Tag Archives: Naoki Urasawa

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #11

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

Back Cover Blurb

After the Cold War draws a curtain over Europe and the economic bubble bursts in Japan during the late twentieth century, ace insurance investigator Taichi Hiraga Keaton brings his skills into full play… No matter how difficult the case, Keaton will not miss a clue!

The Review

The quality of the Master Keaton stories has gone up and down since the early volumes, and in Volume 11, it’s more down than up. The one solid story is the three-part “Made in Japan.” Daughter Yuriko, now 17, reappears as she and her dad meet up for quality time in Scotland—at an archeological tour. The story combines several things: their parent-child relationship, Keaton’s unfulfilled dreams of being an archaeologist, his SAS skills, and Keaton’s dangerous career impacting his family. This last element is a situation we haven’t encountered before, and that makes it more gripping than the usual scenarios where Keaton is a passerby.

Domestic drama figures largely in the other stories, but Keaton isn’t personally involved so it’s a bit like watching episodes of unrelated soap operas. In “The Final Challenge,” an old schoolmate asks Keaton to track the whereabouts of another schoolmate, but the story is really about the tangled family situation the two men created. “Lost Beyond the Wall” is partly a commentary on the former East Germany after reunification, but it’s mostly Keaton driving a man around as he expresses his regret about how he ruined his family. “Love from the Underworld” begins as a mystery but quickly turns into a tale of another broken family, and when Keaton reveals the trick behind the” ghost,” you have to wonder why anyone was fooled. Wacky Mrs. Barnum shows up again in “Return of the Super Sleuth?!” and as in her previous appearance, the murder she investigates with Keaton is just a platform for her to nag about how he doesn’t understand romance and women. Keaton doesn’t have a part at all in “Two Fathers,” which features his dad instead, but that story is really about two brothers and which fathered the child of the woman both men loved.

While the two-part “Pact on Ben Tan Mountain” also contains an extramarital affair, the greed and grudge motivating the murders lend it additional substance. Unfortunately, there is too much coincidence in the chain of events to make it a satisfying read, especially the way Malcolm proposes the murder pact but Jackson is the one to take advantage of it. In addition, there are so many characters crammed into the story that I had trouble keeping all the names and connections straight.

Extras include four pages in color, four pages partly in color, and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

Spunky young Yuriko joins her father for bonding time. While their archaeology tour tuned kidnapping makes for an exciting episode, the same can’t be said for the other stories. They’re not so much about intrigue or Keaton’s unique skills as they are about muddled domestic situations, making this volume feel more like a soap opera than a collection of mysteries.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #10

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

Back cover blurb

Taichi Hiraga Keaton is a busy insurance investigator who yearns to make a living as an archaeologist. Just how long does he have to continue working as an investigator? Keaton is uncertain of his future, but he does know that a string of difficult cases awaits him!

The Review

Those who enjoyed Urasawa-sensei’s Monster will like Volume 10′s two-part tale, The Village that God Loved. It’s got the elements of a good thriller–a seemingly peaceful village, detectives after a criminal on the loose, bizarre ”accidents.” It even has a creepy looking kid (whose expression is extremely reminiscent of Monster’s child twins) watching the events unfold. Because Keaton is involved, medieval history also gets worked into the story in a way that aids his escape from some tricky situations. Between the attacks on the detectives and the mystery shrouding the remote community, it’s a tight, engaging read.

The volume’s other two-part story Resident of a Lightless World also contains elements in common with Monster. Set in former East Germany, it has a cast that includes communists and Nazis, and bloodshed abounds with a serial killer on the loose. Ancient artifacts play a role, but a more recent antique and modern political history are the keys that help Keaton solve this case.

The rest of Volume 10 is an assortment of one-shots. Two involve novice investigators poking their noses into an assignment. In these situations, Keaton usually winds up bailing out the amateur, which is what happens in Volunteer Detective. However, in An Incident Among Women, that dynamic gets shifted around. Not only does the pushy old woman keep up with Keaton, she shows him a thing or two, and even though it involves a murder, the story is largely comedic.

For those who favor chases from armed bad guys, Keaton crosses paths with a target of the Russian mafia in Immortal, and in Detour, he protects a client hunted by former agents of the Romanian secret police. The remaining stories are largely misadventures that arise during Keaton’s personal time. Sadly for Keaton, a university position remains but a dream, and the only teaching he does in this installment is tutoring a rebellious child in Keaton the Home Tutor.

Extras include a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

Fans of Urasawa’s Monster will find much to enjoy in this installment of Master Keaton. A quarter of the tales involve the shadowy dealings of former Eastern European officials, and another story set in a remote village serves a delicious blend of of intrigue and action along with one really creepy looking kid. Our SAS-trained investigator contends against adversaries ranging from fanatical villagers to Russian mafia, but if you’re wanting to see Keaton at a lecture hall or archeological dig, you’ll have to look to another volume.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #9

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

Back cover blurb

Constantly flying around England, Japan and Europe, Taichi Hiraga Keaton is one busy insurance investigator! With a gentle heart and an abundance of combat and survival skills gained from his days with the SAS, Keaton solves numerous difficult cases even while his love of archaeology calls to him…

The Review

Keaton doesn’t seem to get academic gigs anymore. But though his dream of a university position has turned into a running joke, Volume 9 does give him one chance to help on yet another colleague’s dig. Those who prefer Keaton as archaeologist will enjoy the ancient Celtic setting of “The Forest Where A God Lives.” As with so many digs, Keaton’s friend faces an adversary out to sabotage his excavation. However, the creators do an excellent job weaving the local legend into the excavation mystery, and the end does have a truly unexpected twist.

Aside from that chapter, Keaton doesn’t handle artifacts much. Just as his academic opportunities have dried up, his investigative assignments have less of an archeological angle. Out of the five jobs he gets, two of them (“A Gift from the Dead” and “House of Roses”) read like standard murder-mysteries. A third (“The Heart’s Walls”) is mostly social and political commentary on East Germany. The remaining two, “Tom Bower” and “Knight of the Lions,” have historical components, but they are literary and not archeological. I should mention that “Knight of the Lions,” which is the only two-chapter arc in the volume, had a disappointingly weak plot. The creators do a nice job of setting the stage with shadowy enemies, but the Don Quixote clue used by the kidnapping victim seems too vague for Keaton to draw any kind of conclusion. However, this story is unusual in that Keaton and his allies do not claim complete victory over their adversaries. In addition, those more interested in Keaton’s SAS skills will get to see them at work.

He also leaps into action against gun-toting bad guys in “Twilight of the Migratory Birds,” ”Island of the Coward,” and “Interview Day.” Interestingly, all these stories involve attacks by various Mafia during Keaton’s time off. The tone ranges widely, however. The hostages and wounded detective keep the tension high in “Island of the Coward.” On the other hand, the blithe attitude of Keaton’s womanizing dad in “Interview Day” turns a run-in with the Chinese mafia into a comedy. “Twilight of the Migratory Birds” also has light moments but blends in a healthy amount of introspection.

The remaining two stories in this set seem like filler, quite frankly. “The Legendary Faint Smile” follows a lonely Japanese housewife, and “Man of the Tower” is about a businessman friend of Keaton’s. While the characters suffer personal pain and loss, their tragedies are more mundane than earth-shattering, and they don’t stick around long enough for us to really care about them. On top of that, Keaton’s unique abilities don’t come into play, making those chapters a tiresome read.

Extras include the first four pages in color, twelve pages partly in color, and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

A mixed bag of stories and story quality. Keaton gets portrayed as archeologist, bodyguard, detective, and long-suffering son, but while some plots are rock-solid, others are shaky, and two arcs don’t seem to go anywhere at all. As such, every Master Keaton fan will probably find a chapter to like and another to dislike in this installment.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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.

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.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. 5

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!

The Review

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.

In Summary

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.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #4

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

The Review

Volume 4 begins with the three-part “Hamelin” tale, unusually long for this series. It brings together several of the elements that drive Master Keaton’s appeal: mystery, action, and justice with history and legend interwoven throughout. While it is thrilling to watch Keaton outmaneuver his Eastern European adversaries and unravel the riddles from a gypsy concentration camp, the actual basis for all the codes and hidden messages is rather weak. Given the situation the gypsies were in, it seems more plausible for their leader to spread the name of their betrayer rather than keep it under wraps.

That weakness also shows up in the two-part “Fake Tricolor Flag.” This arc has the Northern Ireland conflict as a backdrop, and Keaton faces off against another former SAS. The creators do an excellent job depicting the IRA/SAS tension and showing the humanity of both sides. Yet when Keaton finally unravels the secret of the murdered IRA bomb specialist’s “detonator,” it feels contrived and a bit of a letdown.

For the most part, Keaton is insurance investigator in this volume. Only in “The Thistle Coat” is he fully an archeologist and historian. That arc is delightful in how Keaton retraces a cross-cultural journey starting with only a couple of clues. But despite his desire for a university position, he’s ever on the outside of academia looking in. As such, his character development remains stagnant. The stories themselves are engaging, but in half of these chapters, Keaton’s more of a supporting character than the main player. In “The Missing Blue Bird” (which has definite similarities to Urasawa’s subsequent Monster), Keaton barely has a part at all. The lack of character development also extends to daughter Yuriko and dad Taihei. They get their usual cameo chapters, but much like Keaton, those stories are less about them and more about the people they encounter.

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

In Summary

Political conflicts fuel most of the tension in this installment of Master Keaton. From Nazi atrocities to unrest in Ireland to South African apartheid, these elements make for a vibrant backdrop, especially for modern history enthusiasts. As in previous volumes, if you’re more interested in action than character development, Master Keaton shouldn’t have any trouble holding your attention. However, the underlying premise for some of the intrigue is weak, and Keaton himself often seems a secondary character rather than the main driver of the action.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. 3

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 3! (For my review of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, the son of a Japanese zoologist and an English noblewoman, is an insurance investigator known for his successful and unorthodox methods of investigation. Educated in archaeology and a former member of the SAS, Master Keaton uses his knowledge and combat training to uncover buried secrets, thwart would-be villains, and pursue the truth…

The Review

Although Keaton wishes to devote himself to academia, he remains unable to find a university position. As such, the content of Volume 3 is for the most part related to his insurance investigative work. Except for Chapter 8, all the stories take place in Europe, but he still manages to run into a number of Japanese citizens during his adventures.

Of this installment, “Wall of Joy” and “A Family Moment” are the weakest. The narrative offers no explanation of what happens at the end of “Wall of Joy,” and it’s difficult to guess from the black-and-white illustrations what is going on. As for “A Family Moment,” the story seems a mishmash of unrelated events that just provide an excuse for daughter Yuriko and dad Taihei to make an appearance.

However, the rest of the 12-chapter volume makes up for these weaknesses. Lloyd’s apparently deals with kidnapping insurance, and “Rules of Negotiation” and “Rules of Ransom” (the volume’s only two-part story) maintain a high level of tension and intrigue throughout. In other chapters, Keaton’s SAS background takes prominence with him disarming a bomb, turning the tables on a military trained dog, and investigating a former Pinochet officer, which should please those who enjoy the series’ thriller aspect. Archaeology only really factors in Keaton’s insurance work in “White Goddess,” and “Wall of Joy,” but an encounter with one of Keaton’s military acquaintances provides the basis for a chapter about science history.

Extras include the first pages of Chapter 1, Chapter 9, and Chapter 10 in color and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

Master Keaton provides another set of episodic adventures. The stories cover everything from Latin American military culture to animal behavior to chemistry, which definitely keeps the content fresh and varied. In contrast, Keaton’s personal life remains stagnant, and I’m thinking his ex-wife will never actually step into the story. However, if you’re mostly interested in watching Keaton’s eclectic set of skills at work, you won’t be disappointed.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #1

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.

Back Cover Blurb

Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, the son of a Japanese zoologist and a noble English woman, is an insurance investigator known for his successful and unorthodox methods of investigation. Educated in archaeology and a former member of the SAS, Master Keaton uses his knowledge and combat training to uncover buried secrets, thwart would-be villains, and pursue the truth…

The Review

The actual field of archaeology may be dry and tedious, but pop culture has cast a glamorous glow upon it. Golden artifacts, exotic locations, and Nazi bad guys are a typical day’s work for swashbuckling scholars. And in the vein of Indiana Jones, we have the adventures of archaeologist Taichi Keaton!

Keaton encounters as much treasure and danger as Indy, but he’s a completely different personality. In addition to being a lecturer at a Japanese university, the half-British, half-Japanese archaeologist is a former survival combat expert of the British Special Forces. That means that he doesn’t take on his enemies with whips and guns blazing; rather, he uses whatever is at hand, be it a wooden spoon or a can of epoxy, to extricate himself out of a scrape. And in lieu of a fedora and khakis, Keaton sports a suit and tie, even in a desert dig. After all, he’s an insurance investigator for the prestigious Lloyds of London Insurance Organization.

Keaton’s freelance insurance job is probably the oddest element in the story. However, the narrative claims that “archaeological investigations and insurance go hand in hand,” and the investigation of false claims does actually work as the rationale to get Keaton jumping from country to country. Indiana Jones’ Nazis are long gone, but Cold-War era terrorists, the Mafia, and crazy ex-military keep Keaton on his toes.

For the most part, each chapter is a self-contained arc that features a bit of history and allows Keaton to show off an aspect of his eclectic skill set. While Keaton is in his mid-30s, the combination of his goofy personality and international exploits should appeal to younger shonen readers. But not TOO young. While Keaton is largely an upstanding fellow, his job pits him against the darker elements of humanity, and Volume 1 includes illustrations of graphic violence and a half-naked prostitute snorting drugs.

Due to the manga’s episodic structure, Keaton deals with a different group of troublemakers on each adventure, but there is a recurring supporting cast in the form of his family. His spunky middle-school daughter Yuriko has a sharp tongue that she doesn’t hesitate to use on her father, and Keaton’s dad, a professor of zoology, is a longtime womanizer. Even so, there is affection between the three highly intelligent but very different family members. Keaton’s estranged wife never appears in person in Volume 1, but she’s very much on his mind and in his heart. However, Keaton’s irregular lifestyle and absentmindedness get in the way of his intention to reconcile with her, which paints a pretty clear picture of why she left him.

Extras include the first pages of Chapter 1 and Chapter 6 in color and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

Combine Indiana Jones, MacGyver, and an insurance investigator and you’ve got Taichi Keaton! He’s more of a daydreaming academic than a macho sexpot, but this mild-mannered university lecturer makes for a surprisingly compelling hero. With Cold War era adventures that take him around the globe, Master Keaton makes for fantastic fun.

First published at the Fandom Post.