Just a quick review for series that I have recently been introduced to. This post isn't just a Tegami Bachi review but also a review for it's sequel Tegami Bachi REVERSE.
Guilty Confession: I did not know what the genre "steampunk" meant or the fact that it existed until I checked out Tegami Bachi's wikipedia page. Besides that, I was always aware of the manga but never got around to reading it and only finished watching the both seasons of the series just a little bit ago. The manga did interest me since the artwork was not what you usually get with manga running in Shonen Jump (monthly or weekly) and even though this manga is running monthly in Jump SQ with the likes of Claymore, another series with a different art style, it reminded me of CLAMP's work more than any other shonen piece I've encountered.
So now that I've given a little background info and pre-impressions, I'll dive right in and review this series in the usual format.
What made Tegami Bachi stand out for me more than anything else was the story being almost game-like; by that I mean something resembling a Final Fantasy game, which has many quests (some side stories) whilst still progressing with the main story.
In essence this was what gave the story a good feel to it since the first 25 episode season concentrated on the protagonist Lag Seeing finding his way as a Bee (a postal delivery worker) all the while he searches for the man who inspired him to choose the profession, allowing us to get to know all the characters of the Tegami Bachi universe. This season of the anime could be best described as the collection of "side quests" that you'd find in a game, which might give of the impression of being a filler arc for a long lasting shonen like Naruto or One Piece and at times might leave some of the viewers thinking that the story isn't really going anywhere definitive but if you were to look past the need for a definitive direction in an adventure story like this, you end up enjoying this anime just because of the adventure that is abundant in the story and at times even better than the likes of One Piece, where the pattern from arc to arc is quite repetitive.
The story actually serves as a tool for emphasising the character development the main characters have to go through, in particular Lag and that's why it becomes even more enjoyable to watch a string of what seem to be random episodes at first glance. And with the ending of the season, it sets up the beginning of the REVERSE season very nicely where the story really picks up and takes on my ever-so-favourite and great plot device (if used correctly) which I like to call "Conspiracy Theory." Of course with a fantasy story like this, something like that would be expected but luckily the series doesn't deviate from focussing on the adventure aspect rather it has the conspiracy plot setting as the background to Lag's hunt for his mentor and first friend Gauche Suede.
50 episodes might seem like a stretch for some viewers, but if your looking for a great adventure series anime that's not One Piece and has more focus on the emotions of the characters instead of the battles they partake in, the story alone merits watching this series.
The character designs and the backgrounds are of course both aesthetically pleasing and do the manga which has equally beautiful designs. There is quite a bit of use of CGI for the gaichu (the armored bugs which are the sworn enemies of the letter bees) but that doesn't seem to affect the overall appeal of the animation one bit because the CGI on the gaichu is done just as well as the characters and backgrounds.
The animation as a whole doesn't add anything spectacular to the story but did allow me to enjoy the story quite a bit more. Unlike with some series where the animation has to pick up the slack for the story's lack of depth, content or quality here the animation and story seem to be in synergy.
One could essentially watch the animation for the high quality of the animation as well, you know, if your more into looks.
The opening and ending sequences have either serious or heart-warming feels to them, whilst the background music in the series sticks to being as steampunk as it comes and I love it. Whenever the harpsichord music came on I was lulled into a relaxing state of mind and continued to watch each episode with the carefree attitude I hope the series had intended it to be approached with.
With characters names like Gauche Suede, Lag Seeing, Jiggy Pepper and Aria Link who wouldn't love the main cast I found it even more amusing that the meaning of names of these characters was actually a reflection of the characters personalities: Gauche means lacking social grace , Lag Seeing can be interpreted as "lacking sight" and Aria is defined as a melody (a nice touch with the names from the original creator Asada Hiroyuki-sensei for sure). Besides obvious cool names and character designs, each character has substantial focus on their development, though of course Lag has the most focus.
Lag's character differs quite a bit from your bog standard protagonist and he might come off as an annoying crybaby at times, nevertheless that part of his character exists to add to his innocence and makes him appear to be a more realistic 12 year old.
As for the antagonists, they are quite unlikeable which means that they are good characters to have but I was a little disappointed with the main antagonist from REVERSE since he didn't seem as grand an antagonist as he was made out to be in the lead up to his official introduction.
Tegami Bachi is one of those long-ish shonen adaptations that won't receive a lot of attention and that's a pity. The series for me was one of the few that I enjoyed more for the adventure rather than any action that took place during the episodes and what I liked most about the anime was that it was split into 2 seasons, each taking a different tone and a slightly different style.
The 2 different styles being adopted in each of the seasons also adds to the rewatchability of the series: do you want something more episodic or an enjoyable adventure arc You can have both.