Saturday, March 10, 2012


I didn't review Billy Bat vol. 7 when it came out, because I didn't have much to say about it. The confrontation that volumes four through six had been leading up to took place, and as I had predicted it wasn't a decisive showdown. It didn't even seem to advance the plot much. Nor did Urasawa introduce any new surprises in volume seven. In fact, I was a little disappointed when I finished it. Much of the preceding volumes' tension had been dissipated. Now that I think about it, volume seven could be seen as the end of an arc. (By my count, the third, after what might be called the First Modern-day Japan Arc and the Ninja Arc.)

Now that I've read volume eight, I have a lot more to talk about. On the one hand, this volume, along with the last, binds the various plot strands more closely together. In volume seven, we learned why Billy Bat wanted the interracial couple to get together and the true importance of that whole plotline. In this volume, we learn that the Bat's choice of Jackie, the Japanese-American girl introduced in volume six, was not random: she turns out to be indirectly connected to both the interracial couple plot and the ninja plot. (One advantage of writing about an entity manipulating history over millenia is that it makes what would otherwise be unbelievable coincidences more plausible.)

Things are being pulled together in other ways as well. Kevin returns to Japan, very reluctantly, and we again see the veteran manga-ka from whom he had unconsciously plaigarized Billy Bat. This manga-ka, who now sports an enormous bushy white beard and mustache, is revealed to have a more direct connection to the plot. And once again, many of the characters seem to be converging on a single location.

But in the middle of all this, Urasawa throws yet another curve ball, which may turn out to be his wildest yet. Chuck Calkin introduces a time machine into his version of the Billy Bat comic, and this is followed by a several page-long explanation of the fourth dimension. No real time machine appears in this volume. Nor, as far as I can recall, has there been any hint that the Bat, or anybody else, can travel in time. But the laws of dramaturgy now require that an actual time machine, or at least the potentiality for one, should eventually show up.

Aside from that, the biggest novelty in this volume is a new bad guy who's in Japan to buy up land for a Japanese version of Billyland (an obvious allusion to Tokyo Disneyland). This guy is genuinely scary, in part because he appears so affable.

I was going to reread the entire series so far before posting this, which might have given me more to say. But I can't find the vocabulary notes I made for some of the volumes. Once I've found them, maybe I'll write another post on vols. 7 and 8. Anyway, I'm now excited again to see the next volume.

Billy Bat is published by Koudansha (Japan). Both vols are 196 pp. and cost 600 yen. The ISBNs are 978-4-06-387037-4 (vol. 7) and 978-4-387078-7 (vol. 8).

Here are the amazon.co.jp pages for vols. 7 and 8.

Reviews of earlier volumes are here, here, here, here and here.

(I had jotted some notes about vol. 7 when it came out, and one of these was: "If you can read Japanese, DO NOT look at the lower left portion of the front cover (to be precise, the part of the obi which is above that portion of the cover). In large characters is printed a major spoiler not just for previous volumes of the series, but for vol. 7 itself." To which I would now add, on looking at the book again, don't look at the back-cover obi either, or at the English-language blurb under it.)

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