Master Keaton Vol. #6 (of 8) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 22, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2004
What They Say
Keaton starts by rescuing an East German Olympian from depression and skin-heads before interfering in a KGB hit on a Russian attending an air show in the UK. Later, after a trip to Spain?s islands where he learns about passion and betrayal from a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, Keaton returns to hunt a murderer within England?s premiere accounting firm. Finally, Keaton?s investigation of forged masterpieces leads him to an imprisoned painter trapped by a shattered confidence and extreme shortsightedness!
While not quite as good as the last volume, how many series get to intermingle the Olympics, Yugoslavia refugees and skinhead nationalism all into one episode.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though a fairly recent show, the stereo mix here is pretty simple with little in the way of depth or directionality. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout it and we had no issues with distortions or dropouts.
Though it originally aired back in 1999, this show has a much older feel to it with its look and style, giving first impression of it being at least a decade older. There?s a good side and a bad side to this. The good side is that it really serves the shows distinctive style well, giving it that world weary feel yet at the same time showcasing it nicely. The downside is that there is a lot aliasing going on here, though thankfully it continues to be less with each volume.
The cover changed a bit with this release now that the Geneon logo is on it, and we get a small black band across the top that lists both names and the DVD logo. The actual artwork itself is a shot of set in the foreground of a group of people from one of the episodes with the focus on him, a pretty standard headshot. The back cover provides a short series premise and then lists the five episodes on the disc by title and episode number while giving a one or two line rundown of the story. The discs features and production information is clearly listed, though a bit small in font. The insert provides another headshot of Keaton while taking the style of the back cover and providing shots from each episode and their respective chapter listings.
My favorite menu designers are back again here, with Nightjar providing a great subtle menu that has the front cover image of Keaton with a world map behind him to the mixed colors and waving British flag all while playing a few moments worth of some of the instrumental music from the show. The menus are nicely laid out with excellent access times and very fast loading menus.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The last volume of Master Keaton, which rounded out the TV episodes of the series run, had some of the best material of the series yet with episodes that just really reached in and didn't hit the buttons inside of you but rather massaged them and got you emotional without realizing. These episodes, part of the OVA run of the series, don't different in terms of visual quality and maintain relatively the same level of style and budget, but they seem to go a bit more for the story here.
In fact, the first episode is just one of those stories you would probably never otherwise see in an anime series, at least one that gets picked up for US release. The story centers around a disheveled man named Karl Neumann, an East German Olympic gold winner who is now living in a former Soviet building where refugees from Yugoslavia are now living while their own country goes through its upheaval. Neumann has lived in regret for a few years now since learning that his country had lied to him and had been giving him drugs to enhance his performance, which he believes allowed him to win back in Seoul in 1988. So with regret, he's let his life slide due to the side effects of the drugs and being off of them. His wife has left him and everything about him is in shambles, so he lives with these surprisingly happy people who wait for a time to return to their own home.
Keaton enters the picture, in his usual amicable way, by befriending some of the Yugoslavs and sharing a meal and some of his sake with them. He learns about Neumann from them but before he can say or do anything, there's a confrontation going on outside with some of the local skinheads who are dealing with the problems of their own unification with West Germany and not liking that the Yugoslavs arrival is only making things worse in the area. When they learn that Neumann is who he is, it all goes terribly worse since they view him as a traitor to their country not only for what he did, believing he lied about knowing about the drugs, but for associating with such lowlifes as he is now.
Keaton makes up about half of the episode, but not as the primary player. This is all Neumann's story and it's a fascinating little tale of many large events that have very much affected one man. There are so many elements that come together to provide his makeup that there's no simple thing about him that allows it to be describe in a one off phrase or word. This was a great story and really set the disc off properly.
Another episode that takes the larger global events and how it affects people is the "Red Wind" episode, where we initially see three young men in the Soviet era who are instructed by their teacher to grow up into fine proper gentleman, as she knows that they all have a crush on her and this is her way of setting them on the right path. The three make a pact about how to live their lives and we see parts of how they moved on, with two into the military, another into the education area. One of them is eventually killed during an operation in Afghanistan. All of them had to deal with the changing of the world though, more so for the remaining two as the Soviet Union crumbled and each had their own views on that. In the new world each has to do what they think is right, though there are possibilities that it goes against their pact. So when the last surviving member of the trio finds himself being hunted down by communist hardliners, he's surprised to learn that there are connections to his past coming back to haunt him over it.
Keaton's involvement comes when he stumbles across one of the bodyguards who gets killed and ends up befriending Razin as he tells his story. Realizing that Keaton is a bit more than your average man, he brings him on as a bodyguard for a short time while dealing with a particular weapons show in the UK. Keaton gets tied into it pretty well as he starts to learn more of Razin's own past from other sources and some of what's gone on during the collapse of the Soviet Union. This all unfolds with the backdrop of the pact the trio made in their youths and their hopes to hold onto the ideals that drove them during those days. There's a fair bit of suspense and action in this episode and it was a good change of pace from the past batch of episodes where Keaton's mostly had the upper hand.
Along with these two episodes, there are three more that are all quite good, though the last one was the weakest with Keaton rescuing a near blind painter who is being forced to work on forgeries. There are some great tales here, one focusing on the Spanish part of World War II and the Soviet involvement in helping fight off the invading armies as well as an insurance scam crackdown that Keaton looks into in the UK. Each of them is just so well plotted and told that they're so engrossing and enjoyable that you often forget the time and the entire batch of episodes is over quicker than you can imagine.
I cannot recommend this series enough. While there are many series I enjoy when watching them, there are few where I'm in the middle of it and already start to dread that it'll end in a few months or more. With only two more volumes left, there will be a gaping hole every few months where I would expect to see more Master Keaton. I hate to use the line of 'stories for adults' or something similar, but this show can be hard to describe otherwise when you're awash in a sea of shows with teens and science fiction out there. Much like Black Heaven, Master Keaton skews towards a more discerning audience.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 115
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Master Keaton