true names of the Haibane

I am very intrigued by the way “true name” are handled in Haibane Renmei. It seems to differ from the usual name/true name duality found in fiction and myth, the as in Wizard of Earthsea (to take one particularly well-known example). In HR, there is only a root name from which the Haibane’s name is derived and interpreted. How that nameroot is interpreted is a function of the expression of the Haibane’s free will – the choices they make as they face their trials. The interpretation is the true name.

Granted, the form and spelling of the name changes for a Haibane, but to take Reki’s example she was still Reki – only Reki as in “ga-reki” and not Reki as in “reki-shi“. The interpretation of “Reki” as either “reki-shi” or “ga-reki” is the key, and the symbols within the Wall changed to reflect the interpretation. But Reki was Reki to the end.

Yukiusagi commented that Rakka seemed to know her true name already. I think that it was more likely that she simply understood the meaning immediately, since she had her true name revealed to her after she has escaped the circle of Sin, and was terefore enlightened. Reki, in contrast, was still in the circle of Sin and her true name was still indeterminate; there were two possibilities, dependent on the outcome of her choice.

Do Haibane who are not sinbound even have true names? Clearly there is some difference in significance of the true name for a Sinbound Haibane as opposed to a regular one (like Kuu, whose true name Rakka sees within the Wall but doesn’t recognize until she also hears Kuu’s laughter).

1/(Tolkien) || Tolkien*(-1)

I don’t have as much time to read fantasy and science fiction as I did when I was younger, but I would like to recommend two series which I stumbled upon over the past few years and which I just completed.

Jaqueline Carey’s Banewreaker and Godslayer comprise a slim duology which can be fairly characterized as LotR from the vantage-point of Mordor. The correspondences to Tolkien’s narrative are pretty clear and transparent, Carey hits you over the head with her themes. This would probably have been better as a singleton, there just isn’t that much material to work with, and the characterization doesn’t explore new directions in the second book. Nevertheless, it is a nice and satisfying corrective to the Fundamental Attribution Error which crops up in the work of Tolkien and his children, evil is essentialistic in a character, not a function of their circumstance. In some ways Carey’s work has a closer affinity with Greek mythology, with its Prometheus like Sauron equivalent. In contrast Tolkien might not have been totally delusional when he stated that LotR was “fundamentally a Catholic work” in that his cycle did not explore the messy shades of gray which comprise such a vast arc of human experience.

Where Carey’s work is a standard inversion of Tolkien’s narrative, R. Scott Baker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy takes the classic core of high fantasy and the Evil Lord and smokes it with some crack cocaine. If there was ever a sequence of books laced with the sensibility of the cognitive revolution, this is it. Baker is a philosopher by training so I am not totally convinced that the influence is coincidental. If you want a “hero” who brings you down to earth with his lack of idealism, then this is a good series. The last of Baker’s books in the trilogy has a 50 page glossary so he certainly hasn’t stinted on world creation. But with the sharp crispness of the backdrop and the overindulgent prose the many strands of each character can sometimes get knotted, and Baker’s inattention leaves you without a guide out of this undiscovered country. Unfortunately Baker’s “trilogy” is actually the first three acts in a longer cycle, with book 3 prefacing an intermission. The real action on the grand epic scale is clearly to come.

The story of Reki

Steven has a spoiler-laden discussion of Reki’s name that has some excellent screen grabs.

When Rakka gives Reki the box containing her true name, Reki opens it and finds a note from the Washii that tells of two stories, one for each name. The first story seemed to be of her pre-cocoon existence, whereas the second was of her existence as Haibane. But how can the Washii know so much detail about her previous life? And yet, if he was speaking of Reki’s possible fates in Glie, then the story was simply wrong; for example he says that Reki lost everyone she loved, and thus had to face her struggles alone. But she always had Kuramori – and then Nemu, and Rakka.

Update – here is the transcription from the last episode:

Narration:

This is a story about a girl named Reki. She was doomed by an unfortunate fate, and even lost the people that she could share her sorrow with. Feeling herself worthless, she called herself Reki, using the letters which meant “small stone.” However, the letter that expresses her true name means, “the one who was run over and torn apart.”

after Rakka saves Reki:

REKI: Have I been.. forgiven?”

(Rakka sees that the Reki “small stone” name is on the stone, instead of the rekishi “run over” name)

RAKKA: I saw this break…

narration continues:

“If a bird brings you salvation, the name Reki will disappear, and the Reki that means stone will become your true name. With the belief that it will come true, I hereby introduce a new story of Reki, that is stone.

(and we see – Reki’s wings are gray.)

The ultimate answer

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have built up an entire mythology about the number 42, despite Douglas Adams’ (DNA) insistence that the whole thing was just a big joke. Maybe a joke in base-13, but still a joke. The number has in some ways become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that it pops up everywhere so often that one can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just fan energy driving it.

Well, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have built up an entire mythology about the number 42, despite Douglas Adams’ (DNA) insistence that the whole thing was just a big joke. Maybe a joke in base-13, but still a joke. The number has in some ways become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that it pops up everywhere so often that one can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just fan energy driving it.

Well, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. From Seed Magazine, an article that makes a link between the prime numbers, 42, and the moments of the Riemann zeta function. In other words, the number 42 holds the key to possibly unlocking the secret of the prime numbers themselves, and thus answering an ultimate question of the basic structure of our universe (made physically manifest in the physics of atomic energy levels of heavy elements like Erbium).

So, in a very real sense, the number 42 is the answer to an ultimate question. Whether that is the ultimate question or not is left to the working thinkers [1]. But here’s something else to think about: the zeta function is closely related to the Zipf distribution – which governs the fundamental statistics of the World Wide Web. So perhaps blogging about 42 has deeper meaning than we suspect…

Continue reading “The ultimate answer”

Which Haibane Renmei character am I?

Reki
You are Reki! Reki is pretty angsty, but not in an annoying way. Reki’s a really practical and supportive person to everyone else, but she could really benefit from her own advice sometimes. Reki is also very artistic.

Take this quiz!

Heh. Figures 🙂 It was going to be either her or Rakka. I probably subconciously bent my quiz answers towards this result anyway.

I have to say though that the blurb above is the worst description of Reki ever. As far as pictures of Reki go, the one on the cover of the series soundtrack “Hanenone” sublimely captures the character’s essence.

machine souls

Den Beste-sama’s “Engineer’s Guide to the Matrix” is a well-crafted piece indeed. He had shared some of his thoughts on the trilogy with me on email prior to posting his TMW, and one of the things that motivated his analysis was the apparent contradiction between the Matrix needing The One to perform the system reset (and thus stave off a system collapse that would imperil humanity and machine civilization alike), and the presence of Agents whose goal was to eliminate the One. From this central tension, Steven extrapolated the difference of opinion between the Oracle and the Architect, and in so doing fully explained all aspects of the trilogy’s single most enigmatic character, Mr. Smith.

However, there are some aspects of the story that the Engineer’s perspective fails to address. For me, the central observation was that Neo had power over the machines in the “real world”.

Den Beste-sama’s “Engineer’s Guide to the Matrix” is a well-crafted piece indeed. He had shared some of his thoughts on the trilogy with me on email prior to posting his TMW, and one of the things that motivated his analysis was the apparent contradiction between the Matrix needing The One to perform the system reset (and thus stave off a system collapse that would imperil humanity and machine civilization alike), and the presence of Agents whose goal was to eliminate the One. From this central tension, Steven extrapolated the difference of opinion between the Oracle and the Architect, and in so doing fully explained all aspects of the trilogy’s single most enigmatic character, Mr. Smith.

However, there are some aspects of the story that the Engineer’s perspective fails to address. For me, the central observation was that Neo had power over the machines in the “real world”.

Continue reading “machine souls”

Welcome to Haibane.info

This blog is going to be a celebration of science fiction and anime, with additional topics of relevance to be determined. The blog is named for the central characters in the stunning anime Haibane Renmei, which is easily the best anime I have ever seen (though I have not seen that many, this guy has seen a lot more and concurs).

Some of the topics that I intend to discuss, in spoiler-laden fashion, will be anime, The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, various science fiction books and movies, and The Hitchhker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I also will invite others to contribute who will hopefully make this a rich repository of ideas and discussion.

This site will also soon host a Wiki, which will not seek to be a comprehensive database but rather serve as a guide to the discussions taking place at Haibane.info. It will be our archive of what we as a community believe and how we interpret these works of fiction (and non fiction in some cases as well).

So, let us begin. Hane Haeterun?