Human Packages and a Fanservice Package in Letter Bee (episode 03)

letter bee 03 interview section of the exams

This show has gotten me thinking about strangest of things; bothersome not in the sense that these things significantly affect my experience of anime as a whole, or even just this show, but a couple of things that are like itches I can’t reach.

Now we see Lag leave Cambel, the place that plays the role of his home town; with Aunt Sabrina playing the role of his primary parent or guardian. Here begins his quest to become a Letter Bee. In the previous episode we see how Gauche delivered Lag as a human parcel to Aunt Sabrina.

Rather, we see how Lag carried Gauche on his back after the former fought a rather trying battle against a swarm of Gaichu. The pertinent thing is how Aunt Sabrina rather rudely treats Gauche, mirrored afterwards by how the rest of the town treats him.

It’s apparent that him being a civil servant and a government official makes him a troublesome person to endure in the town that harbors pirates. In this episode however, everyone is rather proud that Lag intends to become a Letter Bee. And it is Aunt Sabrina herself who acknowledges how ill she treated Gauche back then.

Lag explains that it’s because of the train built in Yodoka that lets a lot more people come back and forth, thereby exposing the townsfolk to different people and perspectives.

letter bee 03 bess and dingos

In the Light and Blue Night Fantasy special we see how the Letter Bees tricked a dingo to believe he is performing his duty as a guide while actually being the package himself. There’s something touching about the end the deception serves — how they lead the dingo to end his days right by the side of his beloved Bee.

But this gets me wondering about thinking beings as packages. We transport animals and the like through courier services. Zoos get their animals through at times complex logistical efforts. However, for the purposes of this post I don’t relate to these animals as sentient individuals as dingos appear to be, capable of human-like judgment and decision making; as well as having human-like emotions so much so that they need manipulating.

What more a child like Lag, who was Gauche’s package?

Then we have the curious case of Niche, who is a mystery not having an identified sender, and not enough postage for her destination (Love Someone Down, the town of Rent).

letter bee 03 niche in a niche

In her case, as well as Lag’s himself, we have two living children as packages that have been left by the wayside — perhaps due to their Bees dying, but it’s unclear why exactly.

For the purpose of the narrative however, being a letter is a rite of passage of some kind. Lag’s journey with Gauche ‘made him a man’ in that he saved Gauche by carrying him on his back to complete his delivery over a considerable distance. It began Lag’s journey to become a Letter Bee. This delivery will most likely serve as the beginning of Niche’s journey to become Lag’s dingo. It’s not difficult to imagine given Niche’s physical gifts and Lag’s lack thereof. Niche will save his life, and this will be her role as his dingo going forward.

I admit that I never really did extensive research, so there really could be a precedent in sending children as packages via mail. I mean, it’s not difficult to imagine tasking someone to transport a child or animal as a paid service, but for a postal system to accept such packages to the extent of tagging them with postage and the like is something I did not find in my admittedly limited forays in postal history.

I’m interested to find out if there is a fictional precedent to this. I only know of Jeremy Statham’s The Transporter franchise of action movies, where at some point he transported a human package.

letter bee 03 niche pwns rock snake

On an unrelated note, I am of two minds on how to relate to the fanservice in the show. Niche’s character design is the starting point. She’s a loli through and through, this isn’t just a young woman made to look like a child. She’s a child, whose defining behavioral characteristic so far is a history of not wearing underwear. This becomes the narrative turning point for her relationship with Lag:

A charming appeal for her to wear underpants; made with innocent sensitiveness and some genuine concern for her welfare.

It’s cute. Charming even. However, I can’t help but wonder at the choice. Why pantsu? why the slow motion sequence involving Niche flashing Lag with her naked girly bits? It’s something that I feel is a play for some controversy, however minor; and definitely played for titillation. I can’t help but imagine how this was carefully planned to become a point of interest for the show. Do I feel it necessary? No. But am I surprised? Not really, it’s a shounen anime after all and this is an accepted trope for anime itself.

letter bee 03 lag niche nopan flash

I can’t help but wish however, that it didn’t have to be like this Letter Bee. Not for any high minded moral or artistic stance, only in that I can’t help but raise my expectations for this show after what feels to be such a well-done episode.

Further Reading

There does seem to be something sinister as to how Niche is left in that crack in chains (Shinmaru 2009/10/18)

A straightforward review of the episode (animewriter 2009/10/18)

The fanservice money-shot is a variation of the pantyshot obliquus; from a brilliant post that more people should read (iKnight 2008/01/29)

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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12 Responses to Human Packages and a Fanservice Package in Letter Bee (episode 03)

  1. Pingback: Letter Bee 3 – Bridging the Niche | Ganbatte Forever!

  2. Ningyo says:

    as much as I wouldn’t want to say, human trafficking comes to mind >.>

    Well, as long as the titillation isn’t too extreme, I wouldn’t pay it too much mind. The audience doesn’t see anything, and it’s left to their imagination, anyhow. Even in doraemon they had nobita constantly walking into shizu’s bathtimes.

    ..This is all to say I’m fine with lolis going commando…

    • Quite a disturbing possibility, human trafficking. I’m almost certain there wouldn’t be a child prostitution ring plot line in this show, but the worm is planted in my mind.

      It’d be hard to make it profitable due to the danger posed by the Gaichuu, and only 1 kid at a time can be transported. A large number would raise suspicion I think. Still. Shit now I’m interested in a storyline like this and how this show would tell it.

      The thing about shows like Doraemon, and a host of other examples, the ecchi humor is to be expected (?) somewhat. There’s a light atmosphere that lends to throwaway gags and naughty humor.

      The precision, significance, and care in putting the panty (non)shot sequence here gives me an impression that the show just tried a bit too hard.

  3. gloval says:

    I haven’t watched the series proper of Letter Bee, but I’ll try to put some LOLsymbolism in all this fanservice thing. I think the sequence is the first time Lag sees Niche in action and in some honest interaction, so I think it’s all about Lag seeing Niche’s true inner self and that nopan flashing was to punctuate that point. The usual way it’s done in anime is to make the character(s) suddenly float glowing and naked in some dimensional space.

    We could extend the analysis to that part about Lag asking Niche to wear some pants and inject some LOLfeminism interpretation, but let’s not go there anymore.

    I’ve used nudity in one of my stories. In my text, it’s only one sentence, not a big deal at all, but if drawn or animated, things would be different. One could say “ZOMG toddlercon fanservice!” but I’d say “Don’t speak out your filthy thoughts! Her nudity symbolizes birth. (But of course, the fanservice angle is a bonus. trollface.jpg)”

    • See this is exactly the thing I get uncomfortable with. I know it because I do it myself only not with ecchi. In writing I do it by sneaking in gratuitous Macross or mecha references and easter eggs of the memetic kind. There’s no point except to be clever and wink at a few like-minded ‘tards.

      A rule of writing that makes sense to me is to remove what is unnecessary. I feel that what I do, and what Letter Bee just did, is unnecessary: a whole lot of cleverness devoted to sneak in a pantyshot obliquus, and make it meaningful in the narrative context.

      It’s like a game among us otaku, among as writers called “see what I did there?”

  4. Deckard says:

    Interestingly, when a minor flies by a plane without adults, the airlines offer a service (for a fee) to have a member of the airline take the child from the adults at departure airport, guide through customs and security and onto the plain and do the same arrival/connections finally handing the child over to the designated adult at the final destination airport. You can identify the children escorted because on them (usually on the neck) they have a tag with full details of who they are, from where and to where they are going, and who is sender (i.e. original adult). Short of monsters, the system is very much like the Letter Bees considering that airlines also deliver parcels.

    • Yes, indeed. The primary distinction however is that the airline is a transport service and not a delivery service. It transports cargo, packages, and yes children, from port to port. The package must be picked up from such port.

      Letter Bees are tasked to pick up and deliver from door to door.

      Otherwise the system is completely similar.

  5. Chris K. says:

    While I found the Niche fanservice to be quite amusing I think this episode and the next episode will raise some interesting questions surrounding the morals of Amberground and the Letter Bees.

    I found Niche’s delivery address of Love Someone Down, in the town of Rent to be very suspicious/shady sounding. Niche’s delivery address sounds like what a cheap house of prostitution might be called. So, that being said, so does Amberground sanction or turn a blind eye to sex trafficking or forced child labor? Either way, how far does a Letter Bee’s oath of always delivering a package to it’s destination go? Would Gauche have really delivered Lag into slavery, will Lag deliver Niche to a bad place, or do the Letter Bee’s have a higher code that might go something like this, “duty above all else except honor”?

    A have a slight suspicion about the future Lag/Niche relationship, in my review of episode one I stated that some aspects of Letter Bee have common characteristics of a magic girl show. In the magic girl genre, the very young magic girl is given a mascot that serves as the voice of reason/wisdom that helps guide the girl forward to her goal and also gives mature advice to her. While the mascot might seem very young and cute it usually is very old and experienced with serious matters, so I think that we’ll be very surprised when we find out more about Niche’s true nature.

    • It could just be us entertaining ourselves by this wild speculation with regards to child trafficking as a possible storyline, but well, I don’t care. You may be on to something re Love Someone Down, which does sound like a seedy dive — though I tend to not speculate too much on gratuitous english phrases though Letter Bee gets my benefit of the doubt because of its consistent focus on names and their meanings (i.e. Niche).

      Even more interesting is how you explored the ethical code of the Letter Bees. I expect this story to flesh this out in some form; perhaps during Lag’s acceptance ceremony when the time comes. Informally it can come up should Love Someone Down should turn out to be a seedy child prostitution set-up. I won’t put it past the show come to think of it since naughty magazines exist and are even used as a bribe. We can look forward to Lag ‘rescuing’ Niche from this life and thus earning her loyalty.

  6. I learned quickly from the first 2 episodes that this series won’t be totally serious, but I was still surprised by the use of “loli pantys-service”. I’d like to think that “moment” (http://www.mobypicture.com/user/DonKangolJones/view/5604947) has more symbolic value then my first impression gives me. The feeling I get from the show is one of a coming-of-age story. And I assume that part of that is learning to deal with whatever comes with dealing with Niche & becoming a proper Letter Bee.

    • The next episode may give you something more substantial to chew on, but indeed it is a coming-of-age story as you say. I’m not sure if making it as a Letter Bee is the final destination for the series, but it could be.

  7. Pingback: Tsubasa Cat and Araragi Dog: Bakemonogatari 13 « We Remember Love

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