When I was introduced to mangaka (or creator) Naoki Urasawa, I only knew of the mass admiration for his successful series such as Monster, and 20th Century Boys, but hadn’t gotten the chance to actually delve into his works.
When Viz Media licensed Master Keaton, (a long running series from the late 80s early 90s) earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to begin the manga based on the archaeologist/ insurance investigator/ former military man himself, Taichi Hiraga Keaton.
The first volume is made up of 12 chapters and over 300 pages of adventure, featuring dispersed color pages in the beginning and middle of the book. Almost instantly I was hooked, reading chapter after chapter to find out what his next investigation had in store for the calm and composed protagonist.
Master Keaton has an episodic approach that contains humor, grief, and sincerity, with most chapters detailing a new case to solve while incorporating his acquired SAS (Special Air Service) skills. Keaton himself is an interesting character in his 30's, exhibiting his consistently adaptable abilities, and a calm-soft spoken demeanor that truly stands out as a strong central character that keeps you invested in his life.
As the chapters progress, a group of support characters are introduced, each with their own intriguing stories such as his father, or Keaton’s daughter, who takes it upon herself to have an almost parental approach to her father and hopes to reunite her divorced parents.
Keaton’s ex-wife (who we never actually see in the first volume) is already an important role to his story as “the one who got away” style romance. Keaton often takes moments in the middle of calm or chaos to remind himself that he needs to reach out to her. Though the two never actually get into contact in the first volume, the buildup will make for an engaging chapter when it finally arrives in a future installment.
Towards the end of the volume, there is a story that spans over a few chapters centering on an international drug-ring and one of Keaton’s former comrades, tapping into a slightly darker tone that leaves you ready to see what volume 2 has to offer. Urasawa’s thought provoking series and unique character designs makes this beloved manga enjoyable in every way.
“MASTER KEATON is an engrossing manga series that follows an unlikely hero who solves mysteries and helps people with quick-thinking and suspenseful action. Keaton himself is a fascinating, unassuming character, which makes for an interesting contrast against the tense environment of late 1980’s Europe,” says Amy Yu, Editor. “Originally published prior to the success of later series like MONSTER and 20th CENTURY BOYS, MASTER KEATON displays the detailed art and strong multi-layered plot development that have become cornerstones of Naoki Urawsawa’s repertoire. We’re honored to add this series to our collection of titles from this visionary creator, and we invite readers to dive into the drama of this exciting new release!”
Master Keaton volumes 1 & 2 are available now through Viz Media, are rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and carry an MSRP of $19.99 U.S. / $22.99 CAN.
Overall Grade – 8/10
For more information on MASTER KEATON or other manga titles published by VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.