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Haibane Renmei

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Reki and Hikari see Rakka arriving
Source: TV
Layers: 1
Sketches: 1
Cel Number: A6, B8, C6
Standard size

Copy Matching Background

Added 5/7/2010
Updated 6/30/2017
During the OP sequence, we see something like a shooting star begin to sparkle in the daylight sky above the market of Glie, the enigmatic home of the Haibane (Ash-wings). One by one, we see the other residents of Old Home, one of the places the Haibane have claimed as a living place, look up and notice the seeming meteor, which we later learn is the spirit of the fledgling Haibane Rakka dropping into their world.

In the first of these introductory scenes (cut 5) Reki and Hikari greet each other in the stone-paved center of the town square: then Hikari looks up past her companion toward the sky with surprise, and Reki turns to look as well. Sequence numbers: A6, B8, C6 (but see the fussy note at the end).

This is one of a very limited number of rilezu made by Office F&O from original Radix studio art, which, according to what I’ve been told, was subsequently destroyed. It came with a high-quality print of the original background, a sketch (see fussy note below) and a paper frame bearing a sticker with the series logo and the information that it was an authorized post-production cel.

This rilezu, until recently, was a prize of Mina’s rabbitart gallery, whose curator was kind enough to accept an offer on this rarity, While I do not normally bite on post-production art, Haibane Renmei is both a masterpiece of anime storytelling and a special favorite of mine. Besides, it gave me a chance to explore the details of rilezu art, clearly a medium that is growing in popularity and sophistication, now that cel-based animation is largely a thing of the past.

With that, we descend to . . .

Caution! Fussy Notes

While deciding to add this piece to my collection, I pondered two pieces of information:

1. The total number of Haibane Renmei rilezu cels was said to have been limited to only twenty five. As I’d seen a surprisingly large number of these in Rubberslug galleries, I thought this was worth checking out.

2. The rilezu was supposed to come with the original douga used in the production of the series. I’d heard this to be so with post-production cels from other series, but descriptions and images of Haibane Renmei sketches in other RS galleries made me skeptical.

Well, Sensei is a suspicious old crow anyhow. It’s a pretty image, and from a significant series, and an OP image to boot, and it matches the screen cap to a T. (Well, pretty well: but the color gray used for the wings is too dark, and in the production image the smoke from Reki’s cigarette is done with an airbrush effect.)

So who really cares if the above facts are actually true or not. It is a genuine Office F&O product, authorized by the original production studio, so case closed!

Nevertheless, inquiring minds descend further into . . .

Caution! Fussy Notes

The rilezu came with a label certifying that it was studio-authorized art, but with no individual number or indication of how many others were produced. A visit to Office F&O’s Haibane Renmei site (in May 2010 -- the site is no longer available, alas) yielded the claim that the rilezu edition, now completed, was drawn from ten of the most important cuts in the series and limited to 25 cels. Helpfully, the site contains a gallery of copies that have already been sold, as well as two, one of Nemu and one of Reki, that were still available from the firm.

Altogether (sold and unsold) there were fourteen individual rilezu shown on the F&O site. This showed that the ten cuts chosen included five from the OP: these cuts introduce Reki and Hikari, (a sequence-buddy of the image seen above shows up in the “sold” gallery), Kana, Kuu, Nemu, and Reki/Hikari again, this time on the scooter rushing back to Old Home. Other cuts used for rilezu were an ED sequence (Rakka), the eyecatch (also Rakka), and three cuts from the trailer used to promote the series, two of Reki and one of Rakka.

A search of Rubberslug turned up fifteen rilezu in the hands of curators here. This includes seven in Doug’s Cels, three in Just a few cels (including another sequence-mate of the one above) two in Hoodies and Raindrops Cel Gallery, one in Natsume Goushin Ryu Cel Dojo, one that used to belong to Whimsical Cels (but is now listed as sold), and, of course, the one shown above.

That makes twenty-nine rilezu in all – but wait! – some of those in Rubberslug galleries must be the same as the images F&O listed as “sold.” While the thumbnails on the F&O site were small, I determined that at least four of those matched four rilezu now held in galleries here. So that shrinks the number of verifiable Haibane Renmei rilezu to exactly twenty-five. Case closed?

Not so fast – the numbers still seem unlikely. The F&O site showed twelve “sold” images (plus two still unsold). Of those “sold,” four (one-third) ended up in RS galleries, and the other twelve presumably went to collections not available online. If the edition had been limited to 25, then that suggests that there were eleven more “sold” rilezu that were not displayed on the F&O site (because they were sold a long time ago?). Is it likely that all eleven of these just happened to have been purchased by Rubberslug curators?

I think it’s more reasonable to assume similar proportions of sales (a third to Sluggers, two thirds to other collectors worldwide) and estimate that for the eleven extra post-production Haibane Renmei cels in RS galleries, there are something like twenty-two others in private collections somewhere else. That makes forty-seven (counting the two still unsold) – or more realistically two limited editions of 25 cels each.

Nothing I’ve found positively demonstrates this. Still . . .

Case not closed.

(Update: Since then a surprising number of rilezu have popped up for sale. As of July 2017, Kittyfire has one of the eyecatch cels, and my collection has unexpectedly grown to five. So nineteen Haibane post-production cels are currently in RS galleries. As the Office F&O site is no longer available, I cannot tell how many of these rilezu had been displayed there and thus were part of the census I did in 2010. It's possible that all these were either part of the maker's "unsold" stock or had previously been owned by Japanside collectors. Still, counting up these makes it even less likely that the total number of Haibane rilezu was limited to twenty-five and more likely that Office F&O did at least two series, each one limited to 25 each. Maybe three?)

As for the douga, I’m more confident in concluding that this is not a Radix studio production sketch. Having authentic production art from NieA_7 (to which Radix also contributed), I can see that the sketch included was (as the F&O site says diplomatically) the one used to make the rilezu, but it is not a douga used to make the actual show.

Clearly, though, the artist making the sketch did so using authentic studio materials. The top corner notes the sequence numbers of the dougas that made up the image:

Screening the OP sequence, one can see that these do represent positions that Reki, Hikari, and the wisp of smoke from Reki’s cigarette take at the same instant. But (as the NieA_7 dougas show) there would never have been a single production douga with three sequence numbers. These images would have been executed on separate sheets of paper and then scanned, layered, and digitally colorized.

The F&O artist combined these separate layers into one sketch, putting the lines that would be traced in black on the front and then the light trace lines (as around the wings) and the shadows on the back (see the two thumbnails). NieA_7 dougas, like all others I’ve seen for CGI animation, have all the trace lines, dark and light, on the front of the sheet and the shading only on the back.

Verdict: not the original douga. Case closed.

Still, the rilezu is far more than a fancel based on a screen cap, as it must derive from original artwork provided by Radix. The specific sequence numbers suggest that dougas were made available to the F&O artist, either in paper or (much more likely) in digital form.

The sequence numbers penciled on the sketch -- “A6 B8 C6” -- could be guessed from screening the cut. But I’d have guessed that Hikari, being the farthest away from the viewer, was animated on the A (bottom) layer. But no: Hikari, entering the frame, moves eight times to get to the position shown, so she was the B layer, while Reki (and her cigarette smoke) moves only six times. That shows that Reki was on the A layer and the smoke on the top C layer, as it drifts over top of Hikari in parts. That’s a detail that could only be learned by consulting authentic studio materials.

The background is said to derive from “CG output,” according to the F&O site, so it must be a high-quality color print from a scan provided by Radix (perhaps the same scan used in the digital images that appeared on the screen.) While original backgrounds from NieA_7 have appeared on the market, I’d guess that the original of this nice watercolor, which you can view on its own in the next item if you go to “Private Area” and enter “seemorestuff,” was also destroyed after being scanned.

It is odd that the cel image rides so low on the background image. I’ve taken care to position the rilezu and the background in scanning so that Reki and Hikari are imaged in the exact same position in front of the stonework as shown in the screencap. It’s possible to replicate the captured image exactly on all fronts, showing that the rilezu carefully matches the exact proportions of the background. The fact that the background is much larger than the cel, and is finished off on all sides including those not remotely close to the safety used in the cut, is another indication that the rilezu is based on authentic Radix studio material rather than a screen cap.

You can see how the tracing around the stones visibly trails off well short of the bottom, and if I showed more of the cel, you’d see the edge of the watercolor. Of course the final frame was letterboxed, so this was not an issue in the final production. Still, it is peculiar that the background was not designed so that the characters would fit in the middle of the art, as is customary. That, however, was a Radix decision, not F&O’s and is yet another indication that the rilezu is authentically based on original studio art.

For all the issues I’ve tediously reviewed above (gomenasai! and arigatou gozaimasu to anyone hardy enough to read this far!) this piece remains a much desired and now cherished treasure of my collection. It is a fine image, the best of the three (so far as I know) made from this cut, and as close as anyone is now likely to get to authentic studio art from this monumentally great anime series.

Thank you Mina!

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Curator: 60something-sensei
Gallery Created: 8/3/2002
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