3 Episode Taste Test: Tegami Bachi (Letter Bee)

Visually at least, Letter Bee is remarkably striking: washes of indigo and pinpricks of grey-whites make it aesthetically strong; however in the perpetual twilight of the fantasy world it portrays, appreciation turns quickly into indifference. The motif of particles drifting softly from the sky is overused to the point where its original implication is questionable; sepia flashbacks are replete with translucent stars while during the initial two episode journey, spores and whatever else constantly accompany the bland dialogue and sloth-like storyline.

The first of what is likely to many other ridiculously named comrades is Niche

The first three episodes describe Lag Seeing's - just one of a number of absurd names - journey towards becoming a Letter Bee - essentially an armed postman. Lag is initially found tethered to a monument next to the charred remains of a village, from there he is taken by Gauche - a current Letter Bee - across the mountains, encountering terrible CG beasties along the way. The set up is painfully typical and Lag spends the majority of the opening episodes leaking from all of his facial orifices and whining incessantly, compounded by the addition of a surly, alien looking toddler who, by some kind of perverse skill, magnifies Lag's annoying mannerisms. Dull, plodding and lifeless, Letter Bee is impossible to enjoy and difficult to tolerate.

Gauche fills many of the archetype pigeon-holes required for such an unimaginative production, he is quirky and confesses to not being proficient at "talking" despite frequent monologues to his child companion. Heroism comes easy to him: equipped with an angular dog or "dingo" in the show's terminology, and a gun that doesn't require aiming, inset with sparkling jewels to reinforce his obvious manliness. He is completely unsympathetic, even when describing how pieces of his heart are used as ammunition or feigning shock that Lag glows when holding his rifle, he is monotonous, especially odd given Jun Fukuyama's otherwise extensive vocal experience.

Lag is, if possible, worse than Gauche by first taking on the role of annoying child then adding insipid altruism to the mix. Three episodes is enough to grow a deep dislike of his pointlessly philanthropic ways and hope grows that the cretins he meets on his quest to become a postman somehow redeem him. The first of what is likely to many other ridiculously named comrades is Niche, a scowling blonde girl with all the charm of a damp llama. Ostensibly she, like Lag, has some kind of hidden power but this is ignored in favour of yet another uncomfortable subplot involving her not wearing any undergarments. It is maddeningly unnecessary when it does little to the already glacial pacing of the first three episodes and drags the tone down from charmingly sexless to awkwardly tawdry.

The introduction to the world of Letter Bee fails to ingratiate itself and presents a world bereft of humour and grace. The art style is at first bold but is let down by stilted animation and a crippling lack of creativity. Characters are bland and underutilise their accomplished voice actors while the story lacks any hint of engagement. With luck the series will be rightly unwatched and lost in the deluge of other wholly mediocre shows that litter each season.

Responses to “3 Episode Taste Test: Tegami Bachi (Letter Bee)”

You definitely should watch pass episode 3 because starting on episode 7, it took quite a huge turn. Furthermore, 3 episodes is never enough for certain series as they always use this time as a time to slowly introduce the plot and everything. So don't give up on it too quickly. Surprisingly it's one of the much better series of the season and as a whole, it's well done. You could start reading the manga and see that it's quite good but that will depend on you.
There is always the danger that you can give up on a series too quickly; I'm not swearing off it completely and if it turns out the series does improve in the long term then I may pick it up again.

Three episodes should be enough to give a quality indication. There has to be a cut off point somewhere else I'd never be able to get through everything.