Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #59: Haibane Renmei (2002)

One of my favourite anime series, this short thirteen episode drama tells the story of a girl that wakes up in a strange town with no memory of how she got there. And she seems to have wings and a halo. The answer seems obvious, but there are only a handful of other girls like her. They look after each other in a simple boarding house and try to maintain an uneasy relationship with all of the normal townsfolk that populate the area. Their town is completely walled off with stone, and no one is allowed to leave. The town's mystery, and the nature of the girls, starts to unravel when our main heroine arrives and rocks the boat in her well-meaning way.

There's a gentleness to this series that reminds me very much of Miyazaki's amazing works - there's a real sense of air and flora in Haibane Renmei, and it's a treat to take its world in. Also like Miyazaki, there's a lining of darkness and unease to the idyllic bliss of the town and its inhabitants. Something is not quite right with the world, and as the characters come into contact with the heroine, she comes to find a complexity of private suffering and inner torments that keep them locked in place and without hope.

It's beautifully animated and it's without the kind of sex and violence that characterises the bulk of the Japanese animation industry.

So: Fantastic. Give it a shot, even if you're not normally into anime.

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