April 10, 2007
Thank you sir for pointing this one out to me. I finished up volume 4 last night and have been letting things percolate since then.
Haibane Renmei is one of those shows that will leave you all warm and fuzzy, unless it doesn't. That sentence makes more sense once you've seen the whole show. If you're the kind of person who's a perpetual optimist, you'll no doubt be brimming with tears of joy at the beauty of salvation and redemption. If you're a cynic who tends to assume the worst, the open ending and loads of unanswered questions will likely leave you a little cold, but still with the sense that you've seen something special. Me, I'm switching back and forth between the two because I've got some sort of weird bi-polar pessimist disorder. Either way, it's a wonderful experience.
Below be spoilers where I will wax rhapsodic and bloviate on various things that come to mind. Read at your own risk.
No seriously... If you haven't seen it, stop here and find something else to read. There's a whole Intraweb of info out there just waiting for you. Come back when you've seen the show in its entirety.
So apparently Glie is a place where the souls of children who commit suicide (or die near infancy in the case of the Young Feathers) are sent to redeem themselves and earn a second chance. They are all there to solve whatever flaw it was in their character that drove them to end their life. The steps required to do this are mostly unknown, but it seems that in at least some cases they must first receive forgiveness/salvation from another to break them out of their Cycle of Sin. Sounds simple enough except for the fact that this isn't made known to the Haibane, and we as the audience only know this because Rakka stumbles across her own source of forgiveness. It's also convenient that she is far enough on the Communicator's good side that he slacks off on the rules with her quite frequently. He fills in enough of the gaps that Rakka can eventually puzzle out what happened, and it's through her experience that we learn that the aid of someone else is required for a Haibane to be redeemed and reach their Day of Flight. Whether all Haibane are trapped in some form of sin isn't clear. It may be that only those who fall back into the pattern that got them there in the first place require this special form of redemption.
So what were their flaws and resulting deaths?
The revelation of what happened to Reki in her previous life is pretty devastating. Suicide by train seems like a particularly horrible way to die. She's the kind of person who easily felt slighted, became jealous of the people around her, and decided that the way to exact revenge was to make them miss her. All her talk of "vanish"[ing] and being forgotten is what lead me to this conclusion. Many suicides happen because people feel unappreciated and decide they need to make themselves stand out in a spectacular fashion. I've seen it posited that rather than commiting suicide, the Old Feathers are simply children that died before their time. However, that doesn't explain the need for salvation and redemption in order to leave Glie. If a child were to simply die in a horrible accident, there shouldn't be the need for all the soul searching and character building that comes with being a Haibane.
Rakka had a similar problem to Reki's, but where Reki felt driven to harm those around her with her death, Rakka simply lost the will to live out of loneliness. There was no intent to harm on her part. She actually seemed to think she wouldn't be noticed when she was gone. However, she did end up hurting someone. That someone took the form of a raven, and was eventually able to forgive Rakka after enough of her memory returned. As to how she died, most seem to think she jumped from a great height. The strange thing is, Rakka has this water motif surrounding her in both the intro and credits. The very first scene in the very first episode, the raven splashes through the surface of water in pursuit of Rakka. The first thing we see in the intro is what looks like the view looking up through the waters surface, then comes the fall to Old Home. As we see her form floating through the feathers, she has the ripple effect of light refracted by water playing off of her. The ending credits I believe are pretty self-explanatory. I'm guessing that, if she did jump to her death, it wasn't onto a solid surface, but into a body of water where she drowned. Rather than "falling," she may have been sinking.
I wish we knew more about Kuu. I'm curious who her source of salvation was. We meet her so close to her Day of Flight, that she's already all but finished her redemption process. From her name, I'm guessing she's the one who really jumped to her death, but we don't know enough to begin puzzling out why.
Nemu is in a similar situation. The Communicator hints that she's ready to go, she need only stop waiting on Reki to Fly first. There are any number of explanations for how she killed herself and lead to her "sleep" name. The method that immediately jumped to mind is staying in a confined space with a running vehicle. You suffocate, but before that happens, you fall into a deep sleep from which you never wake.
Hikari is difficult to pin down on both regards. She plays an extremely minor role. "Light" is a little puzzling in conjunction with a suicide. Sure there are a lot of ways the two could combine, but most are extremely violent. Explosions, electrocution, and immolation come immediately to mind, but I think they intended for Reki to be the person with the most violent death. That's just my gut feeling.
Kana also suffers from a lack of information. Her name meaning "river fish" or some such might indicate she also drowned. Her tomboy personality seems meant to serve as a foil to Hikari, but the "why" of how she came to be in Glie is left fairly open.
Ok, now I've seen a few message boards where people are getting way too mechanically detailed in what is essentially a supernatural place. Trying to come up with scientific explanations for why the halos glow seems a fools errand. Halos glow because that's what halos do. They're forged from some strange glowing leaves that grow in the wall. How do the plants glow? It doesn't really matter. The whole town is bathed in mysticism.
The humans in Glie are another puzzle. It would seem easy to conclude that they are in Glie for reasons similar to those of the Haibane, but towards the end of the show, in the last few episodes, I began to get the impression that they might just be another part of the system meant to redeem the Haibane.
The Young Feathers are probably S.I.D.S victims or the like. We all have that point before which we can't remember anything. Without memory, we have no individuality. That's why the older Haibane's names are derived from their one-and-only memory upon entering Glie and the younger are given names based on their first dream/desire. The Young Feathers are probably the souls of those too young to have developed much of an individual personality, and as such they aren't forced to face the same trials (that we know of) as the Old Feathers.
What the Haibane are allowed to remember seems rather arbitrary. They recognized a train and railroad tracks without there being such a thing in Glie, but it seems to me that the ability to recall an object like a train has as much to do with location as it does the train itself. When I think of trains, I think of the line that runs parallel to the road leading to my uncles house. I think of the tracks that cross the road not far from here and occasionally make me late for class. Having no first hand experience with any amnesia victims, I have no frame of reference outside my own head to understand how to remember what something is without also linking it in with a location. I guess we'll just have to chalk this one up to the powers of Kami-sama.
I'm sure there are more things I'll think of and figure out as time goes by. I'll plop them down here once they coalesce into something coherent.
[UPDATE 6/29/05]: Ok, I may have been a bit off in my analysis of Reki's situation. As much as she wished to vanish, it was really more a result of her belief that everyone had abandoned her. Then she abandoned herself. The anger and jealousy are no less real, but now I see that her suicide wasn't really about vengeance. I think my initial reaction was colored by her quite angry reaction to the recovery of her cocoon dream and the way she seemed to take it out on Rakka.
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