Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee Volumes 6 and 7

I’d read the first couple volumes of this series and enjoyed the unique world building in this story about a young boy who wants to be a letter carrier in a world lit only by an artificial sun. The standard shonen quest storyline is fairly typical, but the art and settings are detailed and unique.

Tegami Bachi Volume 6 by Hiroyuki Asada

The sixth volume opens as Lag delivers a letter to a sick but rich young woman named Rei. She keeps getting anonymous notes that are lovely reminders of her hometown. Her new maid Kimidori is the source of the notes that bring her mistress comfort but the head servant takes credit for her work, bullying Kimidori into silence. Lag has to reveal Kimidori’s good works without breaking a promise he made to her to keep her secret. This story is focused on botanical images and nostalgia, as Kimidori uses flowers to produce a dye that evokes Rei’s favorite color. The second story delves into the psychology of loss, as in an abrupt shift Lag is working at a lighthouse with an elderly man he calls “Grandpa.” Lag’s identity seems to be completely forgotten in his new life, but he’s haunted by a shadowy monster at night and wonders if he’s losing his mind. It turns out that the loneliness of the old man has persisted after death, feeding one of the giant desert bugs that preys on emotions. Letter Bee Jiggy Pepper and Lag’s sidekick/dingo Niche come to the rescue.

Lag’s ongoing quest is to find the Letter Bee that inspired him to take up the job – Gauche Suede. Gauche has disappeared and is rumored to have become an evil marauder. Lag visits Gauche’s sister Sylvette to see if she can help him construct a letter that will bring Gauche back. Sylvette has some pretty dynamic action sequences as she fights from her wheelchair. The art in Tegami Bachi is one of the things that makes this series more enjoyable than most shonen series. The stark contrast of black and white is used in most of the illustrations, with sparing use of shades of grey. The contrast serves to emphasize that the characters are living in a fantastic world with artificial illumination. The barren desert that Lag journeys through is suitably menacing, as are the character designs of the monsters he encounters.

Tegami Bachi Volume 7 by Hiroyuki Asada

Most of the volumes of Tegami Bachi I’ve read focus on short stories centered around Lag and the people he meets briefly when he travels. Volume 7 really seems to propel the plot forward as well as give some back story about Niche, Lag’s tiny yet fierce companion. Lag and Niche are nearing the area where she was born and she abruptly announces that she was born 200 years ago, and it would be better if she didn’t attract any attention from the villagers. It turns out that the villagers had a symbiotic relationship with a powerful creature called the Maka, who serves as an elemental sort of protection against the giant killer insects that ravage Lag’s world. As with most cases when human encounter forces of nature that they don’t understand, the twin daughters of the Maka were abused and abandoned. Niche meets her sister, who appears in a much more mature form than Niche manifests. Niche’s sister is horrified that Niche is serving as a sidekick to a member of the human race, but is Lag still exactly human?

Some of the fight scenes in this volume were terrific. The hair blades that Niche uses for weapons become giant weapon constructs when used by her older sister. Gauche as the marauder Noir now seems to be targeting his old colleagues by stealing the mail. Lag’s role in shoring up people’s spirits through letter delivery may be much more important than he ever imagined. Overall, these were two very strong volumes, and I was happy for the chance to revisit this unique shonen series.

Review copies provided by the publisher

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  1. I’ve been having fun lately trying out shonen series that are a bit different from what I usually read. I bought this series up to what was released and I plan on reading it soon.

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