Haibane Renmei

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Haibane Renmei
Created byYoshitoshi Abe

By Yoshitoshi Abe:

  • Haibane Renmei (1998)
  • The Haibane of Old Home: Chapter 1 (2001)
  • The Haibane of Old Home: Chapter 2 (2002)
  • Haibane Lifestyle Diary (2002)
  • The Haibane of Old Home: Extra Edition (2002)
Anime television series
Directed byTomokazu Tokoro
Produced by
Written byYoshitoshi Abe
Music byKow Otani
StudioRadix Ace Entertainment
Licensed by
Original networkFuji TV
Original run 10 October 2002 (10 October 2002) 19 December 2002 (19 December 2002)
Episodes13 (List of episodes)

Haibane Renmei (灰羽連盟, lit. "Charcoal Feather Federation")[a] is a 2002 Japanese anime television series based on an unfinished dōjinshi manga series by Yoshitoshi Abe, The Haibanes of Old Home (オールドホームの灰羽達, Ōrudo-hōmu no Haibane-tachi). The 13-episode series was directed by Tomokazu Tokoro, animated by Radix, and produced by Yasuyuki Ueda. It first aired on Fuji TV between October and December 2002, and was later broadcast on Animax Asia in English and French under the title Ailes Grises (Grey Wings).

The series follows Rakka, a newly hatched haibane[b] (a being resembling an angel), and other characters in the city of Glie, a walled town with a single gate through which only a mysterious group, the Toga, are allowed to enter or exit.

Considered a classic by many, Haibane Renmei is described as a slow-paced, atmospheric, and philosophical series exploring the spiritual themes of the afterlife, guilt, sin, and redemption. It has received widespread critical acclaim, with critics giving particular praise for its tone of mystery, soundtrack, and visuals.


A girl dreams of gently falling through the sky before waking up inside a giant cocoon. Upon breaking out, she is tended to by a group of winged and haloed young women who introduce themselves as haibane. Like her, none of them can remember anything before being born from cocoons, and all are named after whatever vision they saw in their dream. They name her Rakka ('falling'), as she remembers nothing other than the sensation of falling, and ceremoniously strap a newly forged halo to her head. During the night, Rakka goes through the agonising process of growing wings, while Reki, a senior haibane, cares for her.[5][6]

Rakka settles into her new life in the abandoned countryside boarding school called Old Home, a "nest" of the haibane, and quickly bonds with the other residents, especially Reki and Kuu.


The senior residents of Old Home in the anime. Clockwise from top left: Hikari, Nemu, Kū, Kana, Reki (middle).
Rakka (落下, Rakka, ラッカ) lit. 'falling'
Voiced by: Ryō Hirohashi (Japanese); Carrie Savage (English)
A new arrival at Old Home, Rakka struggles throughout the series to "find herself," and has trouble escaping from curiosity about her past. She forms many friendships, but her closest is with Reki. Rakka is very quiet and a bit on the withdrawn side. She spends a lot of time pondering her previous existence and the mysteries of what lies beyond the Walls, as well as the origin of the haibane.
Reki (, レキ, Reki) lit. 'pebble/small stone'
Voiced by: Junko Noda (Japanese); Erika Weinstein (English)
Reki is a mother figure to the other haibane of Old Home. Reki cannot remember her "cocoon dream," is troubled by her past at Old Home and by vivid and horrible nightmares, which she then paints as a way of trying to figure them out. She has been a haibane for seven years, longer than the others except for Nemu. She spends her time taking care of the precocious pack of Young Feathers who clearly drive her crazy but whom she seems to love unconditionally.
Kuu (, クウ, Kū) lit. 'sky'
Voiced by: Akiko Yajima (Japanese); J-Ray Hochfield (English)
The youngest of the older haibane and the first to take her Day of Flight. Kuu overcame her initial awkwardness to achieve a sense of peace. She develops a close friendship with Rakka and has been a haibane for two years. Outgoing and a bit hyper, Kuu demonstrates surprising knowledge of the town and serves as a good role model for Rakka.
Nemu (, ネム, Nemu) lit. 'sleep'
Voiced by: Kazusa Murai (Japanese); Karen Strassman (English)
The haibane who has lived longest at Old Home. Her friends tease Nemu because she is always sleeping. In fact, her cocoon dream was of herself, sleeping, which is a bit of an inside gag at Old Home. She is an old friend of Reki, works at the library, and has been a haibane for nine years. Nemu is often the voice of reason and calm during times of trouble and, like Reki, holds back the secret of a troubled past. She seems to have an almost mother/daughter relationship with Sumika, the former senior librarian.
Kana (河魚, カナ, lit. 'river fish')
Voiced by: Eri Miyajima (Japanese); Zarah Little (English)
A mechanically inclined tomboy, Kana works at the clock tower in the center of town. Kana has been a haibane for three years. Kana has a bit of a whimsical side to her as she reveals to Rakka that she wonders about the world outside the walls as well. More often than not though, Kana is hyper and obnoxious, which helps her to coexist with her grouchy master at the clock tower. Despite her confident attitude, Kana is actually very sensitive deep down and cares deeply for her friends, showing almost as much sadness as Rakka for Kuu's loss before grudgingly accepting it.
Hikari (, ヒカリ, Hikari) lit. 'light'
Voiced by: Fumiko Orikasa (Japanese); Hunter Mackenzie Austin (English)
A serious haibane who is also occasionally mischievous and funny. She works in a bakery in town and has been a haibane for four years. Hikari has a tendency to be a bit forgetful, such as forgetting to tell Rakka to practice moving her wings before her trip to the Haibane Renmei Temple. She's highly innovative, experimenting at the bakery with the halo mold presumably a short time after Rakka was born.
Hyohko (氷湖, ヒョウコ, Hyōko) lit. 'ice lake'
Voiced by: Chihiro Suzuki (Japanese); Josh Phillips (English)
Prominent member of the second, co-ed group of haibane in Glie who live at the Abandoned Factory "nest" on the opposite side of town from Old Home. Was a friend of Reki in the past. Upon first meeting Rakka, he accidentally upsets her with a remark about Kuu's recent Day of Flight. Despite his tough exterior, he's shown to be very kind, such as sending Rakka pastries and an apology note for the incident.
Midori (, ミドリ, Midori) lit. 'green'
Voiced by: Manabi Mizuno (Japanese); Stephanie Sheh (English)
A haibane from Abandoned Factory and a close friend of Hyōko. Has an ongoing grudge against Reki for her past endangerment of Hyōko but is willing to talk with Rakka and others.
The Communicator (話師, Washi)
Voiced by: Tamio Ōki (Japanese); Michael McConnohie (English)
A presiding official of the Haibane Renmei who gives spiritual advice and worldly assistance and, occasionally, imposes punishments on haibane who break the rules. The Communicator is the only person who can speak with the Toga on their visits to the town and it's speculated that he himself was a failed haibane. He wishes for the Day of Flight to come to all the haibane successfully and feels concerned that Reki refuses to heed his advice and attempts to help her.
Kuramori (暗森, lit. 'dark forest')
Voiced by: Aya Hisakawa (Japanese); Wendee Lee (English)
A haibane who cared for the young Nemu and Reki. Despite her delicate health, she was kind and helpful to them, especially to Reki in dealing with her black wings. Kuramori took her Day of Flight five years before the start of the series but remains vivid in the memories of Reki and Nemu, the only ones remaining to remember her. She's the only full-grown adult Haibane to be shown, as all the others are teens and mid-adolescents.
Toga (トーガ, Tōga)
The Toga are the only people who can enter and leave the city of Glie at will. The Toga never speak, save for communicating in sign language to the Communicator (who represents the link between the citizens of Glie and the Haibane Renmei), and they never reveal their faces. Human and haibane alike are told to keep their distance from the Toga.
Sumika (スミカ)
Voiced by: Tomoe Hanba (Japanese); Sharon McWilliams (English)
A librarian, senior of Namu. When Rakka first worked at the library, she planned to leave four days later for maternity leave. However, she remained in the library during winter.

Young Feathers[edit]

Unlike the senior counterparts, theirs names are chosen based on aspirations.

Dai (ダイ, Dai)
Voiced by: Kumiko Higa (Japanese); J.D. Stone (English)
A haibane who was originally from Abandoned Factory, but lives in Old Home most of the time.
Shorta (ショータ, Shōta)
Voiced by: Masumi Asano (Japanese); Karen McCarthy (English)
Hana (ハナ, Hana)
Voiced by: Ai Tokunaga (Japanese); Rachel Hirschfeld (English)
A haibane who taught Rakka how to move wings.

Background and production[edit]


The initial version of Haibane Renmei was a 22-page long dōjinshi (self-published work) of the same title by Yoshitoshi Abe. Released in 1998, it bore little resemblance to the final anime aside from being about people with halos and grey wings.[7][8]

Abe later reworked his idea into The Haibane of Old Home, which featured new characters and a different plot. The first issue, released in late 2001, was 24 pages long; the first anime episode covers roughly two-thirds of this issue. The second issue featured stories shown in the end of the first anime episode and the first third of the second episode.

Following this, Abe released two special dōjinshi: the "Lifestyle Diary" and the "Extra Edition". The former explains that the story has been licensed as an anime to be released later that year, and that he would not be continuing the dōjinshi. The book's contents cover the specifics of character design, from personality to shoe style, and lay out maps of the town and some of its buildings. It features several four-panel comics depicting the lives and behaviors of the specific haibane, including the protagonist Rakka's curiosity about her halo and wings. The Extra Edition is a flashback story to the character Reki's experiences as a haibane girl shortly after her mentor, Kuramori, left their home. This part of the story is covered in the anime, but the dōjinshi adds some additional detail. It was released after the completion of the anime series.

Conception and influences[edit]

Publication as an independent dōjinshi was necessitated by the experimental nature of the work. Abe later revealed that he made up the story as he wrote, having no firm plan in place for the characters and plot. Commercial magazines, on the other hand, would have required adherence to deadlines and page quotas in addition to a solid plan for the series.[8][9]

The series was influenced by, and is often compared to, Haruki Murakami's 1985 novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.[10] Both works share a common setting of a walled town inhabited by memoryless residents, and some individual elements were also borrowed, such as birds as a recurring motif. The novel was Abe's favourite at the time; he confessed to having read it more than ten times.[8] Another influence was Hirokazu Kore-eda's 1998 Japanese film After Life, which also features recently deceased people struggling to move on.[11]


Concept art depicting Rakka, as drawn by Yoshitoshi Abe

Having started to write The Haibane of Old Home, Abe was approached by producer Yasuyuki Ueda, with whom he had previously collaborated on Serial Experiments Lain as a character designer, who proposed turning it into an anime.[9] The production was completed in a relatively short time, lasting in whole approximately six months. By May 2002 Abe had finished writing the initial plot for the series, and the production of later episodes continued while the series had started airing.[12][8]

Akira Takada is credited as the sole character designer, but the designs for the main cast, along with the overall visual style of the series, were drawn from the original dōjinshi. In an interview, Abe noted that the main character Rakka's design had changed the most during the course of the development, becoming rather different from his own drawings.[12]


Kow Otani composed the original musical score for the series, including the opening theme "Free Bird".[13] The score, described as a blend of 17th-century music, Celtic, and Jazz,[13] predominantly features instrumentals with a strong reliance on traditional Western instruments such as guitar, piano, flutes, and drums.[14][1] The ending theme "Blue Flow" was performed by Masumi Itou.[14]

Haibane Renmei: Hanenone
1."Refrain of Memory"4:07
2."Free Bird"2:31
4."Breath of a germ"2:20
5."Starting of the world"2:03
6."A little plates Rondo"2:16
7."Silent Wonderland ~REM Dream~"2:22
8."Song of Dream, Words of Bubble"2:13
10."Shadow of Sorrow"2:41
14."Ripples by the drop"2:07
15."Someday, Lasting, Seranade"2:13
16."Love will light the way"5:14
17."Ethereal Remains"2:22
18."Blue Flow TV Edit"1:26
19."Ailes Grises"2:38
Total length:51:03

Themes and analysis[edit]

Haibane Renmei is, as the title suggests, a story with various things in gray, that is, a story with many ambiguous factors. It is not a story to find answers, but one to wonder about the answers.

Yoshitoshi Abe, Animerica interview (2003)[8]

Eschatology is a major theme in the series.[15] The walled city of Glie is often interpreted to be a form of purgatory or limbo,[16] and the story arc a journey toward redemption, salvation, or forgiveness.[4][17] Previous-life suicide of at least one of the main characters, Reki, is implied.[18] Professor Susan J. Napier suggests all the other haibane are suicide victims as well, seeing a "bleak" reference to the high suicide rates among Japanese youth.[19][c]

The spiritual themes of the series draw from both Christian and Buddhist ideas and imagery, reflecting on the eclectic religious traditions of Japan itself. The Christian influences are immediately evident from the winged and haloed haibane, who, despite their appearance, the creators of the series tell are not meant to explicitly represent angels.[4] Anime scholar and critic Marc Hairston argues that the traditional Christian portrayal of angels is quickly subverted; rather than superior beings, the haibane are treated as second-class citizens in Glie.[20]

Haibane Renmei introduces many mysteries over the course of the series, leaving most of them unanswered and up to interpretation.[21] The exact nature of the haibane, Toga, and the world of Glie are never explained. The audience is not shown what, if anything, lies beyond the wall or what happens to the characters after their Day of Flight.[14] The creators have deliberately maintained this ambiguity and refused to elaborate on these points in interviews, with Yoshitoshi Abe stating he doesn't want to impose his personal views on the viewers.[8]

Broadcast and distribution[edit]

The series was originally broadcast in Japan on Fuji TV from 10 October to 19 December 2002, airing on an irregular schedule.[22] Although originally intended to be a weekly broadcast spanning three months, the schedule was accelerated, resulting in the first five episodes airing two weeks apart, followed by the remaining eight episodes shown weekly in back-to-back pairs. Producer Yasuyuki Ueda called this change "painful" and later blamed it for contributing to the initial lukewarm reception of the anime.[12]

Over the years, the series has had several physical releases. In Japan, Geneon Entertainment released a total of five DVD sets of Haibane Renmei between December 2002 and April 2003.[23][24] Additionally, a Blu-ray box set was released in 2010.[25] The series was first licensed and dubbed into English in North America by Geneon USA (named Pioneer Entertainment at the time), which published DVD releases from April 2003 to October 2005.[26][27] In 2010, Funimation (now Crunchyroll, LLC) obtained the license for the show, along with a handful of other Geneon properties,[28] and released a new boxed DVD set in 2012.[29] In Europe, the series was licensed by MVM Films, who initially distributed a DVD version and later issued a Blu-ray release in 2021.[30][31] Madman Entertainment first released the series in Australia, before Sony acquired the license in 2013.[32]

A comic based on the television series was published by Dark Horse Comics in April 2006.[33]


Haibane Renmei has received widespread and enduring international critical acclaim and is considered a classic by many.[15][34] Critics have described it as a slow-paced, atmospheric, and philosophical series,[15][35] giving particular praise for its tone of mystery, distinctive art style, and "beautiful" soundtrack.[15][1][36]

The series' visuals have generally been praised, with critics at the time commending both the design and animation. The decision to use a muted color scheme garnered a particularly positive reception; Mauno Joukama writing for the Finnish magazine Anime called it "picturesque", Animerica "stunning".[37][8] Later reviews have been more mixed on this aspect. They note that while the animation quality was "fairly sharp" by early 2000s standards, it hasn't aged well with modern devices, causing certain artistic flaws to become more noticeable.[14][17]

Stig Høgset, in his review for THEM Anime Reviews, hailed the series as "one of the finest animated works in existence", especially lauding the music as among "the most beautiful in any anime ever".[1] Jonathan Mays of Anime News Network, in an in-depth review, described the Hanenone soundtrack as an "emotional expedition", concluding it to be "superior to almost all television series music."[13]

The English dub produced by New Generation Pictures received generally favorable critique. Anime News Network's Zac Bertschy called it a "marvel", noting that it had managed to overcome his generally low expectations for English dubs.[38] Theron Martin, writing for the network nine years later, described it as an "excellent effort", praising the natural-sounding dialogue.[14] Ryan Mathews, on the other hand, found it merely "enjoyable", expressing his dislike for the cast of most supporting characters.[39]


  1. ^ The logo for the anime contains the French tagline "Une fille qui a des ailes grises", meaning "A girl who has grey wings".
  2. ^ lit. 'charcoal feathers' Also translated as 'gray' or 'ash-colored feathers' or 'wings'[3][4]
  3. ^ She argues that the Japanese meaning of the names of the haibane tend to support this interpretation, explaining that 'Reki' refers to a vehicle running over a body. 'Kana' lit. 'river fish' could refer to drowning; Rakka lit. 'falling' and Kuu lit. 'sky' to a death by falling.[19]



  1. ^ a b c d Høgset, Stig. "Haibane Renmei". THEM Anime Reviews. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  2. ^ Napier 2005, p. 188.
  3. ^ Dennison, Kara (April 2022). "Haibane Renmei - The Complete Series". Otaku USA. pp. 22–21. ISSN 1939-3318.
  4. ^ a b c Hairston 2007, p. 236.
  5. ^ 繭・空を落ちる夢・オールドホーム [Cocoon — Dream of Falling from the Sky — Old Home]. Haibane Renmei. Episode 1.
  6. ^ Hairston 2007, pp. 235–237; Napier 2005, pp. 188–189.
  7. ^ Yoshitoshi, Abe (18 December 1998). Haibane Renmei 灰羽連盟 [Charcoal Feather Federation] (in Japanese).
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Yoshitoshi, Abe (September 2003). "Yoshitoshi ABe". Animerica (Interview). Vol. 11, no. 9. Interviewed by Hairston, Marc; Nobutoshi, Ito. pp. 43–47. ISSN 1067-0831.
  9. ^ a b Yoshitoshi, Abe; Yasuyuki, Ueda (3 April 2005). "Yoshitoshi ABe, Yasuyuki Ueda". Anime News Network (Interview). Interviewed by Divers, Allen; Andrew, Tei. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  10. ^ Hairston 2007, p. 238; Pearce 2023.
  11. ^ Hairston 2007, p. 238.
  12. ^ a b c Yoshitoshi, Abe; Yasuyuki, Ueda (25 April 2003). "Haibane Renmei COG.5" 灰羽連盟 COG.5 (Interview) (in Japanese). ASIN B00008OJP2.
  13. ^ a b c Jonathan, Mays (10 August 2003). "Sound Decision: Haibane Renmei!". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 13 June 2023. Retrieved 10 June 2023.
  14. ^ a b c d e Theron, Martin (17 September 2012). "Haibane Renmei: DVD - Complete Series [Anime Classics]". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 13 June 2023. Retrieved 10 June 2023.
  15. ^ a b c d Pearce 2023.
  16. ^ Clements & McCarthy 2015, pp. 972–974; Hairston 2007, p. 236; Napier 2005, p. 190.
  17. ^ a b Creamer, Nick (24 July 2015). "The Dream of Redemption in Haibane Renmei". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 13 June 2023. Retrieved 9 June 2023.
  18. ^ Hairston 2007, p. 245; Napier 2005, p. 190; Pearce 2023.
  19. ^ a b Napier 2005, p. 190.
  20. ^ Hairston 2007, pp. 237–238.
  21. ^ Clements & McCarthy 2015, p. 974; Pearce 2023.
  22. ^ "灰羽連盟" [Haibane Renmei]. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Archived from the original on 13 June 2023. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
  23. ^ "灰羽連盟 COG.1". Amazon.co.jp. 21 December 2002. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  24. ^ "灰羽連盟 COG.5". Amazon.co.jp. 25 April 2003. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  25. ^ Loo, Egan (31 July 2010). "Japan's Animation Blu-ray Disc Ranking, July 19–25". Anime News Network. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  26. ^ Macdonald, Christopher (24 April 2003). "New Release Dates". Anime News Network. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  27. ^ "Haibane-Renmei: Complete Vols. 1-4". Amazon. 18 October 2005. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  28. ^ Loo, Egan (2 July 2010). "Funi Adds Trigun Film, Moyashimon, Shiki, Black Butler 2, Sekirei 2, More (Update 2)". Anime News Network. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  29. ^ Hodgkins, Crystalyn (4 September 2012). "North American Anime, Manga Releases, September 2–8". Anime News Network. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  30. ^ A. H. (3 May 2016). "MVM Entertainment to re-release Haibane Renmei on DVD". UK Anime Network. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  31. ^ Osmond, Andrew (23 August 2021). "MVM Will Release Haibane Renmei Blu-ray". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 13 June 2023. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
  32. ^ Hayward, Jon (17 February 2013). "Universal Sony Home Pictures to Release Anime in Australia". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
  33. ^ "Yoshitoshi Abe's Haibane Renmei Anime Manga Volume 1 1/13/06". Archived from the original on 3 June 2022. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  34. ^ Durrance, Richard (21 November 2021). "Haibane Renmei (Blu-Ray)". UK Anime Network. Archived from the original on 13 June 2023. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  35. ^ Clements & McCarthy 2015.
  36. ^ Clements & McCarthy 2015, p. 34.
  37. ^ Joukamaa, Marko (2005). "Haibane Renmei: Tunnelmallisen pohdiskelevaa". Anime (magazine) [fi] (in Finnish). No. 5. Helsinki. p. 27.
  38. ^ Bertschy, Zac (24 August 2003). "Haibane Renmei: DVD 1: New Feather". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 13 June 2023. Retrieved 10 June 2023.
  39. ^ Mathews, Ryan (28 September 2003). "The Dub Track: Haibane Renmei". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 13 June 2023. Retrieved 10 June 2023.


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