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Review: Tegami Bachi

In a land without a sun, people live in one of three cities: the rich Akatsuki, brightly lit by an artificial star; the middle-class Yuusari, in perpetual twilight; and the poor and dark Yodaka. Traveling between those cities are the Letter Bees, adventurers who deliver letters and packages. Letter Bee Gauche Suede is surprised to find out that one of his packages is a young boy, Lag Seeing, who is being sent to his aunt’s house in the outskirts of Yodaka. Scarred by his mother’s kidnapping, Lag has trouble opening up to anyone, but Gauche’s bravery soon makes him determined to become a Letter Bee himself!

Tegami Bachi, vol. 1
Hiroyuki Asada
Age Rating: T/Teen
VIZ Media LLC, September 2009, ISBN: 978-1-4215-2913-4
204 pages, $7.99

Asada’s science fiction title is layered and complex, even in just the first volume. He has obviously thought out his story and his characters and is now inviting readers along for the enjoyable ride. Volume one is just two chapters. The first is the story of Gauche Suede meeting Lag for the first time and taking him on the journey to his aunt’s house. This chapter allows Asada to give readers the background on how things work in Yodaka and the other lands, as well as who the Letter Bees are. We also get some background on Gauche and on Lag and his mother. What is masterful about Asada’s writing is that this chapter is not a throwaway introduction. He carefully crafts it to be interesting and obviously important. Readers are immediately engaged in the tale.

In chapter two we find out that five years have passed and Lag is getting ready to leave his aunt’s home to begin training in Yuusari as a Letter Bee. He is also determined to find out what happened to his mother and to Gauche, who hasn’t been heard from in those five years. But, as always happens to shonen heroes with good hearts, Lag’s journey to the Yuusari is not as smooth as it should be. He meets with a mysterious young girl who appears to be a partially delivered package and decides to help her, a decision which nearly gets them both killed. Here Asada takes the time to begin outlining Lag’s character. Rather than the scared crybaby he was in the first chapter, we can see that he has grown into a caring, determined young man. He has special talents, but is still ordinary enough to make him the perfect main character.

Asada’s art is extremely detailed, which adds another level of believability to his sci-fi tale. From the layers of clothes that people wear, to the monsters faced down, to the rocks the characters travel over–no setting or prop is left unfinished. And yet the pages aren’t cluttered or hard to follow. Flashbacks are clearly marked as such. Characters are distinct in personality and appearance, so they don’t blend together. It’s the mark of someone who knows his craft and it adds depth to an already solid story.

There is some fighting and a touch of almost nudity on the part of the mysterious girl Lag finds. But the scene where he convinces her that she has to wear underwear is touching and not at all inappropriate for the rating. Readers who are already following Tegami Bachi monthly in Shonen Jump will enjoy picking up the first two chapters in paperback and the eye-catching cover is sure to attract new fans. A good choice for manga readers, with enough action for the shonen fans and enough heart for the shojo ones.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © VIZ Media LLC.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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