Tegami Bachi Reverse – 22

This was a truly excellent episode of Tegami Bachi for a number of reasons, which I’ll detail below. First and foremost, though, it excels as the all-important setup episode. In a series with a big plot arc like this one (we’re at almost 50 episodes) there’s a tremendous amount of stuff that has to be sorted out to get a satisfying conclusion – the “endgame”, to borrow a chess term. But as any chess player would tell you, the endgame is irrelevant if you don’t have a solid opening strategy and do well in the mid-game – and the setup episode is the all important final stage of the mid-game. All the pieces have to be maneuvered into position for the last assault, and any mistakes or oversights can have disproportionate consequences. The number of series that failed epically at this process are too numerous to mention, but there are exceptions. FMA: Brotherhood excelled at this (though with 64 eps to work with it took several eps to do it). So did Cross Game and Seirei no Moribito. And with this episode, Letter Bee has done a fine job of setting up the pieces for the final gambit.

Thankfully this episode also manages to succeed dramatically in its own self-contained world. There were several dramatic climaxes here, probably the most emotional being Gauche’s reunion/parting with Sylvette. As I expected he’s no longer merely Gauche or Noir, but a complicated mix of the two. Clearly he can no longer support Reverse knowing what he knows, but neither can he forgive himself enough to slip back into his old life. Sylvette’s moment of composing herself was rather touching, as was her open invitation to Noir to become Gauche again whenever he’s ready. Meanwhile, Noir is off to aid Lag & friends in their attempts to defeat the Cabernet.

As Aria struggles to cope with what’s happening around her – the disappearance of the gatekeepers and the key, the knowledge that Garrard and Valentine are double-agents – Largo (who has always managed to project that he knows a lot more than he’s letting on in his brief appearances) is briefly seen, riding a walrus-driven carriage through the frozen North. Here’s that all important setup piece at work – you knew the Maka had to be looped back into things at some point, and it can be assumed that Largo’s mission is involved. Desperate for guidance Aria turns to Dr. Thunderland – only to find his office filled with those who could not become spirit (including Hunt). It’s the biggest setup piece and shocking reveal of the episode – Dr. Thunderland is (apparently) part of Reverse, too. The conspiracy goes deeper than any of us suspected.  Unless that whole scene was a misdirection, of course…

The other major scene of the ep is the Three Amigos confrontation with Garrard and Valentine. While Valentine and Niche (Girly!) settle their score once and for all, Garrard takes a few shots of Lag – both verbally and literally. Here Garrard confuses things further by revealing his reasons for going against The Hive – implying that everything the Bees do is a front for recruiting unwilling hearts to feed the Amberground sun. He’s about to kill Lag, who even he admits is an innocent – yet can anyone doubt his reasons for hating the government? As Reverse’s substitute gaichu (it was a trap) is about to consume the boys, a mysterious shindan takes it out – and none other than Noir appears…

And with that, all the pieces are in place for what looks like an excellent final arc – anime-original or not. About the only major player not accounted for is Jiggy Pepper and I’m sure he’ll jump into the fray soon. What we don’t know, of course, is just where this series will cast its chips in the moral poker game – and what Lag will choose to do in his moment of truth. That’s a good mystery to have open as head into the home stretch.

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