Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Volume 5 by Hiroyuki Asada

In the town of Honeywaters, Lag and Connor went to deliver a message to someone that Gauche Suede once met, known as "the man who could not become spirit". Within the town, they met a man whose wife claimed that he eas that man, but she also called him "Hunt". Sara, the wife, was stirring up anti-government sentiment, blaming the Government, and the Letter Bees, for the attacks of the insect-like Gaichuu.

Chased by the residents of the town, except for a girl named Anne, Connor and Lag are saved by the timely arrival of Zazie, the Letter Bee who spends his time hunting Gaichuu. The townspeople try to attack him, too, but Zazie fends them off by threatening to use his Shindan on them. But they still need to take care of the Gaichuu, whose name is Cidre. Cidre is hard to defeat becuase he keeps his only weak point buried underground. Zazie directs Lag and Connor in a plan to bring Cidre fully to the surface and finally defeat him.

But when Connor detonates his bombs in the ground, he causes the ground to collapse, sending them all into a cavern built under the town. There, Cidre attacks Anne, and Lag and the others must save her from having her heart stolen away. Much to Lag's surprise, Hunt also comes to Anne's rescue, but he, too, is attacked by Cidre. We get to see bits and pieces of their lives- how Anne was raised by her father after her mother died, and that Hunt's arms were sewed onto him from a beast by the circus that he and Sara travelled with when they were young. He agreed to the operation so that he and Sara could stay together.

But as they battle, Lag also sees that Gauche fought Cidre with his own Dingo, Roda. Back when Hunt and Sara first arrived at Honeywaters, they saw Gauche fighting Cidre and were saved by him. Gauche drove the Gaichuu off, and afterwards, he encountered "The man who could not become spirit", the head of an organization known as "Reverse". He wanted Gauche to join his organization, and told Gauche that his sister being paralyzed was because of a secret the Government was keeping from them, but Gauche refused, and the man refused to give up.

Sara and Hunt claimed they had killed the Gaichuu when the townspeople of Honeywaters showed up, and when they saw Hunt's claws and thought he might be a monster as well, she claimed Hunt was "the man who could not become spirit", and that he was responsible for the dead Gaichuu. The townspeople adopted them, but now that the Letter Bees have killed Cidre, and seen Sara and Hunt with the Letter Bees, they decide to stone Sara. Lag protects her with his body, and she hugs him, grateful.

But when the townsfolk get angry at the people they formerly lionized, calling them "Con Artists", Sara reveals that all the money the townsfolk gave is buried under the altar- they haven't spent a penny of it. Sara is reconciled to the Letter Bees and Hunt, who had only gone along with her because he loved her, is happy.

As Lag is happy to find some trace of Gauche, he is surprised when a man looking very much like Gauche shows up to relieve him of the letter to "the man who could not become Spirit". Lag feels brief happiness, which ebbs when he realizes that Gauche has lost his memory, and no longer recognizes him, nor remembers Lag or even his beloved sister, Sylvette. He calls himself Noir.

Meanwhile, Niche is confronted by a girl named Roda, who is also a Dingo, and who castigates Niche for her failure to protect Lag. She tells Niche that Niche doesn't deserve to be a Dingo and fights with Niche. Lag tries again with Noir/Gauche, and although Noir claims he doesn't want to hurt Lag, when Lag won't leave him alone, he shoots Lag with his gun powered by the black spirit Amber.

Niche is upset to see Lag hurt, and when he revives, he reports to the leaders of the Beehive about what happened. He's sad and upset, but they won't let him blame himself. He's given them valuable information. But Niche is increasingly upset by Roda's words, and her inability to prevent Lag from being shot. He's put on sorting duty for the rest of his shift, but he remains sad and depressed. He asks to be let out early and returns home to tell Sylvette what happened, and is surprised to find Sylvette and the others throwing him a surprise party.

Sylvette, who has been told by Aria about what happened, doesn't blame Lag at all- she knows he tried his best. But Niche is missing, and she has left her pants behind. She feels she isn't good enough to be Lag's Dingo any more, and wanders the streets, despondant, until she is taken in by the people at Sinners, where she goes to cook and eat Steak.

Until the proprietress thinks she is a robber and comes out with her gun. Niche cuts it to pieces with her hair. She tries to run away and is caught by Jacob, the owner of the shop. Then her stomach rumbles because she is hungry, and he starts to laugh. He and his wife take her in and feed her, and ask her questions. But her answers give them the entirely wrong impression about her relationship with Lag.

But can Lag find Niche, and will she still be willing to be his Dingo? And will Jacob and his wife, who treat Niche as a daughter, be willing to let her go when they have grown so attached to her?

So, Lag has finally found Gauche, but Gauche no longer recognizes him- or even seems to remember his old life. But what caused Gauche to lose his memory, and was "the man who could not become spirit" to blame? It seems so. But does that mean that he is the one in charge of the Gaichuu, the one controlling them? Is he the one behind the anti-government sentiment, or is he just using it for his own ends? What does he want, and how is he using Gauche/Noir? To steal letters, at the very least, but Gauche/Noir called himself a "marauder", whatever that means...

This story is getting quite intriguingly complicated, and as the manga is still ongoing in Japan, it seems that there is no clear end in sight. With every turn, more things come up that we, as readers, want to know about, but the story is taking its own sweet time to get there. And I'm not complaining about that- the story is happening at its own pace, and I'm enjoying it a lot.

This is a slow-storied manga, but rich enough in that story that I don't feel like it is going too slow for words. That may change in the future, but for now, I am enjoying the slow unfolding of the story. There is so much to see and learn, and I want to learn all I can about Amberground and its people. Recommended.

No comments: