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灰羽連盟, pronounced "haibane renmei", and roughly translated as "Charcoal Feather Federation", was made by the same people who did Lain, and it shows. By the way, I didn't like Lain. I believe the anime's been licensed in North America, and Pioneer has an official website for the anime (in English even). On the site, you can find the release date for the (presumably North American release of the) DVDs, the soundtrack, character guide and synopsis for every episode, including those that haven't been released in English yet.

The story, I didn't really get. The series is thirteen episodes long. In the first episode, this girl dreams that's she's falling. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a cocoon. When she emerges from it, she meets other girls, each of whom have (very light grey, almost white) feathers and a halo. They explain to her that she is a 灰羽 (a haibane, or "Charcoal Feather"), and that none of the 灰羽 remembers anything about their past, including their names. Instead, they are named after the dreams they had. For example, the girl who dreamed she was floating in the sky was named 空 (Kuu, which means sky). The girl who dreamed she was surrounded in white light was named 光 (Hikari), and so on. They decide to name the new girl 落下 (Rakka), which means "to fall". They then forge a halo for her, and the next night, she grows her wings. That wing scene was one of the more gruesome things I've seen, but the series as a whole isn't particularly bloody or gory. During the next eleven episodes, nothing really happens, and then in the last episode, something happens which I don't understand. Just like Lain.

I watched through the whole thing because thirteen episodes didn't feel like it would take too long, and every episode hooked you in by raising questions about the mysterious world 落下 found herself in. You see, because none of the characters remember anything, you'd assume that at the end of the anime, they'd somehow all regain their memory and realize the truth behind this world, and why they have wings and halos and all that. But no, you never find out why they wings and halos or anything like that. Also, there seems to be this very strict religious sect, where you're not allowed to speak directly to the head priest and so you may only shake bells to communicate with him: the left bell means yes, and the right bell means no (or vice versa, who's really paying attention?). You'd think maybe this head priest is connected to some sort of vast conspiracy, like he used to be a Haibane or something, but then he tore off his wings and became this priest. But no, you never find out who he is, or if he is related in any way to the plot. And then there's this mysterious wall. No one's allowed to enter or exit through the gate that's built into the wall except this race of nomads, and it's considered taboo to ask about what's on the other side of the wall. That means, after the thirteenth episode, we the viewer shall find out what's on the other side of the wall, right? No, we don't find out what's on the other side of the wall. Well, do we ever find out more about these nomads? No, we don't. Do we ever even SEE the nomads ever again after the episode in which they are introduced? Only once, during a scene involving a water well, and they only appear on screen for maybe thirty seconds, and they have no speaking roles. And then they leave and you don't learn anything about the nomads ever. Pretty lame.

You can google for artbooks and wallpapers related to 灰羽連盟. They're mostly absolutely gorgeous (Wallpaper 1 Wallpaper 2 Wallpaper 3), but the actual art talent employed in the anime is quite lacking. This is the norm in the anime industry, given that it's a lot cheaper (and thus more time can be spent on) drawing a single poster than twenty four to thirty frames for every second of an episode, and so it might have been excusable if only the animation wasn't quite so bad as well. Some of the walk animations look like they were composed of only 3 frames, and when two girls are yelling at each other, the one who isn't talking will stay completely motionless as if some sort of technology limitation is preventing us from having two characters moving on the screen at the same time.

The music's good, much better than Lain anyway. The reason I heard about this anime in the first place was that I had come across the soundtrack. While Lain's was some sort of electronic noise probably specifically designed to make the listener as uncomfortable as possible, these songs have a very warm and folksy feel to them. They make you feel right at home in a quiet little village with a mysterious wall beyond which our imagination dares not wander. Also the OST cover had nice artwork on it, so why not give the anime a shot, right? That was a mistake.

Although it involves a girl who crumbles into ashes who may or may not be the product of a hallucination of another girl, the ending isn't as "fucked up" as Lain. However, since the only reason I would ever recommend someone to watch Lain was to see how fucked up the ending is, that means there's no reason for me to recommend 灰羽連盟 to anyone. If you want a fucked up anime, watch Lain. If you don't, watch Scrapped Princess or something. I'm giving this anime a 3 out of 10.

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