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 12. (For my reviews of previous volumes, click here.)
Back Cover Blurb
“If you have the willingness to learn, you can learn anywhere.” With this message from his old teacher in his heart, Taichi Hiraga Keaton finally lands in Romania, where ruins of the Danube civilization lie. Yet, what awaits Keaton is a major horrifying event that shocks the entire nation!
The vast majority of this series has focused on Keaton’s external challenges, and most stories have been brief, unrelated arcs. However, for the finale of Master Keaton, the creators pull out all the stops to present a volume-long arc centered around Keaton’s dream of excavating the Danube.
Keaton has mentioned his theory of a yet-to-be-discovered Danube civilization on occasion, but in Volume 12, he has his theories formally written into a paper and is trying to gain the academic backing necessary to launch an archaeological excavation. His previous attempts at a faculty position were like a long-running joke, but this time there’s real pathos as Keaton struggles to choose between his aspirations and the restrictions of a conservative university department.
His ultimate decision drives all the subsequent action in the volume. Although that action includes everything from tracking down a lost 20-carat ring to defending a Romanian village from mortar fire, his single-minded determination toward his goal not only holds the wide-ranging narrative together, it allows readers to connect with Keaton on a deeper level. He solves mysteries and clashes with Mafia and former Secret Police like usual, but now that Keaton has something truly personal at stake, he and the story are much more engaging than when he was fixing other people’s problems. Indeed, other people band to help Keaton out of his scrapes, including childhood pal Charlie Chapman and retired Detective Hudson.
The arc’s one minor plot flaw is the ease by which the characters communicate. Keaton’s adventures take him to a remote Romanian village, and while his skills set is eclectic enough to include fluency in Romanian, I doubt Chapman and Hudson can claim the same. Otherwise, it’s a seamless wild ride as Keaton’s search for an artifact’s origins gets him tangled in a more sinister hunt for a former dictator’s hidden fortune. While there are several layers to the political intrigue, the creators’ artful storytelling keep the reader well abreast of the complex plot.
For those familiar with Urasawa’s subsequent work Monster, Master Keaton’s final chapters contain several elements also found in Monster—a post-Cold War Eastern European setting, corrupt government officials, underworld bosses, prostitutes, and a boy that latches onto the main character. So if you liked Monster, you’ll probably enjoy this last installment of Master Keaton, and vice versa.
It’s the final installment of Master Keaton, and the creators do an excellent job weaving all its myriad aspects into a thrilling volume-long arc. So whether you’ve enjoyed the series for its action, sleuthing, political intrigue, or archeological treasure hunting, you’ll find something to like as Keaton strives to make his archeological dreams a reality.
First published at the Fandom Post.