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Manga / Keyman: The Hand of Judgement

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Keyman: The Hand of Judgement is an Seinen Urban Fantasy Film Noir manga written and illustrated by Warai Naku. The manga was serialized in Comic Ryu from 2011 to 2016, and compiled into 13 volumes.

Lockville City, where both humans and beastmen live, is under the protection of a resident hero known only as Keyman. Despite his violent methods, he's loved by the populace and the crime levels have decreased significantly. This does not put the local police force in a good light, with causes to no end of fury for Detective Alex, an anthropomorphic T. Rexpy. After Keyman catches yet another group of criminals, it seems that the Status Quo in Lockville City won't change anytime soon.

That is, until Keyman is brutally murdered in an alley.

Now Alex and his team must investigate the murder of the one person they believed to be unkillable. One of their few clues are the words "Dr. Necro," which were carved onto Keyman's body after his death. Things take a turn for the weirder when Alex, drinking away his frustrations at a bar, unexpectedly meets "Dr. Necro"... who appears to be a young girl. They are then assaulted by a monstrous man, whom the girl identifies as a "Keyman". Then another "Keyman" appears and deals with him, quickly leaving the scene.

Now Alex is left with even more questions. What sort of monster could be behind the murder of Keyman? In what way is the childlike Dr. Necro involved? And perhaps most importantly - what IS a Keyman?

Keyman: The Tropes of Judgment:

  • Affectionate Parody: Of Western Superhero comic books like Superman. The series is basically a western comic done from a Japanese perspective, and many elements from the story are direct homages to western comic media in general. Just to list a few examples: Hero Keyman is obviously a parody of Superman, Keyman!Pete looks somewhat like Batman, Black Keyman is consistently drawn like a '90s Anti-Hero, characters frequently die only to come back later, and more.
  • Aloof Ally: Dr.Necro hides a lot of information from Alex due to nebulous reasons, and he has to find out her secrets the hard way. Turns out she has a lot to hide, and not all of it is good.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Later in the story Alex get his right arm cut off while trying to engage the villains. He gets it replaced with a hook.
  • Art Evolution: The manga becomes much different looking over the course of it's run- while it keeps the heavy shadows and dark lighting that give it the unique look it strives for, the line art becomes a lot more loose in a similar manner to HunterXHunter. Considering this series is an Affectionate Parody of western comic books, this could be compared to art from 90's comics, which also had loose and messy line art.
  • The Atoner: Dr. Necro after losing her body, dedicates herself to making amends for her past actions, which include the death of Frank's wife and transferring her mind to her granddaughter Misery's body.
  • Anti-Villain:
    • Phantom mercilessly murders Keymen, but is always on the side of the good guys despite being a killer. Turns out he's more of an Anti-Hero than anything, being a cloned version of Frank made to hunt down and murder him.
    • Franck as well. Franck's backstory is extremely sad and his motive of bringing his daughter back from beyond the grave is tragic and sympathetic, despite him going through unscrupulous methods to do so. His only real negative traits are his rampant egotism, Lack of Empathy, and his Fantastic Racism. Upon making his Heel–Face Turn he loses these traits.
    • Unlike the other Keymen, everything Birdie does is purely out of love and loyalty to Franck.
  • Babies Ever After: Alex and Sally's kids in the finale. Averts Gender Equals Breed though
  • Beta Couple: Flor and Pete have romantic interest in one another, and finally start dating once Alex is discharged from the force following a Frame-Up. They even have sex offscreen.
  • Big Bad: Franck begins as this, but due to getting killed by Butler, he gets bumped off. Later he comes back as Phantom 2, and saves Flor from Black Keyman before making a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Butler is defeated, sucked back into the afterlife and destroyed before the radiance of God himself. Necro and Franck make amends and shut the door to the Double Helix World behind them as they enter the afterlife, allowing Pete to live on as the last Keyman and live a life with Flor he was originally deprived of and for Misery to live a normal life. Alex and Sally have children, and Alex continues to fight for a world in which Beastmen and humans can live alongside one another. Lockville city has a new protector in Pete who uses his powers to fight crime.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Female beastmen tend to look more like a Little Bit Beastly, while the males have the look of a Funny Animal.
  • Blind Without Them: Sally can't see very well without her glasses.
  • Book Ends: The first and last chapter involve a Keyman getting on Alex's nerves.
  • Boomerang Bigot: It turns out both Walter and Aaron secretly loathe being Beastmen and consider themselves and others like them abominations. In the case with Walter, his self-loathing is so strong he makes a deal with Butler to access the Double Helix World to exterminate all Beastmen.
  • Breath Weapon: Alex randomly manifests this ability in the very last epilogue chapter for a gag.
  • Broken Pedestal: Pete feels this way after finding out Keyman was working for people willing to kill to keep their secrets.
  • Butt-Monkey: Pete tends to be injured, usually by his colleagues or in the line of duty. Even after becoming a Keyman he doesn't always get all the respect he wants.
  • The Cameo: Stan Lee shows up, oddly enough. Then again, this comic has a Silver Age vibe to it.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Butler allies himself with whoever will cause the most chaos in the world, supplying them with limitless power in order to further his own agenda. He frequently pulls You Have Outlived Your Usefulness as well.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:invoked Years before Franck was born, Necro (already a witch) married a tradesman named Clive. Clive was obsessed with proving that humanity was above the order of animals, and were naturally inclined towards compassion and greatness. To that end, he and Necro stole a book containing the ritual to summon the devil himself, Butler, and he gifted Clive and Necro with the knowledge to access the essence of life in exchange for Necro having sex with him. As they experimented, Clive grew further in despair as he realised that humanity was no different from animals, eventually turning himself into the first Key. Necro raised Franck to be a powerful mage like herself, but he ran away after her training became borderline abusive. After running away to the countryside, he met his wife Sophia and has Misery, his daughter. Unfortunately the British Army had tracked them down and attempted to take them hostage, but Necro arrived and killed them. Sophia died, and Misery was put into a coma. In the throes of despair, Franck was contacted by Butler, who told him to look inside Misery's soul. Misery was still alive in the "Double Helix World", where souls go to reincarnate. After pleading with his mother for help, Franck turns himself into a Keyman and prepared to turn himself into a Key- but at the last moment, Necro cuts of his arm, stating that she had been overcome with the grief of losing her own son. Franck, enraged at this statement and what she had done to him, murders her with a pistol. Necro then steals Misery's body as an act of revenge and leaves, sending Franck sailing over the Moral Event Horizon and setting up for the main story.
    • Dark Is Evil: Lazlo, aka The Black Keyman is probably the most despicable character in the series, and he dresses entirely in black.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Pete as a Keyman looks like a cross between a WII-era Japanese military officer and Darth Vader. He's also far and away the most unambiguously heroic of the Keymen.
  • Determinator: Alex will stop at nothing to expose The Conspiracy. Aaron Woodenfield later joins him in his crusade.
  • The Dragon: Birdie/Keyman 2 is this to The Conspiracy, as unlike Par, Boggy/Bobby, and Eagle/ Norma, he is completely loyal to Frank and is the only one who shows affection for Frank that he actually reciprocates.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Norma/Eagle is the one who killed Frank's wife and sent Misery into a coma due to hiring a cabal of witch hunters to be sent after them. Frank is aware of this, and uses Norma's Yandere love for him to lure her into an emotionally painful situation and then brutally murder her as an act of revenge.
  • Deal with the Devil: Necro's knowledge that eventually led to the creation of Keyman and the birth of Beastmen comes from one of this. The demon in question is Butler.
  • Decoy Protagonist: At first it appears that Keyman, the title character, is the hero, with Detective Alex serving more of a Inspector Lestrade/Commissioner Gordon role. Then Keyman is murdered and for the rest of the story we follow Alex as he tries to solve the case.
  • The Devil Is a Loser: Based on his dialogue, Butler might be the only devil left, with many of his fellow rebels potentially having either repented or died by the time the story takes place.
  • Eye Scream: Alex gets stabbed in the eye later on.
  • Exposition Dump: The Dark and Troubled Past entry is done entirely in one volume, though there are many hints about what happened between Necro and Franck strewn throughout the narrative.
  • Expressive Mask: Butler's skull face is fairly expressive, and contorts depending on his moods. This often causes him to pull one hell of a Nightmare Face at times. The metal helmet Pete wears after becoming a Keyman also is somehow able to pull off some very exaggerated expressions, though it's played more for comedy.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Walter makes a deal with Butler to access the Double Helix World to rid the world of Beastmen after discovering their origin was the result of Necro tampering with the Double Helix World.
  • Fanservice: LOADS. Just about every mature woman in this series has an amazing figure, and the series averts Nipple and Dimed. It also has rather gratuitous Male Gaze, though there's an ample amount of very attractive men as well.
  • Fantastic Racism: Beastmen really have it rough in this world as most humans have little to no respect for most of them.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: We have beastmen, superheroes, monsters and witches, all running around in Lockville. Then it is revealed that everything is connected to Dr. Necro.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • How come Pete isn't on the group shot above despite being an important character? He's actually there as the man in black, the second Keyman, but at this point the audience doesn't know that yet.
    • Pay attention to which arm the titular Hand of Judgement is on.
  • Gentle Giant: Walter is a huge, humanoid gorilla and is normally far more calm and patient than Alex. Anger him and he'll become a Killer Gorilla. The gentleness pretty much vanishes after he discovers the origin of Beastmen.
  • Genre Shift: Several times over the course of the story:
    • The manga begins as a parody of both Superhero media and Film Noir tropes, but rather quickly transforms into Magical Realism flavoured mystery.
    • Then the story transitions to a quest to expose an Ancient Conspiracy of Fantastic Racism, quickly revealing that the superhero tropes are just the set-dressing and that the story is really an Urban Fantasy.
    • During Franck and by extension, Necro's backstory, the story shifts into Gothic Horror and family drama.
  • Gone Mad from the Revelation: Averted with Alex, who takes the origin of the Beastmen in stride. Played very straight with Walter and Wolf though.
  • Gorn Frequently, especially towards the middle and end of the story.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Butler is the one who gifted Necro her powers in the first place, and is a demon who lives to sow chaos. He even allies himself with Lazlo in order to cause more mayhem, and ascends to the spot of being the Big Bad once he offs Franck.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Guns are proven to be ineffective in a straight fight against a Keyman.
  • Handsome Lech: Jay has the appearance of a respectable lynx teenager, but his rotten attitude and obvious desperation makes it difficult for him to get a girlfriend.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity / Villain with Good Publicity: Alex is looked down upon due to being a Beastman, despite being entirely devoted to solving the mystery, while the Villains are all high-class members of society who are respected and beloved.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bobby sacrifices himself to deprive Butler of a true key.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: Phantom is a clone of Frank Violet made by Necro to kill the other Keymen.
  • I Was Quite the Looker: Flashbacks reveal that the somewhat burly Franck used to be a full-blown Hunk when he was younger.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Alex may act grumpy and occasionally violent, but he's a dedicated police officer and a truly lawful person.
    • Freddy the raptor may be a common crook, but he still takes care of a Beastmen girl that was enslaved and even lets her live with him.
  • Knight Templar: Aaron Woodenfields quest to find Misery and bring her to justice leads to allying himself with Alex and the crew. Towards the end of the story, he betrays the group and attempts to go after Necro with the British Army.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Franck makes it clear to Alex that, despite his intentions to atone for what he has done, he holds no actual regrets over his crimes because they were all for the sake of saving his daughter.
  • Light Is Not Good: Birdie dresses entirely in white when he's out as Keyman 2, but he's way more cruel than the original and next to Black Keyman is probably the nastiest of the evil-doers.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Necro dresses scantily regardless of her age, but her adult forms line of clothing is borderline Stripperific. Once she leaves Misery's body, Misery dresses much more conservatively. Same with Norma, but she quickly becomes Fan Disservice when her Keyman powers kick into overdrive and she transforms into the horrific Eagle
  • Never Mess with Granny: Alex and Sally's adoptive grandmother was small but didn't take crap from anyone, and despises anti-Beastmen advocates.
  • Made of Iron: Keymen are ridiculously hard to kill- the original "Hero Keyman" for example was immune to gunfire.
    • Par wears super hard armor that Alex manages to break through anyways, subverting this trope.
  • Manchild: Hero Keyman was like this, due to being made from a child.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Black Keyman is often drawn in a manner similar to the artwork from this era, most likely to highlight his unhinged nature.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: The Police Chief admits that he's prejudiced against Beastmen, but he doesn't allow that to affect who the force is inclined to protect, and seldom lets that interfere with how he deals with Alex, Walter, and the other demi-humans on the force outside of the occasional careless comment.
  • Older Than They Look: Dr. Necro looks like a girl but claims to be 118-years old. Even before transferring her consciousness to her granddaughter's body, she looked younger than her son Frank. This is probably due to being a witch.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The death of the seemingly unbeatable Keyman, the hero of justice, starts the plot.
  • Primate Versus Reptile: Near the end, upon the revelation of Walter's Face–Heel Turn, he and Alex duke it out.
  • Redeeming Replacement: Pete as the final Keyman, who becomes the symbol of hope and justice he believed his predecessor to be.
  • The Reveal: To be expected, considering his is an Affectionate Parody of western superhero media and Film Noir tropes:
    • Keyman is one of many superhuman beings with locks on their bodies and doorhandles in their stomachs.
    • Most Keymen are made from children, and still have the minds of kids. This includes the recently murdered "Hero Keyman".
    • The Conspiracy are a bunch of Fantastic Racists from the highest echelons of society.
    • Big Bad Frank is Necro's son.
      • In addition Frank's past and motives are not only sympathetic and understandable, but his grudge against his mother is completely validated. In addition, the reason why Necro looks so young is because she's currently undergoing Demonic Possession of Frank's daughter Misery's comatose body.
    • Frank is the first Keyman ever to be created, and it was done by his own hand. In addition, Phantom is a clone of him.
    • Necro is the creator of both the beastmen and the Keymen, and she got the information how to do so from Butler.
  • Rhyming Names: Alex Rex the T-Rex.
  • Sins of the Father: the remaining witch hunters try to invoke this on Misery for being Necro's granddaughter. Pete sees through their bullshit and kicks their asses.
  • Slave to PR: The chief of Alex's precinct is obsessed with how the department looks to the public, impeding Alex's investigation early in the book because he's afraid of how the precinct (and by extension himself) may earn the ire of the public if they badmouth Keyman or make too many enemies with the city's upper crust. Unlike most exemplars of this trope, he's able to translate all this realpolitik and brownnosing into eventually becoming the City's mayor.
  • Sleep-Mode Size: Necro's current form is that of a little girl but her true form is a much older looking woman. This is because she's using her grandaughter Misery's body
  • Spell My Name with an S: "Franck" is spelled that in the fan translation, due to the chapter he formally appears in being spelt that way. His name was originally translated as "Frank". Note that this is not a mistranslation, as Franck is a real way of spelling that name.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Pete soars over the badass line once he becomes a Keyman that looks like a cross between a Bloodborne character and a circa-WWII Japanese military officer.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Clive and Devonea/Dr. Necro, Frank Violet's parents, never formally married and their actions led to the plot.
  • Working with the Ex: Alex's ex wife, Sally, works for the newspaper and tries to help with the investigation despite the danger.
  • Younger Than They Look: Many of the defective Keymans are only children mutated into Humanoid Abominations.