I am fairly certain there were 2 releases of Haibane Renmei – originally, the individual DVDs and artbox from when the company was Pioneer Entertainment, and then the much prettier box set that I am pretty sure was made during Geneon time before that company hit the can. I bought Haibane volume one with the less attractive box waaay back because I had found it cheap and I collected the DVDs over the course of about 4 years. So mine is Pioneer released, and therefor I don’t know if the content was changed for Geneon.
First off, the packaging art for the DVD is nice. ABe’s highly stylized art is pushed to the forefront, being perhaps the show’s strongest selling point. The back cover has plenty of screencaps and a description that, while not untrue, does make the show sound a lot more exciting than it is, which is hardly surprising. The cover is flippable, and the reverse side is the front image expanded and made very bright green. I have never understood why the flip-covers on all four disks are bright green, since it doesn’t have any kind of cool effect, and the pictures were just fine when they were colored.
Each DVD also comes with a mini-poster – Geneon/Pioneer would do this often, where they would have the DVD chapter list with a large picture on the back perfect for hanging on your wall. Seeing as how all 4 of my posters are up, I can’t tell you which one came with which volume, but all 4 are very nice and I’m pretty sure the pictures all appear in Yoshitoshi ABe’s big artbook of all his major works (which I of course own).
The best part about this release, though, and something you only get with Geneon DVDs these days (which sucks, because they are gone) is a 14-page information booklet on the DVD. Most of it is pretty basic stuff – there’s details on the whole town of Glie, character introductions, talks about the customs.. prety much everything explained in the show in the style of almost a tour guide. However, the most notable part is the first 2 pages.
It’s a message from producer Ueda Yasuyuki introducingt he anime for us. He talks about how Haibane Renmei, originally called ‘Charcoal Feathers in Old Home’ was originally a doujinshi by Yoshitoshi ABe. It’s ordinarily impossible for a doujin to become an anime, but the producer had already decided he wanted to animate the series after just one page (which is shown in the book). There were only 2 doujins out when the pre-production started, which was about as much as is covered in teh first episode, and the story hadn’t even been created beyond that point. ABe had been ‘constructing the story as it came up from his subconsciousness’ or ‘making it up as he went’.
Ueda stresses how animation is a huge risk, especially with a good budget, and that it was only possible because of the producer’s overwhelming confidence in the series. Making it would have been impossible at any normal studio, so they needed the help of director Tomokazu Tokoro who had directed and done lots of work on NieA_7 and also worked a bit on Lain. Ueda stresses just how difficult the series was to make and how much more effort was put forth by those involved than it ever would normally be. He also points out that ABe himself, with no experience, personally wrote the show’s entire script. He compares the confusion and anxiety of the production to that of Rakka when she enters old home and thanks the audience for their support.
As far as the DVD interface goes, I love it. The menus all contain a lot of the series’ iconic imagery. The extras menu is set up on a giant halo. The scene selection uses items from the show, such as Reki’s lighter or a wing-cover, as symbols for the different parts of the episode. These are nice touches, especially because the show puts a lot of emphasis on these kinds of trinkets.
Extras-wise there’s a little posing as a lot. They have the next episode previews for each episode, which I am not sure why. There’s a clean opening animation as well as the rarely seen original japanese opening. The most notable feature is the production sketches. It’s the usual lineart superimposed onto a very nice background. As expected, we get all the character design art, but cooler yet is the details on some of the show’s aforementioned iconic trinkets. It’s interesting to see just how much detail went into some of these things, like Reki’s cigarette pack or the medicine box. Everything has been created to the point of realism so that this can be a truly immersive world.
Pioneer also crammed an assload of previews on here. Seriously, like 10 fucking previews. I always have fun watching previews on DVDs to see how many of the shows I recognize.
Anyway, that about covers it. While it’s not the most extra crap on a DVD, the stuff that’s there is really nice and has definitely added enjoyment to the series for me over the years.