Letter Bee - Star Crossed Anime Blog : Star Crossed Anime Blog
Posted on 27 March 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Letter Bee




Letter Bee as a series that’s difficult to recommend. I mean, the heights it can reach is amazing, but its quality does tend to fluctuate and it tends to waste time, the fillers of the first season being the biggest example of this. The second season of Letter Bee is a huge improvement over the first, though, let there be no mistake about that. The amount of amazing episodes has pretty much doubled and the cast of characters grows into an amazing one that plays off each other wonderfully. It’s just not as good as what it could have been, but more on that below.

First of all, the first Letter Bee Left with an absolutely amazing cliff-hanger. It was tedious to sit through that series at times, but everything just came together in those final ten minutes. The second season immediately builds further upon that, and does so wonderfully. The creators just come with episode after episode of character-building that makes the main cast a delight to watch, with some of the most gorgeous artwork and very imaginative episodic stories that are just full of charms. The first half of the second season shows Letter Bee at its utter best.

And then… the creators found out that they only had 50 episodes to work with. With a manga that’s still ongoing, they had to make the choice to continue adapting the manga that this show is based on, only to cut off somewhere in the middle of the story, or make up their own finale. They chose the latter.

Now, I know that anime original endings are notorious, but Letter Bee actually does a very good job of wrapping up its story: a breath of fresh air after all those countless series that just refuse to end because the manga or light novels that they’re adapting doesn’t fit into 13, 26 or 52 episodes. Most of the storylines that needed to be wrapped up are wrapped up pretty decently while at the same time most of the characters also get a good closure.

This really could have gone wrong terribly, but the end result is a cohesive and enjoyable series. But the fact remains that the creators of the anime just aren’t as good storytellers as the writer of the manga. The adventure parts feel a bit sloppy and lack detail, and the emotional turmoil dies down a lot in the anime original parts. The tension becomes just less dynamic and interesting and overall it just never really manages to reach the height it once got to. It’s not bad at all, it’s just… less good. That’s one disappointment that you do need to take into account when watching this series.

Overall, today it’s very rare for series to have 50 episodes. Letter Bee’s biggest fault was that it didn’t use them well. Make no mistake, though: when this series is at its best, it really is amazing and this last for more than a dozen episodes. The big difference between the first and second season is that even when the second season is disappointing a bit, it’s not like it becomes too annoying, boring or unwatchable: there’s definitely enough interesting stuff happening, it’s just not as interesting or well executed as it once was.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Excellent at building up and closing off its story. Especially the first half is wonderfully told with a lot of creativity.
Characters: 9/10 – The main selling point of this series: at this point in the series the characters have received some excellent development that is used wonderfully.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Gorgeous at times, but unremarkable at others. The soundtrack still is very good.
Setting: 8/10 – Dulls in a bit after a while, but still good and full of moral dilemmas.

Suggestions:
Popolocrois Story 1998
Argento Soma
Natsume Yuujinchou

Posted on with categories: Letter Bee



Nowhere near a great ending, but this also wasn’t a complete disaster. Really: this ending had both its good and bad parts.

Let’s start with the bad points: the climax of the series looking much more like an anti-climax. This is one thing that the creators of the anime just got wrong and it was a flimsy way to end the series. I can imagine what they wanted to do: bad guy sacrifices himself, the person that the lead character looks up to gets mortally wounded and so the lead character summons his inner powers in order to get rid of it. This was told very sloppily, though. It just doesn’t fit in the story. What really would have fitted much better was to exit this series with an exciting chase scene that involved all of the important characters.

At the same time though: that short climax did allow the aftermath to be very good. I mean, this series did not magically bring back Gauche’s heart, but explicitly stated that Lag gave him a new purpose in life. I mean, that pretty neatly wraps up his story here and I applaud the creators for that. Sunni meanwhile has the chance to recover (probably because she only got half-eaten by the cabernet), but again I like how the creators didn’t magically make her better, and instead made her recovery something that could happen over time, if it even would have happened at all.

Overall this series left some questions behind, but with most of them I actually don’t mind that they were unanswered. Lag’s mother for example had no business being inside this climax: there just wasn’t enough time to really focus on her character in detail, and instead this series gave enough hints to who she was and why Lag ended up the way he did. The rest of the details, we can fill in for ourselves. This episode has this “life goes on”-theme that I appreciate a lo. I’ve certainly seen much worse endings than this.

In the end, the big mistake that the creators made is that some of their key ideas just backfired on them. Of course the climax of this episode was one I’m referring to, but the biggest of them all was how they decided to put Gauche’s return at the end of the first season. I can definitely understand why they did it: the finale of the first season was one of the best hooks to a second season I’ve seen in a long, long while. At the same time, though they had to waste a lot of time in order to accomplish that, and because of that they ran out of time near the end when it became clear that they only could get 50 episodes.

If the creators would have chosen to continue with the story of the manga, I do think that I would have whined a lot more at this series, simply because there is no way that it could have been wrapped up in time. What the creators did here is commendable. It’s just a shame that they just aren’t the best storytellers.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 20 March 2011 with categories: Letter Bee



You know what? There have been a lot of anime based on wonderful stories that unfortunately didn’t have enough time to animate these entire stories. Leaving aside the series like Giant Killing that managed to pick a logical point to end, and series that just ended up rewriting the entire source material, Letter Bee turned into one of the better attempts to wrap up its story. It’s obvious that the final quarter of this series isn’t its best, but at the same time: I can’t really fault it for anything here, aside from just not being as good (and perhaps being a bit sloppy in the adventure department at times).

This episode again: granted, it was pretty much a “now that we made up let’s all fight the big evil together”… but it just did everything so solidly. Everyone pretty much acted like you’d expected. Sure, it was a bit disappointing to see Dr. Thunderland turn good again, right after it was revealed that he worked for Reverse, but seeing the nature of Reverse I don’t really blame him to have a change of heart either. He probably had a few talks with the twins, who also had all the reasons to eventually step away from them. Also, Largo went in to get the help of Maka? I mean, why not? If there’s anyone who can stop that Cabernet it would be Maka, and after Nichi’s visit I don’t see them refusing a genuine request from someone like him.

Everything pretty much flowed into each other based on how pretty much the entire cast has matured over the series and stopped caring about these revenge plans that really harm more than are useful. Pretty much the only one who didn’t develop was Lawrence, who I liked the least in this episode. Next episode we’ll see whether or not that action of his was pointless.

The creators pretty much ended up wrapping up the story of Letter Bee by instead of having things spiral out of control, they tried to reduce the tension between the characters. And the way in which they did this… it was actually pretty plausible and worth the large amount of episodes they put into it. The plot is less exciting, but at the same time there also weren’t any cheap plot twists, rushed conclusions, or downright ass-pulls. The plot still plays around with morals, but the characters are brought together through this single evil entity of the Cabernet. The Cabernet alone is a pretty lousy villain of course, but as a plot device it did its job pretty nicely.

If only this series had more episodes, though.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 14 March 2011 with categories: Letter Bee



Ah, this episode explained a lot. It didn’t just contain a lot of backstory, but it also really showed what the creators of the anime are trying to do here: they’re trying to close off the Letter Bee story while resolving all of the major questions and subplots. On one hand, it’s a shame that the sponsors didn’t give them the full chance to completely tell the story of the manga. On the other hand, it’s commendable to see the creators of the anime go through these lengths in order to avoid what is by far the single biggest and most frequent mistake of manga and light novel adaptations: completely cutting off the story and leaving you hungry for a sequel that will never arrive.

The small dip in quality really was their way to carefully wrap up the storyline without rushing it, and because the manga put so much meaning into it, they really had to take their time to let the story play out. Now that that’s happened, the past weeks have finally gotten back to focus on what made this show so great: the characters.

Because, yes! The creators didn’t cop out. I really was afraid when Noir turned back good that the creators would find some excuse to turn him back into Gauche, completely nullifying his development. They didn’t! This episode clearly states that Noir is still Noir. He now just happens to have similar goals as Lag. The scene in that cave between the two of them did an excellent job of using the build-up of both the early episodes and the anime original ones.

Also, finally! Lag’s mother makes her appearance. She’s the centre of all of the mystery here, and even though it was already pretty much established that she was that sun, it’s good to finally actually see her. Again, well worth the build up.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 5 March 2011 with categories: Letter Bee



I can only imagine how different things must have been in the manga at this point, because this episode in particular pulled a few twists that gave a completely different dimension to a few key characters. Still, the manga has an unlimited time frame and the anime doesn’t, so I at least admire the balls of the creators to go with some of the twists in this episode.

The thing with mystery is that it tends to leave a void whenever it’s solved, unless a different hook is provided. That was was a pretty big problem of this series for the past number of episodes, save for the Connor episode. This episode provided that hook again, and it’s just in time for the finale here.

It was obvious that if the plot were to just revolve around getting rid of the Cabernet, it would end up rather boring. It needed some extra spice to be introduced. Thunderland being part of Reverse is definitely an interesting way to do it. He has the background and enough motivation to do it, and having foreshadowed in in the previous episodes would only have made it more shallow, although I do wonder what kind of logic went behind his decision to store the ones who couldn’t become a spirit… int he middle of the Bee Hive.

Meanwhile, Gauche is good again! This lacked some of the impact due to the previous episodes rather shallow reason for it, but nevertheless: that scene between him and Sylvette was an excellent climax between the two. I mean, Letter Bee has always been very character-centric, and now it comes with a plot focused final quarter. It’s great to see that they still have a number of moments dedicated to simply the characters for the finale.

Letter Bee has definitely been an interesting series, it went from good to tedious to charming to repetitive, to amazing, to captivating, to a bit less interesting to a bit more interesting again. It’s going to depend a lot on the ending here. This ending needs to be more than “and they defeated the bad guy and lived happily ever after”. That would be just a dull anti-climax after all that build-up.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 26 February 2011 with categories: Letter Bee



“Don’t bother chasing him. He’ll have no chance of getting in our way.”

Dude… no. Just no.

Overall, this episode was quite solid, but I feel that the creators could have taken more risks. The result is a lot of cliches that you usually see when a story is nearly over: once morally ambiguous villains turn evil, good guys who were tempted by the dark side turn good again and due to the absence of any sort of development from the government itself… it has turned into a good versus evil story. Bummer.

Now, it’s not like this episode was bad or anything. I mean, Cabernet versus the capital, this has been built up for an entire season now, so it was going to be obvious that the climax would focus on this. Lawrence’s decision to sacrifice the ones who didn’t become a spirit also has a perfect explanation when you look at the way he’s willing to sacrifice in order to get to his goals, even though he originally probably didn’t intend to sacrifice them. I’d just wish that he didn’t make it so easy for Gauche to choose which side to join.

And as for the lack of any info on the capital, it’s an interesting twist in any case. The fact that we don’t know anything about them is definitely left up to the imagination of the viewer. We can sort-of imagine why they made the decisions they made, but I like how it’s still anyone’s guess as to who they exactly are. So yeah; last episode: don’t ruin that by turning them into stereotypical evil overlords or something.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Posted on 19 February 2011 with categories: Letter Bee



This could be me, but I have a strong feeling that this was one of the chapters of the manga again. And I can understand why the creators just had to include it, despite how they’re trying to wrap up the series while the manga is still on-going (that’s the only reason I can think of for why the previous episodes went into anime original territory anyway. It really is a shame that Pierrot couldn’t get a third season for this show in time). This chapter is fairly standalone, simple and away from the main plot, but it contained a ton of heart.

Connor obviously had been missing from the past episodes, and this episode explains what he had been doing. It turned out to be a wonderful piece of character development. This really was an excellent aftermath that made Connor into a much better character than he already was. It was overall a very quiet episode, even for Letter Bee standards, but that really gave Connor the time to show how Connor and Sunny changed.

the big question at this point is of course going to be: will the final episodes be able to do the story of this series justice? I’m hoping for a few more episodes like this, plus a very solid finale that tries to do more than just answering the major questions and wrap up the story.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 12 February 2011 with categories: Letter Bee



An episode full of morals. Really, this episode was all about the fact that the Reverse have a very justifiable cause and that the Letter Bees, despite their jobs, work for an organization that does a ton of terrible stuff. Especially Zazie was excellent in this episode and I like how professional he was.

It’s a bit of a shame that Jeel got shot before anything could get resolved, though. It would have been really interesting to see him continue on with the story here. In exchange though, we got the first hints to Lag’s mother since… episode two of the first season? What’s interesting is how Lawrence knows all those things. I mean, based on his scars, he also seems to be one of those people who got experimented upon, yet he did an awful lot of stuff for someone who lost his memories. In any case, he’s special in some way.

My main issue with the past few episodes is that its sense of location is a bit rushed here and there. Making up an original story is much harder than just following a manga, and this really shows itself in the way that sometimes, small scenes seem missing. Like the point where the Cabernet dies: the creators could have shown a small scene of Noir and the others running away. Or when Lag and the others fall down a cliff, and suddenly Valentine appears from out of nowhere with a horse carriage… on a beach. It would have been nice to show where they all came from.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 5 February 2011 with categories: Letter Bee



That OP just looks amazing. I guess that we now know why the previous episodes suddenly came with a recap OP: Studio Pierrot was still working on the real one in order to get it just right. When it looks this good, it really was worth the wait.

Also, I’ve said this before, but my stance on anime original material is that, as long as it works, I don’t mind it at all. With that in mind, I enjoyed this episode quite a bit. There were some strange technical issues, like a giant explosive garbage disposal machine that can be turned on by a big ripple in the water, but it’s easy to forget about that as it lied in the middle of a huge corpse graveyard!

This episode also made great use of the fact that the Letter Bees aren’t on the right side of the moral scale, despite believing to be so. Despite the services they provide to deliver hearts, they’re still on the side of the government, which has made quite a few enemies. This makes choosing between which side to join a much more interesting dilemma beyond the usual “am I good or am I evil?”

Regardless of however good the manga may be, the anime so far did create a pretty interesting job of coming up with an original story, but it’s not there yet. It’s clearly currently building up to something, and that really does need to pay off in the end. In particular, the creators are apparently no longer bound by a manga-format, so I hope that they make use of that instead of playing for safe.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 29 January 2011 with categories: Letter Bee



So apparently we’re now in anime original territory? Well, this episode didn’t feel as solid in the adventure department, but that may also be because if I got things right, the episode director of this episode was the director of Glass no Kantai… In any case, I’m glad that the creators are now already building up to their own ending, rather than doing this, say, during the final three episodes.

What I meant with that this episode wasn’t as solid as the others was that strange point of Aria fanservice that felt totally out of place for this series, or the way in which Nichi suddenly pulled another power out of nowhere(she can now even make wheelchairs), that conveniently located trap door for Nichi or that very badly animated horse carriage…

At the same time though, there was still plenty of good stuff here, most of it revolving around Gauche versus Lag. The scene in which Gauche pretty much tells him that he simply received a bunch of Lag’s memories is quite powerful, but at the same time we got confirmed that the letter bullet at least partially worked: if Gauche entirely spoke the truth in that scene, he would have been able to kill Lag easily.
Rating: * (Good)

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