At first glance, this episode of Tegami Bachi has very little to do with anything, but give it a chance - it does get to the point. Sadly, though, once again that point doesn't include anything about Gauche...
What they say
Gauche Suede is on his last delivery before a big promotion. In the outskirts of Yodaka, the darkest area of Amberground, Gauche is surprised to find that the package is a young boy named Lag Seeing. Lag had been traumatized by his mother's abduction and is due to be delivered to his aunt. In this remote area rife with Gaichuu, Lag and Gauche face a dangerous journey that inspires Lag to become a Letter Bee.
Lugh - who bears a remarkable resemblance to Lag - works together with an old man (he calls him Grandpa, but there doesn't appear to be a blood relationship between them) in an imagery lighthouse in one of Amberground's more remote regions. Recently, though, Lugh's been hearing voices around the lighthouse, calling his name and warning him to "get away from here", and he has no idea where the voices could be coming for. Passing by while on a delivery, Jiggy Pepper realises that a Gaichuu has nested on top of the lighthouse, but when he uses his Shindanjuu to destroy it, it unleashes an unexpected chain of events...
No prizes for guessing that Lugh turns out to be Lag, although it has to be said that the story is told in a rather arse-about-face way - the opening half of the episode shows us the outcome of the story, before the second half rewinds to tell us what happened in the first place to leave Lag working in a lighthouse (quite what an "imagery lighthouse" is, as distinct from the sort of lighthouse you'd find on Earth, is never explained, but it's a long way from any ocean). It's a strange way of telling a story, but it works surprisingly well, as it gets you to engage the old grey cells a little to figure it out yourself, and the clues are there to allow you to do it, if you're so inclined.
Even if you're not, there's enough depth to the story to keep your attention, although the various illusions and whatnot that the episode uses can throw you a little if you're not following closely enough. Also of interest is Jiggy Pepper's appearance - his name may be one of the daftest in recent anime, but he's a character who has almost legendary status to the Letter Bees of Yuusari (second only to Gauche himself), and there's a certain feeling of payoff that comes from finally seeing him take a direct role in an episode - instead of just sitting on his 'iron horse' and looking moodily into the distance.
You'll have noticed, though, that Gauch and Reverse are once again notable by their absence from the story. While the title of the next episode hints that Reverse will at least make an appearance, Gauche is once again being ignored. While, if you've paid attention to the past few episodes, you'll have spotted a theme of Lag being prepared for what he'll have to do to get Gauche back on track (the special bullet given to him by Jacob, and Jiggy's warning to Lag here about becoming too caught up in seeing the heart of others), it's a growing frustration to me that the series is moving its main story forward by hints and clues, rather than by getting on with it in a proper, wholehearted way. Perhaps that'll change before I get much older or greyer, but it's getting to the point now where I wonder if Gauche's occasional appearances are just a way of teasing us.
Growing frustration with the direction that a series is taking (or isn't, in this case) isn't a good thing, but it's the thing that Tegami Bachi is doing best at encouraging at the moment. While this episode is once again a competent, interesting tale, it's equally one again one that doesn't address the show's underlying story, which is the part I'm more interested in seeing - and that undermines the good work that this episode otherwise does. Maybe one day I'll get my wish, but not today...
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Apple MacBook Pro 17" with 4GB RAM and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.