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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Manga Review: Tegami Bachi GN 15

Tegami Bachi volume 15
Author: Hiroyuki Asada
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
200 pages
To The Little People: Searching for the truth about Amberground, Lag heads home to the little town of Campbell. There, a woman named Sabrina Mary holds the secrets he seeks. But can he handle what he learns about his world, his government ... and his own mother? (Source: Viz Media)
It's rather fitting that my first manga review of 2014 would turn out to be Tegami Bachi's latest volume. After all, Tegami Bachi is a title I never expected to enjoy as much as I do now, and it continues to surprise me with every book. This book is truly no exception. We're kicking off the new year with a journey of self-discovery as Lag goes to Campbell in order to find the truth about his mother and the world around him. But what he finds will change his life forever, as well as the lives of those around him.

In this volume, Cabernet has been defeated, but the truths that were uncovered during the battle cannot be denied any longer. The horrific truths about the artificial sunlight that falls upon the land as well as the secret district of Kagerou are now known to Lag's group. Now that their mission is to save Amberground from itself, Lag (accompanied by his Dingo as well as Noir's Dingo) must travel to the place where he can learn the truth about his past. This trip will end up revealing a lot about Lag as well as answer a lot of questions that have been stirring about since the series began.
Because Roda travels alongside Lag and Niche during the journey to Campbell, we get to see a different group dynamic than before. Roda is very much Gauche/Noir's Dingo - she's quiet and reserved, but sharp spoken when needed to. Obviously, Niche doesn't like her, especially since Lag is so interested by her. Also, as someone who 'failed to become spirit', Roda is a very interesting character. I'm looking forward to reading more of her story as she herself learns more of her own history.
Reading the story of Anne Seeing was like a long series of "oh my God" moments, as Lag learned one thing after the other about his own life as well as the life of his mother, who was taken away to Akatsuki years ago. I won't go into details, because there are so many plot-based bombshells, I'd rather let people read them for themselves. But you will probably never look at Lag Seeing the same way again. His story is one of fate, of events falling neatly into place so that such a boy as Lag Seeing could be born into that world. And it is an amazing story.
The artwork is absolutely gorgeous this volume. Hiroyuki Asada really killed it with the full page spreads and chapter opening art. Character designs are uniquely his as usual; Sabrina Mary is a fun character to watch run around and lovingly berate Lag. If Viz were to release a full color art book for Tegami Bachi, I would snatch it up in a heart beat.
If I had to point out a flaw with this volume of Tegami Bachi, is that some of the first chapter felt rushed, as if Asada was in a hurry to get to the action. He could have easily cut out some of the more exposition heavy dialogue if he wanted to do that, but he didn't. Also, you'd think Roda's bathing scene would have upped the rating of this book, especially since you see her from the front, naked. Apparently the extensive injuries to her body make it okay? Very well then, Viz.
Given everything Lag has been through in this volume, it makes sense to move away from him for a little bit. Volume sixteen looks to be a Zazie-centric volume, as he confronts a Gaichuu with whom he has a serious grudge with. And hey, Connor is with him, too! I love Connor, in case you didn't know. I want to go on a food tour of Amberground with him so bad.

If you've been looking for an exciting, heartfelt shonen manga to read in the new year, you wouldn't go wrong putting Tegami Bachi on your reading list. As one of the best titles currently running under the Shonen Jump name, there's no better time to jump into the story than now.