At a Glance: Haibane Renmei
Haibane Renmei is the story of girls who have become angel-like beings with halos and grey wings. They wake up emerging from cocoons, and remember little about their pasts. Our protagonist, Rakka, got her name meaning "falling", because the dream she remembers from the cocoon involved falling. The girls live together in a village and the anime follows Rakka as she tries to figure out how to make friends and make a living.They live under a system of strict rules, including that they can't even go near the walls that encircle their town. These rules are enforced by a group called the Haibane Renmei. Rakka spends her time trying to figure out what her cocoon dream means and how to live well. She has a neat curiosity that drives her to ask questions and find things out.
There isn't some big mustache-twirling villain or flashy magical powers or anything, in fact, the anime makes the fantasy aspects of the show all the more emotionally impactful by including so many mundane details of life. This includes having the girls have brown hair and no ridiculous body proportions or super powers. It's a quirky little show, but it kind of works.
Dōjinshi by Yoshitoshi ABe
Haibane Renmei may not be for everyone. This is because the plot is slow, the characters are mundane, and none of them stand out as special. For some, this might be refreshing, because it's pretty unique and mature for anime to have this style. But for others, I could see how it translates to boredom and apathy on the part of the audience.
The Haibane, what the girls with grey wings are called, live in a place that is interesting and mysterious. It's thought-provoking because you wonder if the girls were alive on Earth before they emerged from cocoons, and what the larger purpose of their lives and work is. It might be dull and slow-paced and not super magical, and the girls are sort of generically cute and unremarkable, but writing them that way ultimately makes them seem more like real people. However, I kind of doubt that a 13 episode series can fully answer all the questions raised by the initial episodes, and this might be a case where reading the manga is necessary to obtain a complete understanding of the story.