Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Feb 24th 2004
DVD 4: Blood & Bullets
It's another series of thrilling international adventures with Master Keaton! This time, Keaton deals with the Polish mafia, a domineering father figure, a garden murder, a crack team of con men and a little boy with freedom on his mind. Life is never dull for Master Keaton!
Sort of a cross between a Tom Clancy novel and Matlock, Master Keaton defies basically all of the conventions of anime. This series could, quite easily, be adapted into a live-action hour long drama for CBS. That isn't necessarily a bad thing; if you're looking for something different from anything else on the market today, then Master Keaton just might be it.
The five episodes included on this disc aren't any different from the previous fifteen, so if you're expecting some grand character changes or a new arching storyline, prepare for disappointment. Master Keaton isn't the kind of series that requires a serial story; this is clearly intended to be syndicated, episodic adult programming, each episode having a complete story that requires no outside explanation. It's one of the few shows that avoid episodic repetition; there's no monster of the week, just a new kind of problem for Keaton to solve, and the problems he tackles are very unique and surprisingly different from one another.
The adventures herein are unique and interesting, but the show never becomes gripping. For an action-adventure show, Master Keaton is paced leisurely. You won't be on the edge of your seat, but you will be entertained. Story-wise, the show teeters between exciting and banal; the episodes flirt with danger and intrigue and gunplay and all that, and then quickly revert to Keaton handling some mundane family problem. It's not that the mundane episodes aren't intriguing enough. It's just that this isn't really a typical “anime” series. What we have is something very clearly aimed at and designed for older adults. It's the equivalent of CSI or Law & Order, minus all the sex crimes.
The animation is competent but nothing special; everything is very utilitarian. There's not really any ‘style’ to speak of. Basic backgrounds accompany perfectly mundane character designs. The women are proportionate, the men don't have any special powers, and Master Keaton himself wanders about his adventures in a totally normal-looking blue suit. The animation is somewhat stiff, although it's far from lifeless. The production values, including the music, get the job done. The opening theme is, surprisingly, beautiful; it's reminiscent of Enya.
The dub is a little on the silly side. It loses some of the dignity the show had in its native language; upper-class characters are given highly clichéd ‘snob’ voices, where they try their hardest to sound European without being of any particular ethnicity. Master Keaton's voice is somewhat generic. He's the everyman hero, and his voice drives that home. The Japanese version is a little more subdued and appropriate; if you have the choice, you may want to stick with the subtitled track.
Overall, if you're an older anime fan or just someone looking for something outside the usual fantasy-science-fiction-fighting fare, you may want to give Master Keaton a shot. The episodes on this disc are just as good as any of the others (even the naming scheme Geneon selected for the American DVD release fails to single out any one volume as being different from the others), so you could, conceivably, start from this point in the series. It's a little slow and not the most exciting thing in the world, but it is bereft of panty shots, giant breasts or talking dogs, and that's a big plus.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Unconventional series, refreshing change of pace
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