Loving Someone Down: Letter Bee 04

letter bee 04 lag niche cure light wounds via making out

I’m going to start with something that resembles a gripe that I started making after seeing episode three. The panty shot obliquus that had Lag getting a full flash commando view of a leaping loli upskirt is one thing, but Letter Bee has gone into full fetish fanservice innuendo in this episode (see above image). Maybe it’s a mistake on my part to want something more innocent from such an initally charming story and setting.

For it not do anything for me titillation wise (the point of sexual innuendo fanservice right?) is one thing, but for it to be a distraction, and at the same time leave me with an impression that the show is rather self-congratulatory for its cleverness takes away from what I still want to see as a charming and entertaining show. Anyway, gripe over. This was quite an entertaining episode, in its own small Letter Bee way.

letter bee 04 map love someone down

In my speculations last episode, abetted by WRL’s clever and generous readers who comment regularly I explored the idea of human trafficking via the Letter Bee parcel service. The name of Niche’s recipient address was ‘Love Someone Down’ which somehow indeed insinuated some seedy prostitution dive. However, this show won’t seem to dare a subject like this directly, preferring to titillate via innuendo and not deal with sex at all.

It’s shonen after all which means that it’s more interested in exciting its viewers rather than provoking them to think about issues; and as IKight deftly put,

The pantyshot plugs neatly into this: it is an extraordinary glimpse of a world far removed from everyday experience (of the 12-year-old – I wouldn’t presume to assume about you, dear reader!) and at the same time it actually shows the viewer very little. What we see is a piece of fabric, or more accurately a cartoon representation of said piece of fabric. The pantyshot claims to feed the 12-year-old another piece of that seemingly-eternal puzzle, ‘What are girls like?’, while actually telling him very little.

I extend this kind of thinking to a broader set of fanservice in the case of Letter Bee, it goes further into mis-informing fantasy, not that panties themselves are a fantasy construct — IKnight does say that actual panties are to be avoided, and I’ll validate that used underwear is what it is — an article of clothing moistened and dried of human’s various waste fluids. Girls don’t behave like baby animals… usually that is.

letter bee 04 niche broccoli forest

So Love Someone Down isn’t that kind of seedy dive. Instead it’s a freak show, carnival style. Niche is a creature with Maka blood — some kind of creature related to dragons. Here oddity, her hidden golden swords is the attraction (and perhaps in addition to her child like feminine charms). Lag finds out about this and attempts to rescue her.

In a roundabout way, he does. He protects her from a mantis-like Gaichuu, firing with the spirit amber lodged in his left eye. As is the way how the Gaichuu die, Lag’s memories become visible narratives for people nearby. Niche is obviously touched by this, and shows her gratitude and affection by going on top of him and licking his face. Predictably, her licking has some healing properties, the flimsy premise for this gratuitous sex scene between a shota and a loli furry.

Inevitably, Niche chooses to stay by his side, because saying goodbye is sad for him, and she doesn’t want that. Another creature follows them from Love Someone Down, a furry thing with a wide mouth that has taken a liking to Niche. Niche declares herself Lag’s dingo and Steak is somehow part of the bargain. Lag’s quest to become a Letter Bee continues.

letter bee 04 lag niche vs gaichuu 4 roses power up

I may come off as rather cynical in this post, but I really do find Letter Bee interesting and entertaining. It still has this innocent charm, but for me to access it I have to give up a few things (after all, many others may find the fanservice in this show a significant draw), and I’m talking myself into believing that it’s worth it.

Further Reading

If you haven’t read this yet, then you simply must: The P Word (IKnight 2008/01/209)

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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25 Responses to Loving Someone Down: Letter Bee 04

  1. Silver says:

    It might also depend on the viewer. I can see why you saw the licking scene that way but for me, I did not even thought of anything remotely dirty about that. However, some other scenes might invoke such thoughts in me like the stuff about underwear.

    • It does depend on the viewer. If the viewer doesn’t appreciate such service, or is completely oblivious, but likes the show anyway, it’s no big deal. Not to make it such a big deal — it just happened to really distract me for two episodes in a row… to think that cleverness and talent is being put to use this way instead of say, character nuance via dialogue.

      I apologize if I sound too much like I’m complaining. I’m not that bothered really, just something I thought was worth discussing.

  2. maAkusutipen says:

    Many people are saying the reason that there are so many fanservice (way above my threshold level) in the shows nowadays because that is what the DVD purchasing crowd in Japan wants… They want to remove all the censoring they saw in the original broadcast and well the DVD version is the way to do that…

    Is this true? Honestly, since the onset of increasing fanservice/y shows I stayed away from anime. Gl, what is your take?

    • Well, people watch narratives for the visual gratification. This has always been present. If indeed the otaku find the most value out of anime via this kind of gratification, I see why producers would satisfy this demand. After all, these otaku are the ones who are most likely to make DVD purchases.

      It’s a chicken vs. egg thing too, and it is what it is.

      I read somewhere (I feel bad that I forgot) why certain eroge are or have highly complex plotting or such interesting subject matter despite being ‘just’ a game ronery old otaku can fap to.

      It’s due to how these people really want such maturity and complexity in the medium that they enjoy — erotic games.

      At some point we can also consider that the anime medium is an erotic narrative wish-fulfillment device, that has or may have complexity and maturity in both subject matter content and plotting, etc. to distinguish themselves from other examples within the medium.

      I don’t think this is already the case, but it is worth considering.

    • Deckard says:

      Think of it as ketchup or better yet pepper. It’s not a meal in itself and one can have a meal without it, but pepper helps to sell. It is especially important to provide pepper when the shop next door is offering it, since you burgers and prices are the same. In fact, in this case you will likely offer pepper even if you don’t want to.

  3. Deckard says:

    Here is a random thought. The writers may have though of underwear as a way of establishing the divide, in Lag’s eyes, between dingo the animal/pet and Niche-dingo. For the former, underwear is no more ridiculous than underwear for a dog. However, in case of Niche, Lag’s insistence on the underwear may be intended to signify his recognition/perception of Niche as more than animal. I don’t say human because she isn’t in biological sence, so a better term might be sentient being equal to humans/bees. Note that word “bees” and its association with non-human.

    In a sense, in the show there is a conflict between on one hand the outward appearance (claws) and some behaviour traits (licking, clothing habits) of Niche and on the other her sentience/humanity/emotions. One can easily dismiss the animalistic traits as fanservice, but – in my view – they should be accepted as a novel take on the question “What makes us human?”.

    Here is a case in my defence. Consider Blade Runner. In that movie one of the non-human characters – exotic dancer – is portrayed in a fanservice fashion, but does the fanservice really serve the fans, or is it integral for the contrast between the fetishism and objectification of the character’s role – exotic dancer – and her humanity. I’ll leave it at this, since I don’t seem to be producing a coherent argument, but let me end as follows: I feel that – among other things – nudity in Letter Bee is akin to nudity and lolis in Casshern Sins; the goal is not to pander the audience, but to serve the plot and characterisation.

    • Oh I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt, especially after your defense of it.

      But what really got me thinking is thinking on what the cost is in the narrative? Is this kind of fanservice detrimental to anything in the show. It seems like the answer is no. I was tempted to suggest that the show replace characterization via innuendo with non-suggestive dialogue, but I looked at two of my favorite talky shows:

      a) Bakemonogatari: a fanservice black hole (though at least one can say that it isn’t pretending to be otherwise)
      b) Crest/Banner of the Stars (I, II, III): brilliant dialogue that when the talk gets overlong the image on the screen immediately jumps to some truly gratuitous fanservice shots (naked bathing Abh women, male gaze camera focus)

      Thinking on such should make me relax more about this perturbation I feel about Letter Bee.

      • Deckard says:

        Seem that among many fans and blogers exists a tendency to call “fanservice” anything that involves exposed flesh, sexual innuendos, etc. Given that when applied to serious (i.e. not Needless type) show “fanservice” has a negative connotation, the audience’s approach becomes “Guilty until Proven innocent”. This puts before the director/writer a dilemma: to limit one’s storytelling and narrative elements to those that will not be labelled fanservice or to suffer the accusations. Self-imposing limitations surely can’t consistently produce a better story than is possible without the restrictions. Of course, Bakemonogatari is a brilliant example of (hypothetical) third choice, but one has to wonder if the success of Bakemonogatari was achieved through design or luck. I personally wish for it to be design.
        Of course, there is also, as maAkusutipen guessed, the desire to sell DVDs. However, if that is the intention of the director/writer than one is justified in criticising and disliking fanservice in the same way one can criticise the shallowness of soft cover romance/fantasy/crime/etc novels. These type of fanservice has its place (Needless), but mixing Dostoevsky with Sidney Sheldon is like mixing all the fruits and vegetables in the kitchen in hope that the result would be good since the ingredients are good individually: you may be lucky, but no more than once.

        • Good stuff.

          As I mentioned to maAkusutipen, it might be helpful to do some genre-based analysis. I’ve only hinted on it there, but I think it’s good to try to get into the bones of it here.

          While I can’t say that Dostoevsky (who I love btw) didn’t attempt to be a popular novelist by including tropes and devices that appeal to his contemporary readers (Shakespeare was more blatantly service-y, being generous with innuendo and ribaldry) for the purposes of this comment I will assume that he was aiming for posterity above all things, the kind of timelessness liberal humanist critics love.

          Let us assume Dostoevsky never existed. A ‘trashy’ novel writer (those with Fabio covers) can, while risking commercial success, write a Brothers Karamazov of a romance novel… with Grushenka as the lead, torn between Vladimir and his father… while a incestuous homoeroticism simmers between Ivan and Alyosha. The prose is borderline purple at times, and the sexual content is gratuitous.

          It won’t win prizes, but I daresay certain mature fans of the genre will be riveted… after all, ‘The Grand Inquisitor’ ended with a kiss between brothers…

          Verily this particular novel would be well, The Brothers Karamazov of its genre: a fanservice delivery novel, that has uncommon wealth of material relative to its peers. Should anyone be bothered by the heaving chests, the heavy breathing, and the general lack of clothing in how both Vladamir and old Karamazov himself bare their souls to our Grushenka?

          To a (small) degree this is how I feel about Fate stay/Night the visual novel (I’m in the middle of completing the Unlimited Blades Works route). It is an erotic game that has uncanny awesomeness in it.

          But this example doesn’t really describe Letter Bee does it?

          I sometimes suspect that both the panty shot obliquus and the mounted licking scene are wink wink nudge nudge to older viewers who may not be interested by the (shonen) story alone, but can be persuaded by the charms of a loli furry and her cute little fang.

          Further Reading (because I wrote a fakken editorial in this comment section wwwwww)

          http://www.animenation.net/blog/2009/10/26/ask-john-why-do-americans-resent-fan-service/

  4. Seinime says:

    Definitely interesting. Going to shed some time of my busy schedule and catch up.

  5. Pingback: Deckard and ghostlightning on Fanservice and Letter Bee « The Ghosts of Discussions

  6. digitalboy says:

    There’s one thing you should always keep in mind about fanservice. It’s ‘FAN. SERVICE.’ meaning it is something created to APPEASE the fans. Complaining about fanservice is like bitching at the room service for cleaning up after you. And yeah, maybe you’re that kind of guy, and you specifically ask not to receive room service, but, well, some people really like that service!!! I’m not accusing you of saying it’s not, but I’m just stating that it’s a matter of preference and not a matter of fault on the part of the creator.

    • You could read the exchanges above to see where I stand about this… it’s not so much a grievance, as it is an exploratory questioning.

      Also, you’ll notice that I don’t bring the creators into the discussion, so I’m not accusing people here. Fault-finding isn’t fun, and creator ‘criticism’ leads to so many dead ends.

  7. Skribulous says:

    >So Love Someone Down isn’t that kind of seedy dive. Instead it’s a freak show, carnival style.

    Which ironically is a good description for certain prostitution dens. Not that I’ve seen these sort of things first-hand, of course. *ahem*

    • How do you imagine a prostitution den named ‘Love Someone Down’ then? How would it look like? What would its value proposition be (to distinguish itself from competing establishments)?

      • gloval says:

        Something like /d/, only not virtual.

        If you think about it, maybe we as a society just been sexualizing (in the taboo sense of the word) a lot of things lately. Kids–note my choice of words–having no underwear and kids licking wounds like a dog do happen, why should we, why do we get worked up about it? (Of course visiting /d/ isn’t helping, heh.)

        • It’s not just these things in themselves… it’s the presentation: the VIEW of nopan that made Lag blush, and how Niche mounted him and licked his face. I don’t think these things are accidental or arbitrary at all.

  8. “…and shows her gratitude and affection by going on top of him and licking his face. Predictably, her licking has some healing properties, the flimsy premise for this gratuitous sex scene between a shota and a loli furry.”

    You don’t know how hard I was trying to keep that thought from entering my mind during this episode. I guess I’ve seen enough anime with what some viewers (especially here in America) would call “questionable” or even controversial material. Every now & then, I might cringe & say, “I wish they didn’t do that”. Or I may even feel a little awkard while viewing the scenes, but this time I around the episode really captured my imagination.

    Curse you japanese writers for your clever writing & use of moe! I couldn’t help it. The protective feelings started flowing for Niche in those circumstances. I hate using trope phrases that sometimes I barely understand, but it looks like her moe brought out his GAR. I’m looking forward to Lag & Niche’s journey. I just wish they would’ve left that creepy “Steak” behind. And I’m just a bit worried about more moments of “self-discovery” for Lag in this anime. If he gets hurt too much I fear there may be a “Kodomo no Jikan” moment.

    • LMAO

      It really does seem like an easter egg for the more ehem, ‘mature’ viewers of the show doesn’t it?

      I don’t think anything will be consumated though. Mainstream shows stop at that point, which kind of makes Kare Kano kind of special doesn’t it?

      • “Kare Kano!” (fawns….) a show has never come closer to being absolutely perfect. *sigh*

        I guess it’s a good thing that nothing gets consumated in this series. How gross would that be? Seeing a loli with beast arms, “dragon’s blood”, cat eyes & fangs & demon hair mount a boy with a big mosquito in his left eye is NOT something I’d take time to watch. Take that Bible Black! You’re not the weirdest & most hardcore anymore!

  9. adaywithoutme says:

    I have to admit, the fanservice has driven me away from the show, which is really too bad since it seemed very promising during the first two episodes. But all of this lolicon-pandering is extremely distracting, and quite disappointing consider how delightful the show had seemed initially. Oh well.

  10. fiona says:

    love Letter Bee!! It had wonderful characters! This anime was awesome i never got bored.

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