After a week off, Letter Bee returns with a new episode that marks something of a sea change for the series. For me, this was quite different than any other episode of either series so far. But for all that, it was still Tegami Bachi and absolutely terrific.
For starters we have a new OP and ED that are much more contemporary in style than any so far. The new OP is by Suga Shikao, a fast-paced electric number with a lot of bass and a thoroughly modern sound, accompanied by a well-done if inoffensive collection of previous moments from the show. The new ED is by Yamazaru, a sort of modern ballad with a wonderful SNES-style animated sequence featuring Lag and Niche.
It’s not just the bookends that are different here – the substance of the episode had a remarkably different feel to it. Divine over at Random Curiosity suggested elements of Fullmetal Alchemist here, and I can definitely see it. So much happened this week, but the structure of the episode did a brilliant job of bringing it all together. Scenes of Aria with Franklin, the recipient of her letter, were intercut with conversations between Lag and Dr. Thunderland and flashbacks to the Day of Flicker, the momentous day twelve years earlier when the artificial sun winked out, the government’s airship (built in the wonderfully named “Holden Caulfield”) crashed, and the world changed forever (and, I suspect, Lag was born). The way we saw that day through the eyes of the people who were there brought out the true terror of the moment and an idea of just how deeply the government has it’s hands in really bad things, but alternately we were given the truly heartwarming scenes leading to the reunion between Lag and Gauche that the series has been building towards for 1.5 seasons. The juxtaposition of those two moods was stark and effective, and it made the impact of the eventual moment of reunion that much more impacting.
Many questions were answered here. We certainly know now how the bridgekeeper got his position (he was one of a triplet of bees whose hearts powered the airship, and the only survivor). We know how Thunderland lost his eye, we know that the Director Largo witnessed the crash too, and we know more or less how Gauche lost his memories of his mother. We know that the artificial sun doesn’t just run on heart power, but appears to be some sort of living creature – or perhaps an egg, given that the being inside it looks distinctly like an embryo. What we don’t know is what Lag’s connection to that being is. Just before Gauche awoke Lag had a kind of fever dream, muttering “Mother” over and over – the same word that was heard from the sky on the Day of Flicker. When Lag awoke he spoke of a dream of a beautiful, sunlit land long-gone – and then saw Gauche awake and embracing Sylvette. In spite of all the darkness and evil in the world, Lag could think only of his friend – who greeted him with the words of Lag’s letter bullet – “I missed you”.
Big emotional moments have always been a strength of this series, and the long-teased reunion scene did not disappoint. However, as Lag, Gauche and Sylvette rejoice in each others arms the situation outside is ever-more clouded. The government is clearly up to even less good than it already appeared. The artificial sun appears to be some sort of malignant entity that consumes parts of humans to power itself and worse, it’s clearly connected to Lag in some still undetermined way. Reverse, for all that one could question their tactics, seems to have been on the moral high ground all along unless recent events are a misdirection. How will Lag deal with that knowledge, never mind his own potential involvement? And how will Gauche deal with the reality of another presumed memory loss, and with the knowledge of his deeds while he identified himself as Noir? For all the joy of the reunion, there’s a sense that it’s a calm before the storm – a last moment of peace and love before the truly dark times come.