Fool me once, shame on me. As hinted at in the last episode, Gauche's return to normality isn't as truthful as it appears, and his disappearance (and Roda's reappearance) gives Tegami Bachi a chance to explore the matter a little
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 traumatised 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.
After being separated from Noir, Roda traces him to Yuusari Central & Sylvette's home, but when she sees Noir happily spending time together with Lag and Sylvette, she becomes distraught and her feelings fall into confusion. Just then, Roda is rescued from some men up to no good by Sarah and Hunt. Former acquaintances of Lag, Connor, and Zazie, they've begun living new lives in Central. Sarah works at an employment agency for "daily dingos" and when she hears that Roda used to be someone's dingo, she brings her to her workplace. Lag and Sylvette, meanwhile, are trying to track down Gauche again after he went missing from their house...
Okay. I'm feeling a little cheated here, and this episode pulls an 'everything's-all-right-now-oh-not-it-isn't' about-face that I find to be rather cynical (and that incidentally undoes a lot of what made episode 39 so damn good). But that's towards the end of the episode, so we'll put that to one side for a moment and look at the rest of the episode.
The main event is the return of Roda, last seen plunging to her apparent doom in a deep ravine. Her return is no surprise at all '" watch anime for long enough and you come to accept that only rarely is 'apparent doom' ever permanent '" and since she's one of the more curious characters in the series, thanks to her uncertain origins and deep loyalty to Noir, I was actually quite pleased to see her back. Having heard of 'Gauche's' return, she spends the episode trying to find out the truth of what happened to him, hoping against hope that she'll find Noir and not his in-body predecessor in the process. It's a decent look into her personality, although it's by way of reinforcing what we already knew about her rather than bringing anything new to the mix. With another round of Roda vs Niche also featuring, there's a decent little bit of action, too. So far, so good.
The episode also sees the return of Sarah and Hunt, the former con artists last seen at the end of season one. Sarah's now working as a recruitment consultant for dingos in Yuusari Central (a job which brings her into contact with Roda), while Hunt turns up as an assistant for Dr Thunderland at the Bee Hive '" which seems rather too convenient, to be honest, especially as the context of his appearance seems to imply that he's been there for a while and managed to stay out of the way until the story required him. Hmmm. This side of the episode is less successful '" perhaps I'm getting too cynical in my old age, but the return of Sarah and Hunt feels just like a lazily-scripted cop-out way of bringing Roda and Noir back together. And I have lazily-scripted cop-outs.
Speaking of which, we come to Noir himself. I have something of a love-hate relationship with Tegami Bachi these days '" when it's on for, it's really, really good '" but there are times when it all just seems as though it's going through the motions, taking the path of least resistance (which, unhappily, also happens to be the path of least interest). We've had episode after episode of build-up to Lag's confrontation with Noir, and the firing of his Shindanjuu that brought back Noir's memories and restored the world's natural order '" and then the last five minutes of this episode flipped the reset switch, sent 'Gauche' back to being 'Noir', and in a stroke undercut all that building and made it seem meaningless. There are some ways out of this mess that could make the whole arc worthwhile, but I don't have much confidence that the series will go down that path, and as a result I'm almost left bank my head against the desk in frustration.
Tegami Bachi has proven it can be much, much better than this, but as ever it's a case of two steps forward, and one back, as the good work done in bringing Gauch back into Lag's life appears to be undone at a stroke. As things stand at the end of the episode, I can't say I'm happy with how events have played out, and the next few episodes have some work to do to get back to the heights of the stories we were getting a few episodes ago.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Apple MacBook Pro 17" with 4GB RAM and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.