What are the haibane?
I've got a theory about what the haibane are meant to represent. This is only my own interpretation, mind you. This is certainly NOT what ABe had in mind. It's far too Christian in orientation. It is an interpretation I think Westerners are likely to find, however. Until I have enough familiarity with Buddhism and Shintoism to consider it from something closer to ABe's point of view, I give this for your consideration.
I got started on this train of thought by Nemu. Well,
mostly by Nemu. I was wondering just what was behind the haibane being
in Glie, and the way Nemu's always been teased about her name caught
my attention. I realized that she could very well represent sloth,
one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Nemu really is the obvious one. From the whole "sleeping
in her dreams" thing to napping on the job. She's overcome her trial,
so she is more than able to fill her job and even takes on side projects,
but she still sleeps late all the time. A lot of this is probably
due to Kuramori's influence and probably Sumika's as well, but it's
hard to tell. We don't find out a whole lot of what happened then
from Nemu's perspective. Reki was also a push in this direction, since
Nemu went and researched the day of leaving the nest to try and help
Kuu is also fairly obvious as a representation of envy.
The stories Kana tells about her emulating the older haibane fit the
pattern. When Rakka is hatched, Kuu talks about how she wanted a little
sister, someone to look up to her. Although she doesn't say it this
way, someone to be to her what she was to the others. Her favorite
animal, the frog, is also associated with envy.
Kana is fairly obvious as well, although it will take
a little explanation. Kana represents avarice; not in the usual sense
of the word, love of money, but in a focus on the material over the
spiritual. She's really interested in her clocks, but doesn't much
care for more ethereal things. The clearest example of this is in
episode four, when she and Rakka are riding back to Old Home together.
Kana, all impatient to get to work on the clock, makes faces at Rakka's
desire to remember a song to sing. This also shows in the beginning
of episode seven, where Kana is the only one who isn't attempting
to comfort Rakka. Kana really doesn't know what to do here, so she
reacts differently than the rest. Not in tune with spiritual things,
all she can do is wonder if Kuu could hear the bell, too.
Hikari will take some explanation, so don't just think
I'm crazy and close the page. Hikari represents lust. Not in the way
you're thinking, you hentai you, but in her poor impulse control.
Giving in to your impulses is at the root of lust, and this is Hikari's
biggest failing. The entirety of episode three lays this out, from
her dancing on the bridge to her experiments with the halo mold. Reki's
comments suggest that Hikari is known for this sort of thing. This
is also shown some later in the series. In the later episodes, Hikari
has a tendency to get extremely grumpy. This comes after she's volunteered
to help Reki out more. Once again, she probably didn't think things
through, and very much underestimate the amount of trouble raising
a group of kids can be. This probably put rather a strain on her temper,
which showed in her irritability.
This next one had me stumped for a bit. There are only
six older haibane at Old Home, but seven Deadly Sins. Then I realized
that Midori was classic wrath. She and Reki used to be close friends,
but after Hyouko was injured Midori turned against her. Even though
she surely realized that Reki was not solely at fault, she drove her
away, even going so far as to use physical violence. She maintained
this attitude for several years.
I've saved the two main characters for last, as is my
I've save Reki for last for a good reason. She represents
pride, which is considered chief among the Seven Deadly Sins. She
tries to stand by herself, not to burden others. She never asks for
help, mostly out of pride. If I'm not mistake, suicide is often also
consider prideful, since you're taking God's matters into your own
hands. It's been a while since I've read up on this particular part,
but it fits.
That covers the Seven Deadly Sins, but there are still two haibane left unaccounted for. This theory wouldn't work if it doesn't cover them either, so here it goes.
Kuramori is somewhat difficult to place, but only because
of lack of information. What we do know is filtered through Reki,
and her view of Kuramori is definitely not impartial. What Kuramori
represents, at least to Reki (and therefor to us) is virtue. In specific,
she represents kindness, which is one of the contrary virtues to the
The only one left is Hyouko, and this is where I'm
less certain of things. I could try to dismiss him entirely, since
the rest of the main characters are female, but that would seriously
weaken the theory. At first glance, he seems to represent shame, in
that he's ashamed of being a haibane and tries to hide it. However,
that doesn't really fit in with the above very well. I think he's
actually meant to represent denial. His attempts to disguise that
he's a haibane are a symbol of his refusal to accept what he is. This
can also be seen in the last episode, where he refuses to watch the
lights as Reki leaves the nest. This ties in with the sin symbolism
of the show since forgiveness requires repentance. If you refuse to
admit (or hide) that you've done something wrong, you can't be forgiven
I want to also address Washi. As I indicated in the episode commentary, I think the Haibane Renmei is composed of those haibane who have failed their trials. This is probably better addressed in my thoughts about the city.
I should also touch on the other three older haibane we meet. It's hard to draw any conclusions, of course, since we only see them for one scene, but there are a few clues. One of them has painted wings, and could quite possibly stand for vanity, which was considered a deadly sin at one point, but was replaced by pride. The guy with the fireworks seems to stand for petty malice or spite of some sort. The other girl gets a couple lines, but I'm not sure where she fits in, except in the same way the guy with the fireworks does.
Okay, now all that is what they represent, but what are haibane? This one's pretty simple. They're good people who have died with something important left unfinished. Reki was hurt deeply and could no longer trust others. Rakka, in her desire for company, ignored someone who meant a great deal to her. The others we don't know for sure, but the same pattern is likely.
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