Tegami Bachi is one of those titles that took a big risk as it has a very original plot. It’s about mailmen who deliver letters in an apocalyptic world where giant monsters run wild. Nobody dares leave their house because of these monsters and there really isn’t an army or police to speak of. The Mailmen are known as the last defense and their method of attacking the monsters is to use guns that are fueled by their hearts and the hearts of others. As such, the mail that they deliver carries the feelings of the person who wrote them and that is what allows them to fight the monsters. Otherwise, they have to use their own heart and if they use too much, they’ll die as well.
The series follows a kid named Lag. He cries a lot and isn’t really as tough as you’d expect a mailman to be. That being said, being a mailman has always been his dream ever since he saw one in person a while back. He soon finds out that the group may not be as heroic as the stories say and everyone has an agenda. He also learns the startling truth that the Sun is actually being powered by humans around the world. They are kidnapped and fed into the Sun to keep it bright. The hearts that the Mailmen are using also seem to have permanent effects on the humans so while they are helping the world….they’re dooming its inhabitants at the same time. There are others who know this and call themselves the Revolutionary army. At first I thought they were trying to black out the Sun, but they just went crazy at the end so I’ll assume that they are Twitch commentors. It seems like a simple solution though right? Just blow up the Sun. The Problem is that the embodiment of the Sun is actually Lag’s mother, who was kidnapped and forced to be the vessel. Lag can try to save her and keep the Sun alive, murdering millions in the process, or save the humans but end up destroying his Mom. Alternately he can do nothing and the Mom will turn into a giant monster and destroy the Earth on her own. He has some tough calls to make.
Honestly, one of the reasons why the series wasn’t very good is that the characters just aren’t very interesting. Lag is our protagonist, but it’s hard to like the guy. He spends over half of the series crying. It becomes such a huge part of his character that it’s how he is recognized by the others. After he spent a year training in the wilderness, everyone thought he was an imposter because he didn’t cry anymore. Honestly, that could have saved his character if it didn’t only happen for the final 2 volumes. He essentially sealed off his emotions in exchange for great powers. It was so complete that he couldn’t even shed a tear when his sister died. Was it really worth the power? Well, it gave him enough of a boost where he was able to take down the evil Insect Queen so I suppose, but I can see why the others would be completely alienated. Especially since Lag had absolutely no intention of cluing any of the others in. So, I liked Lag in the final 2 volumes, but considering that the series was a full 20, it was wayyyy too late for any of that.
His Dingo (Essentially it means partner in this series) is Niche. She has an unfortunate habit of constantly taking her pants off since she doesn’t like them and it’s one of those running gags that was never funny even at the start. I do like the fact that Niche has actual powers. She can use her hair as a barrier or as a means of attack so she doesn’t have to worry about carrying mail around. She even has a pet although she claims it is just in case she gets hungry. Again…not a very funny joke. Niche just wasn’t all that likable. She’s all right at best and is a slight improvement over Lag, but not a big one.
Gauche is one of those intriguing characters. He starts out as a great character. He’s the expert that everybody looks up to and manages to stay rather mysterious as well. Then he decided to betray everyone and joined the villain organization…then he became a hero again. By the end he has decided to stick to the path of the hero but he sure did flip flop a lot. He also lost his memories in the process so so much for that. He was a pretty good villain and I suppose he is still one of the most interesting characters in the series, but I wondered what the point of his role was.
Zazie is sort of like a sub rival. He’s a fairly good fighter, but a considerable step below Gauche. He is fairly confident and likes to talk a big game, but his weakness is that his shots lack power so he can’t take down the bigger monsters. He also looks up to Jiggy Pepper a lot. Jiggy gets a considerable amount of hype, but he never actually does much. He only appears once in a while and while it seems like he is a pretty good Letter Bee (Mailman) he just can’t be bothered to help out. You’d think with the fate of the world at stake that he’d make more of an effort.
Connor is Lag’s best friend. He’s the comic relief, overweight member of the Letter Bee police. He can’t really fight much, but he likes eating so that’s what motivates him. He’ll eat anything at any time of the day so I suppose you have to admire the dedication. That being said, it doesn’t really make him a compelling character.
Largo is one of the main leaders of the Letter Bee and naturally he also ended up being a big traitor. As with Gauche though, he seemed rather conflicted about this so after sticking with the villains for a while, he decided to become a hero again. I suppose it’s lightly hinted that he only joined to trick the villains into heading for the final boss room to provide more hearts for the heroes. He also got a really rushed/dark origin story as we find out that his Mom was experimented on and his Dad was a villain. It really had nothing to do with anything, just like this character as a whole.
Roda is Gauche’s Dingo and it’s nice to see one who really knows what she is doing. The obvious parallels between her combat ability and Gauche’s vs the pair of Lag and Niche makes you wish the series would consider trading main characters. Roda is definitely pretty good and is a little more committed to being heroic. Then there’s also Lawrence who is the main leader of the villains. Thing is, since the villains had no plan, I have to put most of the blame on this guy. Whatever he was trying to do didn’t work so clearly he should have thought it through more.
We also meet the Head Letter Bee at the very end of the series. Essentially he went insane upon finding out that the government was using massive amounts of slaves to fuel the Sun and went crazy. Instead of trying to save them, he decided to help since “what’s done is done.” After reminding us of how he is still evil, he decided to run away, but under the guise of a giant teddy bear. Even though he ran off he still has enough authority to boss around the whole cast. He claims that he has transcended gender as well so he only talks with hearts now. I also don’t know what point this character had, but that’s a running theme in the series.
When you really break this series down, you realize that the story had a really good premise. It really could and should have been a great series. One issue is that there are no real fight scenes. Every action scene is just the main characters firing their guns and hoping for the best. The monsters never really fight back or do anything. They are portrayed as being completley mindless. The final Insect which hovers over the whole sun seems to be as abstract as it is physical. It barely matters since it is taken down in one shot as well. I’m all for mindless monsters attacking, but then that’s why you also need humanoid opponents. However, the villains never directly fought the heroes because they were too busy.
At least the art is pretty decent. It’s not great or anything, but it works well for the somber atmosphere that the series is going for. The characters can look rather similar at times which is a little iffy, but it’s not too bad or anything. Unfortunately, the series does have some fanservice at times. It’s nothing too frequent, but there is some actual nudity in it. The volumes may blur it out as I don’t remember coming across it although a panel in the final two volumes may have had a moment like it, but fortunately it seems like a stain got in the way. Basically stuff like this only happens when Niche’s sister is in town, but that’s still pretty terrible. I am reviewing the title from the volumes that I read though which is why I’m not bumping it down to an instant 0. If you decide to read it online though, be warned. There aren’t a lot of positives to go around as it is so it’s tougher to fight the negatives.
The plot is fairly confusing like Pandora Hearts, but it isn’t interesting in the way that Hearts was. You’re never interested in learning more about Letter Bee because there isn’t much more to learn. Even if you re read the series, it’s not as if you missed a whole lot. It’s just that it doesn’t really make a lot of sense anyway. Here’s one big issue with the series, at the end they say that they can only send one person to the capital to stop the giant monster. Why? The whole world is going to end anyway so why not send everybody? After a lot of drama, they decide to send 2 Letter Bees, but then the whole cast follows them anyway. There was never any reason whatsoever not to send the whole gang in. While they’re bickering and wasting time on side missions to decide who is worthy to go, whole cities are being wiped off of the planet. Yes, the aliens can take out whole cities in a single flash from the Sun but nobody seems to care. Even the manga doesn’t really treat it like a big deal. It’s just a city after all.
This is just one example of how the author didn’t think things through. I also think that he went too far in making every character act like a villain. I know many titles like to make the government evil, but you need to have some good characters. The only two groups are the evil government who kidnaps and tortures its subjects for no real reason and the terrorists who want to either take control of the Sun or blow it up. No matter who you pick, they don’t have your best interests at heart. There was no reason to go to this extreme. The government could have been shady without being evil. Did the Sun really have to be Lag’s Mom so he would be forced to destroy her in the end? Of course, it’s seen as more like he was setting her free, but it’s still rather dark.
Even the ending is rather dark to be honest. I won’t spoil that since it would be a bit much, but part of the whole point of the final journey was to try and save everyone. That’s the whole reason why Lag sacrificed his emotions and tried to get stronger. Unfortunately while it wasn’t futile, the body count was pretty high by the end. Some characters won’t even be thrilled to get their hearts back because they have already lost everyone they cared about. Nobody’s bringing the various cities back. The ending’s a little vague on a certain character, but I’d say that he’s probably dead. It tries to be an inspirational ending, but I certainly wouldn’t call it one. It’s not a classic time skip though so I’ll give it that.
If only the series could have done more with its premise instead of worrying about a terribly conceived plot. I like the idea of people being unable to travel anymore so they have to rely on messages for communication. It’s retro and still gets the apocalyptic feel across. Mailmen being the ones to travel is a nice exaggeration of what really goes on as the famous saying that Mailmen deliver no matter how the weather is. It’s a fun concept and could have made for a really good series. It could have tackled some other themes like if they should deliver messages from villains and the like since they shouldn’t read it, but can read emotions so they typically know what kind of message it is. This was all far too nuanced for Letter Bee though so it simply wasn’t to be.
Overall, Letter Bee’s not a very fun series. It’s too bad as the series was trying to get back on track by the end. Lag’s new personality was certainly a positive although the Teddy Bear at the end and all of the random twists didn’t help matters. Lag’s friend was going to sacrifice her whole city even though Lag said he had a plan just because she could. (Her plan didn’t work anyway) The series never really seems all that dark except it just is. The manga just doesn’t portray the events as being too serious. There’s not a lot of action and the cast is rather weak. There aren’t a bunch of negatives though so that’s a good thing but they weren’t needed when there isn’t much positive to fight it off. There isn’t much reason to ever revisit the series, but I suppose if you want a title with mailmen and giant monsters, then this one’s a good pick for you. That’s rather specific, but it’s the best I got.