Geneon // 1998 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // May 20th, 2004
"I've known who you were since the day you were born, and even before
then, I knew who you'd become."
-- Libero, in Case 22
Master Keaton is simply the best dramatic anime I have ever seen. The writing and direction is consistently top-notch, something that is not easy to say for such a long-running series. There just aren't any slow spots or lulls in the storytelling -- I am completely enthralled from the first episode to the last. In fact, I have to reserve three hours straight so I don't have to torture myself by abandoning the viewing halfway through the DVD.
Taichi Hiraga-Keaton is a master of all trades. He seems perfectly comfortable in any situation, from touring a winery to navigating a tricky swamp or facing off criminals. He has a passion for archeology and was formerly an SAS officer and a school lecturer. Currently, he does insurance investigation for Lloyd's of London, along with Daniel, his partner. Keaton gets called in when the mission is particularly dangerous or sensitive, and he has taken on many roles, from hostage negotiator to bodyguard. At all times he is confident, calm, and reassuring, which is a help to others who might be involved in a situation with him. Keaton, the man, is modest and unassuming, with a gentle nature and a love for life that influences everything he does. He can be hard and steely when the situation requires it, but he'll usually try to take a non-violent approach, if he can.
"Case 21: The Thistle Emblem"
Keaton goes to Scotland in pursuit of the story behind a watch found preserved in a Japanese shrine. He meets his father and discusses the history, and they both make a surprising discovery.
"Case 22: Chateu Lajonchee 1944"
In Burgundy, Keaton visits an old-fashioned winery in order to insure an extremely rare 1944 vintage, the last bottle of which is owned by the winery master. What he finds is a family drama that has yet to be played out.
"Case 23: No Way Out"
Fugitive escort leads Keaton and his prisoner through the only road in a treacherous swamp area, and with a reward to anyone who will shoot Keaton down, he has to be on high alert.
"Case 24: The Day the Op Was Born"
Keaton remembers his first archeological dig, and the first time he met and partnered with Daniel.
"Case 25: Kalihman of the Desert"
Time and the elements are against them when Keaton and an excavation team are left for dead in the desert after the team leader offends the locals that own the land. In a test of endurance and cunning, Keaton must use all his knowledge to get them out.
A key strength for Master Keaton is the writing. Each story is thoroughly researched and well written. Keaton's character is stronger with each successive episode, and the situations are realistic and believable. I'd like to think there are people like Keaton out there, protecting people like me. Keaton is the type of man anyone would want to meet in real life. If you don't immediately relate to his kind nature or his keen intelligence, you're bound to appreciate his quiet confidence and ability to adapt to almost any situation. He knows his strengths and weaknesses, and he is a modest man despite his abundant skill.
Like the writing, and like Keaton himself, the episodes are strongly rooted in tradition and never talk down to the viewer. The stories pull you along for the ride, and the simple but elegant animation and direction for each story reinforces this. What Master Keaton offers is a refreshing absence of flash, arrogance, and self-aware "cool guy" posturing. It's just a man and his passions.
Video transfer for Master Keaton is excellent, with a very clean image and bright colors that blend perfectly on screen. I especially love sunny forest scenes, which are beautiful and evocative. I could be sitting in a basement office, and I'd probably still be able to feel the breeze on my face. Sound quality is also excellent, with a robust 2.0 surround track that does a good job of filtering ambient noise. Sadly, not too many extras with this DVD, but there is a hidden feature on Lloyd's of London that you can find by going to the Extras menu, doing to "DVD Credits," and arrowing to the left, then pressing Enter. I feel that extras are the only thing that could be done better here. I would love to see interviews with the creators and some more information about the original ideas for this series.
At five episodes per volume, Master Keaton is quite a deal. Of course, the excellent writing and character design don't hurt either. This is definitely the anime for problem-solvers and fans of adventure drama.
Review content copyright © 2004 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* English (signs only)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Hidden Feature
* Official Site