I became an instant fan of Naoki Urasawa in 2004 when I saw the Monster anime. Psychological thrillers are 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 5! (For my review of previous volumes, click here.)
Back Cover Blurb
Called “half English” in Japan and “half Japanese” in England, Mr. Keaton is a failed college lecturer but a successful insurance investigator… He doesn’t seem to belong in any society, but with a sense of hope, he soldiers on as a maverick operative, traveling across the world and embarking on suspenseful adventures!
Most stories in this series have been one to two chapters in length, but “The Leopard’s Cage” arc consists of five chapters. That makes it the longest of the Master Keaton tales thus far, but by no means does it drag. The opener with its BBC broadcast to British operatives is a bit silly, but after that, it’s a thrilling ride. The setting is Iraq right after its invasion of Kuwait. Iraq has taken British citizens hostage, and the British government sends Keaton in after Richard, an old classmate who happens to be a member of the royal family. Also part of the operation is Nasr, a Pakistani-British agent, who has his own set of unique skills. In addition to the difficulties of moving in enemy territory, Richard is a severe diabetic with a limited amount of insulin, and he’s also incurred the wrath of an Iraqi Major General known as the Eagle of Karun. This tank-toting general is probably Keaton’s most difficult adversary yet. Keaton’s and Nasr’s skills combined are only barely able to keep them ahead of the Eagle of Karun. The story is also interesting in that it’s a look back to an old regime in an area that continues to be plagued with unrest.
Keaton also gets involved in SAS business in the two-part “David Bobbid” arc. Whereas “The Leopard’s Cage” deals with a present war, this arc deals with a past military conflict and pits Keaton against SAS officers gone bad. The David Bobbid character is kind of freaky, especially his appearance, but the story does drive home how combat trauma manifests in various ways.
The remaining stories are short insurance cases and a flashback into Keaton’s childhood. We have the usual token appearances by Keaton’s father and daughter, but they stay mostly in the backdrop in this installment.
Extras include the first pages of Chapter 1 in color and a sound effects glossary.
Keaton gets sucked back to his SAS life for much of this volume. Interestingly, the five-chapter spy adventure of “The Leopard’s Cage” has Keaton using equal parts of his archaeology knowledge and military training, something we haven’t seen in a while. The SAS stories also provide commentary on relatively recent military conflicts. The remaining tales in this installment aren’t nearly as strong, but “The Leopard’s Cage” definitely makes Volume 5 worth your while.
First published at the Fandom Post.