Friday, 24 June 2011

テガミバチ / Tegami Bachi / Letter Bee (season 1)

Tegami Bachi, originally a manga from Jump Square (which replaced Monthly Shounen Jump), is an unlikely hit, revolving as it does around postal workers. But these are postal workers in a magical, dangerous world of giant part-mechanical monsters and guns that can shoot fragments of the soul, so delivering letters becomes a challenging business. And besides, strange premises never held back good manga – just look at Hikaru no Go or Yakitate!! Japan.

The story begins with a little crybaby of a boy called Lag Seeing being treated as a parcel. His deliveryman, Gauche Suede, impresses him by his absolute devotion and his formidable strength, so the rest of Lag’s life is devoted to becoming a postman – or ‘letter bee’ – himself, complete with the power to kill giant insect ‘gaichuu’. Postman Pat this ain’t.

Lag becomes a bee, helped by a mysterious feral little girl called Niche ('Nitchi', not the English word) who was effectively a lost letter, and works diligently – but Gauche has vanished. His history is surrounded in mystery, and his own sister does not know where he has gone, though longs to see him. Lag pieces together clues he finds in between the other mysteries he encounters, but finding what he searches for only opens up a whole new mystery – and a cliffhanger for the season.

Tegami Bachi works because its ridiculous premise is taken seriously, and because Lag and Niche are not only adorable but a hilarious comic duo. Lag is a total crybaby, but headstrong and determined, while Niche is tough but utterly clueless. Where he is always polite, she has no idea of social norms. Where he is diffident, she has no fear of speaking her mind. And her devotion to him becomes both very sweet and at times quite funny.

A second season, Tegami Bachi Reverse, continues in much the same style, and of course the manga goes on too. Tegami Bachi is too daft and action-oriented to make a huge impact or be taken seriously, but it is always fun to watch. It looks nice, Studio Pierrot evidently making a lot more effort with this than with Naruto Shippuden, and the voice acting is one of the series’ strongest points. Not a must-watch, but certainly a small favourite and something to relax with.

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