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 has been published in English by VIZ Media under the VIZ Signature imprint in omnibuses since December 16, 2014. 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.