Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sin-Bound Lycanthrope who Gnaws Truths

"You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream"

E.A. Poe - A Dream Within A Dream

Caution: might want to watch Haibane Renmei before reading this, lest mine insights bespoil thine viewing pleasure. Thou'st been warned-ed.

As soon as I cranked up my Torment:Tides of Numenera character, the opening reminded me of Haibane Renmei. After all, there can't be that many stories beginning with an amnesiac falling from the sky, and anime/RPG fanbases share a lot of crossover. Granted, the game's littered with many little outside references, similarities and in-jokes, some more tenuous than others, but this one's reinforced by some NPC commentary partway through your adventures:
Upon visiting the Valley of Dead Heroes, a city-sized mechanized mausoleum, you run across some local cultists who have decided everyone in the world's just a reincarnation or after-image of a corpse memorialized therein, and spend their lives trying to find their true names and their own memorial. This serves on one hand as tongue-in-cheek reference to the mausoleum also listing the names of TToN's wealthier backers.

On the other hand, it gradually becomes apparent as you watch Haibane Renmei that the Haibane are youngsters who died before their time, and the walled microcosm of Glie/Guri some sort of purgatory where they can live a wholesome life until they themselves are ready to move on. This realization lends a deliciously morbid edge to the middle portion of the series, especially given the names these children acquire as Haibane are based on a single solitary past-life memory highly suggestive of different deaths: falling, drowning, coma, falling through ice, even burning alive.

It works a little differently for the two black-winged "sin-bound" heroines of the series, not merely dead before their time but suicides. They cannot move on until they acknowledge and resolve the issue of their self-destructive tendencies, whereupon their true name is revealed to have a hidden meaning relating somehow to their basic personality. So Rakka is not just falling but an "inverted nut" for thinking of herself as alone and Reki's not just a pebble but trampled, having thrown herself in front of a train, thereafter vindicated as a stepping stone for growing into her work helping others. After resolving their internal personality conflict, they're back on track to fly out of Purgatory.

First of all, I have to ask, if it's the Sin-Bound who get True Name reveals, are all of InXile's customers visiting the Valley of Dead Heroes sin-bound?

More importantly, if the Memorialists are right and the Ninth World's basically Glie, how would the core cast of Haibane be classed?

Kuu: Swift Glaive who Flies Before
(plucky little Kuu just seems like a scrapper to me)

Hikari: Charming Jack who Feeds
(the willpower penalty suits her perfectly)

Kana: Mechanical Nano who Swims Against the Current
(she's a tinkerer, and despite her high energy state seems more abrasive than combative)

Nemu: Observant Nano who Waits Patiently
(probably the wisest of the bunch, despite her background role... and the running penalty fits almost too well)

Rakka: Mystical Jack who Translates
(honestly, Rakka doesn't learn much throughout the series; most of her advancement comes as a go-between, her revelations by accident or outside agency)

Reki: Strong-Willed Glaive who Upholds
Look, I freakin' love Reki, especially her thundering declaration that she never had any real interest in helping anyone. Gotta love the grinding, smoldering, tectonic resentment revealed in her character. She's a fighter at heart, but if I were drawing up her character in an RPG, I'd bump up her Intellect before anything else. She represents us half-formed self-defeaters clever enough to outsmart ourselves and stubborn enough to follow through with it. The big tragedy of the series is that her entire universe seems inimical by design to Reki and her ilk.

Ignoring its well-meaning airs, there's actually quite a bit about Haibane Renmei's cosmology and moralizing which could grate. Portraying introversion as sinful and independence as destructive, intellect as irrelevant. The moral of Reki's story seems to be "fake it 'til you make it" or knuckling under until servitude becomes your nature. Not exactly a laudable mindset, though quite in tune with Haibane Renmei's religious fantasy setting.

Me, I think Reki'd be happier in the Necropolis or the Bloom. At least the Great Devourer's not such a tyrant as to forbid the most fundamental right of all, suicide. Some of us really should have ended it when we were teenagers.

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