Pete sent me this link some time ago, but I haven’t had time until now to really browse in some detail – Chris Fritz has been blogging his journey through Haibane Renmei, and it’s a treat to re-discover the series via his eyes. In his commentary on the final episode, Chris muses on the big picture of what Glie represents:
I have wondered for a while if the world of the haibane, the town within walls, may represent either a place between death and what comes after death, or a state of consciousness, such as being in a coma.
The strength of Haibane-Renmei is its ability to create a complete world with no need to explain why the world is as it is. The viewer learns how things work alongside Rakka, but no deeper explanation is given.
It’s definitely true that almost everyone who writes about HR ends up at the same question of what the world means, and seeks to explain everything, usually within the context of an afterlife. I was intrigued by Chris’ musing about it being an alternate state of consciousness, however, which is the first time anyone to my knowledge has suggested that Glie is not an existence beyond death, but rather an intermediate existence between life and death.
If we are to posit that Glie is halfway, then why not keep going, and look for analogy to life itself? In fact that’s what Andrew Pernick does in his “Radical Interpretation” where he posits that Glie is really symbolic of our present world itself – or rather, that the town of Guri represents the land of the living, and the walls the boundary between life and death:
The walls separate Guri, the land of the living, from that which is outside, that which is beyond. Early in the series, Kana explains that if one were to leave Guri and return, “no one would recognize you.” To move beyond the walls is to die; to come from beyond the walls alive, either as a Haibane in a cocoon or to be born to a human mother, is to be reincarnated as a different living being, one that cannot be recognized as the former living self. The Toga and the Renmei cannot speak because they are both metaphors – they cannot speak because the dead cannot speak; you would not be allowed to speak to them because they would not hear you. The Day of Flight, therefore, is a death with one’s life lesson learned or one’s life task accomplished.
Andrew delves into the analogy much more deeply than this, so it is worth reading his essay in full. This is indeed a radical departure from the concensus interpretation, and really opens up new avenues of interpretation. For example, under this interpretation, what can we learn from Rakka’s journey inside the walls?
I think a rewatch is in order with this perspective in mind…
One more thought occurs to me; Glie is an anagram for Lige, defined as “the act of telling a lie.” This is probably a coincidence, though…