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Tegami Bachi Volume 1

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Tegami Bachi Volume 1 by Hiroyuki Asada from Shonen Jump / VIZ Media

Tegami Bachi Volume 1

© 2006 by Hiroyuki Asada / SHUEISHA Inc.

The Bottom Line

In a land of perpetual darkness where telephones or email are non-existent and travel is extremely dangerous, people depend on Letter Bees to convey their messages. After being delivered by a Letter Bee when he was a child, Lag Seeing is determined to become a Letter Bee, so he can find his long-lost mother.

Tegami Bachi is a shonen manga with an odd Japanese name, but it's a magical story that transcends borders, and even the "boys comics" label. With its lovely art, exciting action scenes and likeable characters, Tegami Bachi is a modern fantasy fable that will enthrall teens and adults alike.

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Pros

  • A fun, exciting and fascinating fantasy tale that will appeal to teen boys and girls
  • Delivers a winning mix of fantasy, humor, action and drama with a steam-punk edge
  • Lovely, luminous artwork that is expressive, exciting and magical -- without pointless fanservice!
  • Lag, Gauche and Niche are likeable characters that readers can relate to almost immediately
  • Sets up all of the essentials of this story clearly and hooks readers in for more

Cons

  • Moves a bit slowly at times, and the art is sometimes cluttered with details
  • Sometimes those hundreds of sparkly stars are more distracting than magical
  • A fairly text-heavy story that makes this tale look deceptively dense

Description

  • Original Title: Tegami Bachi (Japan)
  • Author & Artist: Hiroyuki Asada
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-1421529134
  • Cover Price: $7.99 US / $9.50 CANADA / £ 6.99 UK
  • Age Rating: T – Teens Age 13+ for violence, guns and mild potty humor
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: September 2009
    Japan Publication Date: January 2007
  • Book Description: 200 pages, black and white illustrations, 4 color pages

Guide Review - Tegami Bachi Volume 1

Amberground is a world cloaked in perpetual darkness, where only the very rich get to bask in (artificial) sunlight, and the middle-class and the poor must live in shadow-cloaked lands. Giant armored insects make travel between the territories dangerous, and email and telephones don't exist here, so messages must be hand-delivered by couriers called Letter Bees.

Gauche Suede is an experienced Letter Bee -- but even he's surprised to find out that his latest pick-up is not a parcel or letter, but a little boy named Lag Seeing. After the pair travel through dangerous lands to their destination, Lag is inspired by Gauche to become a Letter Bee himself.

Like any good fairy tale, Tegami Bachi has a likeable hero who has a straightforward but daunting quest: Lag aches to be reunited with his mother who was taken from him when he was a child. Who took her, why was she taken, and where she is now are just a few mysteries that Lag must solve. One senses that this will not be a short journey, but with friends like Niche (a pint-sized girl with killer hair) by his side, Lag looks like he'll be taking readers on a fun and fascinating ride.

This first volume of Tegami Bachi sets the stage for the stories to come by introducing the characters and establishing the rules of the realm -- and what a world it is. Rather than creating the usual grim 'post-apocalyptic desert' or gleaming, futuristic skyscrapers, Asada fills his world with whimsical, Wizard of Oz-like details like "Broccoli Forests" and "Pumpkin Mountains." As J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter novels, Asada immerses readers into a richly-realized world that feels familiar, yet different enough to be magical.

While the page layouts are often cluttered with hundreds of sparkling stars, these stars do convey a sense of wonder that's fitting for this story. Asada's illustrations, especially the color pages, have a soft, velvety glow that gives his illustrations warmth and soul. Even his monsters are more organic than mechanical. Asada manages to do something rare: he draws "pretty" characters that do more than preen -- they have hearts, personalities and senses of humor -- and that is what will keep me (and other readers) coming back for more Tegami Bachi.

Tegami Bachi is featured in Shonen Jump magazine, and is primarily geared toward teen boys. But like Harry Potter, Tegami Bachi has the right stuff to appeal to both male and female readers: thrilling action, a magical world full of mysteries, likeable characters that are worth caring about, and lovely artwork, all done with a touch of light-hearted humor. Overall, a promising start to a series that will hopefully get even better from here.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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