Review by: Ai Kano
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Hiroyuki Asada
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Manga)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Now Available
The ballad of the determined crybaby.
Tegami Bachi is one of those series that grabbed my attention from the very start and the reason is quite simply that it’s a manga series that is beautifully written and has a lot of heart. It’s a touching, funny and intriguing story and, in Volume 3 of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, it will make you feel that the human spirit is strong in those who believe that the heart is an organ capable of turning a young crybaby into a brave soul.
Having passed the Letter Bee exam with flying colors and nearly in record time, Lag Seeing finds himself a newly appointed Letter Bee in Yuusari. However, he is still very determined to find Gauche Suede, the Letter Bee that inspired him a few years. It is a fellow Letter Bee, however, that tells him a troubling bit of news. It seems that Gauche not only turned his back on the Bees but has also disappeared after having secured a good place for him and his handicapped sister to live in a good part of the city.
Of course, Lag doesn’t believe the boy and, weeping, he tells him fellow Bee to take back that lie but – as it turns out – this news might actually be true. The only way to truly find out is to go to Akatsuki and talk to Gauche’s little sister, Sylvette. He sets out with the other Bee as well as his Dingo, Niche, to the lovely little part of the city where a beautiful young girl in a wheelchair is trying hard to make ends meet to keep the place. She also happens to be carrying Gauche’s Shindanjuu (the Letter Bee weapon of choice that shoots part of the user’s heart).
Lag and Niche find Sylvette in a rather annoyed state and she isn’t a lot of help but she does make it clear that she hasn’t seen Gauche and she also happens to possess a letter of dismissal with Gauche’s name on it. What exactly did Gauche do that caused the Head Bee to dismiss him from the roster permanently? Why did Gauche, a man who was determined to become Head Bee, give up his heart?
Back on the carriage, Lag just doesn’t accept Sylvette’s attitude or lack of a real explanation so – despite the fact that she told him that she didn’t want to see him again – Lag takes off by himself and goes back to Sylvette’s home. It is them and there that the to youngsters cry and take comfort in each another. She tells him that her brother had wanted her to give Lag his Shindanjuu. With the weapon, Lag is able to see into Guache’s heart and he sees everything leading up to his disappearance. He swears he will find Guache and bring him back home.
Taking in this new information plus a Shindanjuu and Sylvette’s respect, Lag Seeing shows up to the final Letter Bee interview and tells him his real dream. He speech impresses even Aria, the Assistant Director of the Bees and Guache’s close friend. She shows up at Sylvette’s home where Lag, Niche and Steak now live, and takes Lag to a beautiful spot that Aria tells him was Gauche’s favorite place. It is there that she reveals an interesting event that somehow played a part in Gauche forget about his mother altogether. This event, called the “Day of the Flicker,” is also connected to Lag as well. It’s painfully clear to Lag that Aria told him all this out of her feelings for Gauche. There’s more to their relationship than being just childhood friends.
We also get to experience Lag’s first day as a Letter Bee that includes helping out a fellow Bee who is being attacked by a Gaichuu as he makes use of the Shindanjuu. Then, Lag and Niche receive their first assignment that will have them journeying near Lag’s hometown. The package, it seems, is an old dog-like animal named Darwin who just happened to have been the Dingo of a Letter Bee that disappeared.
The journey, as he is told, is certainly a dangerous one but with Darwin as their guide it becomes somewhat easier. I say somewhat because Darwin is not as young as he once was and they make a stop where they meet a man who tells them a most startling and unfortunate bit of news that makes this part of the story very touching indeed. It certainly brought a tear to my eye.
Volume 3 of Tegami Bachi is strangely beautiful and emotional to the point that you can’t help but recognize the greatness of the story and Hiroyuki Asada’s writing. It’s manga like this that makes me glad I love manga in the first place and is proof that manga can make you think, feel and – yes – cry. This one is quickly becoming one of my personal favorite Shonen Jump titles and with good reason.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Having officially become a Letter Bee, Lag Seeing and his Dingo, Niche, find themselves a part of the roster. Lag also finally gets to meet Gauche’s young sister, Sylvette, who tells him a bit of troubling news that makes him make a vow to the girl. Meanwhile, Aria fills him in on an event that might be related to Gauche’s disappearance and Lag and Niche take on their first real assignment that is connected with a Letter Bee that disappeared.
Asada-Sensei’s art isn’t exactly beautiful but it is original and looks beautiful at various points in the volume. The visual effects are also startlingly lovely.
A beautifully told and moving chapter in this lovely story, Volume 3 of Tegami Bachi is the volume that will make you realize how special this manga series really is and a charming one at that as well. As Lag finds himself a member of the Letter Bees, he will continue to seek the truth behind the man who inspired him.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media