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Manga / Master Keaton

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Keaton, center. Counterclockwise Yuriko (Keaton's daughter), Charlie Chapman, Daniel O'Connell, and Taihei Hiraga (Keaton's father)
Master Keaton is a manga written by Hokusei Katsushika, Takashi Nagasaki and Naoki Urasawa, with Urasawa also illustrating. It stars a man named Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, a former archaeologist, but now a teacher and insurance fraud investigator. The story follows his adventures as he takes on various cases. The manga originally ran in Big Comic Spirits from 1988 to 1994.

A 24-episode anime adaptation aired on NHK from 1998 to 1999. It was continued by an OVA series in 2004.

A sequel, Master Keaton Remaster, was serialized from 2012 to 2014. Set 20 years after the original series, it was by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki. The first manga series was licensed by Viz Media in March 2014.

Master Keaton contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Subverted, as when he was an archaeologist, he didn't see much action. It's only after he changed professions to insurance fraud investigator, that he saw any action.
    • Technically, Keaton does see some action as an archaeologist — the story of "A Kahariman in the Desert", for instance, allows him to use his survival training to help a group of fellow archaeologists survive after they unintentionally piss off the natives and are left to die in the freezing desert of western China.
    • Also subverted in the sense that Taichi Keaton avoids some of the dated aspects of many classic examples of the trope. He is much more respectful of the cultures that he studies and is genuinely interested in the people of these cultures, and not just profiting off of hoarding their artifacts. Having a partial non-White ancestry helps in this case.
  • Ancient Grome: In the first episode he shows his class pictures of the Jupiter Temple in Morrocco and calls it Greek.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Subverted, in that the dog(a specially trained German Shepherd) actively tries to track Keaton and attempt to kill him.
  • Badass Bystander/Badass Normal: Keaton has a tendency to be this in other people's stories, frequently getting involved in complete strangers' lives just in time to save the day. Most people tend to underestimate him at first glance, and show surprise when his Hidden Depths are finally revealed.
  • Brits with Battleships: Due to his British SAS background.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Taichi Keaton's mother was English, but his father is Japanese. His parents separated early in life, and he lived with his mother in the UK.
  • Bitter Almonds: Referenced in the death of an ex-KGB spy, though in this case, it has a peach-like smell instead.
  • Broken Pedestal: Keaton is called to investigate two murders in London that seem to be the work of his old fencing instructor.
  • Bumbling Dad: Both Keaton and his father Taihei Hiraga are not exactly stellar examples of fatherhood — both Keaton and his daughter Yuriko essentially lived with their mothers following their parents' respective divorces.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Keaton's a lightweight when it comes to alcohol.
  • Comforting the Widow: A type 2. Charlie, a detective and childhood friend of Keaton's, tries to comfort the widow of a recently deceased millionaire only to find out that the widow was the killer.
  • Cool Old Guy/Cool Old Lady: Keaton runs into several of these throughout the series, including an elderly woman who claims to be on the run from the Czech Secret Service and an elderly man who has some mysterious connection to the Romanovs.
  • Cool Teacher: Keaton's Mentor, Oxford archaeology professor Yuri Scott, inspired him to become a teacher as well. Keaton even Namesake named his daughter Yuriko after his old professor. When Keaton receives the news that Yuri Scott has died toward the end of the manga, the heartbroken look on his face is a complete Tear Jerker moment.
  • Defector from Commie Land: Since the series takes place just after the end of the Cold War, more than a few stories deal with former defectors and the effects that the new world order are starting to have on them.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: All other plots aside, this series is really about Keaton's quest to determine what he wants to do with his life.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Keaton is not "only" former SAS, but former SAS survival training instructor.
  • Expy: Keaton and Yuriko look like Kosaku Matsuda and Yawara Inokuma from Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl. Better not to think that they're a romantic couple, though.
    • Keaton's a lot like Columbo, another detective whose primary tactic is to obfuscate stupidity which usually results in his opponents underestimating him.
  • Good Is Not Dumb
  • Heel Realization: Used with the IRA bomb-maker in the below Hitman with a Heart entry.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Used a few times. In one episode, an IRA bomb-maker has a change of heart, and he and Keaton have to find two bombs in a crowded shopping mall and defuse them before they blow.
  • Implacable Man: A zoomorphic version. One episode features a military-trained dog which is commanded to track Keaton down in the woods and kill him.
  • Improvised Weapon: Keaton rarely uses guns, but can construct various traditional weapons from materials at hand that makes him just as deadly.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Keaton often "borrows" random things that are later fashioned into Improvised Weapons.
  • Left Hanging: Because the anime cherry-picked episodes instead of following the manga storyline, the series ends without an actual ending to Keaton's story.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Yuriko has elements of this.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Golden Isis statue which is reputed to kill anyone who ever touched it. Abbot, one of the two archeologists who found the statue and a worker who assisted him died because of broken necks, with the second archaeologist Lord Marlborough growing paranoid because two of his dogs also died from broken necks recently before the same fate befell him after he fell down the stairs. It's later revealed that Marlborough killed Abbot and the worker to take the statue for himself. Abbot's son came for revenge and killed his dogs, and later confronted Marlborough who accidentally fell to his death. However Abbot's son himself died shortly after a neck fracture during a car accident.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Keaton is a master of this too.
  • Panthera Awesome: One episode involves a tiger in Japan being pursued by Yakuza. The Yakuza aren't after the tiger, but guns being smuggled in the tiger's cage.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: The final 2 episodes, "Hunting Season", feels like a pilot for another series, as the focus shifts from Keaton to his former fencing instructor, but seemingly nothing came of this.
    • Technically, this is because the anime series takes selected plots from the manga and assembles them in (for the most part) no particular order. The "Hunting Season" storyline is from midway through the manga — it's not meant to be a finale.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Subverted with the IRA bomb-maker.
  • Retired Badass: Keaton, since he's no longer in the military.
  • Seinen
  • Shown Their Work: Naoki Urasawa is a dedicated Germanophile (as his other series Monster suggests), and the historical accuracies of post-Cold War European politics are very well researched.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: The head of a group of bounty hunters that Keaton runs into is nick-named "Little Giant"
  • Staged Pedestrian Accident: A friend of Keaton's is targeted by some conmen with this scam.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Keaton occasionally meets this sort of person, but there's a particularly inversion of this trope in a musician who used his father's disdain as his inspiration for writing music. When his father went broke, he found that he was no longer able to write music.