Master Keaton Vol. 9 Review

Master KeatonTitle: Master Keaton Vol. 9
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: VIZ Media
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 322
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: December 20, 2016

The Story

Naoki Urasawa’s episodic series featuring the adventures of Taichi Keaton has returned for its ninth volume. Much like with past volumes of Master Keaton, each chapter provides a unique story involving Keaton as he unravels mystery after mystery in his unemployed spare time.

One thing that I have noticed as the series progresses is that we are not getting any explanations as to why Keaton is in the places that he is. I understand Keaton doesn’t have a job, but some explanation as to why he’s in the places he is would be nice. He just seemingly shows up randomly in different locations and that’s been the norm now for quite a few volumes. I get that chapters are short, but a quick blurb shouldn’t take up too much space on a page.

For instance, in the first chapter, Twilight of the Migratory Birds, Keaton ends up involving himself in a mafia hit just by bird watching. He traveled to Southern Italy just to see birds migrate and while he was tending to an injured white throat, he comes across an old man on a motorcycle. After hitching a ride and getting shot at by a mafia underling, he takes it upon himself to find out why that has happened. While it was a nice chapter, they could have said something like “After learning of the migration of some of his favorite birds, Keaton finds himself in Southern Italy…” at the beginning of the chapter rather than dropping the reader right into the situation. As an aside, the opening color pages were really well done as per usual! It’s one of the things I look forward to in every volume!

The second chapter, A Gift from the Dead, brings us back to murder mystery as Keaton has to figure out why an upstanding member of Scotland Yard was framed for murder. Keaton has to dig pretty deep to get to the bottom of this one, but it turns out to be, yet another, revenge plot… which has been a common theme among the stories of the past few volumes, although volume eight did detract from that quite a bit which I felt was refreshing.

Speaking of refreshing, I really loved the eleventh chapter, Interview Day, because I thought that we would finally get some much-needed advancement in Keaton’s character. Keaton notes that he wants to return to archaeology and receives an interview for a new job at 2PM; however, his father, being the womanizer that he is, comes to Keaton to (hilariously) borrow money from him. Well, things take a turn south when his dad is targeted by the Chinese Mafia over two girls: Mei Ling and Pai Li. Turns out that Mei Ling was a white tiger and Pai Li was trying to help rescue her from the mafia and Keaton’s father got mixed up in it. In the end, Keaton was late for his interview and so he rushes off only to see…

…no progression of this story… sort of. In the final chapter, Man of the Tower, Keaton still doesn’t have a job and we’re right back to random situations, but this case hits a little closer to home. He runs into his old friend Miki who owns a construction company and is building a tower, but he’s in some sort of financial trouble and wants to give up building it. Somehow, this ties in with a street game of rugby going on down below, mainly due to Keaton and Miki’s background in the sport. So they end up playing and it helps change Miki’s mind about giving up. While Keaton did help out his friend, he still doesn’t have a job despite the fact that his plight was teased throughout this chapter. Part of the problem is that Keaton is being picky and even his father scolded him for being that.

I guess we will get more development at another time. Then again, Master Keaton isn’t really your typical manga series. It relies on quick, individual stories as its entertainment hook and sometimes that often comes with the neglect of their characters. While each adventure just proves time and time again how amazing Keaton is, I feel like that, at this point, Urasawa developed her mainstay characters to the point where they are on autopilot and the series is just coasting through these short stories.

Final Thoughts

I keep singing Master Keaton’s praises because as an episodic series, it does deliver, but the same qualms keep resurfacing. Abruptly ending chapters and very little character development of the mainstay cast is getting a bit old now after nine volumes. I understand that we are nearing the end of the series with only a few volumes left to go so it would be nice to shift focus back onto Keaton moreso than just a couple of chapters and continue his development. I felt that Urasawa gave us some hints with the final two chapters of this volume and it would have been nice to build upon it. I guess we will see in volume ten if things begin to shift focus. I mean, he can’t stay unemployed forever, can he?

All in all, it was still another good entry into the series. Each story had its own special meaning and each one didn’t fail to entertain. For an episodic series, it does a lot of things right, but if it can just clean up the minor nuances, especially with the end of the series approaching in a couple of volumes, I think it’ll give the series a much needed kick in the pants.

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**This item was provided for review by VIZ Media