Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee

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cassiesheepgirl's avatar
Apr 10, 2010

Story

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.


Animation

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.


Sound

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.


Characters

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.


Overall

With some of the most sumptuous visuals ever to sweep their way across my monitor, and a compelling plot – well, when it’s on track that is – Letter Bee is well worth a watch. Despite the flaws in its story, I still eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Fall 2010 when series two is due to hit our screens, and with any luck it will actually recognise how strong the narrative is and make the most of it.

6.5/10 story
9/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
6.5/10 characters
7.4/10 overall
Lanaette's avatar
Dec 8, 2015

Storyline

This series follow the young boy named Lag Seeing and his pursuit on becoming a letter bee. I actually liked the original idea where he wanted to be a letter bee, because he needed to gain access to the capital city, where only elite and where his mother was taken to. Series start out good, him being only 8 years old and a letter bee doing a delivery, where he is the letter. Lag starts to look up to the letter bee and aspires to become just like him. The story continues 5 years later and that's pretty much when the storyline started to get messy. The main character gets so easily distracted that it's pretty much painful to watch. First he goes traveling to another city in order to take part on the exam, but before going on the train, he notices stray letter and decides to deliver it, because letter bees can't for some reason (apparently the address wasn't clear enough). After he's done that, he regrets it and goes back and then goes to the other city, his pass gets stolen and so on. It just goes on forever. And after finally becoming letter bee, like he wanted to, he already had forgotten his mother and instead wanted to find tha original letter bee that delivered him when he was 8. Also it's extremely annoying that the whole plot is about him chasing someone's shadow and not actually focusing on the friends he's got at hand. Otherwise. I liked the concept of the world they are living in. It's interesting, but that too has way too many plotholes that I would like to be filled.

Animation

I'd like to give some praise to the art. It's a bit old today, but it's still enjoyable. Actually the only reason why I'm still watching this. The desings of characters are stylish and easy to imagine as cosplays. Backgrounds are detailed and even though the world is pretty repetitive I didn't see same frames used too many times in out of places. It's a bit sad they decided to add 3D animated monsters, instead just 2D, since they seem so out of place. They really did best they could n order to make them fit, but it would've been better just to use that effort in making them 2D. They don't really use the same monster that many times so making 3D models of them isn't that handy at all.

Sound

First of all, when I heard the opening for the first time I instantly thought "did I accidentally open Sims" since the opening sounded like it came straight from the sims loading screen. They just added some lyrics to it.  Also I really hate the voice they decided to give the main character. It doesn't fit at all and it makes him sound like a girl. The voice actor isn't bad, but that matching is. There are some soundeffects too, that are very old and clishé but not so bad. Soundwise they did some bad choises, but overall is pretty good. Music choises are well done and they create mood very well. I really wish that was enough.

Characters

...Well, I'm just going to clear this out. I absolutely hate the main character. I do think the name Lag Seeing fits him. Lag, as in being so painfully slow you just want to beat your computer on the wall. Seeing, as in seeing every sinle little rock on the ground and thinking it must have some purpose. "He cannot be bad, you just don't get it." Is basically what he tells to every single person who disagrees with him. He is a child being 13, but for a main character he is way too childish and naiive. It's unbelievable how he actually makes others believe in his childlike beliefs. the most annoying thing about him though, is all the crying. There hasn't been single episode where he doesn't cry. Everything seems to shock him or surprise him and he cries. He cries even when he's a little bit happy. He is extremely weak too and it's almost unfair how easily he gets everything he wants. He has absolutely no talent whatsoever and everything that actually helps, is done by his friends who blindly follow him.

Speking of which. He is accompanied two another characters. The other one is pet like and insanely useless. I guess it was meant for comedic purposes only, but a minimonster eating someones head isn't really that funny and that's basically all he does. Personally I think the other friend is much funnier. Niche, that is a interesting character and has interesting backstory. She is basically a living weapon and people talk about her as a dragon. Not much resemblance though. It's fun how she has absolutely no manners and no idea how basic humans work. Altough after being with Lag for a while, she bacomes less interesting as she obsesses over Lag and does everything she is told. She starts to act like a baby and is even more childish than Lag. It seems like her history won't even be shown anymore so it's just a huge disappointment.

I should also mention that the guy Lag looks up to, doesn't seem all that great. After all he left his only family, crippled little sister to live alone. It was for a good cause, but again someone is just following a shodow, instead of just focusing on the moment at hand. These characters were good examples of what all the other can be. I feel like the less effort they put on to characters, the better they are. Character I liked the most, was Lags letter bee friend Connor, who is a food addict and has no interest in drama whatsoever.

Overall

It's really hard to focus on watching this, since the series never seems to focus on the moment. It's filled with flashbacks and intentions, but there seems to be no moment at all. There mey be some short moments, but they end in less than 5 seconds. Also everyone seems to be talking in references that make no sense sometimes. It wasn't really clear to me when the talked about "putting part of your heart into bullets" because at first I thought they meant literal heart and that's why they get tired when firing them. But then I started thinking they meant "heart" as in "spirit" but then it would make no sense for them to get so tired and need rest. So I ended up with "heart" being their life energy, but I'm still not so sure. In the end, the series lacks logic and clarity. It could've been good, but the main character makes it impossible for me to watch it any further.

4.5/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
3/10 characters
5/10 overall
haize78's avatar
Mar 19, 2016

Tegami Bachi is worth a watch. My mark for now is provisional as the final one hinges on the second series, which I haven't yet started watching; after I watch Tegami Bachi Reverse, I'll come back and update this review. I finished this first season last night and I was quite satisfied with it, but as I started thinking about what to write in a review more and more flaws kept presenting themselves to my mind. Basically, this anime has an intriguing setting which is visualized through lovely animation, designs and colours, and a good main story - the drawback is that after a compelling beginning which really draws you in, it's just random slice of life and filler episodes that don't even contribute much to the character development. The main story kicks back in around episode 21, but that's far too late. This awful pacing is really a pity because if the anime creators had stuck to the main story and invested more in character development, it would have been a memorable anime.

Tegami Bachi is set in Amberground, a mysterious twilight world illuminated only by the weak rays of an artificial sun - the farther you are from it, the less light you get. This is reflected in the class system and political organization of this world: Akatsuki, the capital city, is located directly under the artificial sun and it is the home to the privileged people, the farther you get from the sun the more destitute and poor are the people and the land. People are not allowed to move to other territories as there are extremely severe restrictions to travel, so once you are born in the lower classes it's virtually impossible to improve your social standing and all you can look forward to is a life of hardship and privation in a perpetually dark world. The protagonist of our story is a young 8-year old boy, Lag Seeing, whom we find in the first episode chained to a post and crying for his mother. Lag turns out to have a postal address stamped on his arm, he is a letter which is to be delivered by a Letter Bee, a post man, to his aunt in Campbell. Lag's mother apparently was kidnapped and taken to the capital - but we don't know by who or for what reason. The Letter Bee who is assigned the task to deliver Lag is Gauche Suede. During the trip, a relationship starts to develop between Lag and Gauche, with Lag looking up to Gauche. By the time the delivery has been completed, Lag has decided he wants to become a Letter Bee just like Gauche, and just like Gauche he wants to aim to become Head Bee and thus gain access to the capital to look for his mother. The story then jumps forward 3 years and we see Lag setting off to do the exam to become a Letter Bee. He expects to find Gauche at the Letter Bee headquarters - the Beehive - but he finds out that Gauche never managed to become Head Bee and has instead disappeared. After Lag passes the exam and becomes a Bee himself, this story is set aside as we follow Lag in his deliveries. These episodes are sadly for the most part just filler, we do meet the other Letter Bees, but there is pitifully little character development. As mentioned before, at episode 21 the story gets back on track and Lag finally finds some clues as to Gauche's whereabouts. Obviously as soon as it was starting to become intriguing again, the first season ends. Another thing that could have been developed more is the shindam and spirit amber thing. There are giant armored monsters called Gaichuu living in the desert areas between towns, these monsters are attracted to human emotions and hearts - so also to the letters the Letter Bees are carrying as they contain the hearts of the people who wrote them. It is part of a Letter Bee's job to defeat Gaichuu and they do so by using a shindam, a kind of special gun whose bullets are shot using shards of heart - if you shoot too much you end up using too much of your heart; this concept is interesting but isn't really developed much in the first series. And there's also the completely unexplained fact that Lag has a piece of spirit amber in his eye. I also felt that a too-convenient and over-used plot device was the fact that Lag's shindam allows him - and anyone else that happens to be around - to see (exactly like at the movies) the heart of the person or object shot - which is an excessively easy and handy way to wrap things up. It's as if they couldn't bother to write up proper endings but decided to take a short-cut instead. Kind of cheap in my opinion.

The characters are ok. The designs are good and the character building is done well. But there is essentially no character development. Lag - and all the other characters - start out with some distinctive features and they retain them. They don't change. Lag is unfortunately a hopeless crybaby, in each and every episode he will end up crying and wailing - it does get annoying. In general, all of the characters are good, but - I can't stress this enough - none of them undergo development. And they all have great names: Largo Lloyd, Aria Link, Lag Seeing, Gauche Suede, Jiggy Pepper, Mock Sullivan, Connor Kluff, Zazie Winters...

Animation and sound and voice-acting are all really good. 

Overall, it's worth a watch. It slightly annoyed me that the anime creators tend to manipulate the viewers emotions with all the crying and resorting to cheap tricks like Lag's ability to expose people's hearts. And there are many loose strings that I hope will be addressed in the second series.

***

I finally finished Tegami Bachi Reverse and am here to update the review. First things first, I had initially rated this anime 5.8 after having only watched the first season for the reasons stated above - mainly for all the filler. Tegami Bachi Reverse is much better as it stays nearly always on track, there's little filler so my rating has consequently gone up. At the end of the first season, I was asking myself: just what could make Gauche abandon Sylvette and his job as a letter bee? And I was hoping it wouldn't be a convenient memory loss... Anyway, the ending is satisfactory, even though some issues (like Lag's mother, the amber spirit in his eye and Lag's real nature) are not addressed. And, believe it or not, Lag cries a bit less - which is a relief. 

6.5/10 story
7.5/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
6/10 characters
6.8/10 overall
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eaper's avatar
Jul 26, 2010

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.

Story:

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.

Animation:

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.

Sound:

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.

Characters:

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.

9/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
8/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
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reigereb000's avatar
Jan 15, 2018

I just finished the anime and I must say, I cried at least 6 times when I watched this. Im a binger so I watched all 50 episodes in the past two days. When I binge, I feel as if I am able to connect with the charachters and stories more but this one did not need binging to develop that connection. It was so sad and hard to watch, even as I write this review now, I wish to cry! The constant loss and pain that the charachters felt truly responates through your heart and entire being. In the end, 

*spoiler alert*

I felt as if Noir left, leaving behind the last bit of his former self with Lag. No matter though, that memory that he has with Lag's mother is enough to convince me that somewhere, deep inside hi, there is a little bit of Gauch left and that is enough for me.

In this anime, it proves that you do not need memories to have a lifelong connection. 

10/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
7.5/10 characters
9.9/10 overall
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