Master Keaton Vol. #5 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • 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: 115
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Master Keaton

Master Keaton Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     February 03, 2004
Release Date: February 10, 2004

Master Keaton Vol. #5
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
The past conceals grand adventures! Keaton explores the amazing history of a Scottish watch enshrined in Japan and a bottle of fine French wine hidden from the Nazis. Then Keaton uncovers a false "Robin Hood" and must run for his life! Attempting to follow his dreams Keaton turns to archeology, but just as his passion led to his first murder investigation, Keaton finds danger on his next dig site when the natives strand the team in the Takla Makan desert!

The Review!
This show has no right to be this good. I can’t think of even one TV series that has an episode that even gets me misty-eyed like the second episode on this disc did.

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 changes 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 Keaton checking his location by looking to the stars, which looks fine in person but the online artwork looks pretty sad. 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.

The only included extra in this round is the closing sequence for episode 25 which is done with the original Japanese text; the actual episode is done with a black credits scrawl, so it’s likely that this special episode simply didn’t have a clean ending to be used so they took this route. I would have preferred the Japanese text ending to be left in place and followed by the credits scrawl though, but I’m glad they at least included the original closing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Each volume of Master Keaton so far has proven to be very enjoyable, particularly if you’re looking for something mature in your anime. There have been numerous great episodes and there have been some mediocre episodes. But this is one of those series where even the mediocre episodes stand out quite well. With this fifth installment in the series, I found myself to be completely mesmerized for three of the episodes and very entertained with the other two. In fact, the second episode had me misty-eyed.

The first two episodes are amusingly “heavy” on alcohol, though that seems to figure into another episode as well. The opening episode is a tale that has Keaton in Edinburgh meeting up with someone with whom he is going to be writing a novel with. Keaton’s father has come all the way from Japan as well, bearing a special bottle of sake from the northern area. As Keaton talks about what the book is about, we learn that it’s the tale of the “Lord of Scotch”, one of the master distillers of the area from a few hundred years prior who had gained a strong reputation among his comrades. The tale goes about what he’s done over the years, with it weaving in and out of Keaton’s discovering aspects of it from tracking down the coat of arms he has from one of the bottles. The tale of Angus, the Lord of Scotch, takes a curious turn later in his life when he’s forced to fleet the country and mysteriously ends up in Japan, where a separate tale there talks of a foreigner who arrived and settled into the land, teaching new tricks and introducing his special flavor of distilling. The tying of the two bottles together is a drawn out tale, but it’s fascinating in how it’s woven in so many ways.

The second episode again deals with alcohol here, with a good part of the episode dealing with the tale being told from the characters eyes and not Keaton’s. We’re taken back to 1944 and watch as a young boy named Victor and the estate butler Libero deal with the grape picking for their chateau’s family wine. The year is obviously a dangerous one, but with most of France occupied there isn’t much going on throughout a lot of it. But as the allies attack and try to drive the Germans out, the war stretches across the grape vineyards. Watching from the chateau, Libero realizes that the fields are their perfect moment right now and both of them race out underneath the shells and gunfire to pick as much as they can. The result is the magnificent and world renowned 1944 batch that no other winery was able to produce due to the war. Now all these decades later, the last bottle out of the five hundred is left and it’s worth several hundred thousand dollars.

Keaton has come to the chateau to perform an insurance validation of it as the land is being bought out due to changes in the winery industry over the years. Victor and Libero long for the traditional ways to do it, but Victor’s wife wants to modernize and take them out of debt, to restore things. Her own reasons are often hidden, but to modernize means that the vineyard that produced the 1944 batch must be destroyed, as well as other areas. Both men have a hard time dealing with this, but it’s done in such a quiet and somber way with little emotion getting out, yet you can feel their passion over things. Flashbacks back and forth to the 40’s and how Libero effectively raised Victor combined with elements of his wife’s own past bring things into perspective.

There is something to me in this episode that is so incredibly magical, from the way Keaton admires the old barrels in the basement to how he looks out across the vineyards, that when combined with the contained sadness of Victor and Libero, it just connects so strongly. Every aspect of this episode was fascinating and played out so smoothly that I’m hard pressed to really know why it affected me so, but just that it did and it hasn’t left me in the day since I saw it.

The remainder of the disc thankfully did not pale, but after two very strong episodes like this it felt weird to move into an episode that had some action as Keaton is transporting a thief he’s caught that was defrauding one of his clients. That episode plays out well to Keaton’s skills, but just didn’t feel like a smooth transition from what came before. The episode after that was a pleasant change of pace though, as it goes back to a time when Keaton was a student who came out on archaeological dig to help out and beef up his skills a bit. This is a episode where his skills learned so far push him further into being something more than simply an observer, as it introduces him to his future part, Connelly, who has come to investigate the dig as part of an insurance check. Getting to see more of his past continues to be intriguing, though I hope we see more of his SAS past in future volumes.

The volume ends on a fantastic episode though, which has Keaton coming up somewhat roughly with a Professor that he once studied under that doesn’t look kindly on him on a dig in the Middle East. The Professor is strangely not mindful of local beliefs and their own sense of history, which is built upon what he’s come in search for. Keaton’s ability to befriend people easily comes in handy as he deals with the elderly man who has let the team look on his lands. Keaton manages to learn parts of the family history of that area that was kept from the others, but not before it’s too late. The Professor has caused a problem that results in the team leaders being taken to the middle of the desert to die as they try to get back. The struggle for survival, with Keaton being as resourceful as always, is fascinating – just as fascinating as how the leader of the area deals with Keaton’s lack of dying.

In Summary:
Master Keaton is a series that unfortunately seems to be flying under a lot of people’s radar. Those who have gotten into it are generally very well hooked and can’t get enough. This volume continues what has come before and has produced some of the best episodes yet, and there’s still another three discs worth of stories to come. These stories tell the tales of real people and the shady situations they get into or how life has simply done them wrong over time. Keaton is the lead character, but when the story calls for him to be sidelined, the characters of the individual story shine beautifully. This is great material and this volume contains one of the best single episodes I’ve seen in any series in recent memory.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Ending for Episode 25

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.


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