When I first saw the the opening pages of the manga Tegami Bachi, I was entranced by the dark blue images that graced the first few pages. Something about the color scheme and visual conception just jumped out from the get-go. Upon discovering that the whole series was set in a world of perpetual night, It immediately found its spot on my reading list (though, admittedly, it hasn’t reached the top yet, and remains to be read).
So it was that I approached the anime version, thinking it to have infinite promise: A story reminiscent of the Pony Express, featuring messengers (letter bees) charged with delivering messages in a world of perpetual night.
Which only added to the disappointment of the first episode.
Oh sure, everything seems fine at first — a somewhat interesting main character, with an interesting job, meeting a mysterious boy who happens to be his next delivery. We seem set up for a fun show.
But at some point, one particular thing occurs to the veteran anime viewer: We’ve seen this before. A somwhat dull main character, it turns out, with a dog sidekick, paired with an annoying shonen constantly crying about his mom and obnoxiously yelling about everything he doesn’t understand (seen in Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto, etc;). Oh and our main character has a special reason for working at his job — his wheelchair bound, moe sister! (Code Geass, anyone?). And let’s not forget the monsters that jump out to attack our letter bee, for which he has a special gun that our kid sidekick can fire. (Do I even need to cite the numerous examples of this?)
Yes, Tegami Bachi is rife with cliches, and relies on a very formulaic set-up to get the story moving. A very artistic opening seen in the manga was replaced by a pretty standard Shonen plot and feel.
Is that a bad thing? Not in-and-of itself. But there needs to be a spark of originality somewhere, something that makes a series interesting — and that spark hasn’t shown itself in the first episode. And in a show that seems ripe with creative potential, it seems something should have (or at least better) surface to set itself apart from the pack — because this fall’s loaded with too many big name series to afford being lost in the heap.