Tuesday, March 9, 2010

41. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 1

Letter and Letter Bee by Hiroyuki Asada (Canada) - (US)
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 1

Pages: 197 pages
Ages: 13+
Finished: Mar. 5, 2010
First Published: (2006, Japan) (Sept. 2009, English trans.)
Genre: YA, manga, science fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

There is a land of perpetual night ...
... a land called Amberground.


Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: The dark planet intrigued me but mostly the plot revolves around mail carriers and I {ahem} really like getting mail, so thought this sounded cool. Plus the cover is gorgeous.

Comments: Amberground is a dark planet divided into three rings separated by rivers which also separates the classes. In the middle of the planet is Akatsuki, the city of the government and wealthy. No one may enter without extremely hard to get special passes. Above Akatsuki is a man-made sun which glows down on the city bathing it in light. Across the river live the middle classes and across another live the lower classes, the further you go from Akatsuki and its man-made sun the darker the perpetual night-time sky becomes. It is in this world that the Letter Bees carry mail from one end to the other, they have special passes to cross the bridges and must traverse the dangerous lands inhabited by Gaichuu, huge insect like creatures completely covered in metal armour. Here we meet Gauche Suede, 18yos, on his way to pick up a letter but when he gets there he finds that the letter he must deliver is a child, Lag, who does not believe he has been abandoned to be delivered to his aunt.

I really enjoyed this manga story. Gauche is very determined and respective of his honourable job as Letter Bee, but Lag creates animosity between them right from the start and this is an ongoing source for humour to contrast the darker aspects of the story. Both Gauche and Lag have back-stories that are revealed during their journey showing the difficult, emotional situations each is dealing with separately. Of course what would a journey over dangerous terrain be without monsters to fight? And so Gauche and Lag find themselves often attacked by the Gaichuu in which there is no defence against except a special gun that all Letter Bees carry which, with concentration, will shoot a part of their heart energy at the insect-like creatures and reduce them to nothing. It is during one of these battles that a unique ability of Lag's is found. Part Two gets even better which takes place five years later and concentrates on Lag along with the introduction of a fabulous female character, Niche. I loved the plot, lots of story threads going on and the book ends on an exciting note leaving the reader anxious for the next volume. I also enjoyed the artwork, Lag is cute and Gauche while possibly slightly ambiguous was obviously a male to me. Many scenes of the terrain and background brought the desolation of the planet to the reader. The only thing that bothered me were the fight scenes lasted a little on the long side, sometimes too many pages of nothing but BAM, CLICK, WWHOOSH, AAAA, CLANK. These I skipped over, I got the point. In all, I really enjoyed the mixture of humour, darkness and plot. I'll be reading Vol. 2 shortly.

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