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

Haibane-Renmei: Episode 9 Commentary

Well. Rebirth. Riddle.

By now all my early theories of the reason behind the haibane and the halos have been forgotten on my part, and this episode cements that.

A toga looks down the well.

The toga are the only ones who would know if Kuu exists outside the town walls, but they cannot speak. They are still ready and willing to help Rakka from the well. And the communicator will freely speak with Rakka and help her come to terms with what she’s been going through. If anything, he sounded interested to hear of her revelations.

Rakka investigates the wall.

If the wall protects the haibane, then what happens upon touching the wall? Were the sounds of Kuu’s voice a reflection of Rakka’s thoughts made by the wall or by whatever is on the other side of the wall? And what has touching the wall done to Rakka? Is this because of the wall, or because of what’s on the other side of the wall?

Everyone watches over Rakka.

Considering Reki sees Rakka as she herself once was, and then watching her reactions to what has happened to Rakka, seeing her knowledge of things Rakka has experienced, and Hikari’s and Rakka’s insistences of why Reki knows about these things (the fever, the medical dye), it’s not out of place to assume Reki herself touched the wall after Kuramori left.

Rakka's wings are no longer spotted with sin.

For Rakka to have been born a normal haibane, but then she became sinbound, it may be because of her depression over the loss of Kuu, specifically in her belief that she is alone, undeserving of kindness from others. As a human, she felt she didn’t deserve to be alive, and she left behind someone who cared for her. By realizing her sin, she was able to accept that she did something she wishes she could atone for. By recognizing her sin, she has atoned the best she possibly can. The only way she can.

Reki ponders her sins.

Reki’s sin must be something major for her to have been sinbound to begin with. Rakka’s salvation began when she recalled the missing pieces from her dream. For Reki, it’s been seven years, and there are still holes in her dream, forgotten meanings, an unknown purpose for her.

Rakka sits alone in the well.

If a person wants to leave the world more than anything, and something happens to end her life, is she reborn as a haibane? If this were the case, would all haibane be sinbound to begin with? I can’t imagine someone with Hikari’s personality being in such a position, and it wouldn’t explain why there are so many young feathers.

The communicator teaches Rakka of the sinbound.

The communicator suggested Kuu’s being ready to leave, as determined by the walls, whereas Rakka is not yet ready. What constitutes as ready? Does being self-sufficient make up part of it? Or does it depend on ones mind, coming to terms with a part of oneself that one tends to push into the back of the mind rather than confront? Interactions with Rakka may have led to Kuu coming to accept being herself, rather than trying to be someone she isn’t. To realize this would be putting herself face-to-face with a part of herself she wasn’t earlier ready for, the part where she tells herself she’s still a child, and while she may mature, she needs to take time growing up, and enjoy being who she is, the way she is. With Rakka facing her feelings of unjust treatment by being treated in such a friendly manner while feeling she should be alone, gone, what secrets might the other haibane hold in the back of their minds?

A toga tries to communicate with Rakka.

The toga in the well tried to speak with Rakka by sign language. Are the toga under the impression this is a language all the haibane know?

For that matter, the first time I saw the communicator in an early episode, the covering over his wings made me wonder if he really had wings, or if they were just for appearance. The communicator has no halo over his head, although Hyohko is able to achieve the same with a hat over his halo, and the communicator does wear a hood.

Back to the toga, they stopped abruptly when Rakka said Kuu’s name. It was their lantern Rakka followed which led her to the wall. Why were the toga in town so late? Why were they out in the forest so late? Where do they stay in town if they stay overnight? Why were they outdoors, and how did they find Rakka? Why did they lead Rakka to Kuu’s voice when it meant leading her to that dangerous wall?

Hikari conveys her feeling of helplessness.

Up until now, Hikari’s had the least parts of any of the haibane as a character in the series. Her character was expanded on just a little, as she expressed concern over the things Rakka knows which she herself and others do not know. Nemu knows, though, as evidenced by her escorting the questioning Hikari out of the room. Could Hikari’s inquiries lead her to questioning her own existence as a haibane, her own reasons for being a resident of Old Home and for working at the bakery each day?

Watching this episode in Japanese (after having first watched in English, as I’m doing for each episode in this series), I’ve found that I have strong connections with the English voices, but no connection to the Japanese voices. If Hikari is off-screen while talking, I don’t realize it’s her voice I’m hearing. And Rakka’s Japanese voice holds no recognition for me. The English voices I’m very familiar with.

Reki holds Rakka close.

Looking at a series such as Petite Princess Yucie or Princess Tutu, both of which I watched episodes in Japanese then English, I quickly established a strong recognition of both languages of voice. I’m left to wonder if the same would be true for Haibane-Renmei, had I watched the episodes in Japanese before English for each episode. I also wonder if this marks the first series I can 100% enjoy in English. (Petite Princess Yucie misses this position because of Fredrick’s dub voice, and Princess Tutu because of an outtake left in an episode.)

Another side-effect of watching an episode in English, then writing up a commentary, followed by watching it in Japanese (followed by any added commentary I left out), is that I’ve not picked up the subtitle’s capitalization. I write haibane rather than Haibane, toga rather than Toga, and sinbound rather than Sin-Bound. Even after seeing how the subtitles represent these words, I had already become comfortable enough the way I had used them to continue. Watching episodes in English first really does have a number of impacts on things for me, things I’d never have considered possible before.

Too heavy on the images this time around? I’ll lighten the load next time.

8 Responses to “Haibane-Renmei: Episode 9 Commentary”

  1. Author Says:

    At last it’s time to introduce you to my pet world-creation theory about Haibane and Glie, without a fear of spoiling. It introduces a system into the thinking about the story.

    Glie is an artificial world, created by the God (a Japanese or universal God, not the Christian one), for the purpose of hosting haibane. Haibane are children who died while having some not yet solved life issues. Life in Glie gives them a second chance to tackle their problems. That’s all there is about it.

    From this base, we can derive some things. For example, the meteor effect from the delivery of soul is just a side effect, perhaps the waste energy dissipating when the soul’s contents are inserted into the Glie’s space. The dream is the process of integration of the soul with haibane’s body. This mapping or reboot probably occurs memory by memory historically, which is why it ends with the child’s death (e.g. Kana drowned, Nemu died in her sleep (CO poisoning perhaps), Rakka fell from a high place, etc.). As for the wall’s effect may be just the enthropy of the outside world interfering with haibane’s bodies. Glie only resembles the Earth in order to provide souls a familiar environment in which to function while they deal with the problem. Anything else does not need to resemble our world. There may be any kind of effect at the boundary. It’s possible that if a haibane gets beyond the wall, he/she would simply dissolve like creations of Ocean in Lem’s Solaris. Now you see what consitutes ready too: when the second chance have been used to deal with issues.

    Aside from Glie’s basics, a few more notes.

    You’re saying that “by recognizing her sin, [Rakka] has atoned the best she possibly can.” IMHO, this is not quite how it works. Sinners cannot forgive themselves (which is why the Circle of Sin exists). But Rakka had someone else to forgive her: the bird.

    Are all Haibane sin-bound? IMHO, no. Only those who are ineffective in exploiting their second chance become sin-bound. BTW, we never know just what issues Kana, Nemu, Hikari, Midori, Hyoko, and Kuu had that landed them into Glie. Well, Midori probably was angry like Donald Duck all the time :-) If Hinano died young, she’d be Midori for sure. :-) :-)

    The note “it was their lantern Rakka followed which led her to the wall” seems to contradict my recollection. I think Rakka followed the bird, not the lantern.

    I think that Reki might had not actually touched the wall, only observed someone who did. This is not really a spoiler, the anime is a bit vague on this. She might have as well. You’ll see it later.

  2. Chris Says:

    “Haibane are children who died while having some not yet solved life issues. Life in Glie gives them a second chance to tackle their problems.”

    This essentially matches my theory I’m putting together to post after the final episode commentary. Great minds think alike, or fools follow fools? =P

    “(e.g. Kana drowned, Nemu died in her sleep (CO poisoning perhaps), Rakka fell from a high place, etc.)”

    I hadn’t considered CO poisoning, but having Kana drown, etc. fits the post I’m putting together, including some thoughts related to the young feathers. (I’d check and see how I’ve fit things in with the main characters, but that’s on my laptop, and I’m on my PC as I write this. I really need to figure some way to sync files between the two.)

    “IMHO, this is not quite how it works. Sinners cannot forgive themselves (which is why the Circle of Sin exists). But Rakka had someone else to forgive her: the bird.”

    Since I write these in advance of posting them, this might be something I’ve written in the next episode’s commentary. It can be troublesome writing these in advance before posting them…

    “Are all Haibane sin-bound? IMHO, no. Only those who are ineffective in exploiting their second chance become sin-bound.”

    And if a child is born sinbound? Reki’s case? Other than that, it does make sense for Rakka to become sinbound because she’s not making any progress in righting things for her soul. I have my own theories into why she became sinbound when she did, and that’s being woven into my planned after-commentaries posting.

    If it doesn’t include spoilers, do fit the Toga into your view? Following the idea of Glie being an artificial world (not a theory I see myself going with, but an interesting one nonetheless), would you say the Toga exist to bring into Glie (via trade) the things which may be necessary for the people, but which they cannot produce within the town?

    As for the Rakka being led to the wall, I’d have to re-watch it, but if I recall correctly (and I have a very bad memory), the Toga walk away from Rakka, into the dark of the forest. Rakka tries to follow after, but is injured, and cannot even hope to keep up as they disappear into the darkness, with only their lantern visible. That’s what she followed (maybe).

  3. Author Says:

    I suppose I could weasel out of the hard question of Reki by driving a wedge into the time she spent in her room before found by Kuramori. Maybe she was not, strictly speaking, (re)born sin-bound. But more likely that it’s just her special circumstances. She is a tough case, as you’ll see.

    As for Toga, it’s also something dubious. Why have the pretension of trade in the artificial world, right? Maybe it’s just a design by committe kind of compromise, or a result of delegation of this part to Archangel Mikhail or something. Seriously though, it may be something that ABe did not think out in sufficient detail, although that explanation is no fun.

  4. Chris Says:

    I can just imagine ABe writing out the ideas for episode eight, and thinking, “Ack! I forgot all about the Toga! Hm, if Rakka were to, I don’t know, fall down a well soon, a couple of nce, tall Toga could help her climb out.”

    Whether it be true that ABe didn’t fully flesh out various ideas doesn’t matter with as well presented things are. It leaves plenty of room for wondering what the meaning of everyone and everything is in this world of haibane.

  5. Michael Brazier Says:

    The sequence in episode 8 where Rakka follows the crows, then falls into the well, echoes the sequence in Rakka’s cocoon dream; so it’s not very likely that ABe put that in to expand on the Toga’s role in the plot. More likely it’s the other way: having got Rakka down the well for thematic reasons, ABe needed a way to extract her but leave her still lost, so she could reach the wall before the Communicator found her; and the Toga are the only people who would help her climb out, but not lead her to safety afterward.
    Even so, it’s hard to understand why the Toga were there in the Western Woods, if not expressly to search for Rakka; and if that’s their reason, why did they let her get lost again, once they’d found her? It’s all very mysterious …

  6. Chris Says:

    While I was joking about the well being adding in to include the Toga, you bring up something I hadn’t considered, Michael. Falling in the well indeed does echo Rakka falling in her dream.

    Considering the Communicator’s surprise about Rakka’s situation, it’s unlikely he in any way knew what was going on when it happened, so he couldn’t have sent the Toga out ahead to help her.

    Determining what the Toga and the Communicator were doing out there that night seems it can be a whole exercise in itself!

  7. Wraith Says:

    About the Touga and the well, keep in mind what are the only two things we know can pass in to Glie from the outside: birds and Touga. Given the nature of the series, it’s certainly not out of line to think of some kind of connection between the Touga and the birds that showed Rakka the well.

    Since we know the Touga and the Communicator are connected, as he’s the only one allowed to “speak” with them, then the birds summoned the Touga, and when they left they told the Communicator, who then went looking for Rakka.

    A note on planning, as well. This series was written and aired in an extremely short period of time. ABe had started it as a doujinshi, and had wanted to do basically a stream-of-consciousness story. He didn’t have any over-all plot in mind when starting, he just wanted to see what would come out if he started and kept going.

    He had two volumes of the doujinshi out when Ueda told him he should make it into an anime. Somehow Ueda was able to get Geneon (Pioneer at the time) to go along with the idea, despite no planned story and only about an episode and a half of material.

    So the series was really just written and executed on the fly. ABe has said that he was always working under extreme deadline pressure to keep to the airing dates, and Ueda even threatened him with the last episode being a clip-show if he didn’t get the script finished in time.

  8. Chris Says:

    Although I don’t see myself finding any connection between the birds and the toga that I would be satistified with, it’s certainly something interesting to think about.

    ABe’s story (I mean, everything that he went through to get Haibane Renmei written) would probably inspire many who attempt the National Novel Writing Month.