In his trademark suit and tie, Taichi Hiraga-Keaton may look like just another office worker, but this half-English, half-Japanese man is no ordinary person. After graduating from
The more anime you watch, the harder it becomes to find series that deserve a place in that elusive top tier- new series aside, chances are that if it’s any good, you’ve already watched it. Unsurprisingly, that makes it all the more satisfying when you stumble across something worthy, and happily, Master Keaton is one such series.
Perhaps surprisingly for a series which I’m about to heap so much praise on, Master Keaton is not actually blessed with anything in the way of a main plot- instead, it remains entirely episodic from start to finish (quite a feat for a 39 episode series). Except for the final two-parter, each episode is entirely self-contained, focusing either on Keaton’s work, his family, or on a situation he merely happened to stumble upon- and it is to the series’ credit that it often manages to accomplish a lot more in a twenty-five minute segment than many title manage over the course of an entire series. Whether he’s having a run-in with the mafia or just trying to figure out the secret ingredient in his mother’s summer pudding, the structure and development of each episode makes it a joy to watch- and at the end of the day, in how many other series can you see someone defuse a bomb with the aid of a bar of chocolate? If you’ve ever enjoyed anything from character drama to action-packed spy series like Alias, there will be something for you here.
As far as characters go, Keaton and his close friends and family are the only recurring cast members in the entire series, each of them a strong and well-defined personality. Keaton himself is probably the most well-developed character ever to appear in anime, with an easygoing personality that belies his inner strength and complex back story- surely a target that every main character should aspire to. Even the one-shot characters are worthy of note, however, for the series is so good at set-up that it will even make you care about the fate of a “character of the week” you have only just met and will never see again.
With the original manga artwork having been done by Naoki Urasawa, and various staff members being shared between the two series, Monster fans will immediately recognise the visual style of Master Keaton, comprising realistic looking character designs and solid, carefully researched settings from both Europe and Japan. Admittedly, some of the more generic characters start to look similar after a while, but there is still a surprising amount of variation and distinctiveness for what appears to be quite a restrictive style. Although it seems a little too simplistic to be worthy on its own, the strong musical themes used throughout the series always complement the mood of a scene well, especially the faster-paced pieces used in action scenes.
A sadly underrated gem, Master Keaton is the first series that has actually compelled me to recommend it to everyone, regardless of whether they even happen to be anime fans in the first place. With its strong main character and boundless imagination for coming up with new stories and situations, Master Keaton’s appeal never diminishes- if you only watch one more series before the end of the year, make it this one.