Title: Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee
Author: Hiroyuki Asada
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 7 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2006 by Shueisha in Japan, November 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Fantasy, steampunk, adventure
Lag Seeing’s journey to find his friend and mentor Gauche Suede continues, and leads him to the city of Blue Notes Blues. Blue Notes Blues also happens to be the town where Niche, his dingo, was born. As they approach the town, they are quickly warned away from a local cave, and then welcomed quite warmly by the townspeople and the mayor. In the town, he discovers that someone matching the appearance of Gauche and his dingo has recently passed through the town, and went into the forbidden cave. The cave is a sacred place to the people of Blue Notes Blues. It leads to Blue Note Scale, where the Maka dwells. Lag is given a book that tells the story of the Maka. The people of Blue Notes Blues worship the Maka as a guardian of the land. Once the town was a place of prosperity, but they angered the Maka, and now everything is frozen solid, the people barely able to survive. Two hundred years ago, after a famine that killed most of the townspeople, a pregnant woman named Celica ventured into the cave to find the lake water that is said to give long life to anyone who drinks it. The woman vanished, but one day she reappeared and gave birth to twins who were marked by the Maka, and one day they too disappeared. Lag suspects Niche may be one of these twins, and is even more determined to check out the cavern. With Niche’s supportive words, the two enter the cave, where they find its icy columns hold the frozen bodies of enormous gaichuu…and one is missing. They head deeper into the cave to the underground lake, where the massive Maka forms before them, and a beautiful girl appears to give voice to the Maka’s will. This girl, who is a fully grown woman, claims to be Niche’s twin sister, and begins to tell Niche of what she seems to have forgotten about the human race. She tells the story of two hundred years ago, the true story of Celica, who was meant to be a sacrifice to the Maka from the villagers who prayed for their frozen ground to regain its warmth. The Maka was moved by Celica’s story and her single desire for the child inside her to live. In answer to her wish, the Maka gave part of himself to keep the child alive, and the twin Maka children were born. Believing the children were cursed, the mayor of the town threw them off a cliff and they were separated. Distraught from being separated by her sister and treated so badly by the humans, Niche’s sister grew to hate humans, and can’t understand why Niche would protect them. As the Maka twins begin to fight, Lag shoots his shindan into the woman and shows her his memories of and feelings toward Niche. At last moved by the bond between Lag and Niche, the woman send Niche to the Maka spring to be healed, and reveals the true duty that binds the Maka and her to the cavern. Though this story, Lag also learns the truth about the spirit amber in his eye. She also tells him that Gauche passed through and released one of the sleeping gaichuu, giving Lag a new lead. Meanwhile, Zazie has been traveling along his route to collect Letters, but in each town he finds that someone has been through before him to steal them. On his way to the next town, he is attacked by a certain member of Reverse, but he passes out and wakes up to find Lag watching over him.
Not a whole lot to really discuss this volume, though it’s great that we finally know exactly what Niche is. Her devotion to Lag is quite sweet, and really exemplifies how he rescued her from a life of loneliness. Compare this to her twin sister, who has been alone for many years, with only the silent Maka for company. Discarded by humans, abandoned (accidentally) by her sister, and just a babe, it’s no wonder she’s become so cold and detached from the world. Niche was lucky to find Lag, who has eased her loneliness and given her purpose. She gets to fight side by side Lag, and interact with the world around her. But her sister is confined to the cavern, and toils alone to aid the Maka in keeping the frozen gaichuu locked away. The story of their mother, Celica, is quite sad. To cover up for their cruelty, the townspeople recorded a more rosy history, one in which Celica was not persecuted, and the twins mysteriously vanished rather than having been thrown off a cliff and left for dead. It’s a nice, guilt free rewrite of history. Even when the townspeople learn the truth, they don’t care, and can’t even be bothered to beg forgiveness, so obsessed are they with the supposed life-lengthening waters in the cavern. The bulk of this volume is about Niche, but we also learn the truth behind Lag’s spirit amber eye, and just what it means for a spirit creature to be frozen in time. This also explains the origin of the gaichuu, or at least how they eventually come to be. It suggests some interesting possibilities for Lag’s future, as does the fact that we find out he is not what he appears to be. The situation with Reverse and Gauche is sort of on hold this volume. We get a little bit of it at the very beginning, and again at the very end, but it just sort of bookends this volume between volumes 6 and 8. With Niche still recovering, and Lag and Zazie hot on Gauche’s heels, the next volume is sure to be a heated one.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.