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Monday, July 25, 2011

MANGA CORNER: BILLY BAT VOL. 6

I recently bought a copy of Billy Bat vol. 6, which came out a few weeks ago, and I just finished reading it. The first three-quarters of this volume continue the story of the previous volume. We learn more about how Chuck Culkin replaced Kevin on "Billy Bat," and we see Chuck in the present as well. And we continue following Kevin and the man whose identity I'm withholding because it would be a huge spoiler. The last quarter of the book takes place in New York in 1963 and introduces a whole new batch of characters. When I first skimmed through this portion I saw a figure who looked like Bob Dylan and saw the katakana for "Bob Dylan," and I thought "Urasawa wouldn't ... would he?" As it turns out, he didn't: it's just a character who looks like Dylan and is a big Dylan fan. And he's not the main character of this section, anyway: his Japanese-American ex-girlfriend is. This volume doesn't reach the storytelling heights of some of the earlier volumes, and it dissipates some of the urgency I felt coming out of the last volume. But it's still a good volume, without the lenghty weak section that mars volume five.

The blurb on the obi (the paper band that wraps around the bottom half of the jacket) says "Mysteries will be made clear!!" But they aren't, for the most part. We do learn the motive behind the Shinoyama case, which played a prominent role in the first volume-and-a-half but has pretty much gone unmentioned since then. And the Bat reveals something of his true nature (if we can believe what he says, that is), but his words raise at least as many questions as they answer.

Though there are no shocks in this volume to compare to those delivered in vols. 2 and 4, it nevertheless changed my expectations for the series. At the end of the last volume, everything seemed to be building towards a decisive confrontation at a certain place and time, and sooner rather than later. But now my guess would be that we're in this for the long haul. If that confrontation takes place, it will probably be indecisive, like several such confrontations in Monster and 20th Century Boys. And the introduction of what looks to be a major new character, and a major new arc involving her, makes it unlikely that Urasawa will be wrapping this up very soon.

I'm getting a bit worried about the licensing prospects for Billy Bat in the U.S., though. Again, I have to be vague for fear of spoilers. But I can say that an American historical figure is depicted in a way that, while patently fictional, might still anger and even outrage some people, and Kodansha, Billy Bat's publisher, might possibly be worried about offending the U.S. market.

A note for those who have read, or are reading, this volume in Japanese. You may have come across the word "Angorumoa" and been baffled, as I was. Upon searching, I eventually discovered that it's not the Sgt. Frog or Transformers character: it's the Japanization of "Angolmois." (To avoid creating false expectations among those who recognize the word or have Googled it, I'll add that nothing in this volume takes place later than 1963. If this makes no sense to you, don't bother trying to figure it out; it's not that important.)

Billy Bat is 196 pages long, and sells for 600 yen. It's published by Kodansha in their "Morning" line, and its ISBN is 9784063870015.

(Reviews of the previous volumes are here, here, here and here.)

Comments:
I think that Billy Bat is one hell of a series... I hope it gets licensed... when I first read it I was shocked by the anti-stetic od actual manga... A guy who break the rules! That's what we need
 
I've been following this series on MangaFox, at least as much as I can considering how out of sequence it seems to be. or maybe that's just how this manga is written, I can't really tell. anyway, I know what you mean about the "unnameable historical figure" and agree that it would probable piss some people off, most likely the same people who'd be upset over the depiction of Jesus. I doubt those people would be readers of the series. in the end, that's all that you can hope for is to keep your readers happy, because no matter what, your going to find somebody who doesn't get it and gets offended no matter what you write. I just wish I understood katakana, cause if it's never licensed in the US, then MangaFox will remain my only option
 
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