Master Keaton Volume 1 Giveaway!

I have an extra copy of Master Keaton, so I’m going to give it away!

Leave a comment with the profession you would use as your back-up job while spending most of your time globetrotting on action-packed insurance investigations!

Professor? Etsy Crafter? Bike messenger? Foghat roadie??

Contest will be open for one week!

US residents only please.

Master Keaton Vol 1

Master Keaton Volume 1 by Naoki Urasawa, Takashi Nagasaki, and Hokusei Katsushika

I don’t have the best track record of finishing Naoki Urasawa series. I own all of 20th Century Boys and mean to read it all the way through again. I’ve checked out a couple volumes of Pluto and the first few volumes of Monster. One of these days I will finish an Urasawa series! This failing on my part didn’t stop me from trying out Master Keaton, and I enjoyed the first volume, even though there were a few aspects of the manga that didn’t quite come together for me.

Taichi Hiraga Keaton is a half Japanese half British archaeologist, apathetic professor, and insurance investigator with a unique set of survival skills due to his background in the SAS. He bounces between giving lectures and handling cases for Lloyd’s of London. Many reviewers have referred to Keaton as a mash-up between Indiana Jones and Macgyver, and that’s a good way to sum up the series. Keaton seems to have a bit more inner turmoil than a action hero though, and that’s what makes this series entertaining. We’re introduced to Keaton when a man named Leon Pappas with a substantial life insurance policy dies in Greece. Keaton is dispatched to investigate the murder, but he only has a certain number of days he can allocate to the task, since he has to get back into the classroom the following week.

Keaton’s sensitivity towards antiquities and his excellence in creating weapons out of random kitchen implements are showcased in this story, as he uncovers more facts about the subject of his investigation when he meets Pappa’s girlfriend and manages to fend off some unscrupulous and armed business associates. The rest of the volume is a bit meandering, as different chapters have Keaton explore new mysteries, deal with his teenage daughter, and confront a significant figure from his own past. Aspects of the story here and there are a bit didactic, as the reader is informed about illegal weapons trade, aspects of art forgery, desert survival tactics, and the opium trade. I enjoyed the way the manga skipped around from topic to topic, but I generally enjoy manga with infodumps more when there is some genuine enthusiasm behind conveying all the information. I would happily read chapters upon chapters of a Fumi Yoshinaga where the characters discuss nuances of vegetable chopping, but in Master Keaton I have to admit I found my attention wandering at times.

Keaton’s personality is so reserved and unaffected for the most part. He tends to create a random gadget that saves the day very casually, which is amusing, but it is difficult to see how his adventures are having any impact on him personally. I was glad when his daughter showed up and drew him into an adventure protecting an archeological site, and Keaton’s odd reflexive anxiety about his ex-wife getting married again hints at some deeper emotions. While Urasawa’s art isn’t as polished as his later works, the character designs are all unique and enjoyable and the action scenes are all capably handled. Early Urasawa art is way above the quality of what most artists could aspire to. The over ized deluxe signature edition is really nice, with color pages and a sound effects glossary in the back. I’m curious to see what the next volume of this series is like. In some ways, I liked the shift in focus from unraveling a mystery to family, back to a thriller type story dealing with the drug trade, but at the same time I’m wondering how well that will pan out if the plot continues to skip around like that too much in subsequent volumes.

I’m giving away a copy of this volume, so you can check it out yourself!

Kiss of the Rose Princess Vol 2

Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 2 by Aya Shouoto

I enjoyed the first volume of this series, but it was a bit on the light and fluffy side. When I finished reading this volume, I felt much more invested in this series because this volume BROUGHT THE ANGST! And while a funny paranormal manga might be a disposable distraction, I find myself much more intrigued by a funny paranormal manga that is also serving up a side dish of emotional trauma.

All along there were some hits of something dark in the first volume of this series, as Anise’s anxiety about losing her rose necklace and her memories of her father threatening to punish her seemed a bit extreme. This volume fills in the background of the Rose Princess and her Knights, introduces a new character/romantic rival, and establishes that Anise’s father is indeed very evil. So many shoujo manga set in high school get livened up with the the addition of a new transfer student, and in this case it is Haruto, and old acquaintance of Anise’s from Osaka who announces that he’s transferred to her school because she is the perfect foil to team up with in a comedy duo tournament. Reverse harem shenanigans ensue, as Anise’s Rose Knights end up challenging Haruto. Unfortunately Haruto is somewhat unscrupulous and poisons Kaede with an expired juice box.

Horrible things seem to happen to the Rose Knights after Haruto comes to town, most notably Mizuki being mysteriously attacked. It turns out that Haruto is the yellow rose of jealousy. It turns out that the Rose Knights of the past used the yellow rose as a sacrifice to seal away a demon lord, and now the seal needs to be redone. Anise’s father and Haruto are clearly on the side of evil, but the angst comes in when one of Anise’s knights decides that it is his role to serve as the new sacrifice.

This volume alternated between comedic high school shenanigans involving goofy contests and giving classmates chocolate, but there were a few good moments of character development along the way. Kaede is always steadfast, the reader gets a peak into Mizuki’s point of view, and Anise is growing stronger and stronger, determined not to give in to a predetermined destiny that was placed on her with the role of Rose Princess. This second volume was more entertaining than the first, so I’m hoping that this trend continues in future volumes!

Assassination Classroom Vol 1

Assassination Classroom Volume 1 by Yusei Matsui

To be perfectly honest, I would have bought this manga for the title alone. The fact that it is a story about a mysterious tentacled alien teacher looking after a classroom of misfit teenage assassins is just a bonus. The premise of the manga is set up in an effective way, with some elements explained and others just left for the reader to simply accept and move on with the story. The manga opens as the happy face octopus stands in front of the classroom wearing an academic hood and gown. As the day opens the entire class leaps up from their desks with guns and begins to fire away. Their assassination attempts are fruitless, because their teacher can move at super speed and has amazing healing abilities. The assassination classroom is a room full of misfits held in the annex of a normal middle school. One day their teacher showed up, disintegrated a large portion of the moon and said that he would do the same to Earth in one year. Kuro Sensei inexplicably wants to spend a year educating the youth of Earth before he destroys it. The government has offered up a bounty to the member of class 3-E who succeeds in killing their teacher.

Assassination Classroom is filled with humorous elements interspersed with dynamic scenes of assassinations being foiled with ease. For poetry class, Kuro Sensei requires everyone to end their poem with the word “tentacles” and he is always using his supersonic flying power to randomly buy himself treats from around the world. The standout student is Sugino, who spends his days making careful observations of his teacher, slowly gathering intelligence that might eventually lead to a successful assassination. As the volume progresses, more members of the class 3-E are introduced, all of whom have unique abilities. The most amusing aspect of the volume is the fact that for all Kuro Sensei plans on wiping out all of humanity in a year, he is really dedicated to being an excellent teacher. He intervenes in the lives of his troubled students and actually does manage to teach them some useful life lessons. The uplifting aspects of the manga contrast with Earth’s imminent doom in an interesting way. The art is well-executed but somewhat generic. It is amusing to see the variety of expressions on Kuro Sensei’s face, and the unexpected ways his alien powers manifest. I think this series would really appeal to fans of Death Note. So far, Assassination Classroom seems like an ideal pick for people who enjoy manga with a healthy side of dark cynicism on the side.

Yukarism Vol. 1

Yukarism Volume 1 by Chika Shiomi

I’m always excited for the first volume of a new Shojo Beat series comes out, but I was SUPER EXCITED for Yukarism because I’ve enjoyed previous works from Shiomi so much. My absolute favorite of her series so far is Night of the Beasts. I thought that Yukarism had an interesting premise, so I was very curious!

The couple embracing on the cover of the first volume isn’t a couple, it is the same person in a current and previous life. Yukari is a young teenage genius of an author, producing books set in the Edo period with vivid historical detail. His new classmate Mahoro is fascinated by him, coming up with excuses to stop by with homework or treats when he’s absent from school due to a writing binge. Yukari recognizes something in Mahoro, but when she has a conversation with him, her expectations of talking to a author dedicated to his readers are derailed. Yukari seems to approach the world with a significant amount of detachment, perhaps because he’s haunted by memories from a previous life. When Yukari notices a scar on Mahoro’s wrist, he’s catapulted into the past and wakes up as a courtesan in the Edo period named Yumurasaki. Here, Mahoro’s previous life was as a man named Kazuma who serves as Yumurasaki’s protector.

Shiomi’s art is lovely. The character designs for Yukari and Yumurasaki look like male and female aspects of the same person. The shift in detail in the backgrounds from the sparse modern day to the elaborately decorated Edo period is a treat to see. There are little moments of physical comedy scattered throughout the book, because when Yukari travels to the past he can’t be as graceful as Yumuraski and finds himself overbalanced by headgear and teetering off his shoes. Kazuma is terrified when he sees Yumurasaki casually sitting like a teenage boy with his legs spread apart.

Yukari approaches his sudden experience of his past life like an adventure, but he doesn’t yet seem to be emotionally affected by living Yumurasaki’s life. He’s unconcerned by how his odd behavior might affect her relationships, and his attitude seems to be much more that of a writer observing details than someone who is invested in actually experiencing his life. Yukari’s encounters in the past end up giving him insight into the present, as a tormented girl who works in Yumurasaki appears in the present with psychological issues due to the trauma of her forgotten previous life. Yukari is able to use the knowledge he gained as Yumurasaki to help her.

Overall, I found this first volume very intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing how the past continues to have an impact on Yukari’s present. Shiomi does a great job coming up with characters who have reticent but interesting personalities. Yukari really acts just as one would expect a teenage boy who used to be an elite courtesan of the past to behave. I’m also curious to see how the relationship between the more dynamic Yukari and the watchful Mahoro develops. Yukarism is a great new manga to kick off the new year!