HOME   News   Reviews   Adv Search   Features   My DVD   About   Apps   Stats     Search:
  Directed by
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • 5 Theatrical trailer - .hack//SIGN, Voices of a Distant Star, Initial D, Fruits Basket, The Slayers
  • Photo gallery - 30 model sheets
  • Animated menus
  • Booklet - 14 page
  • Film highlights - Episode previews
  • Jacket picture

Haibane-Renmei 1 - New Feathers

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 132 mins . PG . PAL


It’s not often a comic from a Dojinshi (or fan-produced magazine) makes its way from press to animated cartoon. However, Haibane-Renmai - created by longtime recognised professional artist Yoshitoshi ABe, did just that. A producer friend pushed for ABe’s comic idea to make the transition to TV and eventually, with much scripting and character changing, Haibane-Renmai appeared in a late-night TV spot on Japanese television to an impressive response.

An unusual storyline for folks who’ve come to expect massive machines fighting in some not-too-distant future; Haibane-Renmai is the story of a girl who awakes to find herself falling from the sky before becoming trapped inside a giant cocoon. We are slowly introduced to the Haibane before she hatches – these are a group of young women who live a monastical sort of life in Old Home and have wings and halos akin to angels.

"I’m falling from the sky…"

Upon hatching, the newly named Rakka develops a fever and sprouts wings of her own. She is given her halo and soon begins to learn of her new world in Old Home. Having no memory of her life before the dream, we know pretty much as little as Rakka herself. However, the nearby town of Glie is interesting to explore, as the Haibane have been protected by the town since time immemorial. The Haibane are forbidden to go beyond the walls of the town, as are the townsfolk, and must trade with the Toga, the only group allowed into Glie from the outside world.

There’s much more to this story and what’s interesting is even as this was being written, there was no perceived ending. Most scripts get brought to TV for the animé format fully scripted through anything from three to 25 episodes (or even more) yet Haibane-Renmei started with a hastily penned 13 episodes that ABe put together as a starting point only. His idea was originally to add to the story only as his own dreams demanded; yet somehow he has managed to hang onto the lyrical dreamstate very nicely. Never introducing anything too swiftly and in fact, quite slowly, I was still enchanted by the sweetness of the storyline and the soft ambience of the atmosphere. It’s almost like lilting in a fugue state as we watch more information slowly emerging about the new world, with barely a thought for the life Rakka had before. While she still wonders occasionally, she seems to embrace her new surroundings wholeheartedly and this implores us to do the same.

The first four episodes of the original late-night series are included here and run thus:

  • Cocoon-Dream of Falling-Old Home
    Lost in a dream, a nameless girl appears inside a giant cocoon that sits in a spare room owned by the Haibane (which means ‘charcoal feathers’). When she hatches out among strange girls with wings and halos, she is named Rakka before she grows her own wings in a painful fever state.
  • Town and Wall-Toga-Haibane-Renmai
    Rakka is slowly assimilated into the Haibane-Renmai - or ‘Charcoal Feathers Federation’. She becomes strong enough to visit the town and begins learning of their trade and commerce.
  • Temple-Communicator-Pancakes
    Rakka becomes a fully-fledged Haibane and visits the temple and bakery, trying to decide what job she will take in Glei.
  • Trash Day-Clocktower-Birds Flying Over the Wall
    Rakka experiences some of the less pleasant parts of being Haibane and she can’t seem to choose a job for herself, even after visiting the town’s clocktower with her friend Kana.

This is a very pretty program that would be well suited to the late-night spot, and is a welcome relief for anyone tiring of the same old mecca wars from Japanese animation studios.


Made for television, we are granted a beautiful 1.78:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. Colours are softly muted to tone down the mood into a dreamlike state and they work very well. The picture quality is still quite immaculate, however, with most of the soft edging coming from light effects adding to the overall ambience. Passage of time has been portrayed subtly and cleverly too, giving us a little credit as an audience which is truly appreciated.

Perhaps my only gripe, and a thin one at that, is in some of the less than perfect cheaper software effects throughout the show. Whilst obviously produced on a limited budget, these are sometimes a little annoying to anyone knowing animation programs even moderately well. Perhaps the untrained eye will skim straight past them and that’s fine, however they just threw me off the slightest bit.

Otherwise, everything looks sensational here, including the artwork on the enhanced menus and jacket picture.


With little to do and made for TV, naturally Dolby Digital stereo is the way to go and it does its job remarkably well here. While never truly challenged, it does deliver some pretty cool sounding stuff very nicely indeed. The scenes where Rakka is falling early in Episode One sound incredible, as the sound of flapping fabric and wind rushing past is quite extraordinary.

Music is subtle throughout lending a pleasant melancholia to the atmosphere which isn’t out of place, regardless of the upbeat mood of the Haibane compound. Performed with solo piano or violin, the score really adds a deeper depth to the story that fills it out perfectly.

Dialogue has been well translated for the most part (though the subtitles seem way off sometimes… and yes, I realise that’s the difference between languages showing up) while sound effects are mostly okay, if occasionally overdone. Sometimes they’re comically used, particularly in relation to Rakka’s halo and her abnormal attraction of static electricity, but for the most part are understated and fitting.


There’s a little bit here for the fan to get into, though not a great deal. First of all, in those mentioned menus and jacket picture; both look superb and there is even some subtle feather animation throughout the earlier moments that is very nice.

Included is the creditless opening which is just the opening titles sans titles, so we can get a closer look at the animated artwork, which is a nice touch and not unusual from Madman. There is also the original Japanese opening which isn’t so very different, but a nice inclusion nonetheless.

An art gallery follows next and this holds 30 images collected from studio model sheets for characters, props and character equipment. Nice - particularly as they’ve been embedded in the pages and not just cheapo pics stuck together.

Propaganda trailers are next and these are the usual fare. Included are .hack//SIGN, Voices of a Distant Star, Initial D, Fruits Basket and The Slayers. Also from the end of each episode, the preview has been removed and plays here looped together. Each runs around an average of 18 seconds each.

Oh, and before I forget it, a beautiful 14 page colour booklet accompanies the DVD and gives a bit of a back story on the town, the main characters and some stuff not covered by these four episodes. Very pretty, nicely printed and contains the original first page of the Dojinshi, which looks awesome but is too small! This would have looked great full size.


Although starting out in a very confusing and dreamy manner, the show quickly begins to make sense as we awake with Rakka into her new surroundings. If you’ve not experienced the lyrical nature that animé can achieve, this is a perfect way to do so, as is the previously reviewed Voices of a Distant Star (link above). Charming, witty and very nice to look at, this is a show that I’m very keen to follow and see where it goes, so beware; this one may just get its hooks into you too. Remarkable stuff. Enjoy!

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3307
  • Send to a friend.

    Cast your vote here: You must enable cookies to vote.
      And I quote...
    "Lyrical animé comes of age as heavy metal machinery is discarded for images and a story reminiscent of more ancient tradition."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
    • Speakers:
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
      Recent Reviews:
    by Jules Faber

    Narrow Margin
    "Gene Hackman as an action star? It happened… "

    A King in New York: SE
    "Taking a poke at too many demons makes this film a little stilted and not among his best works"

    A Zed and Two Noughts
    "Is it art or is it pornography? Who cares? Both are good."

    Blake's 7 - The Complete Series One
    "Performances are fine, but the flimsy sets, the crappy props and the undisguisable late 70s hairdos are just too much."

    Heavens Above
    "While not amongst some of Sellers’ more confident roles, this one is still up there amidst the more subtle of them…"

      Related Links
      None listed


    Search for Title/Actor/Director:
    Google Web dvd.net.au
       Copyright © DVDnet. All rights reserved. Site Design by RED 5