Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #7

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

Back cover blurb

When the wall that separated the East and West falls, the 20th century comes to an end and brings radical change to the world. During this turbulent time, Taichi Hiraga Keaton has difficulty finding a job in archaeology even though his long line of cases as an insurance investigator doesn’t seem to end. As he navigates through dangerous adventures, Keaton encounters some bittersweet lives…

The Review

The creators serve up twelve single-chapter stories for this installment of Master Keaton, but even though it doesn’t include longer arcs, the volume features more archeology elements than we’ve seen lately. “The Curse of Isis” is essentially a mummy’s curse story, but it does incorporate some eerie facts regarding the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb into the narrative. In “Fortune with Rain,” Keaton enjoys some down time by helping an old classmate excavate Etrurian artifacts in an Italian dig. “The Prayer Tapestry” is the only story that takes place in Japan and incorporates both Japanese and European history into a surprisingly fascinating plot. The final chapter, “The Iron Fortress,” takes place at a medieval fortress in Italy, where Keaton has the misfortune to encounter a local judge pursued by the Camorra. While Keaton definitely shows off his fighting prowess against the mobsters, he also uses his knowledge of medieval architecture to gain the upper hand.

For those more enamored of the political climate of Keaton’s time, never fear. In “In the Shadow of Victory,” he investigates a British lieutenant’s bloody dealings in Ireland and Desert Storm. Of course, Keaton’s SAS experience comes into play in that chapter as well as “The Green Fugue” and “Homecoming,” both of which highlight Eastern Europe’s rocky transition after the fall of communism.

This volume also offers something a little different than the usual thugs and archeology adventures. Animals have appeared every now and then, mostly because of Keaton’s dad, but this volume includes two animal-centric stories. “Whisky Cat Village” tells of a Scottish community where a local whisky distillery has gone out of business while “The Angel’s Wings” is about a young London police dog handler and his dog. “Whisky Cat Village” and “The Angel’s Wings” feature Keaton’s dad and Keaton, respectively, but they play very minor roles. The focus is on the animals, and the cat even acts as narrator in “Whisky Cat Village.”

Another departure from Keaton’s usual insurance jobs and SAS-related escapades is “Blue Friday.” We’ve occasionally caught glimpses of Keaton’s insurance company co-worker Daniel, but we know next to nothing about him. This time Daniel gets his own chapter in a kind of gumshoe romance. At any rate, we see more of him in this volume than of Keaton’s dad and daughter combined.

Extras include the first five pages in color and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

A little something for everyone in these twelve single-chapter stories. In addition to the usual against-the-odds rocks versus guns skirmishes, we have the return of archeological digs and cursed artifacts to the story lineup. A couple of animal stories also change things up a bit, and even though we don’t get much new information on Keaton’s personal life, we get a look into the love life of his coworker Daniel.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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