This is a episode commentary. It is intended for someone who has seen this episode, and will contain episode spoilers.

Haibane-Renmei: Episode 8 Commentary

The Bird.

Rakka’s depression stems from believing Kuu will be forgotten, and that the haibane have no meaning beyond to exist after they are born and before they leave. The missing piece here is seeing the impact Kuu has had on her. The lessons and memories Kuu left with her.

Rakka sets out Kuu's frog figures.

By dispersing Kuu’s belongs among Kuu’s friends, each friend is able to take something to remember Kuu by. These belongs must consist of items already in the room when Kuu was born, items Kuu found within Old Home and chose to keep, and items Kuu purchased by working. The number of frog-related items suggests all frog goods were purchased, and the names of the haibane on the frog figures shows that these figures were something Kuu put extra time, thought, and value into. Kuu’s decision of which name to write on which frog figure is represented by those figures.

Previously, Reki said the walls are strongest near the western woods. She says the haibane must not get close to the walls, anywhere. Reki says the walls keep evil out, keep the haibane safe from evil. When winter comes, the walls weaken.

Reki looks out Rakka's window.

What are the haibane? Why do they lose their memory as a human? What do they need protection from? Some haibane are around enough to wonder these things, to accept life the way it is, and to no longer bother to question their way of living. For Reki, she believes she will never leave the encaging walls, so these questions do not matter for her. For Kuu, it’s never brought up. The young feathers are young enough to not have very many memories to lose in the first place. Considering Kuu’s starting point as a young feather, she may never have had these questions. She would have been too young for the identity crisis Rakka is facing.

The bird in the well had to have been for there some time. Could someone Rakka once knew really have arrived as a bird? If this is possible, then what happened to Rakka which lead to her becoming a haibane? Was she with someone when something happened? Something that would result in Rakka being a haibane, and the one with her becoming a bird to watch over her? And if someone close to Rakka became a bird, what lead to its resting place at the bottom of the well?

Looking at the credits, the “old clothes dealer” is called just that. There’s no name given for him. No need for a name. This second appearance may be his last in the series. He isn’t a haibane. He’s human. He’s a kind human, cutting and sewing wing slits in Rakka’s new summer outfit, offering Rakka winter shoes as a gift. Still, he’s only human, and will never leave the town. He isn’t one of the haibane, one of the protected ones, one of the special ones. He needs no name to be known.

Rakka's sinbound feather on the ground.

If the weakening of the walls during winter is what allows Rakka’s wings to darken, does this mean the evils from beyond the walls are getting to her? That her weakened mental state, that her doubts surrounding her existence, that her wishes to no longer be, to no longer feel, are allowing the evil to take her? Or are these feelings the evil, manifested in the dark spots on her wings?

Considering the dark spots are a combination of Rakka’s state of mind and the arrival of winter, it would stand to reason that the same would happen to any other haibane in a similar position. It may have happened to another long before Reki and Nemu arrived. Perhaps Reki’s friend (Kuramori, was it?) had also had this happen, or knew someone who had, and because of this she knew about using the dye for Reki’s wings. Or Reki could have been the first time she’d seen it.

This condition may have not shown up before due to the haibane being protected, not by the walls, but by the council, by the people, by one another. When Rakka, a newborn, became close friends with Kuu, then Kuu left without warning, without prior explanation, without a care or tear by the people of town, Rakka’s severe depression may have been a first for a haibane in a long time. Happening at the start of winter only compounded things, making matters worse for her wings.

If Reki sees herself in Rakka, then she won’t forgive herself for not being there for Rakka more. Kana says Rakka isn’t a child to be watched over, but she’s still young as a haibane. She lost her way before adjusting properly to the haibanes’ lifestyle. She hasn’t taken up a job yet, and as she runs out of notebook papers, is getting by on the generosity and kindness of the townspeople.

Rakka looks back, toward the sound of the clock bell.

Timing the ringing of the clock bells as Rakka enters the western woods made for a good comparison with the first time she entered the woods. This time, the bells will not keep ringing. They will not be a constant guide out of the woods, back to Old Home.

Rakka remarks on the air around the well being different. Is it because water from outside the town walls runs through it?

The scene when Rakka first slipped down the well, it was very well composed. The reflection on the water, the sound of water running, an anxious feeling as the sound of the flow increases, no certainly of what became of Rakka. Her dream switches between the human Rakka who fell though a dream, and the haibane Rakka she is now, a combination and contrast well combined.

The writer and storyboarder definitely did something right with this series, with every scene. Add in the art direction, the music, the voice acting (both Japanese and English, myself partial to the latter), and everything about Haibane-Renmei has a classic feel to it. If only a handful of Japanese animated series were going to be remembered in 100 years, Haibane-Renmei feels as if it should be one of those series. Keeping to 13 episodes only helps ensure unnecessary things won’t enter into the show and weigh it down, things left instead light and precise.

3 Responses to “Haibane-Renmei: Episode 8 Commentary”

  1. Author Says:

    SDB theorised that the bird might have been Rakka’s dog. I’m not sure I agree, he seems to be giving dogs a lot of credit.

  2. Chris Says:

    I’m not a dog person, so I know I’d never give a dog that much credit =D (Being a cat person, I’m sure if the crow were Rakka’s cat, it’d be sitting at home sleeping, and Rakka would never have gotten the message…)

    I’ll be putting together my own thoughts on the crow in a post after series completion. Hopefully you’ll see the post, and will enjoy it (whether you find it plausible or not). I’ll be working out minor issues with it until that time.

  3. Vicoreo Says:

    I always got the impression that Rakka’s bird was a human, maybe a sister or a friend. Somebody who loved Rakka and believed in her but was not enough to pull her out of the depression. I think maybe a younger sister. She was obviously very devoted, to follow Rakka into the afterlife.