Clean up

The shutters trembling
Under a tiled roof
In the pouring rain

Sorting old books
The fading words
Clutched in their binds

Bats in the ceiling
Envying the silverfish
Smelling aged paper

Completing old shows : part two

Haibane Renmi is a show the begins with unrelenting intrigue that grows richer with each episode. Assuming the show cares to answer these mysteries however is a waste of time.

Neither Abrahamic nor Buddhist and not particularly religious either is a strange position to put young women reborn as angels but the Haibane make perfect sense. These women, and men are vehicles for intense, personal spritual quests which move at a glacial pace of conversations, seperation and things left unsaid.

This is the ideal imagining of the Neo-liberal subject, alone and adrift. Yet at the same it is is one of the greatest imaginings of post capitalism, of the liberated personal triumph. There are no evils, it is beyond good and evil with the only apex, the depth of all life and salvation found in the brief but paramount connection you make with other people.

What the show captures in a way most art cannot match is the depth of the world moving, never stopping to ask questions, never offering the right moment to ask a nervous question. Everyone is honest but deeply involved in their own journey. No one is selfish, bad or intolerable, they’re just moving somewhere else but you want them to stay. Not selfishly, not angrily but simply to stay to keep every memory, every moment and every little thing from the void of forgetting, obscurity as time and the world move on.

Haibane Renmei never pauses to focus on anything other than the characters. Never is an enviornment,a room or a dirt road by some trees in focus. Yet their presence is unrelenting.

There are places that are at once dusty, run down but inhabited. A troop of young women born out of eggs, with tiny rudimentary wings and shaky halos are born in a run down old school in the outskirts of a walled town. The world is at once aged like an apocalypse has rolled though, but there is no despair, no tragedy lingering.

Neither are there any heroic journeys, quests or gratifying confrontations the genre is so popular for. In stark contrast to everything that’s been drawn or written by its peers Haibane is one of the greatest examinations of living in the real world.

Thrust into the company and freedom of young people with no past they can remember or be haunted by, our small group of leads are the perfect heroines for the modern age – profoundly alone.

Despite the dull colours and dust of it’s world, there is no sadness there is only the depth and longing that comes in a life where everyone lives on their own page. In fact there isn’t much lonlieness either. They’ve got friends, they’ve got work, they’ve got a whole system set up for these women and men with wings.

The show is set in a town with walls and soon enough it becomes apparent that these women will cross these walls – but not together. The truth of being on your own seeps through every scene but never is there discouragement, I wouldn’t even call it unhappy.


The great moment of triumph, the climax where charcters and art themselves mix with each other is the moment where they bravely reach out to each other.

Birth, puberty, life, death and rebirth come together to become something truly and equally worth celebrating. To accept death, uncertainty, fear, the distance between people is the shining path to heaven.

This show is intriguing, pensive, philosophical but never concerned about the many questions it raises, it only looks at what really matters in the end.

Completing old shows: part one

There were two Rijuls watching Haibane Renmei. One was nine years old, with little supervision, staring incompredingly at a TV screen during a late winter rain.

A young woman was at the end of the journey, as the sun set her friends gave her their last bits of advice before walking down by the shadows of a huge school building. The finality of her decision, her entire world weighing down on her and the sepia, grimy tone of the entire world was obvious to even an especially oblivious nine year old. Incidentally she had a tiny pair of wings and a halo but that was drowned out by the angst.

The other Rijul has spent a lifetime trying to put it all together. On that inconspicuous day I saw something that stayed with me forever, an ache that haunted me. Maybe it was the first time I understood art. I did the bravest thing I could, I told my mother I’d give up all my TV time, my playtime and anything else I had if I could wake up at 6 am every morning to watch the show which was rescheduled to that inconvenient time slot.

Of course it was given no thought and my proposal was rejected. In those pre-internet days I knew I had lost something immesurable. The clunky Japanese name didn’t remain either. Just an itch everything I though of the Animax channel. It drifted in and out of my dreams, in my memories. The optimistic Animax logo kept dropping in and out too.

I think seeing something like that at a young age changes you, maybe ages you- I’d recommend it. I saw many such sticky images on Animax. I wasn’t old enough but I’m certain that was a good thing.

I’m still watching Haibane Renmei, so I won’t say much else about it yet. However it has been interesting looking back at some old shows I never got to finish. Midori days was the first among these strange novelties I tracked down.

It’s about a teenager who wakes up to discover his right hand has turned into a woman. You might assume that the show is nothing but obvious jokes but besides two puns about masterbation it’s actually a deep, heartfelt, well developed story about strangers from different classes who come together to share a complicated relationship with each other.

It is a creative comedy that doesn’t get old fast, but the highlight really is how the many well rounded characters try and define themselves. In a novel feature for the genre, the pinning youngsters actually don’t get what they want and actually have to deal with failure and living with it. They actually end up changing who they are instead of just failing upwards. Did I mention it’s funny? It’s really funny in a way only something as absurd as a person living on your hand can be.

I’ll finish watching Haibane Renmei soon enough, so I’ll write a second part for this series by the end of this week.

Neighborhood lullabies

I have a neighbor who loves drinking and can often be heard singing or beating his wife late into the night. He’s a short, broad policeman with a short temper who is mostly content talking loudly and playing with his boisterous but home-bound son.

Last night he launched into a rare tale that caught my ear. It was a warm night with mosquitoes circling in earshot. As is typical for such a night a power-cut that had me trying to swat at the pests while trying to protect myself with a blanket. It was a fools’ endeavor because they outnumbered me and outmaneuvered me. In the end it was too hot inside the blanket and too pest ridden outside it. Tired and sleepless though I was, I recognised his voice immediately. On this rare night I heard him speak English and not his familiar Tamil. He was sitting, as he often does, outside his door which is built in an unusual manner- near the end of his house and not near the front. He has a narrow path from his front gate to his door and he often puts a chair out so he can sit in the middle of the path.

He was lecturing with so much condescension, that I was amazed whosoever was on the other end didn’t slam the phone down every time he finished his sentences with a smug flourish and a stretching of words. He explained that most people don’t know their “generation”. They can count back to their parents generation, to their grandparents generation at best. Beyond that they knew nothing. He however could count further. He could count beyond his great-grandparents and said he knew “all his generations”. He proclaimed his family was from Sri-Lanka, shouting the lengthy name of his village. He would fill in details in a fast paced Tamil and switch back to a English slowed down to bring as much derision as possible.

He told long tales of his grandparents, his grandmother in particular who collected so much gold that she had nothing to do with it. He ranted about his grandfathers power and his wife yelped from inside the house. He finished by calling whoever he had been talking to an idiot for trying to argue with him regarding some woman. Only then did his companion hang up on him. He went running back inside to sing with his son which continued for a time. I wondered what happened between his family’s’ Sri-Lankan wealth and his family’s current state. I also wondered how his son could do with so little sleep while I struggled to find some for myself.

At the top

The memory is perfectly enclosed, like a scene trapped in a snow-globe. My school was empty under a gray overcast sky about to pull apart in a rainstorm. A strike had been called, or was it a riot? What I do recall is that it was midway through the despised Hindi class, the third hours of the school day.

Everyone else had been taken home and the playground was empty, only four shoes remained outside the sandpit. The two of us, strangers to each other pushed each other ahead, daring and testing how far we could go. After some leap from my playmate, envy pulled at the bottom of my stomach. I looked at the sky and my watch knowing I had to best him before the moment ended.

I kept my eyes up, hyped by shrieks and laughter, cold metal bars under my feet I start calculating where the deepest bit of sand could be and tried to remember if anyone I knew had ever broken a bone on the monkey-bars. I remember jumping. Wild and shrieking as my uniform fluttered like wings into a heap of pain and then giddy, glorious victory.