Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #6

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 6. (For my reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Taichi Hiraga Keaton dreams of someday being the archaeologist who excavates the Danube Valley Civilization. Reality doesn’t seem to be working in his favor, however, as being an insurance investigator keeps him busy and always in peril! With no rest in sight, what’s in store for Master Keaton next?

The Review

After the lengthy Leopard’s Cage arc in Volume 5, Master Keaton returns to its usual pattern of short, stand-alone adventures. While one chapter (“The King’s Tears”) shows him pursuing artifacts during his free time, a paying job in archeology continues to elude him. As such, his role in Volume 6 is predominantly that of Lloyds insurance agent and investigator. Most of these cases have little to do with ancient history. Instead, Keaton’s investigations involve the current events of his era, such as ongoing tensions between Ireland and Britain, and two chapters (“The Winds of Cornwall” and “The Adventures of After-School Detectives”) are purely detective stories.

As usual, Keaton’s ex-wife doesn’t show up, but Keaton encounters various former classmates and colleagues as he travels Europe on his assignments. “The Code of Blood and Honor,” the longest arc in this volume, is a two-chapter mystery that involves the murder of an old schoolmate who just happens to be the son of a Mafia don. So in addition to having a “Godfather” flavor, the case has personal meaning to Keaton. To make it more personal, an assassin from one of Keaton’s earlier adventures returns, and he’s bent on revenge. In the “The Winds of Cornwall,” Keaton investigates the suspicious activity targeted toward a childhood friend, which a second mutual childhood friend is also investigating. Unlike the gripping plot in “The Code of Blood and Honor,” “The Winds of Cornwall” meanders all over the place, and even though it does involve deadly threats and organized crime, the story’s more about what Keaton’s friends think of him.

As for what strangers think of Keaton, most continue to view him as an eccentric or an annoyance. “The Adventures of After-School Detectives” is another murder mystery, but it’s also one of the funnier stories. Three school-age detectives are also on this case, and the way they pick at Keaton’s performance as an investigator is fairly amusing.

Keaton is in Europe the entirety of this volume; we only get one brief glimpse of his daughter and dad celebrating the holidays without him in Japan. However, both of them do travel to London to see him so we get our Yuriko- and old man Hiraga-centric chapters. In both these stories, the Hiragas render a service to strangers, and in Hiraga senior’s case, his primary motivation is his skirt-chasing tendencies, which we’ve heard plenty about but are kind of awkward to watch in action.

Extras include the first pages of Chapter 4 in color and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

Keaton is all investigator in this volume. No teaching assignments or requests from the SAS. Just one Lloyds case after another with a couple personal adventures on the side. Not a lot of ancient history, but if you like tales of organized crime against a backdrop of Europe right after the fall of communism, this volume will deliver.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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