The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Master Keaton

Title: Master Keaton
Genre: Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 39 episodes
Dates: 6 Oct 1998 – 29 March 1999

Synopsis: Taichi Hiraga-Keaton is a Japanese-English archaeologist turned insurance investigator who, in his mid-life, is still finding his path. He draws upon his years in the military elite and wealth of academic knowledge to help him solve cases, but it is his knack for empathizing that allows him to see the human side of every story. While Keaton focuses on catching crooks and solving mysteries, his daughter Yuriko is busy trying to ensure he doesn’t neglect his personal life, which often gets left at the office door.

The Highlights
Settings: Diverse and rich.
Stories: Classic adventure style with a bit extra.
Yuriko: Essential to show Keaton’s weak side.

Master Keaton is like the more traditional, stable older brother of Urusawa Naoki’s more famous work, Monster. It’s obvious these two shows come from the same family. Both are set in Europe around the 1990s. Both feature an intelligent and just protagonist who is a cultural outsider due to a Japanese heritage. Both explore worlds of crime and find the goodness in people in tough situations. Where Monster opts for an overreaching story, however, Master Keaton elects a format more similar to a classic adventure series.

Each episode of Master Keaton introduces us to a new scenario and cast of characters as Keaton takes on mafia bosses, thieves, kidnappers and even a classroom of students. Yet these tales often have something deeper to offer. The people Keaton encounters share their stories and experiences and often face a moral or ethical dilemma. One recurring theme is the value of the past, whether an ancient artifact, a personal history or an old way of doing things. Keaton himself offers an outside perspective, though a selection of episodes about his own family and history allow us to get to know him and see him as more than just an impartial observer.

Keaton’s work takes him through Japan and across Europe and the series makes good use of the different settings, cultures and history of the area. Cases crop up in seaside villages, a traditional winery, an archaeological site and deep in the mountains. Keaton often finds creative and intelligent ways to solve the challenges he faces, not unlike a more grounded Indiana Jones minus the giant boulders. He is passionate about what he does and the people he works with, and it shows. While many characters appear in only one episode, Keaton’s family and partner add some consistency and bring life and depth to Keaton’s world. Yuriko, his daughter, makes it her mission to get Keaton to stop working his cases and instead work on himself.

That said, the series suffers slightly from its episodic format. The secondary characters cannot be completely fleshed out and sometimes come across a little flat. The series is unable to build real tension when the story has to be resolved by the end of the episode, and Keaton always seems to know just what to do to get out of a pinch. The more personal stories in the series are stronger for their focus on exploring and developing the characters.

Despite this setback, the stories are generally well written and entertaining, employing interesting ideas and scenarios. The series is also supported by good quality animation by Madhouse and a fitting soundtrack. While not as complex as its exciting younger brother, Master Keaton is worth checking out for any crime and adventure fan. Taichi Hiraga-Keaton is fascinated by his world and is ready to share it with us.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

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