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- volume three: Free Bird
directors: Tomokazu Tokoro, Jun Takada, and Koji Yoshikawa
73 minutes (PG) 2001
MVM DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Paul Higson
Three more episodes in the fabulous Haibane Renmei series, opening with something
of a wake in episode eight, titled The Bird. A simple ceremony takes place in
Kuu's room with each of the remaining angels in turn collecting a keepsake. There is
something dispiriting about this practice given the relatively short time between their
birth and their mystery passage on the 'day of flight'. The ceremony has a certain
pointlessness when in several short generations there will be no one who loved around
to remember them in the tiniest. It resonates depressingly into the real world where
lifetimes are summarised, at their most successful, into the relative preserve of an
obituary while others settle for start and end dates on gravestones. Episode 10 will
emphasise this to some extent by returning to Reke's arrival at Old Home, no more than
15 years before when the only other present member of their group is a young Nemu.
Back in the present Reke has the idea that as one that is 'sin-bound' she will never
see a day of flight. Nemu is aware of the brevity of their time and this reflects in
her agnostic practice of trying to preserve herself in another form, primarily the
episode five reveal of her attempted writing of a book, essentially about Sumika, but
as much so the author. The despondency of episode eight threatens the series. You don't
want the series to spoil by giving up its secrets but something is needed to ward off
the building intonations of a darker conclusion. As the newest resident of Old Home,
Rakka is the hardest hit by Kuu's departure. She has neither had enough time to properly
get to know Kuu and there is still so much to learn and understand. It might help if
someone thought to warn her but no sooner has she overcome one revelation and its direct
effects then the next terrible revelation is upon her. A crow calls her into the forbidden
wood and in following it into a well the rotten rungs collapse and she ends the episode
with the skeleton of a bird at the dark bottom, with the snow clouds gathering and the
concerned sisterhood out searching.
Episode nine, Well/ Rebirth/ Riddle opens with the snow falling, swirling, about
the charcoal winged ones, in a landscape of wind turbines and it couldn't be more beautiful.
The impressive opening shots are there to bump start the episode into wonder as, for
the most part, what follows is more basically animated, awkward, obtuse and relatively
dull. It is two of the Toga that rescue Rakka, only to leave her alone again in the chilly
woodlands. Lost, she finds the great wall and touches it. Having learned of her situation
from her rescuers, the Old Communicator tracks her down. The conversation is a little
frustrating for Rakka... and for the viewer... as the script prides itself at this point
on The Riddle of the Circle of Sin, a desperate and in no time at all overdone paradox.
Still, Rakka appears freed from her sinner status, even if she doesn't quite see how
or why. More clues as to the origin of the angels are trickled out and Rakka is found
and returned home. But she is ill, and Reke quickly determines why. She has touched
the wall and that must never be done.
Episode ten is Kuramori/ Haibane Of Abandoned Factory/ Rakka's Job, and as mentioned
this opens immediately into the past and an Old Home that is worked by Kuramori and Nemu.
It is the latter that has discovered Reke, in a boarded up disused quarter of the building.
She has not only already hatched but her wings are through and she lies there treacherously
weak on the cold floor in her own blood. Kuramori makes herself ill gathering the natural
medicines needed to save the girl's life which brings about some friction between the
youngsters. The simple act of discovery, particularly in that crucial moment, and in
a house with so few Haibane of operative age, explains the relationship of love and
resentment between the two older ones.
The episode returns to the present were rebellious Reke angrily takes on the Old Communicator.
Worrisomely, for the viewer and the future of the series, there are broad hints that
up to three important characters might be taking their day of flight soon. It was the
youngest who left most recently and, in truth, it is not just the hinted three, any
of them could be next. For touching the wall Rakka must be punished and is summoned
by the Old Communicator to the temple. It takes the form of an important, specific job
which takes us to an unexpected place, throwing up yet more remarkable details in casual,
quick succession that rescues volume three from its burdensome darkness, alive again
to the creators' imagination.
Extras are a promotional trailer, art gallery, episode review, a preview in to the next
programme episode, and trailers for Paranoia Agent
- volume one: L'il Slugger, and
Full Metal Alchemist.