Master Keaton is particularly welcome at this time, when anime is at once exploding into the American market and converging into a number of demographically static, set genres. Kiddie Shows about collecting stuff, Gundam shows about big robots, various wandering Samurai shows – generic, retreaded, uninteresting. Master Keaton, nominally a mystery, but what it really is is an anthology show, like The Twilight Zone, and an interesting one.
What separates an anthology show from any other episodic TV show is the variety of story telling within. Your average TV show will have one setting, one group of characters, one major theme that gets played out again and again. An anthology show like Master Keaton really uses its main character as a vehicle for a series of short stories in places and settings diverse. The surprisingly competent Taichi Keaton is the common thread, a modest looking Archaeology professor notorious at his school for missing class. His truancy is due to his second occupation – insurance investigator for Lloyd’s of London.
He’s also a former SAS trainer, world traveler, and all-round bad ass, only his mild demeanor never betrays it. Keaton’s character is one rarely depicted in any medium – the happy, relatively balanced genius. Geniuses are rarely the central figure in fiction, and when they are present, eccentricity is central to their characterization, most commonly in the form of introversion and social awkwardness. Keaton isn’t saddled with any of that, which makes his character and show so fun. He’s a nerd through and through, but he’s comfortable with himself, thus pleasant to watch.
In fact, if any one word could be used for the feeling of the series, it would be ‘pleasant.’ Not neccesarily benign, since there is violence as Keaton finds himself in some rough positions, both physically and emotionally. However, the character’s demeanor and wistful acceptance of situations, no matter how ludicrous, provides a welcoming entry point to the Master Keaton‘s diverse stories.
And that’s where Master Keaton really develops its interest, in the storytelling. In just the first disc, we have a romantic potboiler about ancient treasure, a lonely little rich girl trying to find someone who loves her, an elite squad of anti-terrorist mercenaries in over their head, a man who claims to be immortal and is thus oblivious to the danger he puts other in, and the possible demolition of a school with a rich and worthy history. Master Keaton shifts moods and focus from episode to episode without losing momentum (in interest, not story – no major story arc presents itself in the first five episodes.) It is like Lupin with a P.H.D. and a less over-active libido.