The life of a Letter Bee is never easy but it certainly has its perks.
What They Say:
Now that he has Niche and her pet Steak to watch his back against attacks by the giant insects known as Gaichuu, Lag Seeing’s job as a Letter Bee should be getting easier. But something’s clearly not right in the land of perpetual twilight, and every new delivery they undertake seems to involve new complications and introduce even greater dangers to Lag’s already lethal profession.
Meanwhile, Lag’s search for his mentor Gauche seems to be going in circles, but when a sinister researcher known as the Corpse Doctor kidnaps Steak with the intent of dissecting him, a new series of revelations sends Lag and Niche in an entirely new direction. Saving Steak from the butcher’s knife, stamping the ambitions of a rival organization of letter carriers, and escalating waves of Gaichuu attacks are only the beginning as everything goes postal!
Contains episodes 14-25.
The audio presentation for this series is straightforward in that we get the original Japanese language only in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show has a good blend of styles to it overall as there are some decent action scenes where the weapons and creatures have a good presence to them but there’s also the softer moments that let the wonder of the world seep in quite well. The show tends to focus more on that and the dialogue by its very nature, but it doesn’t skimp when it comes to the action,t hoguh it’s also not one that really overdoes it either. The softer scenes with the instrumental music and just the way it draws you into the visuals works quite well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing from 2009 to 2010, the transfer for this twelve episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across three discs in a four/four/four format since it also includes four Tegami Bachi Academy episodes on each volume as well. Animated by Studio Pierrot, the show has a very appealing look to it with its world design and the transfer handles it pretty well considering it’s full of darks, both blacks, blues and purples, without being a completely noise-fest. The colors generally hold up well though there are areas where background noise is more pronounced, but not in a way that’s strong or problematic during regular playback. A lot of the still scenes in particular look great as the colors have a certain pop to them when it comes to the skylines. When the show shifts to the action, it’s better off overall as it has a higher bit rate and the animation picks it up a few notches as well.
The packaging for this release is a straightforward single sized keepcase with a hinge inside to hold all three discs. The front cover is kind of awkward for this release as it involves characters that show up in the final episode of the season and are more teases than actual exploration, making it kind of hard to talk about it much. The logo is simple along the bottom, spread out a lot for the English language version, but it also includes the original series name as well. The back cover works some darker colors into it with an almost ghostlike feeling to it. Though it may be dark, it’s effective with what it does here. The summary is fairly easy to read and it covers the basics well. The disc and episode count are clearly listed as are the extras. Production credits are a bit small here but still readable and he technical grid lists everything clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is simple but pretty nicely done as it works with the same colors as the cover. The design is the same overall for each volume though it changes out the artwork. The left side dominates with about two thirds of the layout showing off artwork of various characters and settings that has the earthy and purple toned feeling that definitely sets the mood right. The right side gives us the episode navigation which provides numbers and titles which are set against a black portion of the background that definitely makes it easier to read and navigate. Being a single language release, the only extra navigation we get are the special features which are very easy to move about it.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get the next Tegami Bachi Academy episodes spread across each volume tied to the main episodes themselves. They run about three minutes each so it’s an additional half episode or so per volume, giving you just a bit more content. They’re generally silly pieces with simpler and more colorful animation that lets the cast be silly and more comedy oriented. The set also includes the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first collection of Tegami Bachi, known as Letter Bee here, was an exercise in making clear how the world works. At least in the kind of awkward way it does as there may be some internal logic to it but I haven’t quite figure it all out yet. It’s an interesting world all of its own that has some areas that make sense and others that don’t. But it keeps its focus mostly on the characters themselves and how the whole letter delivery aspect operates. Which is for the best since Lag and Niche, along with Steak, continue to be fun. But the series also continues to work with characters that are long gone such as Gauche.
Similar to the first collection, a lot of what we get here are standalone stories that build the world and characters more but without any discernible overall storyline being woven through it. One of the things it does here is to introduce some new characters that Lag gets to be involved with and has ties back to Gauche as well. The first one he gets to deal with is the infamous doctor of the Bee Hive with Thunderland Jr., a man with an eye-patch who loves dissecting things in order to understand them more. He has a mildly crazed look and personality because of how phrases things, but it explores him pretty well as the season goes on and we see how he Gauche drew out some of that early on. Thunderland Jr. has a bit of a sensitive side to him as well that’s actually fun to watch since he does what he does in order to help the Bees in their job.
One of the things we see with him ties to Gauche as well in the past when one of his fellow scientists, a self taught woman named Mana whose focus is on aromas, scents and plants. She’s an earnest woman as we see in the past, but she suffered a significant accident along the way that caused her to lose her vision. It’s an interesting twist because everyone on the council is ready to ditch her, being all results driven, and Thunderland Jr. is the one to fight for her. While he has his reasons, it ties into the Letter Bees as he sends Gauche to get a letter of recommendation of sorts from a professor that’s quite some ways out with a limited amount of time. It’s the kind of story that plays well into the present since Lag is always looking for more stories about Gauche and both of the scientists have an affection for Lag because of his relation to Gauche.
While Lag is still the primary character in this season, he does take a bit more of a back seat here, though at least one episode has him down for the count because he’s sick. This is actually a lot of fun since it’s got Sylvette and Niche trying to take care of him. Niche is trying to learn what’s involved in helping a human and Sylvette has to cope with her doing so, which leads to some cute if frustrating moments. A good episode involving Lag has him doing a delivery for the Master in which they a guide for it in the form of a former dingo whose master was lost years ago. It’s pretty sweet since the dingo is sad in his own way, but we see bits of the past with the Master and the Letter Bee that was lost and how it all ties together in a very endearing way.
One of the more fun episodes for Lag in particular involves a challenge that gets thrown at him from a trio of people from a nearby town that was cut off from the delivery routes some time ago. While there are issues with the town, what the trio is doing in Yuusari is to challenge the Letter Bees to their privileged position of being carriers as they introduce themselves as Letter Pigeon’s and take on lighter colors to fit in with it. It’s a somewhat typical race in a way as they have to get a letter and bring it back and there are problems along the way with a bit of cheating and the like, but it’s something that does explore the monopoly that the Letter Bees have a bit and the way that it’s such an expensive privilege when it shouldn’t be.
The set does spend most of its episodes doing standalone or two episode stories, but it does a more expansive four part piece at the end which unfortunately doesn’t work all that well. It tells smaller stories first, teasing Lag with the idea that some black amber spirit may be that of Gauche, and then draws it mostly together with the way it delves into the lives of the “bad” characters involved. But mostly it’s just not all that interesting and doesn’t feel like it’s telling a solid or engaging cohesive story. What compounds it is the way that it works towards the end when it introduces someone that looks exactly like Gauche in front of Lag, including his dingo, except that he claims to be a man named Noir that’s never met him before. It’s obvious how it’ll tie in to how Gauche went missing, but that’s what the next season is for.
As I enjoyed the first collection of Letter Bee, the second collection is largely more of the same with some attempts to reach a bit higher with it, though not entirely successfully. The way it works stories between various characters as it doesn’t make Lag the primary all the time, which is a plus, is something that can be a bit off-putting at times but mostly works well. Especially since you can imagine that Gauche would have been out of the series after the first few episodes yet still manages to be a lead character in several episodes here. The show as a whole has a lot of interesting things going on in it and it expands on a lot of it in this set, showing very different ways the world and the Letter Bees work, and while it may not always feel like it works well it does have its moments. There’s a lot to like with Tegami Bachi and it’s a show that certainly isn’t like a lot of others out there these days.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Tegami Bachi Academy Episodes
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 19th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.