new perspectives on Glie

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…

9 thoughts on “new perspectives on Glie”

  1. I’ve always viewed Haibane Renmei as a metaphor for life. The Day of Flight is so obviously a metaphor for death that I don’t think anyone could miss the similarity, so Glie must represent life. They come into the world with no idea of who they used to be (but a vague feeling that something more is out there), live for a short time that is not nearly enough to even scratch the surface of the true nature of their world, and then have to go away — and in the end the relationships they had with others and themselves are the only things that matter.

    That’s why the lack of explanation for what Glie really is or what’s beyond the walls is so perfect — because those answers don’t exist in real life either. Giving concrete answers to these questions would feel contrived.

  2. I agree that the Day of Flight is a metaphor for death, but the common interpretation that Glie is a kind of limbo for souls that committed suicide to redeem themselves prior to entering Heaven is fully consistent that way. The other thigs you mention all can quite naturally fit into the limbo interpretation as well.

    I fully agree that it is good that Glie was never explained – but like any Art, there is still someting that the artist intended to convey that we can strive towards for understanding (exceppt for the surrealists like Magritte).

  3. I always had the idea that Glie was like the Catholic idea of purgatory – you did something that kept you out of heaven, and you had to do your time before you were allowed to move on. I can agree with the suicide consensus for the most part, except for the glaring exception of Kana.

    I always wondered if the Day of Flight was different for each of them. For some, it was an entrance to heaven. Kuu probably fit that mold.

    For others it might have been a chance to start life over again. It would have been incredibly cruel to take Reki through what she went through and then just say “Congrats, you passed! Welcome to Heaven!”

    I’d like to think she went back to being a human and started over again. She earned that second chance. She’d be the best mom ever.

  4. Have you ever gotten a chance to check out the movie “After Life”? Abe has acknowledged being influenced by the work of its director (Hirokazu Kore’eda). The set-up there bears some notable similarities (and differences) to the world of Haibane Renmei.

  5. interesting, I had no idea. I’ll have t add it to netflix and check it out!

    astro – I have been meaning to email you wit my thanks for the N&T,H&T discs. I will have to blog on it soon. you werent kidding about it!

  6. HR also has plenty of echoes of Kore’eda’s first film Maborosi (particularly in terms of Rakka’s prolonged slump). Unfortunately the US DVD of this is quite poor — the Japanese DVD (and possibly other Asian DVDs) is immeasurably better.

  7. As the author of that ‘radical interpretation’ (I can’t believe I wrote that and left it on my server! I thought it was *long* gone), I just want to make a minor edit, if I may? In my…post, I guess (it was before Web 2.0)…in that post, I accidentally synonymized crows with death. That’s the *westerner* in me. In Eastern thought, the crow is a symbol of birth… A little more proof it’s a life not a limbo system…

    Oh, and could the owner of this blog email me? I’m impressed to even be linked in and would like to return the favor, but it’s at your discretion?

  8. my english is really bad, but i’ll try because i have an oppinion ^^.

    I agree with the interpretation of glie as a place between life and death, what if all of them are in a coma? perhaps they had an accident or something that almost killed them but let them in a coma and with unfinished bussines, and for reki and rakka they may wanted to commit suicide but failed.. is hard to explain…

    and perhaps they can go to heaven and finally die(like kuu perhaps) or return (i think reki deserves it)

    and for the kids? they say they dreamed about the future… i think or they just died before time and before been baptized or they were aborted too, or they just have not borned yet but they will, as some of them wanted to be caprenters and florist

    just an opinion, what do you think?

  9. and for the crows, i think about what kana says:

    Kana: There are rules for crows, too. You can’t spoil them. The birds are the only creatures allowed to go beyond the walls in this world. If by feeding them we create a place where they can survive without any struggle, they’ll only inhabit this town and will probably never fly free again. It might be happy for them, but I feel sorry for them.

    i think that referes to
    those who were left behind should be able to continue (and survive) their lives without being anchored in the past

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