Monday, April 05, 2010

Tegami Bachi, Volume 2 by Hiroyuki Asada

Amberground is a country where the sun never rises. A single man-made star keeps the country alit, but since it is positioned over the capital, those areas closest to the capital get the most light, while those further away are buried in gloom.

What keeps the country together are the Letter Bees, message carriers with the power of heart. Lag, a young man who grew up in a town far away from the capital. met another young man named Gauche Suede, who wanted to become a Letter Bee to pay for the medical care his sister, who was in a wheelchair, needed. Lag was inspired by his example, and decided to become a Letter Bee himself when he grew up.

In truth, he's well-equipped for the job, with an eye made of spirit amber, and a shindanju, or weapon that is powered by the amber. He also rescued a girl named Niche from a man who would have sold her to the highest bidder, and she's become his dingo, or helper. She's not a usual kind of girl, though, because her golden hair is made of swords, not hair. She was also raised by animals, so she's feral on top of it. And she has a pet of her own, a small animal with lots of teeth who she named Steak, because to her, it's food.

Lag is finally on his way to becoming a Letter Bee, But before he crosses over the Bifrost Bridge, he decides to rest for the night in the town of Kyrie. There. he meets Nelli, a young man who has been looking for a Letter Bee named Jiggy Pepper, who he wants to give a letter to. In fact, Nelli is so helpful in finding Lag a place to stay that Lag doesn't notice Nelli stealing the pass he needs to cross the bridge!

Lag goes in search of Nelli, and his bridge pass, and finds that the town is made up of people who want to cross the bridge and can't. due to lack of a pass. Lag and Nelli must fight for the pass amidst a growing crowd of people who all want it for themselves. But when Lag discovers *why* Nelli wants to send the letter to Jiggy Pepper, he is determined to help her get a message to the other Bee, no matter the cost to himself.

Then, once past the bridge and its guardians, Lag and Niche come to the town of Yuusari, where they meet Connor, another Letter Bee that Lag knows. Lag takes them to the Letter Bee Headquarters, where they meet Aria Link and the head of the Beehive (as it is known) Largo Lloyd, who Lag also met in Kyrie, who expressed an interest in purchasing Niche. He wanted Niche as his own Dingo, but he is resigned to not having her, once he sees how close she and Lag are.

To become a Letter Bee, Lag will have to pass a test, along with two other candidates. One of the boys is small and imperious, believing himself better than Lag, but he's cut down to size when Niche cuts up his Dingo for meat. He decides to withdraw from the test, leaving only Lag and Macky G. They have to deliver a letter from a pair of twins to their grandmother- real letters with real heart.

But the route takes them through an area with Gaichuu, or monsters, and they have to either steer clear of the monsters or defeat them if one comes upon them. But can Lag and Niche defeat the overwhelming monster that they come across? Abd will delivering the letter get them what they want? Because after he passes his test, Lag finds out that his friend, Gauche Suede, isn't a Letter Bee anymore. How will he handle the news?

I liked a lot of the stuff in this story. I liked the idea of a country stuck in the darkness, and the letter carriers who keep the country together by delivering letters full of heart. I like the characters in the story (although Niche is scary at times, which may turn off some readers), but generally, the characters are good.

And the art is very good also. I like that Lag's amber eye has an insect trapped inside- probably meant to be a bee, although it doesn't look "chunky" enough to be a honeybee or any kind of bee I've ever seen. And I did like the progression of the story, which I would like to see what happens in the future, as it seems that Lag is going to be investigating what happened to Gauche and why he isn't a Letter Bee any longer.

But aside from that, it didn't inspire any kind of "I must buy this" feeling inside of me. Yes, it's good, but not all that exciting. I'd like to see more but it's not the kind of thing that you wait for impatiently to come out. Good, but ultimately, rather bland for all that. Recommended, but to read, not buy.

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