May 31st, 2014.
So, Rakka is back amongst the Haibane, back amongst her friends, and she’s fine. Reki though can’t be happy for Rakka, or her happiness is clouded by her sorrow for herself, for being alone once more. We’re reaching the end, so it’s time for “The Story” to swirl around Reki, and lead her to ruin or salvation, or will she be left behind once more, to while away her days?
Born alone, with no one to greet them, wallowing in the waters of their birth, in the chill of winter. Is this Reki? I suspect it’s Kuramori, given the episode’s title. Of course it could be a new Haibane, but I suspect not.
Ok, so it is Reki. Reki who had been born alone, with no one to welcome her. Her wings appeared black, but was it preordained, or because no one was there for her?
Reki’s first sight in the new world, Kuramori, who then left her.
Reki’s life, it had all been set down by Kuraori’s kindness, and she keeps on following the path laid before her, even though Kuramori is no longer here. It’s very much a mirror, a mirror between Reki and Rakka, including the words spoken to them. But are the motives the same?
“I knew you’d come, as you did for Hyohko” – Meaning when she and the boy ran away, he also touched the Walls, and thus Reki’s knowledge. Not because she touched the walls, but he did.
“I’m sorry, there is nothing I can do. The Walls are absolute.” – The Walls, eh? Are those who fly “Beyond the walls” truly fly into them? Is it perhaps that the whole world outside the town is lived amidst never-ending walls? Are the walls people? Are they the measure of punishment, and salvation? Hm.
“The birds give us what we forgot from beyond the walls” they said, and Rakka’s bird had given her forgiveness, and the place it had come from was her past life. Is the past and future life beyond the walls? Or also? We can drown in those questions, but they are not what truly matters, which is the story before our eyes, with the people before us.
Kuu being a rolemodel, which fits Rakka treating her as a wise upperclassman, so she wished to go first. Nemu wishes to go after Reki. Ah, but see, now we have a sense of urgency – one cannot stay here forever, and if your Day of Flight time comes and you are not ready and thus do no depart, then something happens. That also means Reki knows Kuramori could not have simply stayed here for her, she’d have left either way – but that means her promise was an empty one, unless those who “leave” have not truly left. What of the old Communicator, then? Are the Renmei those who missed their day of flight?
“You have always been there for Rakka.” – As Kuramori had been for her. “But you must not be envious of her for moving forward.” – Reki, why argue? Be honest with yourself.
Departing with a stick, “I’d be fine” and “My wings feel lighter”, almost feels as if Rakka is going to go on her Day of Flight, right now.
Inside the walls, a cold river flows, and the Communicator is the ferryman. The River Styx?
Purifying the tags, what are the tags? They are holy relics, obviously. Are they remnants of past people? Are the walls there truly to protect the tags, or are these tags what lend the walls their powers? Is it the tags that keep the town safe by attracting to them what will go through, which is memories of past lives? Hmmm. Let’s see.
Reki, whose pain comes from being alone, now she feels as a burden to those who stay with her, and pushes them even farther apart. I don’t think it’s the Communicator’s kindness coming back to bite him, but trying to show Reki that Kuramori had to leave, and that she should be grateful for the time she does have with people – and how she’s never alone, except when she believes herself to be – how could she had always been alone, while Nemu was there? And even without Nemu, there are the others.
Reki’s tale of loneliness is spreading its wings. Redemption, or sacrifice? Also many more questions of the nature of the world, but they’re not what truly matters.
Another shot of two people stepping into the light, leaving Reki behind. Of course, we can see Reki still is surrounded by many people who wish for her company.
Sheesh, Old Factory doesn’t look half as inviting as Old Home.
It’s like an older brother, and freedom, ruling themselves, doing as they wish. I wonder how Dai will feel when it’s time to go back to the confining love of Old Home.
“You know nothing about Reki, nothing!” – To discover your friend isn’t who you thought them to be, especially when they are akin to a foster parent. But aren’t they? That’s a good question – are we our actions? Are we our pastactions? Reki thinks so, but that’s what Rakka had learnt – forgiveness. This is a large part of what this show is actually about, about being more, and beyond what we used to be, our prior mistakes.
“Reki is always considerate of others, even when she’s suffering inside.” – Her suffering comes from her consideration. Here’s a real question – when you suffer for others, who do not wish you to suffer, are you really considerate?
And now Rakka realizes – she had caused Reki further pain by leaning on her. Furthermore, she is now troubled by having Reki be considerate of her in the past, making past consideration only a cause for further pain, rather than soothing.
This glowing tag, and the way it looks like a tree. The source?
“It hurts me as well to see her suffer, but I don’t want her to go.” – Rakka realizes, that consideration is a cause of suffering.
So, are the ex-Haibane the Toga? Who do not speak to the Haibane for the pain it brings, and as to not accidentally scare and scar them into also becoming Toga?
“Saving Reki means parting with her.” – “If you love someone, set them free.” Rakka is confronted with her conflicting desires.
Reki’s halo is blinking, and Rakka knows what it means.
“We walk with empty smiles plastered over our faces. Reki is always kind, because she doesn’t want to worry anyone.” – Rakka is learning that a consideration aimed at others who care for you, though it hurts you yourself, isn’t true consideration, and that it damages the friendship as well – friends can trust one another, and hurt one another, in order to heal.
“And because she doesn’t want to lean on anyone, she just smiles.” A-yup.
“I wish tomorrow would never come, so I could spend today with you forever.” And that’s Reki’s answer, but will she treat it as a rock she can never lift, or as wings to liberate her?
“Everything ends, as it should. There is no such thing as forever. Because now is only now, and this moment is so precious.” – Seems she got the right answer, unless things ended, would she appreciate the now, as something irreplaceable? So why are we watching anime, instead of living the now? :P
This is friendship, to be sad for yourself even as you are happy for your friend, without one cancelling the other.
“It’s time to end it.” and then the episode ends.
Now here is the question, it’s like The Princess and The Tiger, the more you think of it, the less certain you are, or the more your final answer speaks of you, rather than of the story itself. I actually think ending the series here would’ve been a stroke of genius, because this show is reflective of our thoughts on these topics, and nothing would cement it here more than having us say how we think it ended.
But it’s not ending here, because the show actually has morals it wishes to teach us. So, did Reki move on, or did she not? “The Cycle of Sin” – Reki knows she’s a sinner, and she had also realized exactly what it is that makes her a sinner, and what the correct answer is. But knowing the correct answer doesn’t mean one can actually grasp it.
“You can have it, I don’t need it anymore.” On the one hand, she gave up smoking, on the other hand, Rakka is reminded of Kuu giving her her coat before leaving. Leaving everything behind.
A bell to mark the end of the year, and to open the path for a new one. To put things behind you, or to accept and keep them going. “The Passing of the Year” – many cultures treat winter as the death of the old year, but not all. It’s certainly fitting the rest of this show’s themes.
Trying to take down the walls, an act of rebellion – not merely sneaking away, but trying to bring down their oppressors. And the Walls, and the world, had punished them for it.
Laughter comes from the specks of light – the more specks of light, the more laughter, and sounds from outside, or from before. And they have to remove them, to keep the tags solemn. And then, what are the halos? The concentrated amount of mirth and past lives? Hm.
But Rakka hears Kuu, so perhaps we take out what we bring into it. Sumika had told Rakka the symbols look like hands, and the Haibane Renmei all speak via hand-signs, so Rakka is attempting to communicate with the tags, or learn to read them.
Hm. They have name-tags in Old Home, and they also have name-tags within the Temple. The names appear, and then change, and then they produce Light Leaves. But how do new name-tags appear? That also makes sense, why the Haibane must come and introduce themselves to the Speaker – so new tags could be placed? Or is it the same cycle of girls, and slowly there are less, as each changes?
Ah, yes, Japanese – same sound, but different symbols, from “falling” to “involved nut”, Kuu, from “Air” to something else. Change, while remaining the same. Do the Haibane Renmei affect the tags, or the tags the Haibane Renmei, when naming happens?
“It’s true, no one can forgive themselves.” – Wait, so was Rakka forgiven in addition to breaking the Cycle of Sin? So you need to do both? Or is it that after breaking the Cycle of Sin someone else forgives you? Anyway, it gives me a big “Big God is watching” vibe here, but also the other part, the theme here is community, where it fits.
“Give it to Reki after the festival.” – Old man, we don’t have that long :< – So, the answer to The Cycle of Sin is to be pulled out of it. To be recognized by another as having no sin. That’s… not much of an answer to the actual riddle, since you still need to recognize yourself. I guess the point is you can stop thinking of yourself when others think of you, and you of them.
That makes Reki’s situation even more dire, since her burden keeps others away from her, and her from accepting others. Yes, Rakka ran away as well, feeling alone and apart from the other Haibane, but the core issue wasn’t one that kept saying “I am alone”, but its result.
Silence and expressing things through bells – just like the Haibane Renmei, who always observe the passing of time? Hm.
Rakka going to Old Factory. I think she’s realized – she can’t forgive Reki, but it must be Midori and Hyohko who forgive her, for her to move on.
The town is surrounded by walls of light, which take it all, then to revive the year, as the previous year died, send it to the skies. Or perhaps, to clear themselves and the world for new experiences, they get rid of the old one, just as Reki had relieved herself from her past burdens.
Reki had been forgiven, but will she forgive herself? Because I think both are necessary here. So will she make it through? And if the Haibane Renmei know Reki’s true name, but she doesn’t, then who says it’s truly her true name?
Of course, thinking of the world isn’t the point here, but of the themes and relations. Had quite a bit of sad moments here, fueled by “Alicia’s Song” as I call it. Rakka is an interesting one – she has all this knowledge, but she doesn’t share it, for she knows to share it might invite change, and panic. And so, Rakka lets things go on their own, and then she is filled with regret.
Not sure how I feel about the riddle, and the morals here, more than a tad heavy-handed.
Reki, saying goodbye. Even if she gets her Day of Flight, or she does not, she’s still leaving. I suspect Rakka didn’t give her her new name-tag yet. But she could’ve also placed it on the board, which would be a nice touch.
A room filled with all that Reki used to be. Unlike Kuu, it no longer seems lived-in. And it’s fitting, that it’s lighted by Reki’s left-over light(er).
Reki’s dream, her all-encompassing dream, transformed into reality, so Reki could walk down its path and relive it, and her terror.
Yes, Rakka realizes that Reki isn’t living in the same world as she does, but in a nightmare. Will the True Name end the nightmare, if it doesn’t offer salvation? Hm.
Hm, Reki seems to think she chose “small stone” because she wanted to feel neither happiness nor sorrow. The Old Speaker says it’s because she thought she’s as worthless as the small stone one steps in. But are they truly any different? If you don’t feel, then perhaps you’re a non-person, who can be stepped on.
“Her name truly means “The one who was run over and torn apart.”” – No, that doesn’t sound “healing”, but then again, she needs to confront herself.
“This is where I abandoned myself.” – They all dreamed of transition, but also of ways one can die or kill oneself. To drown in the river, to fall into a well, to walk onto the rails. The small pebbles that rails are set on.
An idle question, is there any difference between shedding guilt and one’s sense of guilt? I think not, same as pain is identical to the feeling of pain.
“This town is my prison” – Well, we did talk of how the town was made for the Haibane, so why not also for the bad ones?
“The walls signify death! This world is separated by death!” – To a degree, it’s true, and now I wonder if Rakka hadn’t been sent to work within the walls so she could also tell Reki how the walls also signify life, within them.
Nice symbolism, Reki is spinning, losing sight of the world around her, and then falls into her imagined, into herrecreated past.
“This room is a cocoon, I was unable to escape this dark dream.” – Great symbolism, created knowingly by the character. She’s an artist.
“I trusted and was hurt, so at some point I stopped trusting.” – Smiling Reki, who is using her smile not to get close to others, but to keep the appearances everything is fine, and thus keep everyone away. Reki sort of is an awful person, as Midori had said, but for different reasons. Yes, it’s selfish, but we all have the obligation to protect ourselves.
“So I wouldn’t get hurt, I became a stone.” – She had traded her true name for one that is not, but in some way, so did all the girls. Except she’d cling to her new name rather than the True One, because she thinks it’d hurt less. But we see the truth – Reki wishes to not be alone, but it is that very same fear that keeps her alone. It’s not “betrayal”, but loneliness that eats at her.
As Reki bares her heart, Rakka is shocked. Of course, this is a test, a test to see if you’ll leave her, Rakka. Moreover, it’s not a conscious test, but one where Reki hates herself for being unable to shake her sin off. She needs a hug. Just like you were sure she’s a good person when Midori said she wasn’t, now it’s time for you to convince Reki herself. You see, it’s the same things that weigh on them both, as we had seen in Reki’s memories of her past.
On being nice. I could write a lengthy article about this. I probably did in the past. If you’re only nice in order to feel better with yourself, are you nice? If you’re nice to others in order to be seen as nice, are you nice? I don’t think there’s anything else. “I was only useful to someone else, so I could forget about my sin.” – And that is enough, and that is what The Circle of Sin riddle is trying to show – you can “forget” and move past your sin, with others.
“It didn’t have to be you, Rakka.” – And? You’re nice to those you meet, and yes, it could’ve been someone else, and that’s life. It could’ve, but you change according to the one you do encounter. I think it’s Reki’s self-fulfilling prophecy, the self-destructive urge of the one in depression. She’s trying to make Rakka leave her, and thus prove she’s always abandoned. She’s torn asunder, by her own hands.
Ah, now we see the “guide” that appears to these Haibane. It seems Reki met her past, and perhaps future-self? And yes, Reki knew Rakka came to save her, but turned her down, for she doesn’t deserve to be saved. And you can’t be saved if you actively wish to not be.
What is this girl? Reki’s heart? Her soul? Seeing her break apart after getting soiled clearly is frightening Reki, who seems to not have made true peace with her end.
“No salvation (forgiveness) came for you, because you never asked for it. All you did was wait for it.” – So whom did Rakka ask for forgiveness? She had been given it, though then she still asked for it. I see. First you are offered forgiveness, and then you ask for it. Reki should’ve said the same things to Rakka, but not as an accusation, but as part of making amends. Well, she said them, so now it’s time to ask.
To not ask in fear of being alone ensures that you’d be completely alone. Reki was never alone, but treated herself as alone, so she was. The Circle of Sin. Her own emotional paradox.
Reki’s fate is coming from the past she could not escape. She drew it, literally. She did not wish to be torn, so she’ll be a little pebble, which the train will run over.
Reki had been given a good predecessor in the form of Kuramori, so she wished to be one for Rakka, even telling her she’d always be there for her. So Rakka will also repay a kindness.
Past Reki, or Reki’s soul, is holding Rakka back. It tried to plead with Reki, but in the end it’s still her. Or is it her final wish to save Rakka? Hm. Almost like a horror film.
“Call my name, say that you need me!” – Rakka knows what needs to happen as well. They all say the same thing, from different positions. There is no question of what needs to be done, just a question of willingness.
And when Reki called out to Rakka, her true name tag shattered. A True Name of sin, so she could forge a new one. To the non-Sin-Bound, their True Names are a symbol of release, but to the Sin-Bound they are what they seek release from.
“This was pretense, yet it became her true nature.” – See my bit about “being nice”. Masks have a tendency to become the true faces, becoming ingrained.
The episode of forgiveness, the episode of confrontation. The acting on Reki’s part was solid. The anguish, the self-conflict, the drama, well-delivered. Even if Rakka’s role was still quite subdued, but that’s also how this actress is.
Quite a doozy of an episode.
Post Show Thoughts:
This was a good show, in terms of plot-construction. Nothing came out of nowhere, and it all made sense when it appeared. It posed questions, you answered them based on what you had seen thus far, and then the characters had provided the same answers. That’s not a bad thing, but shows that the progression had been natural. It also meant that there wasn’t much surprise or suspense, though there had been some suspense – knowing what the options are, and even seeing all the characters say the right thing doesn’t mean they’d choose to do the right thing.
This isn’t really a plot-heavy series, and likewise, the world isn’t at the center of it all, even though the series is called “Haibane Renmei”, where the Renmei organization is an ever looming presence, rather than an active force. I also find it hard to call it a “character-driven” series, for the “protagonist” plays the role of a classic supporting character, shedding light on others’ personalities, and chiefly Reki’s.
So what is this story about? It’s a story about finding one’s place in the world, about loss and grieving. It also has a moral, where to be alive, and to be forgiven, are a result of a communal existence. Man cannot exist on his own. You can see the second half of the show as an exploration of grief and depression, and it makes a statement on how to get out, and how the depression itself makes you unable to accept that way out.
I think I might have liked Haibane Renmei a lot more as a book. Haibane Renmei is very much, to me, not about how good you think they treat their theme, but how much it resonates with you when you watch it. I know times in the past it’d have resonated with me much more strongly, but not this time. A lot of what an anime of Haibane Renmei could bring over a book would be its OST, which was good but sparse and subdued, and its voice-acting, which wasvery subdued. The acting and drama of the finale were spectacular, but it was just one episode.
I give this show a 7.3/10. It was a good show, and dealt with a worthy topic well, but the emotional resonance which is what this show’s themes are about wasn’t really there for me, for the most part. A book I love which deals with some of the same themes is The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren.