Of all the recurring symbolism in Haibane Renmei, that of the circle is the most intriguing. This will be a series of posts. Thefirst of these is teh circle of Glie itself – or rather, the existence of the Haibane.
The circle of Glie is not a physical one that appears on screen, but is implied – the circle of life, death, and rebirth. All Haibane had a previous life, they were then reborn from a cocoon into Glie. The cocoon is the womb, and the painful eruption of the wings is the first draw of breath as a true Haibane.
via Shamus, here’s the opening credits for Haibane Renmei on YouTube:
The momentary glimpses of each character really give you a sense of their styles and personalities, especially Reki. And the music accompaniment is enchanting – the theme stays with you. I am also very fond of the opener to Sugar now, though in contrast to HR it tells you almost nothing about the characters at all. Excepting Greta, that is. I did however cringe the first time I heard that doo wop chorus, though…
I have to disagree with Pixy that most live-action openers are focused on the characters, however, at least for science fiction. The opening creds for BattleStar Galactica are a good example of an OP that really establishes the visual style, and atmosphere. That’s not surprising given that Ron Moore, the producer, also did Deep Space Nine – a series whose opening credits were basically a visual ode to the space station itself, as the main character. Not since the scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where Kirk takes a visual inspection of the refitted Enterprise has such devotion been paid to a thing on screen rather than a person. I think that science fiction shares with anime the need to sell the setting and mood as much as the characters. In that respect, the opener to Galactica is very anime-esque.
Steven noted that the opener/closers may suck for good series, but has anyone observed a very well done opener and closer for a terrible series? Maybe the rule works only in reverse.
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).
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:
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…
“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.
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.
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.