Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tegami Bachi and Reverse

This post is about two seasons of a series called Tegami Bachi. The first season is simply called Tegami Bachi and the second is Tegami Bachi - Reverse, and I just finished watching Reverse.

"Tegami Bachi" means "Letter Bee" and in simple terms the series is about postal carriers called Letter Bees. This series is set in a unique world called Amberground. The world is dark, with one artificial sun supplying direct light to a very small segment of the population living in the city of Akatuski and also providing some limited light to everyone else. However without the artificial sun, the world would be in total darkness. Besides people, the world is also populated by giachuu, enormous bug-like creatures who drain people's "heart", leaving them living husks who usually don't survive for very long. "Heart" is composed of the living feelings of a person, a form of energy that everyone has. Gaichuu are attracted to "heart" and the letters that are delivered by the Letter Bees carry people's "heart".

In this setting, the job of tegami bachi to deliver letters between distant places is dangerous. Gaichuu are everywhere. Each tegami bachi is accompanied by a "dingo", a personal protector/helper, and the dingos come in all forms and sizes. Add to that, each Letter Bee has the capability of firing "shindan", powerful energy beams composed of their own hearts and focused through "sprirt amber".

Spoiler alert! As usual, I'll be giving the details of the series here.

The series main character is a boy named Lag Seeing, shown in the first picture holding a letter out. Lag is posted as a letter and the series begins with Lag being delivered by a Letter Bee known as Gauche Suede, the guy in the background of the first picture. In the course of the delivery, Lag and Gauche become friends, and Lag forms a serious case of hero worship and vows to become a tegami bachi when he grows up some.

After a time lapse, Lag leaves for Yuusari Central to become a Letter Bee and on the way he gains his dingo, Nichi, and a sidekick, Steak. Nichi is the small blond girl in the picture above and Steak is riding on her head. Nichi's small, but she happens to be a "Child of Maka", a demon, so she's more than capable of performing the tasks of a dingo. Upon arriving in Central, Lag discovers that Gauche has gone to Akatsuki in keeping with his decision to become Head Bee, but has disappeared from there and has been missing for a long time. Lag becomes a Letter Bee and moves in with Gauche's sister, Sylvette, who is shown in the wheel chair in the next picture. Lag promises her that he will find Gauche and return him.

The entire first series moves very slowly. Lag meets many people, including his fellow Letter Bee's. Primary among this group are Zazie (the letter bee in this picture), Connor, and Jiggy Pepper. The main staff at the Yuusari Central Bee Hive include Largo Lloyd, the head of the Hive (far left character), Aria Link the second in command (standing behind Sylvette), and a weird Doctor named Thunderland (guy with eye patch). Lag spends most of the first series meeting and forming relationships with these people, meeting a lot of minor characters who all have roles to play in the grand scheme of things, and crying. Lag is a cry-baby, to put it mildly, and he doesn't miss an opportunity to cry at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, a LOT of 'hats' are dropped. At times it gets irritating. I don't think a single episode goes by where Lag isn't crying over something. Still, this is one of the few down-sides to this series.

All throughout the first series Lag is hunting for clues about Gauche, and finding mostly nothing. Much of the first series is composed of his deliveries and the people he encounters, to the point of causing one to think that that's all the series is: just Lag delivering letters and helping people and never finding Gauche. Then in true cliff-hanger fashion, Gauche shows up in the last episode of the first series, but he's no longer Gauche, doesn't recognize Lag and shoots him.

I will say that that ending of the first season was really cruel. The second season didn't begin for another 6 months!

Bottom line plot of second season: "Reverse" is the name of a subversive group that has set out to destroy the Amberground government and bring down the artificial sun. Gauche has lost his 'heart' while in Akatsuki and has become a person named Noir, who has no heart and works as a marauder for Reverse. His Noir persona is seen in the bottom picture, along with his new dingo, named Roda after the dingo he had as a Bee. Reverse is stealing and destroying letters as part of their plotting, as well as helping to create giant heart-sucking gaichuu. This puts then in direct opposition with Lag and the letter bees, who end up fighting for their letters, and to keep the government whole and to protect the artificial sun.

In the middle of all this, Lag is convinced that if he can shoot the proper shindan into Gauche/Noir, he can restore Gauche's 'heart' and bring him home to Sylvette.

The series is well-done here from the perspective of plot. Reverse is correct about some things, but is sacrificing people to achieve their goals. The Amberground government is also doing things to people for which they deserve to be brought down, and yet they are preserving the only source of light for the planet. It's very difficult for the series watcher to decide who the bad guys and good guys are, let alone for Lag-tachi.

There is significant story line here that is never resolved, or even well-explained. It turns out the artificial sun requires "heart" to keep burning, so people are continually sacrificed to that cause by the government. Things left hanging include: 1) What is the artificial sun? 2) Lag's mother seems to be part of the artificial sun. 3) Gauche gave his heart willingly to her and that sun before becoming Noir. 4) Nichi's Maka (demon) mother refers to Lag as "hikari" (light). Lag has one eye that is spirit amber, and is himself capable of burning as brightly as the artificial sun. Why? So they leave a lot of back story unresolved.

However, nobody dies! Reverse's plot to destroy the artificial sun is stopped. Gauche survives as Noir, and goes to live with and protect all the misfits created and discarded by the Ambergound government. Gauche's lost 'heart' cannot be restored so he has none of his previous memories, but he essentially gains a new 'heart' as Noir. Dr. Thunderland continues his research and work to help those people who have lost 'heart'. Lag and the Letter Bees go back to delivering letters. It's not a deeply satisfying ending, but it's not a disaster either. And nobody dies!

All in all I enjoyed this series quite a bit. The plot and setting was unique. Style was pretty, music was good. I could have wished for a little more resolution, but since 'resolution' is often equated with character death, I'll be satisfied with living characters. There's certainly enough left hanging to do another season if anyone was so inclined, and because of that I wouldn't call it a great series.

Still. All in all I'd call it a good series and recommend it.

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