Haibane Renmai-Volume 1: New Feathers (2002)

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Released 24-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio
Credits-Creditless Opening (1:14)
Credits-Original Japaneses Opening (1:14)
Gallery-30 sketches
Episode Introductions-1:16
Trailer-Madman Propaganda (5)
Booklet-16pp
Collector Card-2 postcards
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 91:49 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tomokazu Tokoro
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ryo Hirohashi
Carrie Savage
Junko Noda
Erika Weinstein
Akiko Yajima
J-Ray Hochfield
Eri Miyajima
Zarah Little
Fumiko Orikasa
Hunter Mackenzie Austin
Kazusa Murai
Kirsty Pape
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Kou Ootani


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Titling
Smoking Yes, just one person
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I enjoy watching the first volume of a new anime series, especially when I don't know anything about it. I wonder if it will be exciting, interesting, something I can recommend. Or not. Sometimes I don't know the answer even after watching the first volume — sometimes I have to see a second volume to know.

    I don't need to see a second volume for Haibane-Renmai. This is a good one, even though I am not sure what is going on, nor where the story is going. The music is one of the more compelling features — it is wistful and dreamy, like the show. And part of it is the artwork. But perhaps the most convincing part is the unusual plot / sequence of events. It was inspired by the same person, Yoshitoshi Abe, as Serial Experiments Lain, but is a lot more approachable.

    This story starts with a young woman, probably a teen, falling from the sky. Then we see something odd: a woman wearing ordinary clothes, with a cigarette hanging from her lip. What's odd about that? Well, the feathered wings and halo are not a normal accompaniment to those features...

    The young woman is being born into an unusual world. She is being born as a Haibane, and she too will have wings and a halo. Like the others around her, she will be named to match her dream — she is called Rakka, because she dreamed of falling before she was reborn. She has no memory of what her life was like before she was reborn (none of them do), but she remembers how to speak, read, write, ride a bicycle - everything except anything about herself.

    The other Haibane are:

    There are others, such as the children (called the Young Feathers), but we seem to concentrate on this group of Haibane.

    They are not angels — their wings are not white, but charcoal grey (not that this is obvious from the animation — they look very light grey or even white in the animation).

    Haibane seem, at least at first, to be second class citizens. They live in a limited area, bounded by high walls. There is a town called Glie within the walls, and most of the inhabitants are human (meaning no wings and no halo). The Haibane are bound by many rules that do not apply to the human townsfolk, including the restriction that they can have no money, and nothing that is new. The one big restriction that applies equally to townsfolk and Haibane is that they cannot go outside the walls. They trade with the outside, but under restrictions seemingly imposed by the Haibane-Renmai (a strange organisation about whom I'm sure we will learn more).

    We learn about this strange and different world as Rakka does. This is a gentle introduction to the various differences between this world and ours. At first it seemed this world was technologically medieval, but they have electricity, including a wind farm of large wind-driven generators, and powered vehicles.

    I don't know if it will strike others, but to me there is a strong resemblance between Reki and the character Hiruka (Keitaro's aunt) from Love Hina. And it's not just the perpetual cigarette adorning their bottom lips — they have similar hairstyles, and similar features.

    The episodes on this disc are (each one has three titles, for some reason):

1 Cocoon
Dream of Falling from the Sky
Old Home
Rakka's life as a Haibane begins
2 Town and Wall
Toga
Haibane-Renmai
Rakka visits the town for the first time
3 Temple
Communicator
Pancakes
Rakka must visit the temple of the Haibane-Renmai
4 Trash Day
Clock Tower
Birds Flying Over the Walls
Rakka learns about some of the jobs the Haibane do, because she must choose one of her own

    There are some gentle humorous moments, such as the way that Rakka's hair stands up as though attracted to her halo by static. And there are some moments of drama. I don't know how to categorise this, other than to describe it as a voyage of discovery, of sorts.

    At the end of the opening credits is a logo that has Japanese characters on either side of a winged haloed face. Beneath the face is a phrase: "une fille qui a des ailes grises", which is French for "a girl who has grey wings". Quite why that phrase is in French escapes me.

    This is an unusual, gentle, mysterious series, and one I will be watching with considerable eagerness. There are only thirteen episodes, so I expect the remaining three volumes to contain three episodes each.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. That's the original and intended aspect ratio.

    The image is sharp enough in close-ups, but soft in medium, and very soft in long shots. There are moments when it is unacceptably soft, like at 50:04. It's mostly clear enough to watch, however. I do hope this problem doesn't persist in later volumes. There is no film grain, and no low-level noise.

    Colour is good, rich and well-rendered. There are no colour-related artefacts, except that some of the scenes seem over-bright. The closing credits do look odd, though, almost as though the chroma signal were displaced vertically. The closing credits aren't too easy to read (the opening credits, by contrast, are both attractive and easy to read).

    There are no film artefacts. I wonder if this was digitally transferred? Probably not, because that wouldn't explain the softness of the picture.

    There's some very mild aliasing, but it's barely visible. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are the expected two sets of subtitles, both in English, with the first providing a translation of signs and songs (and credits), and the second translating all of the dialogue as well. These subtitles seem nicely timed, and highly legible.

    The disc is single-sided (with a nice picture label), and single layered. A single layer means no layer change, but may be the reason for the over-soft appearance. I'd have preferred it if they used a dual-layered disc for this one if it would have meant a less soft image.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, both Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded, at 224 kbps. I watched all of the episodes in both languages. The voices are different, but all the music and sound effects are the same. This is one show you can happily watch in either language.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear enough. Both dubs seem equally well-matched to the animated mouths.

    The score is provided by Kτ Τtani (also written Kou Ootani). It is excellent stuff, reinforcing the story without drawing attention to itself. The opening (Free Bird) and closing (Blue Flow) themes are distinctive and pleasant.

    These are pure 2.0 stereo soundtracks, with decent stereo imaging, but nothing to excite your Prologic decoder. The surrounds and subwoofer get nothing to do.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The main menu opens with a transition, but isn't animated; there's pleasant music, though. The menus are easy to navigate.

Booklet

    This is quite a substantial effort, being some 16 pages with a lot of information in it. It is beautifully presented. Don't read it before watching these episodes, because it contains some spoilers.

Postcards

    There are two postcards with gorgeous drawings from the show on them. Apparently these are referred to as "pencil boards" — they look like postcards to me (they even say "postcard"!). These are only included in the collector's box edition.

Credit-less Opening (1:14)

    This is the usual thing: the opening sequence, but without the credits over the top. Nice animation, and a good instrumental theme.

Original Japanese Opening (1:14)

    The opening again, this time with Japanese credits over it in place of the English ones we see during the episodes.

Art Gallery

    Thirty pages of sketches of characters from these episodes.

Episode Previews (1:16)

    The usual episode previews, but presented separately from the episodes (usually each one is included at the end of each episode). Each is about 19 seconds long. They are just shown one after another.

Trailers: Madman Propaganda

    Five trailers, individually selectable in standard Madman fashion.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version was presented in two forms, both as a single disc, and in a collector's box. We get both forms, too, in Region 4. In the R1 version, the single disc had only one postcard, while the collector's box version added the second postcard and the booklet. I'm embarrassed to admit that I opened my collector's box immediately after I bought it (a few months ago), and I am not certain what was where, but I'm fairly sure that we have the booklet included in the single disc, and the postcards included in the box — this is a plus for those who buy the single disc here in R4, because the booklet is excellent. The two collector's box versions are identical in terms of extras (other than getting different trailers). It's a nice box, too — robust and well-made.

    The impression I get from reading reviews of the Region 1 version is that it has a better transfer, because there is no mention of problems with softness.

    I suspect that the Region 1 may be a little better than the Region 4, unfortunately.

Summary

    The first four episodes of an intriguing and gentle anime series.

    The video quality is adequate, but let down by being too soft at times, and over-bright at others.

    The audio quality is quite good.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
R1 and R4 differences - Bleddyn Williams REPLY POSTED