Review by: Ai Kano
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Hiroyuki Asada
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Manga)
MSRP: $7.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
The heart knows what it wants.
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee is one of those few shonen manga that really surprised me and that alone is no small feat. It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to boy’s comics because I’ve seen it all before but there’s something about a series that is less about fighting and more about the quest of self-discovery that I find Volume 1 of this series such an irresistible read.
The story takes place in a land known as Amberground where the land is cast in perpetual night and the only form of communicating with love ones living far away is by a postal workers known as Letter Bees. Messages in the world are considered valuable since the messages one passes on to others contain fragments of a person’s heart. For a Letter Bee named Gauche Suede, the “package” he is sent to deliver comes in the form of a little boy who is left near the charred remains of some home. With more than enough postage, this child is considered fragile yet fit for delivery.
As Gauche soon finds out, though, the boy’s name is Lag Seeing and he’s not the most cooperative package this Letter Bee ever delivered. Lag, it seems has suffered a traumatic experience when his mother was taken from him by force by a group of men. He thinks the men had taken his mother to the capitol city of Akatsuki. The problem is that a permit is required to enter Akatsuki and Gauche doesn’t really care about Lag’s plight because he’s only focused on delivering him to his destination … the home of Lag’s aunt. Along with Gauche’s partner (a dog named Roda), or Dingo as the series calls it, they set off to the destination.
Along the way, Lag watches Gauche as work as he defends the boy against giant beetle-like monsters known as Gaichuu. With the use of a most unusual gun, Gauche defeats the monster but at the cost of a small fragment of his heart … not literally, of course, but this series speaks of something spiritual that dwells within us. Because of this spiritual link, Lag sees fragments of Gauche’s memories … seeing his past, the loved one he wants to take care of as well as his ambition to one day be Head Bee.
During the journey, Gauche also makes a discovery about Lag as well. He not only sees the boy’s trauma but also finds out that there’s something special about the boy … particularly his eye. When Gauche is injured during a confrontation with a Gaichuu, it is Lag who saves the older boy and drags him to the destination where Lag’s aunt awaits. A friendship is formed between the two boys and Lag swears to be a Letter Bee one day in order to see his mother and Gauche again.
Five years pass and Lag Seeing is off to become a Letter Bee as he travels with an already established Letter Bee. They travel to the train station that would take them to the Letter Bee headquarters only Lag finds himself staring at a wild, beautiful and mysterious little girl. Lag can see that the girl has an incomplete postage tag stuck to her and this reminds the boy of himself. Determined to take the little blonde girl with cat-like eyes to her destination, Lag decides to take a slight detour and deliver the package.
As he finds out, the girl has no real name so he names her Niche and the pair travel together to a place Lag assumes is an orphanage. He finds out many things about Niche, one of which is the fact that the girl is able to leap far distances. There seems to be something unusual about the girl but she slowly begins to trust in Lag. When they reach their destination, however, Lag realizes that it’s not an orphanage but rather a freak show circus. Niche, it seems, has a most unusual secret that makes her something of a rarity and when Lag finally reaches her it becomes clear who this child is and what she can do.
The series moves at a very slow pace and that might not sit well with those accustomed to shonen manga filled with fast-paced action but for those who have the patience they will find a series that walks its own path. Instead of filling the book with flashy combat scenes, this series shows us that some conflicts are deeper than just swordplay and bullets. The characters have dreams, noble ambitions and show emotion that makes them all the more interesting. I’m a bit on the fence about Lag who is not as appealing personality-wise as Gauche but that remains to be seen in the next volume.
Volume 1 of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee is a good start to a different kind of shonen manga and that’s not a bad thing at all. Slow as it might be, though, the story still manages to show a lot of potential as we follow Lag Seeing on his way to become a Letter Bee. As Lag and Niche start on their journey we will gladly find ourselves following this story.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In a world where darkness reins over the land and communications is handled by a mail courier called a Letter Bee, one such postal worker finds that the package he must deliver is an actual living boy named Lag Seeing. The boy named Lag comes to experience what a Letter Bee does and swears to become one in hopes of seeing his mother again and several years later he finds himself in a similar situation when he comes across a package in the form of a little girl.
The art is actually quite lovely and wonderfully original but it doesn’t really wow me the way other shonen titles have done. Still, it works well for this series and the cover is absolutely stunning.
A promising beginning to a very promising title, Volume 1 of Tegami Bachi is a slow-paced but inspiring story of dedication, heartfelt emotions and dreaming big in a world cast in darkness. I wish I can say that I instantly fell in love with Lag but he has yet to really show me what he’s really capable of but I know I will be following this series very closely in hopes that he will win me over.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media