The story is set in 1949 and follows Japanese-American comic book artist Kevin Yamagata as he draws the popular detective series "Billy Bat" for "Marble Comics." When he learns he may have unconsciously copied the character from an image he saw while serving in occupied Japan, he returns to Japan to get permission to use Billy Bat from its original creator. Upon arriving there, however, he becomes embroiled in a web of murder, cover-ups, and prophecy that all leads back to Billy Bat.
It is soon evident, however, that the truth of Billy Bat's nature is far larger than Kevin could ever guess, spanning millennia and across the world.
Billy Bat is an intricately woven mystery-thriller; it's a manga where twists and turns are around every corner and one which you will have to invest quite a bit of time into before any kind of revelation or payoff, but my is it gripping.
We begin with Kevin Yamagata; a Japanese-American cartoonist whose series Billy Bat - which follows the adventures of an anthropomorphic bat detective - is published by the reputable Marble Comics and adored throughout America. However, by chance Kevin learns of a manga which features a similar protagonist to his in Japan. Realising he may have unconsciously plagiarised the character whilst in Japan some years prior, he travels there hoping to meet with the author, but what he discovers is a web of conspiracies, murder, cover-ups and betrayal which all seemingly lead back to his bat character. Before long, however, it becomes evident that Billy Bat is something far beyond Kevin, as he's whisked into a mystery surrounding the bat's inception millennia ago and how - since the beginning of time - it has influenced history.
'Begin with' is an opportune phrase as - while Kevin is the protagonist - like much of Naoki Urasawa's work, the cast is impressively extensive, with Urasawa dipping in and out of different time periods and into the minds of numerous characters. The story is sinuous to say the least, but following it is never a chore. Urasawa nails the pacing, with much of the later content split into story arcs which usually consist of eight chapters (one complete tankobon). As a manga which portrays no less than fifteen different time periods - ranging from the 1st century to the 21st - it rarely comes across as confusing or disjointed, with Urasawa utilising sublime, almost cinematic transitions, along with many familiar faces in the form of characters based on real-life historical figures, which many readers will be able to pinpoint.
These characters - along with the inclusion of many real-life incidents, such the the Shimoyama affair, the JFK assassination, the falling of the Berlin Wall and even the 9/11 attacks - make the series feel as though it's grounded in reality. Billy Bat has a certain familiarity about it; it's an evocative series which balances fiction and non-fiction well, all the while displaying just how much planning and preparation Naoki Uraswawa and Takashi Nagasaki have put into the story.
It does require a certain amount of patience, however. Much like in 20th Century Boys - one of the authors' previous series - a hundred and one questions are proffered before only a handful are answered. Urasawa grips readers with frequent twists and startling cliffhangers at the end of every chapter - the story itself never sours - but readers of an impatient disposition may encounter some frustration with how long certain questions are held in limbo.
The characterisation is phenomenal, with both the fictional and non-fiction based characters portrayed immeasurably. Certain characters are more well-rounded than others, but for such a huge cast, Urasawa works wonders. I'm delighted to say, both the protagonists and antagonists are superbly crafted; with a heart, a soul, emotions and clear motivations. It's especially great to see the more villainous characters looked after, so to speak. One dimensional characters can cause a story to fall so utterly flat, but Urasawa deserves much praise. He has created a multitude of level-headed, layered, intelligent, intriguing, well-written, well-implemented characters sure to leave an impression.
Urasawa's handiwork continues in the art, which rarely misses the mark. Certain panels could do with a little more detail, but all-in-all, the characters are appropriately differentiated and well-drawn, the backgrounds are stunningly detailed - especially in the page spreads - and, as before, Urasawa's use of transitions from one scene to the next is second to none. Urasawa utilises a different style for the comic-in-a-comic sequences of Billy Bat - it's more cartoonish and Americanised - which works exceedingly well and adds yet another flavour to an already appetising manga. The flow of his artwork and panel placement is admirable, with the dramatic beats hitting their mark and the action sequences thrilling to follow.
Ultimately, Billy Bat is a precisely planned and efficiently presented manga; it's clear to see how in control Urasawa is. Despite such a gigantic cast and involved plot, he never loses his way. The story is well-rounded and confidently written, with the characters consistent and appealing. Additionally, the drama is realistic and attentively developed, with many of the story arcs able to garner substantial emotional investment. Overall, Billy Bat is an immersive, gripping and highly stirring read; among Urasawa's best.read more
When I heard Naoki Urasawa was making a new manga I was extremely excited. I am a massive fan of his works, so it was amazing when I first found out about Billy Bat.
The first couple of chapters I was a little confused by the comic in a manga idea and how we were introduced to the comic bofore the characters in the manga. Also when I first read it I was a little unsure whether it was actually a manga by Urasawa, because of the style the manga had begun. But all my doubts where removed when I we were finally introduced to the main character Kevin Yamagata.
Like all of Naoki Urasawa's mangas Billy Bat is no doubt a cativating thriller that makes me want even more every time I read the resent update. The idea of being haunted by your own creation interests me too. The story so is brilliant and well planned.
Urasawa's art may not be the prettiest or best looking, but his art is easy to follow, not like some commen shoujou manga. Personally I love his art, and he will always be my favourite mangaka not just because of the captivating plots he comes up with but his raw talent he has with drawing.
The characters in Billy Bat are strong and well made. No two characters look the same, and due to Urasawa's art style it is easy to see his characters in real life. All character backgrounds are realatiable and realistic, therefore making it even easier to simpisize with the charaters.
I am really enjoying this manga, I can't wait for the next update! I highly recomend Billy Bat to anyone who enjoys any other manga by Naoki Urasawaread more
Having felt curious because of a new manga series that got translated online, I started reading Billy Bat and realised how amazing it was. It was indeed very confusing at first because I thought it would be an Americanized comic about a detective, however I realised it was so much more.
Urusawa has definitely put a lot of work into this manga due to the fact that it has a lot of significant historical references such as the birth of Jesus and the assassination of J.F. Kennedy.
What I love the most is that it deals so much with racial discrimination and an actual insight of the so-called assassinator of Kennedy, Oswald. The manga is very powerful in a non-cliched manner such that people will feel that it is decent and original.read more
This manga is one of my favorite mangas of all time.
It uses real historical events and sets a really good story on it.
The Characters are well known for example JFK and are all diffrent.
The art is really good, well used color pages, tones and color differences.
Also you can regonize at the first view who the mangaka was.