Taichi Keaton-Hiraga—born of Japanese and British descent. A former SAS agent with remarkable skills in military tactics and archaeology. Keaton is a single father with a part-time job as a world history teacher in Japan. But when certain international issues arise, he is called upon by Lloyd's of London as a special insurance investigator.
Master Keaton was published in English by VIZ Media under the VIZ Signature imprint in 12 omnibuses from December 16, 2014 to September 19, 2017. The English version was nominated for the 2015 Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia.
Ready to travel through Europe without any need for a passport or plane tickets ? Interested in following a multifaceted man page by page while he helps people with their complicated but human dilemmas ? Look no further, Master Keaton is waiting for you.
Master Keaton is one of Naoki Urasawa's earlier works (in collaboration with Hokusei Katsushika), but despite its outstanding quality, it is nowhere near as famous as Monster or 20th Century Boys. It really should be though. Because of his incredible skills as a former member of the British SAS force, Taichi Hiraga Keaton is called to solve cases all over Europe as
a detective for an insurance company. Each chapter contains one story, with some exceptions. The cases Keaton has to solve are very diverse, and will go from solving a murder to finding a person's loved one who disappeared. The atmospheres vary from story to story : one story will make you feel all mushy and fluffy inside and the next will make you sit on the edge of your seat, a bit scared to turn the next page. One amazing thing about this manga is that because it is not arc-based, you absolutely enjoy it while you read it, and when the volume is over you want more. But the volume never leaves you with an awful cliffhanger that will only be resolved in a couple of months.
In a detailed but not overwhelming way, we learn more about every country where Keaton travels : Germany and its Cold war-related divisions, Poland, England, Ireland, Wales, and a lot of other countries. Keaton also aspires to become a recognized archaeology teacher : through his travels and adventures he often gets to teach us about millenniums-old civilizations.
But the strength of Master Keaton is definitely its very wide range of characters. Starting with Taichi Hiraga Keaton himself of course : he’s a perfect blend of assertiveness and doubt, of wanting to pursue your dreams and pragmatism… Despite his adventures being extraordinary, he faces dilemmas that we can all relate to or that we are all going to face in the future, which keeps him from being an overly perfect character. You’ll have the pleasure to meet his adorable daughter and his womanizing-but-very-attaching father several times throughout the series, and I guarantee that you’ll always be very happy to see them in a story. What’s extremely impressive about Master Keaton is how it manages to make you emphasize with secondary characters that you will only see in one chapter for most of them, while their case is being solved. They will make angry, and then cry, and then laugh, and then mourn, and all of that in one chapter of 23-25 pages. Almost every chapter is a touching life story that feels real, that could have happened to a real person. And although a lot of the problems they face are largely often universal, they each go about these problems in their own personal way, depending on their personnality, their culture...
But this manga is not without flaws. Let’s start with the character design. If you’re familiar with Naoki Urasawa’s other works, you already know about this one. Naoki Urasawa does not have a broad range of faces for his characters, so you will see the same faces in different chapters over and over again, for different characters. It can get a bit confusing, especially in Master Keaton where you always meet new characters in every chapter, but those characters always have the same faces. Another problem that you can have is the fascination of Urasawa for the fall of the USSR and its aftermath on Germany. It is a very interesting time period indeed, with complicated questions unique to it, but a LOT of Keaton’s adventures take place in this setting. Depending on your taste, it could be tiring after a while, I’ve got to be honest.
As a conclusion, I really want to say that Master Keaton is a manga that knows there is no need for useless graphic violence and/or sex to have a mature story. It is definitely the manga you want to give to your mom or dad who thinks that anime is either too violent or only for children. It is a masterpiece that just deals with simple but immemorial human adult problems, like money, love or family, without being pretentious. Do yourself a favor, and go on an adventure with Master Keaton. Trust me, you will not regret it.
Master Keaton's an interesting piece of work to me for the fact that it seems to have no notable trait that appeals to the audience, but there’s always another side to the story. This masterpiece by Naoki Urasawa can only get better as you advance through the chapters. If you’re reading this review, chances are you’re pondering whether to read the it or not. The only answer I can give you is do it. In terms of the story it deviates from his other well-known works such as “Monster” and “20th Century Boys” that are all plot heavy and explore the fear of unknown,
but it keeps the strong main character also present on the said series. This instead maintains the light hearted mood despite the heavy themes that sometimes feature and leaves you satisfied in just one chapter at a time.
It does not follow any set plot, instead focusing Keaton's short adventures that all last for a chapter. Keaton himself seems to have no real goal of his own except finding a steady job that suits his passion, archaeology. Excluding Keaton and his family members, there are barely any characters that are easy to be attached to purely because they’re gone after a chapter. Despite how emotional each short story made me they’re gone forever once the chapter is finished. What Urasawa does succeed in though is how likable Keaton the main character is. Despite being multilingual, knowledgeable in archaeology, and most impressively a former elite soldier of SAS hailed as a hero during the Falklands war, there is absolutely no trace of arrogance that can be sensed from him. His childlike nature and curiosity to discover new things and at the same time help the people in need is something that leaves every characters he’s associated with impressed(and me of course). He seems like a perfect being but still shows his vulnerable side(not going to spoil it) that keeps him within an approachable range for the readers, and realize that he too has his issues. He’s neither a perfect dad nor a perfect insurance investigator and yet it only makes him more lovable. This brings the character rating up to 9/10 just because I like Keaton so much.
His art is realistic if you look at positively but on the other hand possibly boring. Throughout the series I’ve been mostly on the positive side when it comes to the art and yet at times I find myself wondering if it could be improved to leave more impression at first look. What I must say though is that the art is a good fit for the story without over the top action and instead focuses on more realistic issues that humans constantly face, which leads to my next point.
For me the key word in the series would be “relatable”. This is because of the fact that Urasawa incorporates every day occurrences like divorces, destruction of nature and bullying into the story and manages to end them in a moral way, and this is what makes the series stand out for me. Although you could say this applies to many SOL manga, I’ve often found that Master Keaton is the series where I’m nodding in reaction to the events/characters’ emotion in the story. I can still understand the characters even if that event might have never occurred to me.
The history trivias that constantly pop up were also a plus for me. They aren’t so brief that you barely understand the historical background of the chapter’s setting but they’re also not at an amount that overwhelms you.
This is easily the best manga I’ve ever read. I highly recommend that you give it a try. Even if you don’t like it you still won’t be feeling any dissatisfaction of dropping a series mid-story.