Movie: For all my appreciation of anime, I'm not so blind as to realize that much of it is action-driven and geared to a younger audience. That doesn't mean there aren't a great many releases that can't be enjoyed by all ages, like Serial Experiments Lain, Read Or Die, and Kino's Journey. Each has multiple layers, allowing many more people to enjoy their stories. The latest show I've become aware of having similar properties is Master Keaton. The series centers on a man, Taichi Keaton, with a mixed racial heritage (part English, part Japanese) that goes around solving mysteries as part of his job working for Lloyds of London as an investigator. His past includes such professions as professor, archeologist, and military man, all of which provide him with the skills to handle pretty much whatever comes his way as he travels across the world. The first volume I've had the chance to see is Master Keaton: Blood & Dust (Volume 5), and if the previous volumes were half as good as this one, I'll be looking for sales. Here's a quick look at the episodes included on the DVD:
Case 21: The Thistle Emblem:
Keaton's latest mystery involves an heirloom watch in a Japanese temple and a Scottish coat of arms. Will his passion for drink prove an asset once again? Leave it to Keaton to uncover the origins of the watch in a problem similar to finding a needle in a haystack.
Case 22: Chateau Lajonchee, 1944:
Keaton is sent by his employer, Lloyds of London, to certify the authenticity of a bottle of French wine worth a lot of money. The bottle is the last from a particularly precious vintage and is part of a deal to expand a winery. What secrets it holds and where it fits in with the life of the vineyard owner are part of the latest mystery Keaton comes across.
Case 23: No Way Out:
Keaton's job this time is to escort a fugitive through a swamp in order for justice to be done. The fugitive has a group of friends that will stop at nothing t o gain his freedom, even if that means killing his captor. Keaton has other ideas about their plan and uses all his limited resources to overcome the odds, as always.
Case 24: The Day The Op Was Born:
In a flashback sequence, Keaton recalls the day he met Daniel and became an insurance investigator a decade before. He was on an archeological excavation and Mr. Connelly was sent by Lloyds to investigate a claim, later finding Keaton to be perfectly suited for the trade, when the young man helps him solve a murder.
Case 25: Kalihman Of The Desert:
Keaton and a team of archeologists are on a dig in the Taklimakan Desert when they run afoul of local customs. The lead professor of the dig makes a blunder and it's up to Keaton to save the day as he tries to protect the team from harm, both from the elements and the locals.
Okay, Keaton has the investigative skill of Lupin, the class of L/R, and the luck of City Hunter, making him one of the better detectives in the world of anime. In just five episodes I was hooked, thinking this might provide an alternative for those seeking to look for something a bit more down-to-earth as a way to see what anime has to offer. It was straightforward entertainment in what amounts to the real world, with witty writing and intelligent stories providing the fun. I'm going to rate this one as Highly Recommended for any thinking person wanting to enjoy the short form of anime with a more mature theme.
Picture: The picture was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color, the original aspect ratio for the show. If I didn't know better, I'd think this was made in the mid-80's given how it looked. The colors were clean and the lines simple but there wasn't a lot of grain or video noise to interfere with the picture. There were no compression artifacts and the overall quality of the picture lent itself to the story though.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo with a choice of either the original Japanese or an English dub, both with optional subtitles (both language and/or signs). If there was any separation between the channels, I sure didn't hear it and the dynamic range was somewhat limited.
Extras: The extras were limited to some trailers, a Japanese closing for episode 25, a paper insert listing the episodes and chapters, and an Easter Egg describing how Lloyds of London started. This may not sound like much but keep in mind that there were five full episodes here, much better than many other companies provide on average.
Final Thoughts: I think Master Keaton is a solid hit for those looking for intelligent writing and a detective show. Like so many detectives before him, Keaton uses all his talents to solve those mysteries presented him, keeping his cool and getting the job done. The technical aspects were decent and while the show wasn't fancy, it had a lot to like.
Check out DVDTalk's Top Anime of 2003 for more hints on good anime to watch.