Reviewed by: Dallas Marshall
Released by: Viz
Publishing Country: USA
Author: Hiroyuki Asada
Age Rating: Teen
Page Count: 193
Amberground is locked in darkness. A man-made star casts only a dim light over the land. The pitch-black wilderness is infested with Gaichuu--colossal insects with metal exoskeletons. The Gaichuu make travel between the cities of Amberground extremely dangerous. But thankfully the Letter Bees, a brave corps of messengers, risk their lives in order to keep the hearts of Amberground connected.
Tegami Bachi (or Letter Bee in English) is one of Shonen Jump's newest additions to the pantheon of manga which is geared toward the crowds of admiring teen age boys who have grown to love the magazine both in Japan and in the west. Tegami Bachi is far from being a typical Shonen Manga. Instead of relying on beat-em-up action scenes, one liners, and maniacal bad guys, Tegami Bachi draws away from those staples a bit and depends more on creating a world that is teeming with atmosphere and rich visuals filled with a small presence of spiritual influence in a richer sense...
Adding plenty of action along the way!
Tegami Bachi the familiar with shonen manga and adds a touch of creative flare to give us more than just an average shonen title.
Tegami Bachi deals with a three tier society called Amberground where the sun is artificial making light a scarcity. The land is divided by a unique caste system which the rich live on the uttermost top, followed by the middle class which lives in the middle given a perpetual twilight time. Then finally the poor live in the bottom which is the darkest of the three. People dare not leave their designated areas though because giant insects called Gaichuu, which cannot be killed by conventional weapons, roam the land. The people stay connected by writing letters to one another and giving a special type of mail carrier called a Letter Bee deliver them. The Letter Bee's are able to fight the Gaichuu with guns that can kill Gaichuu which take a little bit of their "hearts" away each time they fire them, using the power of their spirit to provide ammunition for the weapon. The plot revolves around one Letter Bee named Gauche Suede who is designated the task to deliver a little boy named Lag Seeing who is trying to reunite with his mother. Upon seeing the courage and strength of Gauche Suede, Lag is inspired to become a Letter Bee as well; and thus begins our story.
Upon reading the first few pages you could tell that the author Hiroyuki Asada, put effort into creating a truly atmospheric world by The Scriptures of Amberground. Giving this manga a spiritual theme to it and using the backdrop of artwork that is crisp and dreamy make Tegami Bachi really intriguing even just to look at. The black and white colorization of typical manga do not matter for Tegami Bachi, in some strange way. You could actually sense the colors that were trying to be conveyed in the pages. Wispy white clouds added to a lavender twilight backdrop all mixed together with characters that have expressive faces with smooth and non-threatening demanors, transcend what is considered shonen manga or shoujo for that matter.
All is not lost for the action obsessed teenage boys that have become fans of Shonen Jump. Action scenes are hard-hitting, perilous, and fast. The Gaichuu are twisted, unique, and menacing creating the action that every boys manga needs. But they are never presented as something to be hated, but as a force of nature which just does what it does. Not to be feared but to be cautious which definitely takes away the maniacal bad guy aspect that most shonen titles suffers from. It must be noted how beautifully the Gaichuu pass away when they are killed, softening the blow by having them turn to star-like dust.
Tegami Bachi suffers from a lack of interesting characters and does seem to stick to some tired character archetypes such as the stoic older brother figure, the whining little boy character, the temperamental girl companion. It does not know where it stands as a manga. One on hand, it has aspects that can appeal to girls with its sensitive characters, and a strong female character thrown into the mix all wrapped in a rather dreamy package. At the same time, the action is fast-paced and the Gaichuu would probably not appeal to fans of shoujo manga making it all rather confused. I also wished that the manga explored with world of Amberground more along with its people and the moral dilemma of having to deal with a caste system that is oppressive. These topics are barely discussed and if they were, Tegami Bachi could have given readers some more to chew on in regards toward story and a morality tale. Tegami Bachi depends more on a style over substance basis which makes it suffer in the process.