animefringe november 2003 / reviews

Master Keaton: Excavations 1 & 2
Format: bilingual DVD / 125 min. (each) / 5 eps. (each)
Production: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Comments: Anime for the thinking fan.
Animefringe Reviews:
Master Keaton: Excavations 1 & 2

Take a little Indiana Jones, give him a mixed British and Japanese heritage, some experience with SAS survival skills, and a daughter that sometimes seems to have more common sense than himself, and you have an idea of the character of Taichi Keaton.

With a background in archaeology and an obvious love of knowledge, Keaton is an employee of the insurance giant Lloyd's of London, and works as an investigative agent for the company. He also teaches full-time, though he sometimes spends more time out of the country helping others rather than working with his students.

Taichi is a very sympathetic character. He's exceedingly polite, impressively educated, and selflessly puts others before himself. Perhaps that's one of the reasons his wife left him, for Taichi comes across as the type of person who spends all of his time helping other people instead of tending to his own needs and desires.

His young daughter is equally charming, providing a focal point for his life. Eventually we'll also run into his father, another impressive (if a little irascible) man.

The locales featured in Master Keaton vary as widely as the stories, as Taichi travels around the globe fulfilling his some duty or another. Either he's on assignment for Lloyd's, traveling for the sake of archaeology, or dealing with his family in each episode. It's rather nice, for his wide variety of skills helps keep the series unique for each new installment.

Each new episode deals with a self-contained conflict, and each time around, Keaton is called upon to help solve a problem in a new way. Sometimes he's a hostage negotiator, other times he's a friendly passenger on a long train ride. No two episodes are ever the same, and as the story progresses, we learn more and more of Keaton's life. Each snippet from Taichi's life is a very entertaining tale on its own, and to know that we can expect almost forty episodes total (I believe there are 39 in all), I suddenly find that I have a lot to look forward to.

While the animation won't knock the socks off of its viewers, Master Keaton is a solidly illustrated show. Set in the real world with realistic stories, the flavor of the various European, Japanese, or other exotic locales is captured adequately by the artists and animators in charge of the production. However, the show looks and feels quite a bit older than it actually is (it was originally produced in 1999). Yet, the somewhat aged style didn't bother me, for the storyline was solid enough to keep my interest through each volume.

Even more impressive than the show's visuals is the music for the series. It's a great blend of European and Japanese sounds, with a heavy Celtic influence noticeable throughout. It contributes wonderfully to the atmosphere, changing styles as frequently as Taichi changes locations.

The voice acting is solid in Japanese and English, though some may not enjoy the various accents granted to locals as Taichi travels from place to place. As usual, some accents are better than others, and honestly, I'm content to hear only the original Japanese soundtrack.

Extras aren't very numerous for either of these releases, but seeing as there are plenty more discs to go, there's room for more later, I suppose.

Much like Taichi Keaton himself, this is a very unassuming release. With down to earth character designs, Master Keaton is an easy series to pass up - especially without a flashy cover. However, if you'd like a break from science fiction stories, outlandish fantasies, cute magical girl tales, or other more standard anime offerings, then perhaps this is the right disc for you. The plot is captivating in each episode, even if everything is so undeniably normal. Sometimes, normality isn't a bad thing, after all.