(Originally written Oct 4 2014)
In his review of Kino’s Journey , Arkada recommends Haibane Renmei as a show that is similar to Kino’s Journey, “…though that’s not as clear cut in is its messages as Kino is…”. This is actually the first comparison I’d go with as well, at least message- and theme-wise. As I said in the post I made after seeing the first episode, Haibane Renmei is actually quite similar to Angel Beats(or, rather, the other way around) story-wise, an observation that I found remained through even as the story progressed, but I’ll leave this topic right here so as not to spoil too much.
When it comes to the themes, Haibane Renmei has several layers. The outermost layer is the contrast between the two worlds that are referenced in the show: Inside the walls and the outside world. The world inside the walls is a sanctuary, where people can live in peace, but leaving the sanctuary is not allowed. The main characters, the Haibane, are born into the sanctuary, and they cannot leave. As such, the Haibane know very of the outside world, as they have no memories from before they were born. So, this situation creates a contrast between the inside world, which guarantees sanctuary, and the outside world, where supposedly one can roam free. Sanctuary vs. freedom, that’s the outermost layer of the themes.
The meat of the show doesn’t come from this mystical divide, however. The deeper layers of the themes concern the various characters and how they feel about living in this sanctuary. To bring this in line with Arkada’s thoughts, I should mention that the characters never actually provide clear answers to their own philosophical questions. Up until, and possibly including, the very end, it’s up to the viewer to interpret what is going on and what the show is actually about.
And this is why I like the show. It’s like a really long episode of Kino’s Journey where the episode-specific characters get to have their own story. Also, I like the character art. It’s refreshing to see faces that look pretty human-like(though not entirely realistic), and I think that facial expressions are really well done in this show. In one episode in particular, I noticed pained expressions, sad expressions and happy expressions that were especially subtly and carefully executed, which is something that I think is quite rare in anime, considering the fact that “cookie-cutter anime faces” are made specifically to exaggerate facial expressions.
So yeah, I think this show is pretty good. It has no key feature that makes it amazing, but it has many small features that I appreciate.