Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #2

I became an instant fan of Naoki Urasawa in 2004 when I saw the Monster anime. Psychological thrillers are definitely NOT my cup of tea, but he had me hooked with his combination of realistic artwork and gripping plot. As such, I was thrilled when Viz Media decided to release a translation of an earlier Urasawa action/adventure: Master Keaton. Read on for the review of Volume 2! (For my review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Taichi Hiraga Keaton has a degree from the University of Oxford’s master’s programme in archaeology, but he abandoned further studies due to tight finances. Because combat didn’t suit his nature, he left the SAS and is now an exceptional insurance investigator. Equipped with a strong body and a keen intellect, Keaton is about to solve the most difficult cases ever seen!

The Review

Master Keaton continues to deliver a series of mostly single chapter stories with settings ranging from Switzerland to Mexico City. Those who enjoy watching the unassuming yet amazingly capable combat soldier take his opponents by surprise should be entertained by a third of this volume’s contents. Keaton raids terrorists with a bunch of bounty hunters in “Little Big Man” and turns the tables on far-right extremists trying to hunt him down in “Black Forest.”

The writers seem to be having trouble continuing to deliver the archaeology aspect into Keaton’s insurance cases however. “Fire and Ice” opens with an ancient Greek drawing, but the case just involves regular sleuthing and some modern history. In “Red Moon” and it’s conclusion “Silver Moon,” mention is made of werewolves, but the story ultimately turns out more of a dark sci-fi. Ultimately, the chapters without a strong action component wind up showing Keaton more like a clever detective than an archaeologically minded investigator.

As if to make up for the lack of archaeology-related insurance cases, the writers create turmoil for Keaton in his academic life. He loses his university position, and struggles to find a way to continue pursuing his passion for things ancient. These segments are more character studies, and while not quite so exciting as his run-ins with underworld criminals, they’re an exploration into Keaton’s eccentric personality and personal life.

As in Volume 1, he talks about his ex-wife, but there’s no sign of her. Daughter Yuriko makes an appearance though, and Dad Taihei gets its own chapter in “Flowers for Everyone,” the only story that takes place in Japan.

Extras include the first pages of Chapter 1 and Chapter 5 in color and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

While Keaton continues to take adversaries by surprise with his SAS fighting and survival skills, the archaeology components of his cases fades to passing mentions of legends that have little actual bearing on the mystery or dilemma at hand. The writers compensate by focusing on Keaton’s personal struggles in academia. While Keaton’s quirky personality does keep things interesting, he comes across more as a clever detective than an Indiana Jones in Volume 2.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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