Tegami Bachi

After seeing glowing reviews on the internet for Tegami Bachi, I decided to dive in and read the manga. Tegami Bachi by far lives up to its reputation and deserves more attention than it has received. Allegedly the corresponding anime adaptation wasn’t great, but maybe I’ll review the anime later.

The main reason why the manga is fantastic is due to its beautiful artwork and characters. There is nothing to not love about the artwork, from the breathtaking scenery to the dynamic and gorgeous characters. But, I most appreciated how many of the pages were on black paper with everything drawn in as white since it captures the manga’s themes so eloquently, and not many mangas employ this art style.

I would heavily recommend that people take the time to read this manga. It is a story of love, friendship, family, loss, ambition. The story follows our protagonist Lag Seeing as he sets out to become the Head Bee (a letter delivery person) and find the truth about his mother’s abduction by the government.

[Spoilers Below]

There can be many similarities to be drawn between Tegami Bachi and Fullmetal Alchemist:

Full Metal AlchemistTegami Bachi
Power SystemAlchemyHeart
ParentsMother diedMother abducted by government
OriginBorn of immortal fatherBorn comprised of spirit fragments during the flicker
Faustian BargainRevived mother using alchemyShared soul with spirit amber to gain power
OccupationState Alchemist — military memberLetter Bee- Gov postal worker fighting monsters while traveling
GovernmentSecrets about HermuncliSecret about origin of Sun

Not to say that these stories are anything alike; narratively, they are vastly different. Patterns like this can be found all over shounen, suggesting similar prototypes when building a grandiose story. A young boy with a tragic backstory and unique ability in a magical world joins a government agency and defeats a foe/completes a quest. This pattern is all over the place. However, the similarities between these shows are deeper because most shounen shows don’t involve fighting an apparently corrupt government from the inside. Well… there also is Attack on Titan, which shares many of these similarities. It is hard to say precisely what makes this type of story so great. Obviously, a quest to learn the truth in a system against them while taking the moral high ground is clearly a great foundation of a story.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

I can’t believe I waited this long to watch the legendary anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion–aka AVA. This anime was incredible. A pure masterpiece.

Although this shounen anime is about giant machines called Evangelions fighting biblically sized monsters, the action didn’t sell this show. What really sells this show is the incredible character development and the exploration of psychological trauma, loneliness, and depression.

The protagonist of most shounen anime is an energy ball of pure skill and talent ready to leap into danger to save the world. In AVA, Shinji is a shy, weak, timid 14-year-old boy who is always doubting himself. Although Shinji has the ability to sync with an Evangelion, that is only because his very own mother was turned into the Evangelion. We see Shinji crumble into depression throughout the show– and not the kind that shounen protagonists typically just pop right out of. Shinji has a hard time dealing with the pressure of saving the world. Shinji longes for admiration from his father, who is distant. Shinji questions his sexuality and desires with characters like Kaworu and Rei. And most important, Shinji fears hurting others and has a problem with intimacy.

SEELE presents the solution to human suffering as the human instrumentality project. A plan that will combine all of our minds into one entity to fill in each other gaps. The show presents two endings to the show. The first in the last two episodes of the anime explores Shinji’s mind after the Human Instrumentality Project. Shinji learns the importance of individuality and what it means to be intimate with others and breaks out. The movies Death and Rebirth and The End of Evangelion present a darker ending to the story. Although Shinji concluded that individuality is important and breaks out of the singular being, he is doomed to repeat his past mistakes. The ending scene is of Shinji strangling Asuka.

There is so much more that could be said about this show, especially with confusing endings. After watching it a second time, I’ll come back and write a second version of this reflection.