Tag Archives: Viz Media manga

Manga Review: ACT-AGE Vol. 1

Show business is generally the purview of shojo manga, but ACT-AGE puts a shonen spin on this subject. Read on for the review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

Is there a method to Kei Yonagi’s madness when it comes to acting? The young actor has a family of siblings to feed, but she finds herself struggling with her psychological demons when playing a role. Her desperate acting catches the eye of a famous director, Sumiji Kuroyama, who’s looking for raw talent to mold. Can he help Yonagi navigate the cutthroat world of acting without losing her sanity?

The Review

ACT-AGE is a Weekly Shonen Jump title, which came as a bit of a surprise. First, the main character, Kei Yonaga, is a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl. Second, the world of acting and show business forms the backdrop. A girl aspiring to be an actor sounds more like shojo fare, but the tale gets presented as a shonen title by telling it as the journey of an undiscovered genius scrapping her way to the top.

And Kei’s got a long way to get to the top. Her mom’s dead, her dad walked out long ago, and she’s responsible for supporting her two elementary school siblings. In short, she’s got no time or money for acting classes or drama club. Even so, she’s so adept at portraying emotions she immediately catches the attention of director Sumiji Kuroyama. He’s been searching for a talent like her, and she’s going to be his star actor–even if he has to drag her kicking and screaming.

A key premise of this series is that Kei was born with superhuman acting abilities. Even as an untrained amateur, her performance at a new-talent audition is so intimidating it causes one of the audition finalists to give up on acting. However, the plot wouldn’t be interesting if Kei simply waltzed to the top. Rather than snatching up this undiscovered gem, the agency CEO rejects her on the basis that acting will eventually cause Kei to have an emotional breakdown.

So instead of getting properly trained by an agency or theater company, Kei gets approached by a sketchy looking guy who turns out to be an award-winning director. But Kuroyama’s brash and eccentric, and his lessons consist of throwing Kei first onto a commercial set and next onto a period drama set with no preparation.

This is where the disconnect comes for me. Kei supposedly wants to be an actor. As her family’s sole breadwinner, she’s got more motivation than most to succeed. But somehow, she’s incapable of following basic directions or even grasping what an actor’s job is. In the period drama arc, she immediately breaks out of character to kick down the lead actor. Her behavior is just as unbelievable as the drama director’s decision to keep her on set even when she ruins the first AND second takes. Her becoming an actor is less about learning the craft and more Kuroyama showing her how to tap into her latent powers (which puts it very much along Jump storylines).

The volume wraps up with her entering an open audition for a movie. Five hundred actors are competing for twelve roles, and they are divided into groups of four for live auditions. Thus, we have Kei in a battle for one of those spots with her four-person cell, which definitely sounds like the stuff of shonen manga.

Extras include creators’ notes and bonus comics.

In Summary

The main character of ACT-AGE feels a bit all over the place. She’s a natural genius at acting yet at the same time she’s a clueless idiot who doesn’t realize actors must follow a script. Oh, and she’s also gorgeous and responsible for supporting two younger siblings. This is shaping up to be the tale of how an undiscovered talent makes it big, but Kei’s mentor is such a weirdo and Kei herself is so difficult to relate to that I’m not particularly interested in following her journey.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Love Me, Love Me Not Vol. 1

Complicated romantic drama forms the basis of many shojo titles, and Io Sakisaka’s Love Me, Love Me Not falls into this category. Read on for the review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

Four friends share the springtime of their youth together.

Fast friends Yuna and Akari are complete opposites—Yuna is an idealist, while Akari is a realist. When lady-killer Rio and the oblivious Kazuomi join their ranks, love and friendship become quite complicated!

The Review

According to the Greetings page, the story has two main characters, Yuna and Akari. However, while we do get scenes in Akari’s perspective, the story feels like it belongs to Yuna, which is too bad because she is much less engaging than her costar.

Yuna’s the stereotypical nice, shy high school girl. Unfortunately, she’s so timid she doesn’t make an impression on other people nor does she make an impression as a lead character. Akari is confident and friendly, and she’s had to move often because of family circumstances. The two meet when Yuna helps Akari at a train station, and they become friends when they realize Akari has just moved into Yuna’s apartment building. Like most high school girls, they talk about boys and quickly discover they have different views on romance.

The story has a very slow start. Unfortunately, even once the girls’ relationship gets established, Yuna’s so passive and mopey I’m not inclined to root for her as a character. The plot primarily focuses on Yuna’s and Akari’s differing views on romance and how their love lives play out in real life. Yuna’s knowledge of romance comes primarily from shojo manga, she has an idealistic (fairytale) view of love, and she finds it near impossible to talk to boys. Akari has no trouble talking to boys, has dating experience, and is currently in a long-distance relationship. As such, Akari views Yuna as naïve while Yuna thinks Akari’s feelings of love are shallow. Even so, the girls care for one another and try to help each other when the focus of attraction comes into the picture.

The boys that trigger that are Rio and Kazuomi. Rio is Akari’s stepbrother and Kazuomi is Akari’s longtime neighbor and friend. Predictably, Yuna falls for Rio, and Akari falls for Kazuomi. Watching Akari navigate life is somewhat interesting. She’s very active, going so far as to take a part-time job to fund visits to her faraway boyfriend, and has an awkward blended family situation. Yuna, on the other hand, is so passive and unremarkable she’s boring. She doesn’t have the guts to confess to Rio; instead she just witnesses other girls confessing to Rio over and over. On top of that, Yuna is called a “nice” girl, but all it takes is one unfounded rumor for Yuna to essentially brand Akari a slut. While Yuna does redeem herself, it’s not enough for me to sympathize with her as a character, and I’m not especially interested in what happens to her next.

Extras include Greetings and Afterword.

In Summary

Two girls with different views on love befriend each other just before they enter high school. While the ups and downs of teen romance can fuel scintillating drama, Love Me, Love Me Not is flat as a can of stale soda due to the lack of initiative of its overly quiet and self-conscious main character Yuna. And even though the mangaka appears to be setting up the two heroines for a love square with the two boys closest to them, the story thus far hasn’t sufficiently endeared the characters that I care who ends up with whom.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Way of the House Husband Vol. #2

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 2. (For other reviews of this series, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The legendary yakuza “the Immortal Dragon” has washed his hands of the gangster life for something far more dangerous—becoming a househusband! Cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking… These days he’s doing everything he can to succeed as man of the house, if it doesn’t kill him first! The cozy yakuza comedy continues!

The Review

The yakuza gag manga continues with nine more vignettes of the Immortal Dragon’s house husband life. As with Volume 1, each chapter is its own standalone comedy routine. No extended arcs are introduced, but the young thug Masa, Tatsu’s Women’s Association friends, and the two cops from Chapter 1 return as supporting cast. There’s still no information about Tatsu’s house husband origin story, and the focus remains on Tatsu’s double entendre and the humorous contrast between his facial and verbal expressions against his domestic settings.

To double down on this gangster in suburbia dynamic, Oono-sensei adds a couple more yakuza gone domestic. Most thugs that Tatsu’s encountered so far are representatives of the Underworld he left. However, Chapter 15 introduces Torajiro, a former rival who now flips crepes, and in Chapter 16, Tatsu’s housewife volleyball team plays against the Bears, which is led by a tough whose sunglasses and animal-themed warm-ups are a good match for Tatsu’s get up.

As for the backstory of Tatsu’s marriage, what brought the couple together remains a mystery. However, in Chapter 18, we do get a glimpse of them through the eyes of Miku’s father. As you might guess, Tatsu and his housewife mother-in-law are like peas in a pod. However, there’s a ton of one-sided awkwardness between him and his father-in-law, and the comedy stems from Miku’s dad trying to find common ground with his utterly unconventional son-in-law.

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

In Summary

If you liked the episodic nature of Volume 1, you’ll enjoy more of the same in Volume 2 as Tatsu battles laundry stains and joins housewife fitness activities. He continues to have brushes with the Underworld, but surprisingly, certain yakuza have embraced aspects of Tatsu’s new world, which turns a mundane visit to the crêpe stand into an over-the-top battle for Instagram likes.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Promised Neverland Vol. #13

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 13. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Emma, Ray and their large new family find themselves up against a new enemy, fellow humans. Armed intruders have ambushed the shelter and driven the children back out into the dangerous wilderness. Yugo and Lucas have stepped up to fight, but will it be enough?

The Review

The previous volume had a few events happening over a long period of time. This volume has a ton of stuff happening over just a few days. It begins with the conclusion of the shelter invasion. It’s edge of your seat action as Yugo and Lucas launch their counterattack, and interspersed amid the gunfire are glimpses of their Glory Bell childhood. Then when the battle reaches its explosive conclusion, we get a lengthy flashback and Yugo’s reflections on his life. Especially when Yugo was first introduced, he was a difficult character to figure out, but Chapter 109 lays bare his candid thoughts. Is it heartrending? Yes. Did I cry? Oh yes.

The narrative then shifts to the kids who have gone into hiding. Bereft of the adults’ protection and stripped of their home, their predicament seems overwhelming until Oliver reveals the message that came through the shelter phone right before the attack. Astoundingly it’s from William Minerva – or at least someone claiming to be him. The message gives them new hope and a new destination to journey toward.

Unfortunately, they haven’t even a chance to act on this new information when Andrew, the head of the raid, pounces on them. Considering he got hit by a blast underground, his survival challenges the limits of plausibility. At any rate, the scene serves the purpose of forcing the kids through yet another nightmarish struggle (and Andrew does look ghoulish) before they escape the area for good.

The story then introduces several new characters. As it turns out, the Minerva faction is alive and active. In fact, they’ve been extremely active during the months Emma and company were scouting out the Seven Walls. Whereas before it seemed the escapees were striving for a new promise on their own, now it looks like they’re part of a larger movement. The fact that two of the new characters bear tattoos of the facility Norman got moved to makes me hopeful that he’ll be reunited with Ray and Emma soon.

Extras include side scenes and the creators’ notes.

In Summary

Whereas Volume 12 was slower paced, Volume 13 is never a dull moment. In addition to an emotional roller coaster that goes from heart-stopping to heart-wrenching and back again, the plot thickens with a new message from William Minerva. The kids aren’t the only ones out to change the world, and I look forward to seeing the repercussions of the Minerva faction’s drastic actions.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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.