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Case Number 04830: Small Claims Court

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Master Keaton: Life And Death (Volume 7)

Geneon // 1998 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // July 22nd, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Sandra Dozier says Master Keaton is the only series that could inspire an Insurance Investigator action figure (with detachable briefcase and interchangeable ties, of course).

The Charge

His job is danger; his office is the world!

The Case

It isn't often that an anime comes along and captures my heart so fully that I wait on pins and needles for the next set of episodes, but Master Keaton is just such a series. It is the best dramatic anime series I have seen in a long time, and I have recommended it heartily to friends who are interested in the genre but don't know where to start and are horrified by the "teenage sailor chick" anime they have seen glimpses of. Master Keaton is a thoughtful, delightful, entertaining series that everyone can enjoy.

Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, the hero of our story, is an unassuming, jovial fellow who is whip-smart and calm under pressure. Although his chosen profession as an insurance investigator for Lloyds of London sounds rather boring, it takes him on many exciting and dangerous missions all over Europe and Japan, the perfect backdrops for adventure. Keaton's varied background serves him well in his travels; a former SAS survival instructor, he dabbles in archeology on the side (it's his passion) and teaches at various colleges. He's the one they call when the job is particularly dangerous or sensitive. This doesn't sit very well with his daughter, Yuriko, who worries about her father. Between her and his errant father (who has an eye for young women), Keaton's personal life is just as busy as his professional life. Keaton divides his time between London and Japan when he isn't traveling.

The appeal of this series rests squarely with Keaton. Although he can be deadly and fierce when he needs to be, he is equally gentle-natured and kind. Keaton is a man who loves life and enjoys the simple beauty of the world he lives in. Perhaps this is why he fights so hard to preserve the peace of it.

Volume Seven contains the following episodes:

• "Case 31: The Scent is the Key"
Keaton is tapped to investigate a death by a mysterious gentleman who can only say that he suspects foul play because he did not detect the scent of death when he and his now deceased friend last spoke.

• "Case 32: The Back Street"
Sent by his father to give money to a young woman, Keaton makes an assumption about her relationship to his father and the reason for the payoff—an assumption that is quickly disproved when she greets him like family.

• "Case 33: Devil like an Angel"
Keaton searches for a Japanese art student who is living in Italy but was recently reported missing, only to discover that he is part of a terrorist group.

• "Case 34: The Agate Color of Time"
Talking with Yoriko about his childhood in Cornwall, Keaton relives a particularly bittersweet friendship he formed briefly with the town bus driver.

• "Case 35: Love in May"
After leaving her father laid up in the hospital with a broken leg, Yoriko helps an elderly woman recover her stolen purse. What they uncover together is a grippingly moving love story from the past.

It's nice to see a little more of Yoriko in these episodes. She is nearly out of school and as tough and independent as her father. Seeing the two of them together means seeing the softer side of Keaton; he definitely unwinds when he is with her. I particularly enjoy the brand of mystery in this series, and most of these episodes involved a riddle for Keaton (or Yuriko!) to solve.

In general, Master Keaton is what I wish most dramatic live-action TV shows would be. There is no flash to distract from the story, and Keaton is carefully centered as a strong lead in the series, which gives the audience a lot to relate to. There is plenty of variety, from historical sleuthing, to action, to family drama and more. This is a series with heart, and that comes through in each episode. The gravy is the consistently excellent stories and action that have kept me on the edge of my seat for seven volumes.

Video transfer for Master Keaton is quite good, with a clear, bright picture. The animation for this series is simple but very elegant, with gorgeous background painting and attention to detail that gives each scene depth and a feeling of reality—in one episode in particular, the animation of the green fields and an unfurling windsock was so lovely and fluid I could almost feel the wind around me. Sound quality is also good, with a stereo track that delivers a fair bit of ambient noise channeling and robust sound. Ted Cole (who is perhaps best known as Kuno on Ranma 1/2) is the perfect Keaton, and he has obviously mellowed nicely into the role. All in all, I really like the English dub for this series, and I appreciate the particular attention that has been paid to giving characters appropriate accents. Not too many extras, but at five episodes per disc, I'm not complaining. If you want the secret hidden feature mentioned on the box, just go to the Extras menu, go to the DVD Credits, arrow to the left, and press Enter to see notes about the role of a kidnap negotiator (a role Keaton takes on in "Case 8: Negotiator's Rule").

Make sure to check out Master Keaton if you like high adventure with elements of sleuthing, mystery, and physical action. This series will not disappoint.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 95

Perp Profile

Studio: Geneon
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
• English
• English (signs only)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Action
• Anime
• Mystery

Distinguishing Marks

• Hidden Feature


• IMDb
• Official Site

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