I enjoyed the first volume of Master Keaton. While the manga wasn’t anything like I was expecting it to be, I still found the collection of short stories to be genuinely engaging to read from beginning to end.
With the second volume coming out now, can Master Keaton continue to bring the . Is it good?
Master Keaton Vol. 2 (Viz Media)
Story By: Hokusei Katsyshika and Takashi Nagasaki
Art By: Naoki Urasawa
Translated By: John Werry
Like the previous volume, this is another collection of short one-chapter tales that involve Taichi-Hiraga Keaton, our trusty insurance investigator and archaeology adept main character. We see him involved in a couple of more investigations, running into some old friends, and even getting caught up in some crime fighting. There’s are two exceptions in the book; one where we focus on Keaton’s father and another tale that is a two parter, but that’s it. Basically, there’s no big, overarching storyline going on here and it’s all about the adventures and shenanigans that Keaton gets wrapped up in.
Overall this volume was better than the last. The two major reasons: the pacing is much better and the stories weren’t as overloaded. What I mean by this is that writers didn’t try to do too much in each chapter and instead made them tight, focused and non-convoluted (like Keaton helping a man get away from the mafia after he stolen money from them) or simpler, heartfelt tales like Keaton befriending a young girl who is being held against her will by her spiteful grandmother. The most complicated story, one about a serial killer, is actually told in two chapters so there’s much more room for it to develop. None of the tales feel all that rushed and allow for some good drama and emotion, instead of being bogged down in exposition or having corners cut (a few stories unfortunately have abrupt endings, but not all).
Ha! Made you look!
The stories are a varied bunch, so thankfully each one doesn’t have the same feel or similar resolution. Besides the ones I mentioned, there’s a tale where Keaton helps some bounty hunters out, one where Keaton’s father helps a woman find her dog, one where Keaton and an old friend bond after running into each other after so many years and a story about the main character reflecting back on his old professor. Probably the best story was Keaton helping a Turkish man survive in the wilderness as they’re being hunted down by some Neo-Nazis the entire time (great resolution on this one). There’s not a bad story in the bunch, all of them featuring plenty of drama and wonderful characterization for Keaton.
Keaton is in the majority of the chapters and the writers continue to do a great job fleshing him out and adding to his backstory. The entire chapter with Keaton lecturing at a college and learning more about his friendship with his old professor is really fantastic stuff, granting much better understanding at how he became the person he is now. Besides Keaton, only his dad and daughter appear in the volume and only for one chapter each. There’s not much new with Yuriko, but Taihei’s chapter where he searches for the dog is great development for him; it paints him a pretty good light as he tries to figure out the bigger story behind the dog and tries to help the woman in another way. I really hope to see more from him and other characters in the future.
The writing in Master Keaton Vol. 2 is pretty good and feels like it is improving. The pacing and story structure are, like I said, much better this time around. The drama and emotion have much more room to breathe and they really feel effective when they appear, feeling tender and powerful like you would hope. The characterization for the bit characters is not bad and you can sometimes really feel for these people. The dialogue and narration feel better, leading to some great interactions and exchanges (the chapter that had best was with Keaton and his old friend just talking with each other). The narration and exposition don’t nearly feel as heavy as the last volume, though at some points the narration can have these odd bits of feeling preachy or sounding like a statistic you’d hear in a PSA. It’s odd and it’s usually always at the end, instead of at the beginning of the chapter where it might be more fitting.
The artwork by Naoki Urasawa continues to look absolutely wonderful. The characters all look very distinct from one another, right down to their race (Japanese people look Japanese, Germans look German, etc.), and they’re all very expressive and emotive. The layouts are put together well, the attention to detail and locations shown in the book are abundant, and the coloring is quite lovely on top of it all. There’s only one tiny nitpick to be found and that’s the fact that one chapter has a recycled background. Seriously, every chair, every bottle, even the bartender is exactly the same in these two panels with the only difference being the person at the bar. I get what the writer and artist were going for, but it feels just a bit lazy to me personally.
Is It Good?
Master Keaton Vol. 2 is a very nice step up from the last volume, improving on a bunch of problems that the first had and really finding its groove. The stories are very enjoyable and well-written, the characters are strong, and the artwork looks great. This is definitely the kind of manga I would recommend to anyone looking for a more mature read, even to non-manga fans.
Master Keaton is available from Viz Media, with the third volume of the series coming out on June 16, 2015. The original series ended back in the early ’90s, but a new series written and drawn by Naoki Urasawa himself (since the author sadly passed away) is currently going on in Japan and has also been licensed by Viz. There was an anime adaption of the series that was licensed by Geneon, but the company is out of business and the DVDs are considered out of print as well.