And so, we reach the series finale of Master Keaton with its twelfth volume. Does it go out with a bang in a collection of great stories or does it crumble in a whimper?
Since this is an anthology, let’s break down each story one by one and see how they all stack up.
The Scholar’s Day
Taichi Keaton has gotten interest in his research from Toto University, who apparently wants to make him a professor and start doing research. However, things are a tad too easy and as he learns, the university is just really one big bureaucracy. This is a strong start to the collection with some great characterization for Taichi, showing how far he is willing to bend and what he’s willing toput up with in order to fulfill his passion for archeology, but also remembering the sage words of his old professor. It’s a relatable situation as well, having to put up with people who don’t seem to have as much interest in something as they really should be, just in it for the glory while controlling everything and making the big decisions. In a way, the story is reminiscent of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster when Kenzo Tenma was working at the hospital at the beginning of the series. I wonder if this story helped inspire Urasawa in some way while he was drawing it.
Successor to the Dream
Following the previous chapter, Keaton’s old professor, Urey Scott, has passed away. He was a major influence on Keaton, but he also may have left something behind for him. Keaton thus begins to search Scott’s past and meet with his old friends and colleagues to find out. This is another great story that I really found engaging to read. Even though I don’t recall us ever meeting or seeing Professor Scott in the series before his death, the creators did a wonderful job of showing how amazing of a person he was with how he influenced others and what effect he had on people’s lives. You can see how it would leave such an impact on Keaton and the scene at the bar at the end was, while cheesy, really touching and heartwarming.
A Very Busy Day
With the memento left behind from Professor Scott, Keaton is determined to start excavating in Romania. However, he needs some funds so he takes a couple of odd jobs to earn some quick cash. Building even further off the last two chapters, this is a frantic, fast paced tale of Keaton trying to solve as many cases as he can, and a lot of them are even connected to each other, funnily enough. Unlike previous tales where the fast pace of the story is bit much, this one works a lot better due to the frantic nature of the story itself. It’s constantly moving from point to point and it’s engaging the entire way through, having plenty of fun twists and turns in the mix. Even having recurring character Charlie Chapman was great and integrated into the tale well, nothing ever overshadowing a different plotline.
Prayers to Pass Exams
Yuriko is determined to get into Oxford and become an archeologist like her dad. She has no time for people passing judgement on her or any patriarchal BS, but she does take a small sidetrack with she meets a person down on his luck. In comparison to previous chapters we had, this is probably the weakest in terms of story — it’s mostly just about Yuriko making a new friend and falling in love for the first time with someone who really respects her. It’s sweet and as a conclusion to wrap things up with her, it’s fitting and shows that she has grown into a fine young woman who will be alright in the future. But it lacks the excitement and real power of the previous chapters, trying to do its best with the limited amount of space it had. Still, it’s not a bad tale and I liked how things closed out here with Keaton’s family.
Detective Hudson has retired from the force and is working at Keaton’s agency in his spare time to make himself of use, even though it causes more problems than it should. A new job did come in though, and this one will take Keaton straight to Romania where he wants to dig. Hudson joins him for the trip and the two start investigating some missing cars, which leads them into something bigger than they could have ever dreamed of.
From here on out, the rest of the chapters of the volume start to form one large, ongoing story for the series finale. While the previous chapters all connected, building up this trip itself, they were still their own thing with a loose thread connecting them. This one is different, but it still could be considered the last solo chapter, since it’s mostly about Keaton and Hudson solving a case and getting caught up in tense events of 90’s Romania. It’s a fun story and I do love the partnership between Keaton and Hudson — both are very competent at their job, but go about it in two different ways for different results. It’s definitely fun as a whole, but where it leads to is truly exciting.
The Remaining Chapters
The last seven chapters of the volume, and the series, pick up exactly where "To Romania!!" left off. Chaos ensues as Keaton and Hudson get pulled into a tangle mess involving former secret police, a vast treasure from the previous government worth billions, conspiracies, and countless murders. Even another character gets pulled into the mix when he rolls in to help Keaton out and with how things are going, there’s no telling if anyone will live by the end of things.
As a whole, this is a great way to end the series on an incredible, exciting high point as Keaton and friends try to save the day and undercover the truth. The pacing is stronger than ever, the twists and turns keep you on your toes, and pleasantly, the side characters are all generally good and don’t feel useless or annoying. For instance, I rather liked the reporter character who was trying to figure out the mystery piece by piece, even manipulating a news agency in the end to inadvertently save the day. There’s a lot of great character moments and dialogue shared between the cast, especially in the final stand off as Keaton is confronted by the last guy or when he talks with his friends.
In a way, the ending to the series sort of reminds me of the finale to Monster (even the kid character here looked almost exactly like Dieter). The desolate village, a horrific massacre as thugs descend about the place, truths coming out, a main player who is kid, an old man who knows some great secret, and the hero facing down a madman. It’s not exactly the same in all parts, but like with the first chapter in this book, I wouldn’t be surprised if Urasawa took some inspiration from this final storyline.
I am a bit disappointed that we never got to meet Keaton’s ex-wife or mother (unless I’m remembering things wrong). It just seems weird, since they have been brought up a lot over the entire series. Also, I’m a bit disappointed there wasn’t a final chapter to send off Keaton’s dad or partner. Everyone got a great, satisfying ending, but those two didn’t and were barely even in the book despite how often they appeared in the series. It’s disappointing, but not a deal breaker at least in the end.
Master Keaton Vol. 12 was a stellar conclusion to the series — a thrill ride from start to finish. The characters were all great, the stories and tales engaging, and the conclusion absolutely fitting for the manga. If you’ve hung on for this long, you are sure to enjoy this ending.