Monday, May 09, 2011

Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Volume 4 by Hiroyuki Asada

Lag Seeing, a young man with a piece of Spirit Amber for an eye, has become a Letter Bee, someone who keeps hope alive in a world without a sun by delivering letters that come from the heart of the sender to the heart of the receiver. Lag became a bee to be like his idol, the Letter Bee known as Gauche Suede. But by the time he reached the capitol with his Dingo, or guard, Niche, Gauche had left the letter bee service and disappeared, leaving behind only his sister, Sylvette, who was born crippled, and now takes in lodgers to keep herself alive.

But Lag swore to Sylvette that he would find Gauche and bring him home, and she believed him, finally having hope for the first time that her brother disappeared. To aid Lag, she gives him Gauche's old gun, the Nocturne No. 20, through which he can fire his amber bullets and defeat the Gaichuu, insect-like monsters that prey on people's hearts.Now, Lag is about to start his first real day on the job, and Sylvette makes sure he has everything he needs. Niche has a complaint, though- Sylvette took her underpants that Lag gave her and washed them, and gave her another pair to wear in the meantime, and they are too close-fitting.

But Lag has a very disconcerting encounter with another Letter Bee named Moc Sullivan, who only delivers the actual letter and never reveals the heart inside them. He tells Lag that it's all the job requires- delivering letters. Any more than that is just stupid. Now, Lag has a letter to deliver from the writer, Vincent Olcott, to his mother. But Lag is upset when he learns that Vincent is writing lies to his mother in his letters. In truth, Vincent's heart is good. He's lying to his mother because he doesn't want her to worry about what is happening to him in the city.

But when Lag goes to deliver the letter, he wonders how much heart there can be in a letter full of lies. Once he gets to his destination, he finds that Vincent's mother lives outside of town, on a mesa connected to the rest of the land by a single rope bridge. Lag finds himself sweating and almost unable to face the journey over the heights. When the woman he is to deliver the letter to shows up to greet him, he is happy that he won't have to traverse any more of the bridge. But when a Gaichuu shows up and attacks, the bridge is destroyed, and he can barely hang on. As Lag struggles with trying to fight the Gaichuu and deliver the letter, he and Niche manage to fight off the Gaichuu, he activates his gun and hits the letter- exposing all of Vincent's lies for what they are.

But the woman isn't sad. She's just happy that her son writes her at all, and she's aware that he lies in his letters- she knows he doesn't want her to worry about him, and she knows that one day, he *will* succeed. Lag, feeling much better about his own views of delivering letters, heads back to home.

A few days later, he returns to the beehive, where he says he's been feeling a little muzzy for the past few days. He barely recgonizes Zazie and Connor, who react in shock to the circles under his eyes and ask him if he has had a physical yet, because using his heart takes a toll on his body, and if he overdoes it, he will feel it.

But none of the Letter Bees seem to like the Doctor, who they feel is creepy. The Doctor is a young man whose father is head of the World Science Group, and apparently the Doctor wants to follow in his father's footsteps. He especially wants to examine Steak, Niche's portable meal. The Doctor is aware that Steak is a very rare animal known as a Kappellmeister, who used to live in harmony with the Gaichuu. Doctor Thunderland Junior wants to cut steak apart to find out his secrets.

But when Lag voices that thought to Niche, Niche gets upset that the Doctor wants to steal her "meat", and she goes after him. Lag, Connor and Zazie go with him, along with their own Dingos. Niche tells the Doctor to leave her meat alone, and the Doctor recognizes Niche as a "Child of Maka" in human form. The Doctor retreats to his lab, and Lag follows him, firing his Nocturne, which hits the Lab, which the other Letter Bees call "Hell's Kitchen". But is the Doctor as bad as his reputation suggests?

The Doctor tells Lag that he doesn't have any friends, but the one person who understood him was Lag's friend, Gauche Suede. Since Lag's Amber can reveal the history of people and objects, the Doctor wants him to deliver a letter to a man that Gauche once mentioned- "the man who could not become spirit".

Lag travels with Connor to the town of Honeywaters, where Gauche Suede met "the man who could not become spirit", and Connor tells Lag that the town was removed from the delivery route five years ago- mainly because it was dangerous and filled with Anti-Government factions. But they also discuss Zazie, who is a bad Letter Bee at Delivering letters, and very good at killing Gaichuu, since his parents were killed by a Gaichuu, and he wants to find the Gaichuu that killed them and kill it. Connor asks Lag if he'd like to team up with Zazie and Connor and find the Gaichuu, and Lag agrees.

Outside of town, Lag and Connor run out of water. Niche finds a spring with honey-colored water, but Connor warns him not to drink the water- the honey-colored water- it's toxic and can paralyze people for hours! Once in the town, they come upon a woman giving a speech to the townspeople. With her is a very tall man who is hunched over, wears a mask, and has claws for hands. She claims that this man, who is her husband, is "the man who cannot become spirit", and that his deformities were inflicted on him by the Government. But she also possesses a piece of black spirit Amber that once belonged to Gauche Suede.

Lag steps forward to ask her about it, but the people around think that the Letter Bees are agents of the Government and try to capture them. Niche defends Lag, until she suddenly falls out of the sky, a victim of the Honey Waters. Niche and Connor are captured, while Lag is spirited away by a strange girl who asks him to deliver the town's letters. What is going on here, and who is the strange girl and the woman who gave the speech? What is going on in Honeywaters, and can Lag, Connor and Niche escape the town as easily as they entered?

Well, Lag is finally getting his wish to go on the trail of Gauche Suede. But Gauche's disappearance seems to have something to do with anti-government sentiment and the "Day of the Flicker" that somehow made Gauche lose his heart. And now we have some new mysteries, like who "the man who cannot become spirit" is, and how Gauche Suede's spirit amber got into the hands of the woman lecturing the town. The Letter Bees, far from fighting the Gaichuu, are seen as agents of Government repression, and in Honeywaters, as possibly controlling the Gaichuu to keep people afraid and under the Government's control.

But what is the truth? Do the anti-government people have it right? As yet, we don't have enough information to really know. I mean, we do know that the Bees are not controlling the Gaichuu, but that doesn't mean that the activists are wrong about the rest of it. Or are they? That remains to be seen, but the information and lack thereof pull the story along, and make me want to read more, to ferret out the mystery and see it solved. Hopefully, this will happen soon.

I really enjoyed this book. Lag spends less of his time crying and more time actually doing and learning stuff. The mysteries deepen, showing us more knots to unravel further up the road. Recommended.

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