Haibane Renmei (Charcoal Feather Federation) is a 13-episode anime which began life as Charcoal Feathers in Old Town, a doujinshi series by Yoshitoshi ABenote intentional capitalization.The series concerns a group of mysterious children and young adults named the Haibane, who live in a walled city which only has one entrance and which none of its inhabitants are ever allowed to leave. The Haibane differ from the regular human inhabitants of the city in the way they are born (erupting fully-formed from cocoons) and in the fact that they have both halos and wings, just like angels (though the word "Haibane" — "charcoal feather" — comes from the fact their wings are charcoal gray rather than pure white).No one in the city truly knows where the Haibane come from or what purpose their lives serve — even the Haibane themselves are largely in the dark about it (although there is much fan speculation about their true nature). Most of the Haibane seem to remember having some sort of existence before their awakening in the city, although none can remember any concrete details about their pre-birth lives. Each Haibane has a mystical and mysterious dream while cocooned; the dream has some connection to the Haibane's previous life, and is used to give the Haibane his/her name after hatching. The only people who seem to have any information about the Haibane are the Renmei, a group of mysterious masked travelers who live at the very edges of the walled city (and are the only people who can come and go as they please), and they're anything but forthcoming.The main heroine of the story is a newly-arrived Haibane named Rakka, who spends most of the series coming to terms with her new existence. Her friends are: gloomy, snarky Reki; tomboyish Kana; Bookworm sleepyhead Nemu; Meganekko Hikari; and the childlike Kuu.This anime is gently-paced and contains relatively little in the way of action, instead choosing to explore the compelling mystery at the heart of the story and how it affects the characters. It's a definite must-see for fans of ABe's work (as well as anyone who may be intimidated by his other work, as Haibane Renmei is easily the gentlest of them), and for anyone who may be looking for something profound and understated.The show is available on Hulu.
Haibane Renmei provides examples of:
Anime Hair: Averted with everyone but Kana, who has greenish hair.
Apology Gift: During the festival near the end of the series, baubles of different colors are given to people, with yellow signifying an apology. Then Reki, Midori, and Hyouko show they can play the apology theme more subtly, spinning their own uniquenesses to the custom.note Midori and Hyouko shoot yellow fireworks, and Reki bakes a lemon souffle.
Cool Big Sis: Reki could qualify as a mild version of this trope.
Cool Mask: The Renmei keep their faces covered by odd-looking masks.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: The religion/festivals featured in the anime seem somewhat based on Christianity, and the wings and halos of the Haibane are no doubt inspired by Christian angels. However, the creators of the show emphasize that the Haibane themselves are not angels, and that their look was developed purely for aesthetic reasons. Also, there is much speculation that the city of Glie, where the anime takes place, may exist somewhere between Heaven and Hell, in a place roughly equivalent to the Roman Catholic idea of purgatory, although the meager hints to what awaits beyond the Wall seems to hint more towards Buddhist reincarnation than Christian Heaven.
Good Morning, Crono: The first episode starts with a dream the main character has immediately before hatching from her cocoon, and the first few episodes are devoted to her learning about Glie.
Hand And Wing Signals: In the Renmei compound, Haibane may not speak without permission. To communicate, they respond to the Renmei by shaking bells draped on their wrists and wings. The Renmei are also seen communicating in a hand language, and ancient runes found here and there allude to this hand language.
Haz Mat Suit: The inside of the wall requires Rakka to wear something very much like a radiation suit to stay protected. We see examples of "fallout" from other people touching the wall, even indirectly through metal objects.
Hidden Eyes: Rakka, in at least two moments of distress: Growing her wings, and washing Kuu's room after her departure.
Hide Your Otherness: Reki and Rakka use a special dye to hide (and possibly slow) the fact that their wings' charcoal grey feathers are turning black. This is more than cosmetic, since it indicates that they are becoming sin-bound.
Holy Halo: Subverted. The Haibanes' halos accent their angelic appearance, but are actually artificial, created from materials gathered in the interior of the wall around Glie. They also don't appear to have any purpose except to indicate when a Haibane's Day of Flight is approaching, when they begin to fade and flicker.
They are also used as a symbolic bond between the Haibane, and some fans believe that there are hints to the effect that they somehow anchor the Haibane to their new home, whether psychologically or metaphysically.
It's All Junk: Kuu, the smallest of the Haibane, gives a large winter coat to Rakka, the newest Haibane. Rakka appreciates the gift, but only fully realizes its significance when the others explain to her that Kuu had kept the coat, which was too big for her, in the hope that she would eventually grow into it. By passing it over to Rakka, Kuu accepts that she will never grow to be as big as the other members of her group. This is a major turning point in the series - shortly afterwards, Kuu ascends in her "Day of Flight," which the Haibane can only achieve after dealing with their personal issues. In Kuu's case, this seems to have been disappointment in her status as a small, "unimportant" member of their society - which Rakka helps her overcome, by accepting Kuu's guidance and acknowledging the little Haibane as her senior/sempai. By giving the coat to Rakka, Kuu showed that she was content with who she was, and prepared to move on rather than chase the impossible.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: Any information any Haibane has as to who they were before appearing in Glie is limited to each individual's cocoon dream. Lampshaded when Rakka mentions how she knows how to ride a bicycle and feels she would normally have been singing as she rode, yet doesn't know any songs to sing.
Limited Wardrobe: Justified by the Haibane being required to own only previously used objects, and there's only one thrift store in town allowed to do business with them.
Meaningful Name: Each Haibane receives his/her name based on the dream each had while in the cocoon, but their "real" names are written with different kanji representing some aspect of why each Haibane was born a Haibane, while being read the same way as the original name. For example, Rakka's original name means "falling," but her real name uses completely different kanji read the same way.
Messy Hair: Tufts of Rakka's hair stick to her halo like static cling.
Mundane Utility: Hikari uses the halo mold to...make bagels. Rakka is less than pleased to find that out. Even if Hikari used the mold after removing Rakka's halo from it, Rakka still felt unclean from the whole business and spent part of the evening washing her halo.
Then, in the following episode, Kana wakes up Rakka by yanking on Rakka's halo, which by this point has enough attraction to pull her head along with it.
In a slight play on this, towards the end, Midori shows her peevishness towards Hyouko by leaving a dish on his halo.
Posthumous Character: Kuramori, although her Day of Flight is the reason for her absence rather than death. She nevertheless served as a surrogate mother to Reki and Nemu as shown in a flashback. Her sudden departure was also the cause of a rift between them.
Powered by a Forsaken Child: The wall, that Haibane are not allowed to cross? It generates a type of energy that is collected for forging into haloes. Where does this energy come from? From plaques with the names of dead Haibane (Or it it transcended? Rakka eventually wondered if Kuu's name was among those on the plaques).
Railroad Tracks of Doom: They're only painted onto the floor of Reki's room, but end up no less dangerous than real tracks.