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Letter Bee Reverse Collection 1 Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Letter Bee Reverse Collection 1
Letter Bee Reverse Collection 1
The counter group to the government is revealed and a whole lot more.

What They Say:
After Niche carries the wounded and stunned Lag back to the Bee Hive, the Letter Bee finally begins to piece the puzzle together. Now he knows what’s happened to Gauche, why the Marauders are so focused on stealing mail, and the actual intent of the group controlling both, Reverse. However, when he’s forbidden to reveal the truth, Lag is soon forced out of the artificial sunlight and back into the world of perpetual night.

Soon Reverse’s plot to take down the Letter Bees and overthrow the Amberground government begins to accelerate. If things weren’t already bad enough, the giant insect creatures called gaichuu are apparently evolving into something new; there may be traitors working within the Hive; and Niche’s sister, who’s definitely not human friendly, shows up to turn family drama into a full-scale siege!

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
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 2010 to 2011, the transfer for this thirteen episode set 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/five 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 pretty nice as it blends the darker and lighter sides with Noir and Roda in the background while Lag and Niche are in the foreground, along with a helping of Steak as well to brighten it all up. It seems a touch soft in some places, but overall it blends together well. 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 related 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 season of Tegami Bachi was something that I certainly enjoyed in a number of ways, but it also had its faults as well. I loved the animation style and the general darkness to it since it’s like a world in an eternal night with a false sun. The darker colors are appealing and I loved the use of the purples for the sky. But the show had some storytelling elements that left me cold with the way it felt a bit too episodic at times with the way it introduced Lag as a Letter Bee. And there are certainly some scientific aspects to how the world works that leaves me a little cool to say the least since I admittedly really want to get into the nuts and bolts of it. But you’re not supposed to look past the superficial aspect of it and just enjoy the oddness of it all.

What I did like with the first season is that as it started off with Gauche and had him delivering Lag, it shifted Gauche out of the picture and hinted at him being dead, giving Lag plenty of incentive to look for him once he got his wings, so to speak. The first season gave us a decent evolution of Lag’s time as a Letter Bee and working with his dingo, Niche, and understanding the bond between them as it grew. But it also smartly threw a mild curve in there towards the end by bringing back Gauche, but a darker form of him that has no seeming recollection of his past life. And he just refers to himself now as Noir and works with a dingo named Roda who is pretty intense and similar to Niche in certain ways.

That reveal spreads into some good material here as we start to learn more of what Noir is a part of. And it’s not all that much of a surprise as we discover that there is an anti-government organization of sorts, one that is more than it seems by all appearances, known as Reverse. Their goal is to expose Amberground for what it is and to show that it’s just a corrupt government that works to keep people down through the use of the Letter Bees and the entire mail system to control things. What Noir does as a Marauder is to steal the letters that people send and to use the heart in them for their own larger and nefarious plan that will change the land. It’s not exactly convoluted, but it’s a bit simple overall. Yet we do see that there’s a real human cost to it as well with how they power the beast that they summon in order to begin that change.

The deal with Reverse comes out slowly across the season and it has some decent moments as we see how Lag is trying to figure it all out. His primary motivation continues to be more about saving Noir, and those above him at the Hive know that and use that to gain more information, but one of the main struggles that he deals with is coming up with a letter of his own to load into his weapon that he can shoot Gauche with. That will be the way to express the intensity of his feelings and what Gauche means to him and hopefully help to draw Gauche back out of Noir so he can do the right thing. Of course, finding the right thing to say is the hardest thing and we see that struggle across many episodes as a kind of background plot moment, but a decent one considering the importance of it.

While the show works with a lot of bigger ideas here, though never really getting into the meat of how Amberground works, we get to spend a good bit of back story when it comes to Niche. A journey to the north introduces us to an area where there is a legend about the Maka, and that gets us to delve into how Niche came about and more of the legends overall. It’s another piece that works as a strong bonding element between Niche and Lag but also introduces Niche’s sister and we see a different evolutionary path for the children of the Maka. Niche has been a harder character to deal with, but I like the time we get with her here as she struggles in how she serves Lag and having time with her off by herself – with Steak in some comical moments – definitely makes for a better expansion of the character. She’s still pretty one dimensional in a lot of ways and because of how she interacts with people she always feels a little off, but her arc here definitely warms her up a bit.

In Summary:
The first half of Tegami Bachi Reverse definitely has me a bit more interested than I was in the first season of the series. Building on what came before, we get a look in a bit clearer detail as to what Reverse is all about and how Gauche is involved. But we also get to see how the main characters we’ve followed for the first season have grown and change. Lag is a difficult character to get behind because of his personality, but he continues to man up slowly but surely here and that helps, even if there is still a softness to him. Combine that with more time with Niche and understanding where she came from helps to support him right and to give him more to work with since it all comes back to what Reverse is actually up to. With what’s set up here, the second half that’s coming definitely looks like it’ll be interesting to see unfold, something that I wasn’t sure I’d feel that way after the start of the first season.

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: April 9th, 2013
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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