About a year ago, Sothis approached me and helpfully pointed the way to two Shounen Jump Anime Tour specials from 2008 in the hopes of persuading me to write up their entries. The first was One Piece: Romance Dawn Story, which I jumped on like a horny teenager; the second was Letter Bee: Light and Blue Night Fantasy. I almost immediately fell in love with the latter, so when I heard that it was to get a TV series, I couldn’t wait for the 2009 fall season to begin.
Set in Amberground – a land of eternal night – Letter Bee follows the tale of a young boy named Lag Seeing. After his mother was taken from him at a young age, Lag meets a man named Gauche Suede – a Letter Bee charged with the job of ‘delivering’ the white-haired lad to his Aunt. The pair strikes up a friendship, and as they part ways Lag vows to become a Bee himself. Skipping forward a few years and our adolescent protagonist is about to travel to his examination. After successfully making it to the Beehive he receives a great shock upon learning that not only is Gauche no longer working there, but he also has gone missing without a trace. Now alongside his Dingo (partner), Niche, and his new friends and colleagues, Lag is determined to become a great Letter Bee and find Gauche.
The series starts out strong by following Lag on his initial journey from meeting Gauche as a young boy to his entry into the Beehive. These opening episodes immediately grab attention by thrusting the viewer into the middle of a plot where Lag’s mother has been spirited away to the capital by mysterious men. Letter Bee then proceeds to mix slower paced sections of development in the relationships between Lag, Niche, and Gauche with moments of engaging action featuring the Gaichuu (armoured bugs).
Sadly, around episode eleven Letter Bee switches from an interesting plot-based fantasy and descends into a rather repetitive, and at times dull, episodic slice of life. While I can understand that it ingratiates the viewer into the life of a Bee, this segment of the show seems misplaced. Normally the day-to-day aspect of a series happens towards the beginning in order to set the scene while allowing for the more solid narrative to kick in later and seize the viewer’s attention. Unfortunately by reversing this, Letter Bee’s mid-section can feel arduous at times – also, those who have previously seen Light and Blue Night Fantasy will most likely experience frustration at episode seventeen, which is simply a re-hash of the half hour special. Finally eleven and a half installments later, the series returns to its storyline only for the series to end JUST as it reaches the really interesting part. While this ensures that I will spend the next six months chomping at the bit in anticipation of season two, having just waded through what are essentially a dozen filler episodes, I can’t help but feel a certain twinge of disappointment.
This irritating pacing is such a shame because Letter Bee boasts a strong narrative, particularly since Amberground itself provides an impressive backdrop. A land of eternal darkness illuminated by an artificial sun placed above the capital is appealing enough, but adding in the country’s strict class system, makes it even more engaging. The capital remains reserved purely for the elite while the farthest reaches of the country survive in complete destitution – and with stringent rules controlling passage between the land’s provinces each class stays segregated and unable to escape their circumstances. But that isn’t all, as this alien world has one more trick up its sleeve in the form of Gaichuu – massive metallic bugs that feed off of human heart and emotion. These armoured arthropods pose an ever-present danger to both Letter Bees and civilians alike and can only be slain by shooting fragments of one’s own heart into the cracks in their shells. Throwing the mystery of Gauche’s disappearance and Lag’s crusade to uncover what happened to his mother into this world and you have a winning combination. Sadly the series has neither realised nor made the best use of this potential.
Dear Studio Pierrot, thank you for restoring my faith in your ability to actually create a good-looking series. Who’d have thought that the company, which brings us a weekly dose of sub-par animation in the form of Bleach, could actually pull out all the stops and provide such stunning visuals as the likes of Letter Bee? Boasting luscious colours consisting of varying shades of dusky Persian blues through to crushing amethysts, Amberground’s perpetual state of night retains a glorious beauty. During ‘memory’ sequences, the vibrancy of the cobalts and violets make way for a more muted and nostalgic sepia pigmentation that is equally as gorgeous as the show’s normal hues.
All the series’ vistas have a softer, almost hazy quality that, when coupled with falling memory fragments, successfully relay the dreamlike nature of the show. Movement remains smooth throughout, particularly when it comes to the Gaichuu, though these armoured bugs do give rise to my only gripe when it comes to Letter Bee’s visuals. Studio Pierrot opts to use computer graphics for the giant metallic insects. While the animation is technically very impressive with exceptional motion and effective colouring, shading and texturing, this polished CG feels out of place in the otherwise subtle landscapes.
Having provided Lag’s voice for twenty-five episodes (and a special), Miyuki Sawashiro has officially nailed the ability to supply a varied array of sniffling, simpering, crying noises. In all seriousness though, Sawashiro manages to successfully convey the fear, determination and sensitive emotion of the young bee. The rest of the voice cast also performs well, particularly Naomi Nagasawa who voices Steak. You may think I’m joking, but she manages to inject his exceptionally limited vocabulary of ‘Nee’ and ‘Neeeeeeeee’ with plenty of life so that each change in inflection allows the furry foodstuff to communicate with the audience in a strangely effective way.
To use ThePatches highly appropriate and accurate terminology, Lag’s entire personality needs but two words to describe it: ‘Human Faucet’. Seriously, the guy never stops crying! Sure, he has some other personality traits – determination, compassion, loyalty, blah blah blah – but let’s put it this way, you can incorporate a drinking game into this series and have a shot every time Lag wells up and starts snivelling like a little girl – however, I wouldn’t advise it, as you’d end up in casualty with alcohol poisoning.
As with many shows, the protagonist is nowhere near the most interesting personality; in the case of Letter Bee, Lag’s two companions, Niche and Steak far outshine the blubbing crybaby. Niche’s animalistic natures make her far more intriguing as a character. Without anyone to tell her otherwise Niche will go too far in her attempts to protect Lag and would spend her life “running free” without underwear. Her lack of human interaction and comprehension leads Niche to see the world as black and white, and only her ‘master’, Lag, can enlighten her to all the variations of grey that life has to offer. This childlike naivety endears her to the audience and even provides the opportunity for humour to present itself, particularly when it comes to her lack of pants and the relationship with her live bait, Steak.
Letter Bee’s supporting cast also impresses as the series delves into the histories and motivations behind a selection of Lag’s companions. Although in the case of Zazie, the anime does tend to reiterate his back-story on more than one occasion – just in case we miss it the first time – which does annoy a little. Yes, yes, we know that’s why Zazie is so angry, now tell us a bit more about Connor instead… No? Bugger.
The story has a great mix of small personal stories about characters to overarching themes about the fantastical world of the setting. The entire world is separated into 3 classes, and only the upper class is lives under the artificial sun. The rest of the world is in constant night, and there are strict rules keeping people from moving between the different class areas. If that isn't enough, giant monsters live in the wilderness between towns, and only by shooting them with a piece of your own heart can defeat them. The people with the ability to do this are called Letter Bees, and they have to go on dangerous journeys in order to deliver letters containing the hearts of the people who wrote them.
The colors are gorgeous, and the effects are beautiful. The CG can be a bit jarring at times, but it is usually ok. It is easy to read the characters facial expressions (and this comes up a lot, but I'll get into that later). The monsters are truly scary looking, and the effects of the weapons are really cool.
Lag Seeing, the main character, is the biggest crybaby I have ever seen. Not a single episode goes by without him wailing. And I don't just getting a little teary eyed, I'm talking balling his eyes out, snot all over the place kind of crying. This is apparently contagious, since almost everyone else he meets ends up crying too. Although, half the time it is played as a joke, and he is often called a crybaby by other characters. His dream is to be a Letter Bee, and he gets to meet all kinds of interesting characters along the way. Niche, his helper or dingo, is a strange girl who has the blood of a Maka, a mythical creature, and so has strange powers. The other Bees also have interesting personalities, and everyone has slightly different ways to use their heart in order to fight.
The ending, while it makes me really excited for season 2, leaves me with more questions than answers. It's worth checking out just for the beautiful animation and the unique story. I can honestly say I've never seen an anime about mail delivery before :)
It has been a little while since I watched this series, but last night, as I listen to music on random trying to fall asleep, the OP for this series came on and I felt a need to write this review. I don't understand why either, but let's just go with it.
This series brings together a lot of great elements: an original and interesting story, good artwork, good voice actors and good music, leaving the fact that this series was somewhat of a disappoint to be a stunning fact. Anyways, I'll get to the actual review.
This series focuses around Lag Seeing, a young boy living in the world of Amberground. While weaving a very interesting tale of Letter Bees, who deliver letters for a living, and fight off Gaichuu with the help of their dingos and soul shooting pistols. Inspired as a child by Gauche Saude, who delivers Lag as a letter, he becomes determined to become a Letter Bee, just like Gauche was. When he reaches this goal, he finds out that Gauche is no longer a Letter Bee, even though he was one of the best ever. And so the mystery sets in.
With such a great premise, the series seems set for greatness. Unfortunately, for about 2/3 of the series, they pretty much forgo this story and just have random slice of life, monster of the week delivers that Lag goes on. The ending strongly hints at a sequel, however, and, hopefully, the sequel will do more for the series.
Since this is the case, I have split the story score in two: The actual story of Lag and Gauche, being amazing and original, getting 9 out of 10 and the crappy slice of life stuff that takes up a large part of the series, getting a 5/10.
The animation in The Letter Bee is great, the characters are all original, the sceneries are gorgeous. There isn't much more to be said about the visuals other than they are well done, getting a score of 9/10.
Many great Voice actors are put throughout this series, doing a good job of making the characters sound like they should. Although about 3 out of 4 sounds that come out of Lag's mouth are crying of some sort, Sawashiro Miyuki still manages to let the viewer be able to tell a difference in each sob, be them happy, sad, or pain. Also, the first OP is awesome. Other than that, the sound generally fits how it should be, getting an 8/10.
There is a wide range of characters in this series, many being fairly original, and many being great overall. Unfortunately, the main character... pretty much cries more than anything else. Despite this, I think the characters are, overall, pretty good, getting a 8/10.
Overall: This series has some of the greatest and most original material I have seen recently along with great visuals and voice actors... but it falls into a very slice of life monster of the week form... completely killing itself for the majority of th series. That being said, overall, the series is somewhat good, and I think it will be able to produce a good sequel... if it doesn't become a monster of the week series again. This earns it a 7.5/10 overall from me.
That British Lad Reviews: Letter Bee TV
... ... ... I'm allowed to crack off to minors who have horrific injuries to their legs restricting them to a wheelchair, aren't I? In Surrey? Righto...
Anyway, now that todays pleasantries are organised, between the daily beating from my drunken uncle and saluting the Union Jack, I can begin a review of Letter Bee. After all: Post-men are the real heroes of the western world aren't they? Alongside the local Little Chef waitress.
This anime follows the story of Lag, angsty orphaned child No.#782, and his journeys in what resembles modern day London if someone managed to clean all the grease. For the most part this anime is episodic, with only the first 2 episodes and the last having any real story importance, and for me this is a good way to go for the fantasy anime it is. However, the creators of Letter Bee try to shove tragic stories into our gobs, yet they're just too simple to give half a crap! Oh, Lag, I'm so sorry: You have no parents! Oh, Gauche, Sylvette! You have no parents too! Oh, Zazie, you have no parents! This is as original as Irate Gamers Musical career!
The animation was the source of many a glorious orgasm from me. Although most of the land of Amberground is wasteland, the small cities have beautiful, candle lighting and a warm European feel to them. Luckily, although the UK is counted as European, we aren't featured. If that happened, Lag would have already committed suicided instead of crying like a total pansy.
Thats something I hate like wiping my arse with sandpaper: The cast. Yes, emotion is what your going for and I'm a negative Englishman with the same emotion of a brick wall. Yet EMOTION isn't everyone sitting down and crying the River Severn, which pretty much represents the first 6 episodes or so. You should grow to hate that pansy Lag, although even a bloke like me has a soft spot for Niche. Despite the douche attitude, she actually is fairly interesting character... Minus the whole orphan subplot... She pretty much is an animal: She lived in the wild wastes of Liverpool before the directors fired a tranquilizer at her and shoved her into the set, and she never loses those primal urges, right down to not wanting to wear underwear! ... ... ... Slobber on stand-by...
In the end, I give this anime a 7.5: It looks beautiful, and as an episodic series that you can pretty much watch in any order you wish, it stands fairly strong. Yet in the end, its painfully average like the Coalition Government. Now, if someone can confirm that Niche is a Beast, not human to the courts, take her and I up north in a vat of lime...
A very Tearful and Heart warming anime that based on the story of a young boy venturing out to be just like his idol Gauche. This anime is worth watching and every episode have an heartful moment. I recommend this anime to be watched by people too =)