Master Keaton Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 110
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Master Keaton

Master Keaton Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     June 03, 2003
Release Date: June 10, 2003

Master Keaton Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
The amazing Taichi Keaton works on cases around the globe that always lead to adventure! He combines his arsenal of multidisciplinary expertise in investigation, archeology, and survival with his experience as a professor, a Falklands Conflict veteran and a SAS agent to unravel the often dangerous challenges in each riveting episode.

In this volume, he rescues the beautiful Sofia from a gang of thugs in Greece, then works with bounty hunters to locate a terrorist in Germany. Later, after he escorts the heir to an Italian fortune to France, he meets an "immortal" being chased by the Russian mafia in Poland, and finally returns to Paris for an emotional reunion!

The Review!
A jack of all trades of sorts, Keaton is the everyman who has that special knack to get himself both into and out of trouble.

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.

Originally airing 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, between the backgrounds and foregrounds with character animation. This is also a rare release where I actually noticed a significant amount of edge enhancement around the characters, very noticeable in the opening episode but still present throughout all five episodes. One other oddity we had, specifically with our Panasonic RP-82 player, is that the time remaining part of the disc was unusable, providing only a PLAY message on the deck. The Toshiba TV/DVD combo did allow access to the time remaining though. I think this has happened with one other Pioneer disc lately, something I don?t like.

The opening volume to the series has a good looking cover that goes for the headshot of the title character while providing a nice sunset sky to the background, set around Stonehenge, as well as the faded SAS logo in the sky. The logo itself is rather sizeable, probably a bit more than it needs to be. 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 large 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 headshot 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.

The only extras included in this first volume is a textless version of the opening and ending sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Going into this show, I knew little beyond the few snippets provided by the trailer we?ve seen prior to its release on other Pioneer discs. This is actually preferable in my mind, since I get to go in with very few preconceptions or advance hype.

The show focuses on one central character, Taichi Keaton. By appearance and other information, he looks to be in his mid thirties and has the general nice-guy look that you find in many male characters of that range in Miyazaki movies. His face has that near-eternal smile no matter what he?s doing and a sort of lazy but purposeful walk of someone who is comfortable in their skin.

His gainful employment comes in the form of being a teacher of history and archaeology, something that he utilizes at various schools around the world by providing lectures. From the time that he took those courses himself in college to this period in his life though, he?s definitely undergone a number of changes. From being in the SAS and then hiring himself out as an independent investigator for Lloyds of London, Keaton has likely traveled quite extensively around the world and seen a lot. With his skills as both an archaeologist, historian and investigator, the smallest of details in each case become the telling clues. In some senses, a lot of this feels like a modern day Sherlock Holmes without Watson and without the near-arrogance of many of the modern Holmes interpretations.

With this kind of character, usually operating alone, the episodes here mirror it for this volume by being standalone stories. Each of them helps bring the character along a bit more, providing some background and tidbits about his life, with the fifth episode being the best for it. The standalone nature is another aspect that harkens back to the Holmes mythos, with Pioneer?s recent Sherlock Hound sticking out strongly in my mind as something rather similar.

Of course, with this being done in a real world style, the stories aren?t quite as silly. The opening episode has Keaton heading to Greece where he?s investigating the death of a policyholder who has left everything to someone who probably shouldn?t be getting all that money. He ends up dealing with the dead mans lover, who is being pressured by the men who are getting the money into revealing a treasure that he had discovered some time ago. It?s a nice little mystery story that introduces Keaton well, as well as some of his harsher background.

Another enjoyable episode brings him to Germany where he?s been asked to help secure a former German Red Army commander by her family, so that she can turn herself in and avoid some harsh sentences. When he attempts to do this, he comes across a former Scotland Yard member and his team who are trying to bring down the terrorist outfit itself, which is now holding the woman hostage. With the team being considered professionals and their disdain for Keaton readily apparent, it?s a solid piece that gives Keaton the chance to really show off his skills in a subtle way and expand his background even more.

My favorite episode is the fifth one though, ?Paris Under the Roof?. Keaton takes to the city of Paris where he?s lecturing at a school that is going to be torn down in a few days time, and he?s going to be the final lecturer. The school is a fairly important one from the past several decades, with its history in WWII. The class is an interesting mix of young adults and older people who take the history-archaeological course for the enjoyment of learning. The storyline delves into the origins of European civilization, with the varying possibilities that don?t go exactly with accepted belief.

This brings us far into Keaton?s past, at the time when he was a student himself. We go back to his time with the teacher that meant the most to him in college, that taught him things he wouldn?t know otherwise. The character building here is spot on, and it really fleshes him out nicely. The other excellent combination for this episode is the arrival of his daughter, a young woman in high school who lives with her mother, also a highly respected person. She?s the strong outgoing bright youth that you?d expect from such a pairing of parents, and she balances out the story perfectly with her presence and her questions. There?s a great scene where the two are sitting atop a roof in the heart of the city, and Keaton simply explains some of his dreams and desires that are core to him. It?s rare that people can actually vocalize such things and even more so to their family, never mind their own children.

Master Keaton runs thirty-nine episodes. Based off of these first five episodes, I?m definitely eager to see more as they?re very enjoyable little vignettes. With its globe-trotting nature, interesting and varied characters and attention to the small details, it?s exactly the kind of show that sparks something nostalgic in me. The more I reflect on the show, the more I smile and think fondly about it.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Textless Closing

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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