Tegami Bachi is an underrated anime gem

Eschewing typical shonen anime tropes for steampunk fantasy in a beautiful, atmospheric world, Tegami Bachi is a sadly overlooked classic.

Numerous shonen anime have become huge hits over the years, especially as anime has had an international resurgence in global popularity. This has gotten to where just about any action-adventure series could become a hit and be remembered in one way or another. At the same time, there have been some shows that have slipped through the cracks of the mainstream and sometimes failed due to lack of quality.

tegami bachi, or “Letter Bee” was one of those series. Based on an unconventional Weekly Shonen Jump manga, this show was quite different from most traditional manga for the shonen demographic. Spanning two seasons and two OVAs, the tone, atmosphere, and storytelling make it stand out from its brethren in a good way.

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What is Tegami Bachi?

tegami bachi started in 2006 as a Weekly Shonen Jump Manga by Hiroyuki Asada. Studio Pierrot+ gave it a special OVA adaptation in 2008, a year before the first season of the same company’s true anime adaptation began airing. The show is incredibly unique not only in its setting and concepts, but also because of how “un-shonen” it is.

the setting of tegami bachi it is the world of Amberground, kept in an endless cycle of night and only partially lit by an artificial sun. In this work, people’s feelings and emotions are sent through letters, and the senders of these messages are called “Letter Bees”. The voracious giant insects that threaten the lives and livelihoods of these people feed on the emotions contained in the sincere messages they convey.

The protagonist is Lag Seeing, a boy who previously lost everything when his mother was taken away. Becoming Letter Bee with Gauche Suede, Lag comes to idolize Gauche, only for Gauche to disappear and lose his memory. When he recovers, Gauche is unaware of his former self and begins to sympathize with an anti-Letter Bee faction known as the Reverse. While trying to restore his hero’s memory, Lag also searches with his friend Niche to find out the truth about what happened to his mother.

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What made Tegami Bachi so good?

Two of the main characters of Tegami Bachi

tegami bachi is classified as a steampunk series, but it doesn’t feel steampunk in the traditional sense. From its physical world to its tone and atmosphere, tegami bachi it’s incredibly unique in a way that’s hard to define. He certainly doesn’t feel like the contemporaries of his like naruto or One piecethat is, because much of its action and extensive battle sequences/power-ups are absent.

There’s also the protagonist and character designs, which would almost feel more comfortable in a shojo-based anime. This kind of flowery gothic atmosphere is similar to shows like the gray man, and fittingly enough, packs all sorts of subtly dark nuances and themes underneath its gorgeous exterior. The animation is to this day absolutely gorgeous, even when compared to newer shonen titles like Murderer of demons.

Speaking of designs and characters, Lag doesn’t look or act like a shonen series hero at all, and this only helps the series. While many shonen anime protagonists can trace his thematic lineage back to Goku from the Dragon Ball series, Lag is something completely different. Soft-featured, frail, and by no means a fighter, he’s about as far from a battle anime protagonist as he can get.

In fact, Gauche is the character that viewers would think is the protagonist, so turning this around and having the real crybaby be the real hero is definitely unexpected. Add in the themes of “bugs that eat hearts and the emotions of lyrics,” and it’s easy to see how distinctive the story of tegami bachi it belongs to others of its kind.

Sadly, the series isn’t really remembered now, despite how much it stands out among its peers. This could be because it aired right before the current anime revival, especially in terms of the popularity of shonen anime. However, tegami bachi can still be enjoyed now via Crunchyroll and VRV.

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