Haibane Renmei – volume four: Day Of Flight directors: Tomokazu Tokoro, Masatugu Arakawa, Wataru Sakaibashi, and Kenichiro Watabe 74 minutes (PG) 2001 MVM DVD Region 2 retail RATING: 10/10 reviewed by Paul Higson

This sad and beautiful series comes to a close with the final three episodes. It is no less a mystery at its conclusion and that is exactly as it should be. Haibane Renmei episode 11, Parting/ Darkness In The Heart/ Irreplaceable, begins on an ominous note with the communicator informing the acute Rakka that Reki must shortly face a day of flight, before which she must find atonement, otherwise she will condemned to a new ordeal, a hermitage. And so it is that the remaining episodes concentrate on the run up to Reki’s departure, whichever direction that might be. Certain things are fated to happen and as a young feather is delivered to the Abandoned Factory, where he immediately realises himself an adventurous scamp, Rakka meets Hyohko again, former boyfriend of Reki, and his current girlfriend who is still sore at the mention of Reki. No simple jealousy is it, though; Reki’s rebelliousness almost brought Hyohko a broken skull those many years before. Rakka realises that in their story lies the key to Reki’s salvation.

Episode 12, Bell Nuts/ Passing Of The Year Festival/ Reconciliation, piles on the lore and the calendar has added to it their version of New Year and traditions. Bell-nuts are flowers and their petal colours are manufactured for the festival by the mixing into the soil of elements like iron and verdigris. On the final day of the year the people deliver the bell-nuts to acquaintances, the colours signifying a range of intentions like appreciation and apology. A peaceful resolution between Reki and Midori is reached with the assistance of Rakka, though Reke has remained at Old Home during the festival. Midori and Rakka have a race against the clock to alert Reki and bid her attention to the skies as the aggrieved of the Abandoned Factory forgive her, saying it with fireworks. As everyone settles and sleeps the story enters the final phase.

Episode 13, Reki’s World/ Prayer/ Epilogue, is for the most part played out between Rakka and Reki. I have said that Haibane Renmei closes as big a mystery than it ever was, but that is not strictly true. There are further clues as to the origins of the Haibane. Reki is the one who was “run over, and torn asunder,” the suggestion being that she has died once before or was destined to, and having failed in this second place, she must return to her original fate. C.S. Lewis would have delighted in the new Christian environment and its allure. It would normally be a turn off for your reviewer but there is no imposition, the fantasy is as broad as the bible’s and is no threat to an atheist like me. The showdown takes place in Reki’s rooms, where in secret she has painted the walls in a landscape of bruised colours, a box of countryside that acts as a portal to that past/ future fate.

Six hours of animated visual magnificence end. The disc does not. Extras begin with a new ending, one comprehensive in its crediting so as to address the entire series, set to a delicious bit of soft jazz song. Running five minutes, it is a sweet bonus, a smile of a reminder of the fantastic images, artwork and characters we have been treated to. There is the line art gallery with another fantastic 40 images. A second gallery features the script covers for each of the 13 series episodes to which prominent cast and crew were invited to add artwork and autographs to. Some of it is Mr Messy, the contribution of a voiceover artiste. At the more detailed end there is a front page customised by character designer, Akira Takata. Junko Noda, the original voice of Reki, proves to be skilled at sketching. Trailers include one for Kiddie Grade.