Working in a clocktower is a very Haibane job

13:10 – Head of the clock store is a gruff old guy with a heart of gold

13:40 – “I’m giving you discipline because you have potential.” The old man’s words to Kana echo Kana’s words regarding the crows

14:25 – “I wonder why the Haibane work.” “Because we have to.” “That’s not what I meant.” “Have you noticed that this town is extremely protective of us? Doesn’t it bother you? Sort of like being treated like children. So we work, so not to be indebted to the town.” “That sounds very like you.” Yep. Use this line

16:21 – “This is the highest point, so if you can stand this, there’s nothing to be scared of.”

16:45 – “Look straight ahead. The farthest away is the walls.”

17:08 – “The birds are flying over the walls.” “They’re said to carry lost items. Things we left behind and forgot when we went into the cocoons.”

18:50 – “Is Kana going to go away?” Such perfect inflection in the old man’s line. And the fear of the Haibane being temporary, of floating away on their wings. Maybe only those who can’t find joy in the walls do that

Rakka focuses on things she can remember, things she can’t. She and Reki seem particularly tied to their past

Episode 5

Today we’re with Nemu, the sleepy one at the library

3:30 – “It felt like someone was protecting me in my dream.”

4:15 – They get books essentially at random through trade with the Toga, and the books are all old. Is the world outside destroyed? Is this town the womb inside which all these characters are protected?

5:17 – Rakka gets caught up looking at a fanciful picture book. She dreams of faraway places

5:30 – “I wondered if I could find a book that tells what’s outside this town.”

And books like that don’t exist, of course

6:20 – “I wanted to leave this town and find the beginning of the world.” She stares dreamily away. “But I couldn’t. Because my life here is so much more fulfilling.” Gesturing at her pregnant belly.

“A dream is beautiful because it remains a dream.” The outside might be very ugly indeed

Could my piece be about how beautiful this cage is? Because this town is certainly a beautiful cage

Nemu seems maybe a little too sad about her superior Sumika leaving for her pregnancy. I guess Sumika won’t be returning

9:27 – “There was a book called ‘The Beginning of the World’ in the library a long time ago. But it’s discarded now.” Knowledge is temporary here

Nemu gives Rakka the one hint on what her gift will be, which will likely bookend this episode. This show has very unassumingly good writing – the thematic stuff is sometimes on-the-nose, but its episodes are structured in such a way that they form graceful little narratives while coming across largely as slice-of-life daily occurrences. Shirobako does the same thing

11:00 – So Reki meets up with a… Haibane scooter gang? And one of them, who apparently wants her to quit smoking and scootering, hides his wings and halo beneath a hoodie and baseball cap

11:23 – The Abandoned Factory is the home for the “charcoal feathers”

12:00 – So Old Home is intentionally all girls. And Reki once ran away with that boy

12:32 – “In my memories exists another version of myself”

12:40 – “I can’t shake the feeling that my parents and my old town may exist somewhere. Maybe this feeling will fade when my wings fully become a part of my body.” They want people to become accustomed to this life, to create ties here. But the ties people create are not a burden to them – they’re a natural thing, like Kana’s apprenticeship or Sumika’s child

13:12 – “I wonder if I deserve to be as happy as I am.” A very natural worry

14:16 – “At the beginning of the world, there was nothing but a dark mist, called the Nothingness. God appeared. By merely being there, he brought light to the Nothingness.”

Wonderful transposing of this against some vague memory of Sumika comforting Nemu

18:45 – Kuu’s another one who feeds strays. And Kuu was rambling through the windmills earlier. Does Kuu share Rakka’s feelings?

21:23 – “It was a mistake, but it was just as well” said God

22:00 – Nemu writes that the Haibane were a failed creation of God, because they were too much like him. Humans came after. A sad origin story

Man, this storytelling is so good

22:33 – “The Haibane escaped while God was sleeping. By the time he awoke, they were already flying around. However, ever tolerant of mistakes, God decided to let the Haibane and their tiny world be.

The town of Glie

Episode 6

2:35 – “Winter here comes all of a sudden.” Moving our way even more towards Hardboiled Wonderland. I’ll miss this wonderful summer backdrop, though. This feels like a show I’ll watch again just for the atmosphere

3:20 – “This is a room for everybody. It’s so comfortable here that I might grow lazy, if I stay.” So many of the lines in this show reflect off the main theme

3:58 – Kuu’s halo fades for a moment. Oh jeez, is Haibane just a state of being for those still able to leave? Do you lose “Haibane” if you acclimate to the town?

4:32 – The ringing of the bell is also a regular motif here. And the show doesn’t really explain it

6:46 – “Her giving you that jacket means she no longer has to pretend to be what she isn’t.” Christ, this line sounds critical. Kuu giving Rakka the jacket signals some kind of acceptance of identity on Kuu’s part? An acceptance of her current self. That sort of fits with the striving to escape the walls, but it’s not graceful. I feel like I’m missing something obvious

7:20 – Kuu used to try to copy the others, but is now content in her identity. Is the desire to escape the walls a reflection of the opposite? That you aren’t happy with who you are? For Rakka, it seems tied to wanting to understand who she used to be. But it generally seems tied to both nostalgia and future longing – only those who are happy in the present are happy in the walls

8:24 – Rakka takes to the room Kuu recommends immediately. “For some reason, this room feels familiar.” “That’s because this is where you were born.” The conflict between the comfort of familiarity and the need for knowledge/exploration is inescapable

9:20 – Christ, the sky is so ominous

10:30 – “There’s a drinking cup in my mind. Today, I think it became completely full. You gave me some of the drops.” Kuu has achieved contentment in her life here?

12:40 – “Why is this town surrounded by walls?” “Probably because it is a protected place.” “Protected from what?” “From bad things. Or from what we’re not supposed to know.”

This isn’t even really the theme, it’s the overt narrative. I gotta work harder than this

14:00 – Rakka trying to create a connection with the birds in the storm. The show is kicking into high gear. This sequence was excellent

15:17 – If you look at today’s sky, it makes you restless

15:27 – “It’s only natural to feel ill at ease when the seasons change.” Again, every line reflects on the core points

16:28 – “Kuu was getting ready for a journey”

17:35 – The Western Woods are apparently a dangerous place

18:00 – “The Haibane go outside the walls when his or her Day of Flight comes” So are the Haibane those who are destined to leave?

18:37 – “You might know things we don’t, but it’s nothing but a myth to us!” Kana to Reki. Discordance in the community

19:28 – “But promise me not to go near the walls, no matter what.”

20:14 – “There’s no telling why a Charcoal Feather takes flight. And they do not speak of it to others.”

Reki: “In the end, everybody leaves me”

Episode 7

1:11 – “We’ll see her again.” “Kuu just went before us.” “Let the bell be a signpost for her.” All this assurance of Kuu going on a journey, and also that they’ll follow her, and yet they normally refuse to engage with the idea of leaving the walls

2:50 – One of Rakka’s wings has a charcoal spot, and the camera lingers on it

3:19 – “I must not cry”

4:12 – Talking to Kuu. Rakka cannot let go of the world outside, and that extends to her attachment to Kuu

5:10 – That little frog diorama is a beautiful touch. They’re a little dollhouse family

Rakka getting grey on her wings

7:06 – “For the people of this town, Kuu’s disappearance is not a big deal. Soon they’ll forget that she was even here.”

7:25 – Raku’s former boyfriend always hides his eyes. Just a reflection of how he hides his Haibane nature, I suppose

7:32 – “You live in that run-down house in the south district, right?” “Old Home.” OH MAN. What a beautiful little moment, displaying how even the other Haibane know what they have been given is trash

7:45 – HOLY SHIT THIS EXCHANGE IS SO GOOD. His concern for Reki disappearing, her taking it as insensitivity – beautiful stuff

11:10 – The grey on Rakka’s feathers is spreading

14:05 – Telling her to take Kuu’s bed. Jesus

And her feathers just keep going grey. THIS SHOW

16:40 – That whole scene with Reki comforting Rakka about her wings is gorgeous. Great expression work, wonderfully chilling shots of the clipped wings. Goddamn

17:30 – “You stay away from the walls, okay? It’s dangerous.” Dangerous why? And it’s a die, not a medicine – they’re just hiding the fact that her wings are going grey

17:52 – “This town is designed to protect the Haibane. Good Haibane stay here until their time comes. But once in a while, a Haibane arrives who cannot remember their dream. Their time will never come, and for them, the town is a cage.” Hmmmm. Interesting that the show is specifically calling out Haibane who never leave – I’d figured the Haibane in general were representative of something, but now the show is differentiating between good and bad Haibane

19:40 – Acceptance of Reki in spite of her feathers

20:03 – “I’m a sinner”

21:00 – “That was my punishment. But you haven’t done anything to be punished for. You’ll be fine soon.” I love how Reki’s completely earnest support is still based in her acceptance of this system as natural and good. She doesn’t question the base idea that this community and system are awful, unfair poison – she comforts Rakka by saying she hasn’t earned the punishment that she herself received

And now we’re getting the full picture of Reki’s concerns – she doesn’t remember her dream well enough to consider herself a “good Haibane”

21:50 – “Why are there good Haibane and bad ones? Why was I born Sin-Bound?” This seems very classically religious

Though that seems unlikely in its own way, since Japan doesn’t really care about puritanical ideas of original sin


2:55 – “Every one of us will take something as a memento.” From Kuu’s room

4:00 – “Do I have to keep using the medicine and hiding my wings forever?”

4:08 – “The wall’s power weakens in winter, so we become more susceptible to the evil effects.” The ‘evil effects’ turn their wings dark, like the crows. But perhaps that’s just the natural state? Perhaps playing house here is the unnatural thing, and pretending your wings are white. Perhaps not knowing your memories, not knowing your “sin,” is unsustainable, and even wrong

4:50 – “I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t remember anything. And if I’m just to disappear some day without accomplishing anything… what’s the meaning of my existence?” Purgatory? To atone?

5:20 – “I think there is a meaning. Only you have to find it.” Like Kuu did? Kuu said Rakka gave her the last pieces she needed

6:56 – “At times I almost remember something, but I’m afraid.” The cocoon/clouds/white are all reflective of their stasis here. White wings. Light and fluffy, pure, unreal.

7:20 – “I went down the wrong road because I lost Kuramori. But no matter what happens, I will be by your side.”

9:55 – “A Haibane should always be in high spirits with a smile on her face.” From the store clerk

“The charcoal feathers are the ones who received blessings from above.” “Blessed? But I’m not…”

Being treated like a doll. Like a good luck charm

13:15 – “I don’t belong anywhere. My existence should be erased from the world.”

She feels the crows are calling her

This music is so good

16:16 – And they lead her to a well. Murakami all up in this bitch

All the crows watching her as she begins to descend. Creeeepy

Someone running a tap. A distance glowing circle. Is she being drowned?

The crow is trying to keep her from falling. Right

19:12 – There’s a dead crow at the bottom of the well. Is that her?

Trapped in the well with the dead bird. Just one more level down of trapped, unable to fly. The well is the town

20:12 – “You’ve taken the form of a bird now, but I feel like I knew you before.”

22:00 – “I was always lonely. I thought no one would grieve for me, and I wanted to disappear. But you turned into a bird to fly over the wall and let me know I am not alone.”

Have to say, not really sure how Rakka’s loneliness or guilt connects to much else. Rakka feels like she sinned, Reki feels like she sinned, everyone feels like they’re being punished. Punishment, marked with the feathers. Freedom, flight and the walls. The crows, black icons of freedom, hated by the people because they cannot be understood. The Haibane’s feathers turn black, they feel like they sinned, they are crows. Also misunderstood – treated as dolls, not creatures with feelings. But sometimes they are – the clocktower. Some can assimilate, maybe, but it seems like they always leave eventually? They leave, having collected the pieces they need. Memories? End of regrets? Letting go? Reki feels bad for not remembering her past. Is the past not what they need? Forgiveness. Moving on. Flying free, untethered by regret. By sin? No, forgiveness is not the absolution of sin, it is accepting its existence.

Episode 9

2:32 – Episode title: “Well Rebirth Riddle”

3:30 – She still wants to escape the well. She wants to live

Even down at the bottom of the well, Haibane language protocol must be maintained

Begging the Toga for knowledge of Kuu. But they won’t say anything

7:00 – She loses her shoes in the well, and must return home alone through the forest. Her story is pretty mythic

Now she walks with a cane at the interpreter’s side

9:15 – “Only those who the wall recognizes are ready may take the Flight. Therefore you should not worry.”

9:50 – “Birds are the only thing allowed to go beyond the walls. Hence, it’s said they carry things on our account.”

10:50 – “Why do you grieve so much for someone you cannot remember?” I feel like this show exists so much in metaphor that it’s kind of lacking in immediate truth/resonance. Granted, I could say the same thing of Murakami’s books, so I guess it’s just not my style

She was obsessed with the idea she was alone, that no one would remember her, so she wanted to disappear. Then she had the dream, someone in the form of a bird tried to call her back. She wasn’t alone.

11:52 – “Your wings and halo are proof that you have no sin to atone for in this world.”

12:24 – “What you lost in the dream cannot be retrieved.” Like with last episode – letting go

12:56 – “Take me where I belong, if I am a sinner. Everyone is too nice here. I feel so guilty.”

13:11 – “One who recognizes their own sin has no sin.” Acceptance

“That is a riddle called the Circle of Sin.” Accepting what you cannot change. Moving forward, accepting sin, not letting it bound you. Flying in spite of that. Everyone here is doing penance, but the person they must atone to is themselves – they fly when they feel they have the right

13:40 – “If I recognize my sin, will it be erased?” WRONG ANSWER, RAKKA

“Perhaps that is what it means to be bound by sin. To keep going around in circles looking for where the sin lies, and forgetting the way out.” Yep

Alright, so all the stuff about freedom and escape and flight and whatnot is just the vehicle for this central idea

Her touching the wall is apparently a real bad thing

18:00 – Rakka’s wings are white again. Was it her self-doubt that made them turn?

19:25 – After touching the wall, Rakka feels like she’s fading away. “It’s like the night my wings came out.” A second rebirth

20:00 – “I don’t want to disappear.” Things are looking up!

Reki and Rakka are also really cute together

20:11 – “I want to stay here. I don’t want to go anywhere else. Is that okay?” Rakka has circled back to clinging to this place

Reki calls her a “blessed Haibane,” and almost loses her composure after Rakka falls asleep. She’s alone again

21:10 – Reki tries to take all the burden onto herself. She can’t forgive herself

22:27 – “I’m used to being left alone. It’s happened over and over again for the past seven years.” Poor Reki

Episode 10

“Haibane of Abandoned Factory – Rakka’s Job”. So once Rakka is reborn, she can find a place in this world?

1:35 – Looks like we’re getting a Reki flashback. All the way to her cocoon

2:02 – Reki’s wings came in alone. A gruesome scene

2:22 – Reki’s wings started out black

2:45 – Now they’re half-black. And we’re learning about Kuramori, the haibane that guided her and Nemu. We also now know that Haibane do age in this place

3:45 – Reki shunned by other haibane and gawked at by the townsfolk for her wings. Isolated by her image, like the crows

4:30 – The guardian asks her what she remembers of her dream before saying what can be done for her wings. That’s the real cure. Now he says he’ll create the medicine

5:00 – Kuramori slaps Reki for trying to cut her own feathers away. Cutting the feathers away is like trying to absolve your sin. It doesn’t work, it just causes pain and scars you. But if you accept the existence of what has passed, your wings turn pure white – they still exist, but they are not a burden.

5:09 – “I’m by your side,” Kuramori says. But she leaves eventually

5:15 – Kuramori “forgives” Reki, but she has to forgive herself

6:00 – Kuramori falls ill while gathering medicine for Reki. Kuramori is delicate, apparently. The thought of haibane dying here is a sad one

6:10 – “It’ll be your fault if she dies.” Harsh, young Nemu

Reki resolves their differences with food! Go Reki!

7:03 – Reki’s expressions across this scene are wonderful. Such relief and happiness when Nemu accepts her. Being accepted is critical

8:15 – Wonderful shot of Reki turned away from the light, crouched in the shadow

8:23 – “Kuramori, please don’t go. You said you’d be by my said. You promised”

10:07 – “I suspected that if something were to happen, you’d come here as you did for Hyohko.” Oh?

10:16 – “The walls are absolute. I’m sorry.” The walls punish Haibane for touching them no matter what. Hm

11:01 – “The bird gave her forgiveness, and therefore she is no longer sin-bound.” And Reki received the same riddle. Yeah, Reki’s just further back on the same path

11:44 – Reki has little time left. “You know what happens to Haibane who aren’t prepared before their time comes. You must prepare for your ordeal. The Day of Flight comes to all good Haibane.” And Rakka survived her “ordeal”. That seems more a device for letting the Haibane come to terms with their “sin” than a direct trial… but that’s often how “ordeals” go. It’s to connect with the self

12:00 – “Kuu was not afraid of the walls, and thought that if she went beyond them, she might inspire the rest of you to follow. Kuu’s dream was to become a role model to you all.” So was it Rakka’s hesitance or dream to leave that inspired Kuu to take the flight?

And Nemu wishes to see Reki leave first. They are all more easily able to help and forgive each other than to forgive themselves

13:00 – “And now you must not be envious of Rakka for moving forward.” “Envious? Me?! Give me a break!” Great exchange

13:49 – “It’s bitter.” “Because it’s medicine.”

14:57 – “The fever’s gone and my wings feel lighter now.” Her wings are fully grown, but they feel light. Alright, that’s one symbol clear

15:30 – Reki wants to take the burdens of everyone else onto herself as well. She wants to protect and not leave everyone, probably to “atone” for Kuramori’s actions by never doing the same thing. She has to let go of both her own sin and everyone else’s burdens

16:47 – Rakka is taken inside the walls for her “punishment”

17:16 – There are “light leaves” here that were used to form their halos. This place is beautiful

17:35 – Her job is now to collect the leaves and purify the tags

17:50 – “You must never take off the robe. Don’t be frightened if you hear or see anything.” Jeez dude

19:45 – Oh, Hyohko’s the dude

19:55 – Hyohko has something for Rakka

20:05 – Reki and the woman Midori share a nice tsuntsun moment

20:54 – “This world is filled with idiots”

22:00 – They’re planning a trip to Abandoned Factory

22:35 – “I don’t want to be a burden to you.” Reki, to Nemu. Yeeep

Episode 11

0:34 – Reki still struggling to recall her dream

3:25 – Reki is worried about letting Dai leave, the boy who’s going to visit the Factory. An inability to let go combined with the desire to carry everyone else’s burdens. All reflective of the “sin” she cannot forgive

6:25 – Drama with Abandoned Factory. I suppose resolving it will likely help Reki make peace with her own memories

7:29 – “You heard they tried to run away? Reki got Hyohko involved because of her selfishness. He almost died because of her.”

8:30 – Rakka acknowledging how much Reki suffered when she was sin-bound. But she can’t really see beyond that as far as Reki’s personality/circumstances go

10:20 – Invisible laughing children. Creepy as all hell

11:39 – “It hurts me as well to see her suffer. But I don’t want her to go.” The contradictory desire to stay and leave

12:06 – “Reki keeps painting the scenes from her dream”

13:00 – The few Haibane who do not take flight eventually lose their wings and halo, and join the guardians away from both human and Haibane society. There they eventually grow old and die

18:00 – A stone tablet in the library. Apparently it was taken from ruins in the woods. Likely connected to the characters Rakka found beneath the wall

19:28 – “We walk with empty smiles plastered on our faces. Reki is always kind. Because she doesn’t want to worry anyone, and because she doesn’t want to lean on anyone, she just smiles.”

19:50 – “I wish tomorrow would never come.”

She can’t let go of Reki

20:13 – “There is no such thing as forever.” In spite of the apparent timelessness of their cage, they must leave. Their sanctuary is only temporary

20:22 – “Everything ends sooner or later. Just as it should.”

Episode 12

1:50 – Reki giving up her lighter to Rakka

2:20 – The Bell Nut Market is held today. You need bell nuts for the Passing of the Year festival. Things ending

3:10 – “That’s a ‘Thank You’ nut. You give it to the people you want to thank.” She jingles the nut, and it sounds like the creaking underground

3:24 – “Each nut means a different think. Thank you, apology, etc. We celebrate the end of the year by giving these to us close to us.” The rituals of forgiveness and solidarity are important

4:15 – Reki apologizes to the old factory Haibane

4:50 – Reki’s dude friend from the factory originally saw her five years ago, when she’d run away because her mentor had left. He felt he had to help her

5:40 – He tried to break through the wall by driving a wedge through it for her, and almost died

6:00 – Hyohko’s the dude

6:40 – The factory girl couldn’t forgive her for that. So Reki really did need forgiveness from another

7:33 – “Just do what you can. As for the rest…”

8:01 – “Soon, I will be forgotten by everyone and vanish.”

8:55 – Rakka thinks she hears Kuu in the underground?

9:15 – Rakka making the silent Haibane signs at the stone. I still feel like there’s one more thread about communication that I need to solidify

9:44 – “I felt Kuu’s presence by the tag that produces light leaves” uh oh

10:45 – Being Rakka has accepted herself, she is given a “true name.” But Reki does not know her true name

11:27 – “Why do you think you were forgiven?” “It’s not because I forgave myself.” “That’s right. Nobody is able to forgive oneself. However, you had the bird. Someone who believed in and stood by you.” “The one who recognizes one’s own sin has no sin. You cannot help going in circles if you are alone… but if you have someone by your side…” Not sure about this whole conversation. It seems to simplify the show in a weird way. Though I guess it doesn’t really change anything – it more comes down to the show’s use of language. No one is “forgiven”

13:30 – Reki keeps fixating on her fear of losing things – of herself or her memories being forgotten. Letting go of her attachments seems related to letting go of her guilt

14:52 – “You’re supposed to be silent as the bells ring.” “That’s why we have these. To express our feelings without words.” Communication again

14:57 – “You’ll see. It can’t be explained in words.”

20:00 – And the Abandoned Factory crew forgive her

21:10 – “The walls return the thoughts they’ve been receiving from everyone all throughout the year up into the sky.”

22:00 – And then the walls glow, apparently

Episode 13

1:00 – And Reki leaves, her halo fading

3:40 – Reki’s room doesn’t feel like a place that’s actually lived in. Boxes and bunkbeds. A nice wordless moment where Rakka searches for the light switch, then realizes the light is out

4:25 – Oh jeez, Reki’s entire back room is painted. And they even framed it like a horror reveal

5:02 – She’s painted her cocoon dream. Literally living inside the regret she can’t fully remember. The cocoon keeps us safe, but limits us

5:17 – “I wanted to become a stone. A simple stone that doesn’t feel pain or sorrow.”

5:42 – “I don’t want my true name. There probably isn’t any salvation in there.”

6:40 – “Feeling herself worthless, she lost contact even with those who could share her sorrow. However, her true name means ‘one who was run over and abandoned’”

6:59 – “Reki – to be run over”

7:35 – “This is where I abandoned myself.” So Reki committed suicide, throwing herself in front of a train? And she can’t get over that guilt?

7:50 – “I believed that if I stayed a good haibane, I would one day shed this sense of guilt. What a joke. This town is my prison.”

8:00 – “What the walls signify is death! This world is separated by death!”

8:12 – “And this room is a cocoon. I was unable to get out of my dark dream, after all.” Hey, it’s nice to be right

8:18 – “I kept looking for salvation that didn’t exist to begin with.” This is true, but they don’t need salvation. Reki has turned her desire for salvation into a curse

9:15 – “Every time I trusted someone, I always ended up being betrayed. Eventually I stopped trusting anyone, and so I couldn’t get hurt, I became a stone.”

9:35 – “They just don’t know how dark and impure my heart is.”

10:01 – “You never realized, did you? How jealous I was of you.”

10:15 – But she despises herself for her jealousy. She makes herself a villain, and thinks to be correct, she must only think pure thoughts. But freedom comes from accepting impurity

10:46 – “Rakka. To me, it didn’t have to be you.” Jeez. The false charity of seeking salvation

11:30 – “It was a mistake for you to trust me. Now you know, so get out!” But here is the moment of trial. Rakka now knows every terrible thing about Reki, and she must forgive her anyway. Only then can she forgive herself

aaand Rakka leaves. well, shit

12:50 – “Are you so afraid of trusting someone?”

13:10 – “No salvation ever came for me!” “Because you never asked for help. All you ever did was wait.”

14:00 – “I wish I didn’t know anything. Then I could have continued loving Reki.” Doesn’t work that way, Rakka. For ourselves or for our relationships with others

15:15 – Reki’s diary about wanting to be a “good Haibane.” This is pretty strong stuff

15:50 – “Please let me trust my last hope with you.” Rekiii

16:06 – “I will be the bird who saves Reki.” The town exists because we all need help

That’s the core contradiction – we need the acceptance of others to accept ourselves

17:30 – But she was asking for Rakka’s help

19:50 – “If a bird brings you salvation…” The bird of salvation and the birds they shoo away. We don’t let others help us, but we need to

20:55 – Reki’s pretense of kindness became her true nature

22:55 – “Those paintings told me how much Reki loved this town and Old Home.” We struggle to communicate, again

5 thoughts on “The Dream of Redemption in Haibane Renmei

  1. “That’s the core contradiction – we need the acceptance of others to accept ourselves”

    Not entirely sure what you’re saying here. Do you mean that the show is contradicting the message you saw it making, or do you mean that this is the riddle in the circle of sin in another form? (Or have I missed it completely?)

    • I’m saying that the show’s saying both are necessary – the acceptance of the community and other Haibane is often necessary to prompt self-acceptance, but that it’s also something that you personally have to find peace with within yourself.

  2. Great essay like always. Hey maybe you should watch Aria series or Zettai Shounen. I found both of them somehow similar to Haibane Renmei

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