Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the Tegami Bachi series so far. Read on with caution!
While Lag and his fellow Bees fight a desperate battle against the Gaichuu Cabernet, the dark secrets of Amberground come to light. What unspeakable things did Garrard, director of the Beehive, see in Amberground’s capital? And why has former director Largo Lloyd joined the rebel organization Reverse? The answers lie in the top-secret district called Kagerou… (Source: Goodreads)
Tegami Bachi is pulling a Bleach and doing a far better job than Kubo could hope to do: it's sidelining their main protagonist and hero, Lag Seeing, and putting the focus on other key players in the current battle against Cabernet. By shifting away from Lag's narrative, Tegami Bachi frees itself to expand on the stories of characters like Largo and Garrard and Connor. What comes of this shift of focus is a series of monumental revelations that add to the world of Tegami Bachi as well as set the stage for an inevitable all-out conflict between Amberground and its detractors.
The land of Amberground has always been the center of mystery in Tegami Bachi, and volume thirteen has peeled back some of the mystery around it while also leaving a lot of questions unanswered - and adding some to the pile. Author Hiroyuki Asada does an ace job at maintaining the disquieting dreamlike atmosphere within the various subsections of Amberground. He is slowly showing the readers the wheels and cogs of the Amberground machine and destroying all initial thoughts of this place being an idyllic place to live.
Rolling into the land that surrounds Akatsuki, the pastoral agrarian society of Kagerou, is like walking into District 11 from The Hunger Games where clearly everyone is under the thrall of an unseen force. It doesn't take a younger Garrard and Hazel, vying to become Letter Bee and Dingo, much time to realize something is off about this place. The clear contrast of the beautiful green fields and ripe fruit with the state of the farmers and the state of the 'heart' throughout the land turns Kagerou into yet another place where nothing is as it seems.
Aside from flashing back through the epic road trips of Garrard and Hazel, we are also further drawn into the story of ex-Beehive director Largo Lloyd, who has become a big name defector against Amberground and has joined rebel group Reverse. If you thought Largo was shrouded in intrigue before, you have no idea how far his mystery lies. It seems that in this volume, every time Largo Lloyd opens his mouth, he drops another bombshell. And this guy was a Beehive director! He ran the place! He is clearly someone to keep an eye on as the series progresses.
On an aesthetic note, the art in Tegami Bachi's thirteenth volume is marvelous. Some of the best scenic art spreads I've seen in this series so far lie within these pages. Plus, Asada continues to bring action scenes to life as vividly as he does the dramatic ones. I really loved seeing how Niche went full-on berserk Dingo at the Gaichuu; it could not have been easy drawing so many of the Child of Maka's 'swords' in action!
This volume has just the correct mixture of character introspection, back story, and plot development while retaining Tegami Bachi's signature style and humor. As the battle against Cabernet heats up, so do the machinations of certain characters behind the stage. There's fighting and scheming and people are picking up weapons in order to protect their homes and it is totally enthralling. I can only hope the conclusion to this current arc is as epic as the events leading up to it.