Haibane Renmei is an anime that is simultaneously similar to and very different from its creator's most famous work, Serial Experiments Lain. Lain's focus on the relationship between man (or woman) and machine left me a little cold, so I was initially hesitant about Haibane Renmei.
To my surprise and delight, Haibane Renmei turned out to be an all-around solid work. In particular, I was impressed with Abe's ability to exhibit the scenery of the Haibane's world, while also expressing a range of philosophy and emotional connection between characters. The characters' relationships are very real and dynamic; the characters all seem very human, but they also share a non-human fate, and must deal with their feelings of separation from human beings and the mystery of their own future.
In short, if you are looking for an anime that deeply explores relationships, as well as touches on some interesting philosophical issues regarding the nature of fate and how people should deal with the unknown, I would very highly recommend Haibane Renmei.
Haibane Renmei was the first anime I ever watched with my first boyfriend. Up until that point, I had really only experienced the more popular, boisterous animes like Sailor Moon and Outlaw Star. Haibane Renmei was something new for me. As I snuggled underneath a shared blanket leaning against his shoulder, this gentle, serene story seemed like what anime was meant to be. I still think it's an excellent example for the best type of fabric animated mediums can weave.
I've recently re-watched it since that time, and it's still so dear to me. It's a bit lacking in clarity, but it makes up for it in heart and intention. It's well-animated and poses interesting questions about the nature of life, death, and forgiveness (of self and of others). I highly recommend it. Serve with cocoa and youthful optimism.
I watched this anime series after first seeing a couple other series with a similar theme (death and afterlife), namely Anohana and Angel Beats. While I enjoyed those, this series was far and away more captivating by every measure -- story telling, pacing, art work, dialog, drama and mystery.
The story begins with a girl (later named Rakka) plummeting to earth in a strange land wherein there is one large village and countryside, but all surrounded by impenetrable walls. She lands as a seedling in a place inhabited by angelic-looking creatures known as the Haibane, and grows into a cocoon and soon hatches among them. She is looked after by Reki, a girl who has been among the Haibane for several years. We come to understand that this place is a kind of purgatory for angels, where the dead find themselves when they need time to resolve shame over some sin of their former lives. Rakka, in particular, is having trouble resolving her past, and later we discover that Reki too has even more troubling issues of sin to resolve. The story is complex and moves slowly, but answers to various mysteries are resolved at regular intervals. There are mysterious Shamen known as Renmei, who occasionally appear and guide the young Haibane, correcting them if they go astray during their stay in purgatory. In the end, there is a final resolution coupled with heart-wrenching loss, but not before deep issues around shame and forgiveness are explored with a very thoughtful, drama-filled story line.
The dialog is excellent and the storytelling is consistent at all times with the rules of the world. The artwork is so realistic you forget you are watching an anime. Top notch in every way. 5 stars in all categories for me.