Sunday, August 8, 2010

Haibane Renmei

Part of why I watch anime is because of series like this, that tell stories you simply won't see in products from the Western world. Maybe a book might be similar, but never a movie or TV show. It introduces a unique fantasy setting and concept, tells a story within it, and then it's done. I could never imagine this happening here. It's about a group of youths that live together and resemble angels. They come from inside cocoons that grow from seed sized until they take up half a room, and once they escape, they are provided with a halo that sticks helpfully in place, and wings emerge painfully from their backs. They have a rigidly defined relationship with the other people in town, working for credit that they can use for supplies, and are watched over by an organization that prevents them from leaving the confines of a large wall around the town and surrounding environment. It's never very clear about the actual nature of their creation, although you can easily draw your own conclusions.

There's sort of two phases to the series, which lasts thirteen episodes. In the first, they gradually introduce its various unique ideas and develop the cast for a little more than the first third of the run time, and in the second things get a bit heavier and plot heavy. It's sort of paced like a movie that way. The first phase isn't exactly funny, but it's pleasant in that slice of life sort of way, beyond a couple disturbing scenes. It's much more dramatic after that, but never fully abandons that sense of wonder with the setting. The focus becomes more on two characters at that point rather than the whole group, almost to a fault, but at least their story is interesting. The ending is appropriately bittersweet, and allows for possible further exploration of the setting that won't happen. It's not necessary, although I can't say I didn't like it a bit more when they were just letting the original ideas on display breathe. Still, it was enjoyable the whole way through.

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