Haibane Renmei is an anime which is very fascinating and lets you interpret the story as the most things are not explained in the series. There are many different theories about this anime and I want to share my own thoughts. This blog will obviously have spoilers about the anime.
Born from a doujinshi from Abe Yoshitoshi (Serial Experiments Lain) Haibane Reinmei is about a group of children and adults who are called the Haibane. They live in a walled city with only one entrance and none of them is allowed to leave the city. Haibane are winged, angel like persons and unlike normal humans they are born from a huge cocoon. When they are born they have no memories of who they are and where they came from. The Haibane have a halo over their head and are growing, slowly and painfully, small charcoaled wings.
Basically it seems like Haibane were humans who died and are reborn in this town. Every Haibane has a “cocoon dream” which seems to represent their time and manner of death. From the dream the Haibane are also getting their name. So what is the reason that they are reborn as Haibane in this town which is like a cage ? The Haibane have to atonement for the sin of ending their own life. If they did they have the chance to leave the town on their “Day of Flight”. On the “Day of Flight” the Haibane will go to some ruins near the Wall and ascend in a burst of white light. The Haibane won’t tell anyone about the Flight and just leave. What really happens to them is unknown. They leave their deadened halo and feathers behind but no one knows what actually happens to the Haibane. But to reach the “Day of Flight” is basically their purpose to live. Kinda similar to Angel Beats where they also wake up in a different “world” which they can leave the moment they are fulfilled.
Both are concepts which are inspired by Hard Boiled Wonderland and End of the World. But not everyone is getting the chance. There are also Sin-bound Haibane. Unlike the normal Haibane, the Sin-bound Haibane have regrets and feelings that tie them to their past live even though it got erased.
Reki and Rakka are both sin-bound Haibane. While Rakka was born normal and became sin-bound after someone took her Day of Flight, Reki was sin-bound from the very beginning. The reason for that is because Reki was born alone and trapped in a locked room. And since her wings started to grow it was a very isolated and painful experience. It seems like that Haibane become sin-bound when they give in to loneliness or despair.
Even though no one is allowed to leave the town, the Togas are the only people’s who are allowed to go in and out. The Toga are a mysterious organization who are trading goods in the town. No one is allowed to interact with the Toga in any way except with the communicator. What else the Toga do is unknown but they obviously have other duties too. There are many theories of who the Toga’s are. One of them would be that the Togas are Haibane who didn’t managed to get their “Day of Flight” and are now trying to help the other Haibane to attain redemption and not end up as them. It was a also hinted that atleast one of the Toga really used to be a Haibane.
So anyway let’s talk about what Haibane Renmei is trying to be about. Don’t forget that there is no right answer for this and this is only my own opinion.
For me the world of Haibane Renmei is the manifestation of limbo. A place where souls need to be purified. The only problem with this theory is that there are also humans in the city. But since they are also not allowed to leave the town I wonder what this exactly means. Are the humans even real ? Of course it could be also a place on earth. Even though it also could be said that they are in Heaven already. I doubt that they are in heaven though because while the town is very relaxing and peaceful like in a dream, the Haibane are trapped after all.
The town is a cage. A cage they can’t leave and the only way to leave it is to live a life with the only memory being from your dream. All the Haibane are people who died because of suicide or a different tragic death. So the key in my opinion is to forgive yourself. To accept what you did and what happened and move on. But can you do that alone ? I think the show meant to imply that you can find salvation in others. One person can’t have all the experience alone so I believe that it’s important that you have to listen to other peoples.
Another thing is that the city might not even be that peaceful as it seems. The peoples are friendly and everyone is caring but it almost feels like it’s too much. The Haibane are really getting coddled by their town to the point that they get sucked in. So despite getting so much love from everyone they still need to stand up for themselves and find real peace and forgiveness.
Let’s think about Rakka. In her dream it was shown that Rakka probably commited suicide by jumping off from somewhere high. But there was also a crow in her dream who died with her. It is possible that the crow was someone who cared for Rakka and tried to save her but died with her. So Rakka has sinned even though not intentionally. What I believe is that her time in the town was to seek forgiveness of the person who died.
From my point of view Haibane Renmei is a story about what it means to be a human and about second chances. Two people who completely gave up with their life are getting a second chance to think about it again and to solve their problems. They have to accept their sins and move on.
Overall you could say that the whole series is nothing but symbolism. There are more questions then answers and the fact that we will never know the truth is kinda sad but also good as it leaves us having our own thoughts about the series.