Tag Archives: Viz Media manga

Manga Review: The Promised Neverland Vol. #12

The Promised Neverland anime was a surprise favorite of mine for 2019. Its blend of mystery, suspense, and heart grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. For English-speaking fans who can’t wait to see what happens to Emma and their friends, they can read ahead in Viz’s translation of the manga. Read on for my review of Volume 12.

Back Cover Blurb

Life at Grace Field House is good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious food and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems…

With the demons of Goldy Pond finally defeated, Emma and the other children now focus on their next task—finding the Seven Walls. But it won’t be easy, especially with a dangerous new foe trying to hunt them down. Can Emma and Ray decrypt the ancient clues that will lead the children to true freedom?

The Review

The Goldy Pond arc went out with a literal bang, with bullets flying and the whole place blowing up. Now that the kids plus two adults are safely at the B06-32 shelter, the gears switch away from action to sleuthing and intrigue.

The mystery is twofold. First is the situation between the Minerva group and the Ratri Clan members that shut them down. The kids have extremely limited access to information on the human world, so they’re stuck making conjectures on what the actual situation is. Thing is, the Ratri Clan is also conjecturing about the escapees and their whereabouts. The creators do an excellent job keeping readers on the edge of their seats as Peter Ratri and his terrifying minion Andrew strive to sniff them out.

The second mystery is the Seven Walls, which they must locate if they want to attempt a new promise regarding the humans in the demon world. This starts off a lot like the trail of clues at Grace Field House, but then it takes a great leap in scope. The search involves distances that require months to cover. What this does is force a rapid progression of time; the events of Volume 12 span over a year and a half. As a result, the kids are pushed right up against their deadline to return for Phil and the remaining Grace Field kids by the end of the volume.

Another leap is that the Seven Walls investigation takes on a mystical aspect. Whereas before they obtained clues from those they encountered or gleaned them from books and objects, this time Emma gets overtaken by a vision. I wasn’t expecting the series to take a turn for the supernatural. Then again, elevators supposedly connect human and demon worlds, so why not?

After several chapters of furtive investigations, things get charged up again when Peter Ratri’s thugs invade the B06-32 shelter! It’s a compressed, more intense version of the battle at Goldy Pond. Once more, the kids get pushed to the brink, except this time their pursuers are other humans.

Extras include side scenes and the creators’ notes.

In Summary

Fans of the clue-tracking aspect of this series will enjoy the kids’ search for the Seven Walls. It’s a long investigation–over a year and a half! But the creators do a good job presenting events such that the pacing doesn’t get bogged down. Then it’s back to action and thrills when the Ratri Clan invades the shelter!

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Cats of the Louvre Vol. #1

Cats and cat-people are often used to bring an element of cuteness or fun to a manga. In Cats of the Louvre, Taiyo Matsumoto features felines with a rather different vibe. Read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

The world-renowned Louvre museum in Paris contains more than just the most famous works of art in history. At night, within its darkened galleries, an unseen and surreal world comes alive—a world witnessed only by the small family of cats that lives in the attic. Until now…

The Review

From the title, I thought this would be a collection of stories taken from the perspective of different Parisian cats. Turns out it’s just one story focused on one cat, but while the setting involves the actual building and artwork of the Louvre Museum, the tone is decidedly fantastical.

Old Marcel is a long time watchman at the Louvre. Having walked its halls for decades, he knows everything about it, including the secret community of cats in the museum attic. Most of them are ordinary animals who know to hide from the crowds below. However, little Snowbebe is so drawn by the artwork he can’t help from venturing downstairs.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be artsy. Partly because it’s set in the Louvre, and the mangaka has gone through tremendous effort to incorporate numerous aspects of the museum into the story. Partly because the plot centers on those who can hear “the voice of the paintings” and escape into the artwork.

And by escaping, I mean literally that. The souls with that talent have delicate temperaments. Unable to thrive and connect in the real world, they step through the picture frame into the scenes depicted within… and that’s about it.

Because the ones going into the paintings have no greater purpose than to enjoy the worlds they enter, the main tension stems from the trouble their behavior causes those around them. Oh, and the ability isn’t limited to humans. Thus we have Snowbebe’s trips to the museum’s display areas causing problems and arguments within the attic cat community. Unfortunately, Snowbebe’s spacey, self-absorbed personality makes it difficult to sympathize with him.

On the human side, we have Marcel trying to locate a sister who disappeared decades ago. However, he’s kind of gloomy and weird (who harbors eight cats in an unventilated attic?!) and Cecile, the tour guide who lends him assistance, is depressing too. The story’s not dark, but the cast’s personalities aren’t the most uplifting.

Speaking of cast, much of the cast are cats. When they interact with humans, they meow and look like cats. When they are alone, they take on anthropomorphic forms and exchange dialogue. Their behavior, however, is decidedly catlike. They spout random things, and when a spider that Snowbebe knows dies, Snowbebe mourns, then he eats the spider.

Regarding illustrations, they have a rough, cartoonish feel. Character designs are neither cute nor elegant. Expressions often have a level of distortion. The anthropomorphized animals especially have a psychedelic quality. Rather than using screentones, the mangaka uses hatching, and lines are squiggly and uneven. Overall, the artwork has the look of a draft, not a final product.

Extras include eight pages printed in color.

In Summary

The Louvre provides a grand setting for characters who transcend into artwork. However, it’s less of an exciting adventure into other dimensions and more of a gloomy investigation by the ordinary folk left behind. The art style is also lacking, and despite the fact that the story features famous art and architecture, the overall visual effect is underwhelming.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Way of the House Husband Vol. #1

As a manga trope, yakuza tend to be terrifying thugs or comical characters. Tatsu of The Way of the Husband definitely falls in the funny category. Read on for my review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

He was the fiercest member of the yakuza, a man who left countless underworld legends in his wake. They called him “the Immortal Dragon.” But one day he walked away from it all to travel another path — the path of the househusband! The curtain rises on this cozy yakuza comedy!

The Review

The cover blurb describes this title as a “cozy yakuza comedy,” but it’s more of a gag manga. As for the main running joke, the cover art for Volume 1 gives readers a pretty good sense of it.

Tatsu was the boss of the Shinzaki yakuza group. He had such a powerful reputation everyone feared him as the “Immortal Dragon.” But one day he left that life to devote himself to the way of the house husband. He’s completely turned over a new leaf! However, you can take a man out of the yakuza, but you cannot entirely take the yakuza out of the man…

The humor from the series stems not from the fact that Tatsu’s flubbing his new role as house husband. Rather he’s killing it. The problem is the ordinary folks around him think he’s killing other things/people as Tatsu strives to make a perfect home for his hard-working career-woman-and-otaku wife Miku and their cat Gin. Because even though his focus is on cooking, cleaning, and bargain-hunting, his look and manner of speaking remain that of a gangster.

As such, the laughs come partly from situations and partly from visuals. For instance, a neighbor asks him to babysit her son, so he does his best to entertain the kid… with gambling games. When he goes out, his garb consists of a flashy suit, sunglasses, and a housewife’s pet-themed apron on top. Oh, and he actually thinks he’s blending in as a normie throughout.

I should mention that the quality of Oono-sensei’s illustrations is excellent and consistent throughout. Everything from settings to clothes to food to the not infrequent brawls Tatsu winds up in is meticulously drawn and easy to follow. A lot of comedy arises from the juxtaposition of Tatsu’s true intentions and the reactions of those around him, and the character expressions do a wonderful job conveying the tension Tatsu causes wherever he goes.

One aspect the series feels lacking, however, is the plotting. The chapters are very short. In Volume 1’s 168 pages, we have nine chapters and three bonus manga. Each chapter is its own standalone story, and they end so quickly they’re more like sketches than stories. There’s no main arc driving the action, and thus far we’ve no backstory on why Tatsu chose to become a house husband or how he and his wife got together. (By the way, although his exit from the yakuza appears to be a relatively recent development, he and his wife are already past the honeymoon phase and give off the been-together-a-while vibe.)

This isn’t to say that the vignettes aren’t entertaining. They are, but if you’re hoping for a deep dive into Tatsu’s psyche or a strong plot, you won’t get it.

One more thing: the text includes no cultural notes. Unless you have an existing knowledge of yakuza and Japanese housewife stereotypes, you may have trouble getting the jokes. I understood most, but there were aspects of Miku’s birthday party that completely went over my head.

Extras include three bonus manga and the creator’s afterword.

In Summary

A yakuza house husband! The plot doesn’t dig too deep, but Oono-sensei’s excellent illustrations and wacky scenarios are quite funny. Although we get precious little about Tatsu’s backstory, it seems like it would be really interesting, and I hope we get some of that in future installments.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #12

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 Review

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.

In Summary

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.

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.

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.