[Editor's note: After the review, check out some information about an art contest from Dark Horse Comics, for the chance to win a bundle of manga and DVDs!]
Title: Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee
Author: Hiroyuki Asada
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 9 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2006 by Shueisha, May 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Fantasy, steampunk, adventure
With Niche still at Blue Notes Blues with her sister, Lag has returned to the The Beehive alone. Well, not entirely alone. He’s brought along the unconscious body of the legendary Gauche Suede. Dr. Thunderland immediately sets about trying to awaken Gauche and stabilize his level of Heart, but though he’s been stabilized, the good doctor just can’t seem to wake him up. They’ll just have to wait until he comes around on his own. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that time is not on their side, as two agents from the capital arrive to take stock of things, intending to take Gauche back with them. Niche arrives in the nick of time to aid Lag on a delivery, and to cause a bit of chaos and destruction by challenging Hazel Valentine, a renowned dingo of incredible strength who fights at the side of former Letter Bee turned government agent Chalybs Garrard. Dr. Thunderland manages to convince Chalybs to wait until Gauche awakes before taking him to the capital, however, Gauche isn’t the only motive they have. After a quick assessment of the situation (and after Hazel and Niche finally calm down), Chalybs announces that current Beehive Director Largo Lloyd is being relieved of duty after a slew of failures and complaints, in particular his failure to subdue the gaichuu Cabernet. Along with this announcement, Chalybs declares himself temporary Director until an official replacement is found. As punishment for bearing part of the responsibility for Cabernet’s escape, as well as his upstart attitude, Lag is sent to the Dead Letter Office for the foreseeable future. He also sends Zazie out to comb Shark Point for signs of Cabernet. The Dead Letter Office is a a massive depository for undelivered letters awaiting processing. For his first assignment, Aria Link orders Lag to deliver file #77 to Philippe Lanois, who has been refusing the delivery of the letters. When he arrives, Lag finds a gruff stone carver, living alone in a little stone house on a high hill. He angrily refuses the letters, but Lag refuses to leave, and is eventually able to get Lanois to talk to him. Lanois tells lag of a young woman he fell in love with, named Shaz. Shaz was sickly, so rather that let her marry a poor artisan, her parents arranged for her to marry into a wealthy family. Though her first letter to him stated “I want to see you,” Lanois refused both the request and any further letters, as Shaz was now another man’s wife and had nothing to do with him any longer. Lanois makes a deal with Lag to accept the letters if he’ll go to the estate of the family Shaz married into and convince her to stop sending the letters. When Lag arrives at the Scarr Estate, he quickly realizes that something is seriously wrong. The man who should be Shaz’s husband is riding around town with his mistresses, attending parties. Lag manages to sneak into the manor, only to find it a complete mess inside. A rather plump older woman claims to be Shaz living it up with two male lovers, but Lag isn’t fooled, which unfortunately draws the ire of the woman, who calls her guards. Lag slips away with the help of a housemaid, who tells him what’s really become of Shaz, and gives him her final letter for Lanois. When Lag returns to Lanois, he fires his shindan into the new letter, revealing Shaz’s tragic story and true feelings to a baffled Lanois.
Lag has at last found and returned with Gauche, a goal he’s been working towards for most of the series. His old friends at the Beehive are happy he’s returned, but it won’t mean anything if he can’t be woken up, preferably with his memories returned. Even if that happens, however, Chalybs Garrard is intent on taking him back to the capital and turning him over to the Amberground government. The jaded Garrard, who worked hard but ultimately failed to become Head Bee like he desired, has no ear for the pleas of Gauche’s former coworkers, and not even Lloyd has the authority to stand up to him. As far as Garrard is concerned, Lloyd is grossly incompetent, and his Beehive is filled with sloppy and useless employees. Even though they’re demoted to the Dead Letter Office, Aria and Lag plan to do their very best to prove Garrard wrong. And Lag being Lag, with his passion for delivering Letters and bringing the people of Amberground closer together, will surely find a way to impress. If Garrard cares to begin with. It’s difficult to tell right now if he’s being hard on Lag to prepare him for the future, or if he’s trying to beat Lag down because he doesn’t think the young Letter Bee is up to snuff. He doesn’t appear to be a bad person, but they are government agents, and the government isn’t exactly looked upon in the best ways by Amberground’s citizens. There’s not a whole lot more in terms of story progression in this volume. Niche is back, and is much more powerful, having spent her time away training with her sister. Gauche has returned, but is essentially in a coma, and is still missing his memories. Many of our leads have been demoted by Garrard. The gaichuu Cabernet is still on the loose, and Reverse doesn’t seem to be at all hindered by their recent set back. It’s a dangerous time to be a Letter Bee.
PR: Dark Horse Comics Presents: Inspired by Manga Art Contest!
You Love Manga! We Love Manga! Let’s Manga together!
Join us for a manga-inspired art contest and you could win a HUGE Dark Horse package of manga books, posters and a seven-foot banner of Cardcaptor Sakura (much bigger than the actual character! ^_^) from our previous “Love and War” promotion.
Dark Horse’s FLCL Omnibus is coming to a comic retailer and bookstore near you May 16th, 2012! We want to celebrate by throwing a fun manga-inspired fan art contest. We know we have a lot of fans who like both manga and comics, so here’s the idea! Draw a comic story for us that’s between two and four pages long. There are only two conditions: it has to be inspired by manga in some way (which could mean, inspired by a certain manga, by certain manga characters, or by a certain manga artist’s style…) and it has to be about Dark Horse Comics in some way (which could mean, our history, our logo or people like you and me who love Dark Horse Comics…).
Have fun and be creative in how you interpret this concept! You have until April 30th at 11:59pm to share your awesome works with us!
And the prizes? Besides the aforementioned seven-foot high Sakura banner, the winner gets one copy each of Blood Blockade Battlefront Vol. 1, Gate 7 Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Cardcaptor Sakura Book 3, Magic Knight Rayearth 2, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 11, MPD Psycho Vol. 10, Oh My Goddess Vols. 14 & 16, Berserk Vol. 33, a Blu-ray copy of Evangelion: 1.11 You are (Not) Alone and a Blu-ray copy of the Special Edition Director’s Cut of Afro Samurai: Resurrection!!!
The prize package is huge. Correction! It’s CRAZY huge! Entries will be judged by manga editor Carl Horn (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Oh My Goddess!, Chobits, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service).
Send your entry to contests [at] darkhorse [dot] com
The fine print: No purchase necessary. One online entry per person (one e-mail address per person/address). You must be eighteen years of age or older to enter. Contest entries only accepted if submitted by midnight (PDT), April 30th, 2012. Winner will be selected based upon the quality of submitted art (as determined at Dark Horse’s sole discretion) from all applicable entries and will be notified by May 15th, 2012. Entry becomes the property of Dark Horse upon receipt. Entry constitutes agreement by winners to be publicized and permission to use each winner’s name for the purposes of promotion of the Contest without further compensation. Contest void where prohibited. Odds of winning dependent on number of entrants.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.