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REVIEW: Haibane Renmei DVD


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Looneygamemaster



Joined: 21 Jan 2012
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:30 am Reply with quote
I watched a bit of this on Hulu, and it really enchanted me with its low-key, yet mysterious and spellbinding tone. I'd say this is definitely a must-buy.

And a big "thank-you" for Funimation for keeping all the extra, including the next-episode previews (though I'm not sure why they couldn't just put them into the episodes themselves--oh well).
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nbahn
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:05 pm Reply with quote
  • Here is a review of Haibane Renmei: Hanenone by the incomparable Jonathan Mays.
  • Here is a discussion of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, which served as the inspiration of Yoshitoshi ABe.
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Moonsaber



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:12 pm Reply with quote
One of my all time favorite series, I own the four disk Pioneer version of this, I believe.

A question: How does this two disk version stack up quality wise against my current version? Is there anything to recommend it? I wouldn't mind owning two copies of this even if the subtitle font is better. The original disks had a fair amount of art and other extras, if I recall.

Great review, but I noticed a typo:

Quote:
series' advantage, as it gives an old, run-down feeling which complements the old, warn, warm feeling that the setting evokes.


I think you wanted the word "worn" there. I do like the feelings this sentence evokes.
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DavidShallcross



Joined: 19 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:01 pm Reply with quote
nbahn wrote:
Here is a discussion of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, which served as the inspiration of Yoshitoshi ABe.

I have also thought that Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also served as partial inspiration, but I have forgotten why.
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Bonham



Joined: 20 Nov 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:40 pm Reply with quote
Good review. Haibane Renmei is still in my top three favorite anime series after all these years. It's the kind of genuinely emotional (and judging from the interview with ABe, personal) anime that actually earns its catharsis. Beautiful art, too, as you note.

Theron Martin wrote:
One of the greatest strengths of the series is the patient, smooth way its setting and mysteries are allowed to organically unfold. Many series struggle with pacing revelations about their settings, but here the process happens naturally, with viewers getting to follow Rakka on her journey of discovery and learn things as she does. Rather than dump out the specifics all at once, they come out gradually over the course of the entire series; in fact, discovery and achieving a sufficient understanding and acceptance about the way of things are two of the main points of the series.

It's interesting how the series almost suddenly transitions from the first four episodes (which seem closer to the standard episodic serialization found in a lot of anime) to the rest of the series, which is much more focused on Rakka's and Reki's stories. I don't think that disconnect is a flaw, and it allows a lot of nice world-building for the audience, with some questions answered, some not.

The last feature is one of the things I love most about all of the yositoshi ABe-related series. If a viewer needs conclusions and answers to any and all given mysteries, then they're out of luck. If you recognize that speculation about unanswered questions in fiction is just simply fun, however, then series like this are right up your alley. Like life, a lot of my enjoyment with these kind of stories is letting my imagination interpret past and future events, character backstories, etc. Stories that leave at least some of its elements open-ended last longer because they're not tied-up in a neat little bow for you.

Moonsaber wrote:
A question: How does this two disk version stack up quality wise against my current version? Is there anything to recommend it? I wouldn't mind owning two copies of this even if the subtitle font is better. The original disks had a fair amount of art and other extras, if I recall.

I'd like to hear about this, as well, especially when knowing the Blu-ray in Japan release had some similar problems as the FLCL one.
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Animegomaniac



Joined: 16 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:01 pm Reply with quote
Bonham wrote:

The last feature is one of the things I love most about all of the yositoshi ABe-related series. If a viewer needs conclusions and answers to any and all given mysteries, then they're out of luck. If you recognize that speculation about unanswered questions in fiction is just simply fun, however, then series like this are right up your alley. Like life, a lot of my enjoyment with these kind of stories is letting my imagination interpret past and future events, character backstories, etc. Stories that leave at least some of its elements open-ended last longer because they're not tied-up in a neat little bow for you.


This idea of "stream of consciousness of ideas" as a story works for me in something like the long running manga Shopping Trip to Yokohama; For ABe related anime like this, NAIE_Seven and Serial Experiments Lain, it doesn't work.

Why not:
1 They're twelve, thirteen episode series. It's not a matter of world building, it's supposition in the place of world building. That is, "What does it mean to you, the audience?"; To me, it means the creative force is hedging his bets. "You think it means [blank]? Sure..."

This leads to

2 Searching for meaning where there isn't any. If you're asking "why this" or "why that" or what does [blank] mean", you're missing the point. It means what you, the viewer, want it to mean. So your imagination is supplying all the heavy lifting while the creator gets the credit for being "profound".

So what about

3 The characters. Outside of Charna in Naie, they're so low key they may as well not be there. For those who want to say "That's the point", please refer back to 1 and 2.

Ok, what about

4 "slice of life" equates to drama. I like Murakami and I've read all his novels. The only way ABe needs to be compared to Murakami is by saying "ABe is so inferior to Murakami that it doesn't merit comparision." The difference? Things happen in Murakami novels, even if it's just a lost cat coming home. Things that have meaning, things that are concrete.

On that, Murakami painted the stuff from which dreams come. It's dream logic but you can tell it's dream logic since he uses solid happenings to differentiate. ABe likes to start wierd and move along from there.

I don't think Haibane Renmei is bad, I just don't think it's much.

Like Lain.


Last edited by Animegomaniac on Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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pachy_boy



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:02 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
Funimation has retained Geneon's original English dub (done by New Generation Pictures) for this release – a wise move, as the dub is an excellent effort by all involved. Though the English cast members aren't always perfect matches for the original Japanese performers, each is an ideal fit for her role and on-the-money with the performances, which is a bit of a surprise given that only two of the main cast members (Carrie Savage as Rakka, Kirsty Pape as Nemu) are long-time anime regulars. Kuu sounds just as childishly exuberant in English as she should, though, and Kana is just as cheerfully brash and rough-edged as one might imagine.

Not to mention Erika Weinstein's winning performance as Reki, a character as beautiful as she is complex.

Some say no Anime collection is complete unless one has Neon Genesis Evangelion. Some would say the same for Cowboy Bebop. I say, no Anime library is complete unless one has acquired and seen Haibane Renmei. There's no action, no violence, no fan service, and yet hands down I consider it the best Anime series ever made. Honest to goodness, as good a review as this was, I don't think there are any true words to express and do justice to how wonderful this story is in every way, and there's just no other series like it. It doesn't answer all questions at the end, but it answers everything that needs to be answered for the story and Rakka's journey. Maybe Radix's animation isn't 100% perfect, but the narratively poetic story and its angelic characters easily outshine whatever imperfections there are. The artistry of Yoshitoshi ABe is phenomenal, and I sincerely dare anyone to say otherwise. And the climax of the last episode made me cheer in a way I never expected to, considering no other series prior ever drew that kind of reaction out of me. The only nitpick I have is that I wish there was a way we could play the "special ending" right after the last episode rather than play it as a separate feature, because it really is a cinematic closing song after such a strong ending.

Message to all Anime collectors--if you don't have this show, get it now while you have the chance. Even if you only watch it once, it's a one-time viewing that's not forgettable, and it'll stand proud as part of your library. So what are you waiting for?


Last edited by pachy_boy on Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:29 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Key
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:13 pm Reply with quote
Moonsaber wrote:
A question: How does this two disk version stack up quality wise against my current version? Is there anything to recommend it? I wouldn't mind owning two copies of this even if the subtitle font is better. The original disks had a fair amount of art and other extras, if I recall.

We'll have to have someone else comment on that. This rerelease is the first time I've had a hard copy of the series; in fact, the first time I saw any of this series beyond the first episode was about three weeks ago, so I'm a very recent convert.
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Bonham



Joined: 20 Nov 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:54 pm Reply with quote
Animegomaniac wrote:
1 They're twelve, thirteen episode series. It's not a matter of world building, it's supposition in the place of world building. That is, "What does it mean to you, the audience?"; To me, it means the creative force is hedging his bets. "You think it means [blank]? Sure..."

This argument only works if the you believe that the world hasn't been sufficiently grounded in the audiences' eyes, as well as think that a world mustalways be explained beyond the viewpoint of a certain character -- in Lain this is the titular character, in Niea_7 this is Mayuko, in Haibane Renmei this is Rakka, and in Texhnolyze this is Ichise. Of course, we do get other viewpoints -- specifically in Haibane and TEX -- but the audience is obviously experiencing the world as the main protagonist does.

Quote:
2 Searching for meaning where there isn't any. If you're asking "why this" or "why that" or what does [blank] mean", you're missing the point. It means what you, the viewer, want it to mean. So your imagination is supplying all the heavy lifting while the creator gets the credit for being "profound".

This is categorical dismissal based on vague statements -- I don't see a convincing argument here. It's also as though you've never heard of the death of the author, where obviously interpretations are open beyond what the author says outside of his or her work. Plus, if nothing else people aren't wondering "WHAT IS THE SYMBOLIC MESSAGE IN NOT KNOWING ABOUT WHAT'S OUTSIDE THE WALLS. THIS IS SO MYSTERIOUS AND UNKNOWN AND THEREFORE DEEP." It's something for the audience to contemplate, but we still have the core ideas/themes presented in the plot.

Quote:
3 The characters. Outside of Charna in Naie, they're so low key they may as well not be there. For those who want to say "That's the point", please refer back to 1 and 2.

So we have you to objectively tell us that the characterization in all ABe-related series are horrible. I'm glad that's been cleared up.

Quote:
4 "slice of life" equates to drama. I like Murakami and I've read all his novels. The only way ABe needs to be compared to Murakami is by saying "ABe is so inferior to Murakami that it doesn't merit comparision." The difference? Things happen in Murakami novels, even if it's just a lost cat coming home. Things that have meaning, things that are concrete.

So you're also gonna tell film critics and historians the world over that they're actually lying to themselves when they praise Stalker, Last Year at Marienbad, Mulholland Dr., 2001: A Space Odyssey, Persona, etc. Ambiguity is bad. You know better than all of them.

This is why categorical dismissals are not good arguments.
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GhostShell
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:10 pm Reply with quote
I haven't seen this series, though both Serial Experiments Lain and Texhnolyze (where he is credited with character conceptual design) are in my collection. I quite enjoyed them and ABe's work. Though it has been around for a while, I'm not sure how I missed Haibane Renmei, but after reading Key's review I'm very much intrigued. I'm glad that FUNimation rescued the title and has re-released it, even though it may not contain all the perks the Geneon release included. I'll pick up this title the next time my favourite DVD/BD store has a sale, which just happens to be tomorrow. Very Happy
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here-and-faraway



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:28 pm Reply with quote
DavidShallcross wrote:
nbahn wrote:
Here is a discussion of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, which served as the inspiration of Yoshitoshi ABe.

I have also thought that Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also served as partial inspiration, but I have forgotten why.


I've never read that it was directly influenced by The Wind Up Bird Chronicles, but the most obvious connection would be that they both have scenes where a character goes into a well and leaves transformed.

I love this title and teach it to my students every year. It's about as close to a masterpiece as an anime series can get.
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nbahn
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:41 pm Reply with quote
here-and-faraway wrote:
[...]
I love this title and teach it to my students every year. [...]

May I ask exactly how you incorporate the series into your lesson plan?
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Greed1914



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:48 pm Reply with quote
Good to see the various Geneon license rescues coming out. I watched this years ago on the recommendation of Carrie Savage, and I certainly didn't regret it.
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Keonyn
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:10 pm Reply with quote
This is the series that ties "Eureka Seven" for my #1 spot. I love the series and its perfect blend of great storytelling, artwork, characters, music, and pretty much anything else that defines a series. Heck, I don't collect anime figures, but when they came out with the Rakka figure some years back I pre-ordered it right away (only other figures I have is Lain and Eureka). I've also got the soundtrack for the series as well.

I'm glad it got a re-release because it is definitely not the kind of title that should fade in to obscurity. It may not be a huge hit that will draw in the mainstream, but it's a masterpiece for those who appreciate a more passive and low-key and yet brilliant story (similar to that of Mushi-Shi or Kino's Journey).

Quote:
A question: How does this two disk version stack up quality wise against my current version? Is there anything to recommend it? I wouldn't mind owning two copies of this even if the subtitle font is better. The original disks had a fair amount of art and other extras, if I recall.


Kind of curious as well as I also own the 4-disc Pioneer set, but if I were to guess I would say the quality is likely the same. I doubt they'd have obtained a higher quality master, and it's still not a blu-ray so there won't be any increase in definition. While I can' say for sure since I haven't seen this release either, my guess would be that it wouldn't be worth the double-dip if that is what you're considering. If it were a blu-ray release I might say there would be value to buying twice, but for another DVD release I don't think you'll see much of a difference, if any. This is just Funi's release of the series, the source is likely the same as what Pioneer had.
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immortalrite



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:04 pm Reply with quote
I'm so glad this was re-released. Was finally able to switch out my "Fx" bootleg set for the real deal. I would like to make one comment on the review in response to the following:

"He has made one thing clear, though: the vaguely angelic appearances of the Haibane are strictly a matter of aesthetics and not intended to make any religious statements. (That won't stop people from reading some religious undertones into the series' later comments about sin, though.)"

I should probably look up these interviews (I haven't yet perused this set's Extras), but I would argue that, like Lord of the Rings, Haibane Renmei is in some meaningful way a deeply religious work, although not in the strictly allegorical sense of any one-to-one correspondence to existing religious imagery. It seems to me that while the wings and halos do not imply that the Haibane are literal angels, it does serve to indicate that they are, in a very real and ontological manner, "set aside" from the rest of the world. They have a unique identity and a unique destiny. Therefore I could not say that, aside from anything that we might call nowadays a "religious statement," all the talk about sin and God, not to mention at least one explicit act of prayer, are all arbitrary either. I think it would be hard for anyone who has seen the series to deny that redemption and forgiveness play a absolutely central role in the final act. I actually really appreciate the degree to which Funimation's (albeit potentially spoilerish) tagline draws attention to this point.
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