Master Keaton Vol. #7 (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, May 17, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004



What They Say
From Europe to Japan, Keaton's family matters drag him in between his father and a strange woman then leads to memories of his childhood in Cornwall. To avoid those troubles, Keaton explores more dangerous paths while investigating suspicious murders and terrorists across Europe. As usual, Keaton's skills will be put to the test to uncover the truth, but while he's in be recovering from a broken leg, his daughter Yuriko will use skills of her own to track down a purse-snatcher in London!

The Review!
Keaton comes back for another five episodes that cover both the present and the past for many people, Keaton included.

Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing way 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.

Packaging:
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 another of the Keaton headshots but with the backdrop of the ruins of an ancient city at night from one of the episodes on this volume. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As we get deeper into the OVA releases of the series, the stories aren't changing to anything we haven't seen before in a sense. The shift over to the OVAs hasn't lead to darker or more violent episodes or storylines that cross into uncharted territory, rather we're still getting the same good solid stories we've been getting all along.

The five tales here all vary in what's being told and we do get five very engaging stories, though some are obviously better than others. But with the kind of style used here, there are plenty of reasons people have a lot of favorites that others don't care for since each episode really does touch on such different facets of life out there and will speak to some people more than others. One of the things that does shine through again with these episodes is the continued use of Germany and it's stories relating to the Berlin Wall that have happened over the years. I continue to find these fascinating and it's just plainly obvious that there's no end to the variety of them that have yet to be told.

This is one of the key properties of the first story where Keaton is hired on to investigate the death of an elderly man's friend as the circumstances are a bit suspect. The man had been walking home with his groceries and then had a heart attack while walking through the doorway to his flat. As Keaton investigates, he comes across more and more information about the actual events and who saw what. That's generally a troubling area to begin with since peoples experiences are colored by time and other events, but Keaton manages to put together a reasonable idea of what happened. The history of the two men starts to become revealed and it highlights not only why his friend was killed but also why he himself is now targeted.

The family side of Keaton is pretty strong in this volume as it covers three episodes but each quite differently. One episode has Keaton meeting up with his "sister" that he never knew he had from a time when his father used to visit a prostitute in the old days. She's being manipulated by a man she made her business partner and Keaton's father has asked him to help her out since he feels a debt towards her. While Keaton deals with this in the present, we learn of the woman's experiences as a child when she first learned of her real father and how things looked from her young eyes. It's an interesting perspective to see how she managed to survive through things and then became what she is.

Keaton's time as a youth is also explored when we see him living with his grandmother in Cornwall. Keaton as a young lad had to deal with some of the problems of the area in that he was considered "summer folk", those that just come to visit during the good times of the year and then leave. Locals generally have this problem in touristy areas so it's not something new or uncommon. Keaton doesn't become all that concerned with trying to fit in with the kids since he can figure it out easily enough and ends up spending a lot of his time riding the bus around the area with a friendly driver named Chris. Keaton eventually is invited out onto the Moors with a few of the locals to check the place out but it leads to some disaster when things don't work out right. This episode really continues to push the survivalist nature that seems to be inherent in Keaton from an early age as he's able to handle the situation calmly even when the other kids are freaking out over it.

My favorite though has to be the tale that brings Yuriko into the picture. She's come to visit her father during her Golden Week vacation only to find that he's broken his leg (walking down the office stars of all things supposedly) and is somewhat out of action. Since she's most definitely his daughter, she's fine with it and is set to just to explore the city on her own some. She gets the usual warnings that tourists, Japanese especially, are being targeted due to their trusting nature, but she's most definitely the type that will be wary in general. While out in Piccadilly Square though, she comes across a theft as some punk grabs the bag of an elderly Japanese woman and heads off. She tries to catch him and fails, but she takes up with the woman for a while and the two start a strange little journey to find a man that she had fallen in love with fifty years prior. The tale is a really sweet romantic one as we see her past in Japan before the war and the love she had met then and how she's lived her life since in wanting to see him again. While it's certainly not original and it's been done elsewhere, it's done quite well here and is very enjoyable with the bits that are core to the Keaton family style.

In Summary:
The family angle for these episodes is a really nice treat and one that helps to continue building up the background for Keaton and those who are truly close to him. The five standalone tales here do a good job of that when they cover that area while those that deal with the investigation stories are solid as well. Having seen thirty-five episodes of this show, it's a real rarity in that I'm still enjoying the fact that there's no real continuity to it for the most part. Episodic series have been in disfavor with me for some time, but Keaton manages to create such engaging tales that I cannot help but become enthralled once the disc starts. Great stuff and one of the best things we're currently watching.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
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.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 115
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Master Keaton