By Dustin Cabeal
Wonderful storytelling like Master Keaton doesn’t exist anymore. Much in the way that writing changed after the TV was invented there will be another large look at how writing changed after the internet was invented. Master Keaton is a look at a bygone era. One in which cellphones and computers weren’t available or used. It’s a wonderful escape from other stories, and I’m sad that this is the last volume for the timeless series.
I don’t know much about this series, no that’s not true. I don’t know anything about this series. I know it’s not modern and that I’m reading reprints, but the artwork is timeless and matches up to the best of the best in current manga and outshines a lot of the rest. There is something masterful about the artwork Naoki Urasawa poured into this series. There is so much detail and never a reliance on blank backgrounds or half-drawn sets. If a background could fit, there was detail. If there was a setting, it was done 100%. It’s a series I’m sure some would want to see colored, but personally, it looks too damn good in black and white. It’s one of those series that makes you fully appreciate black and white and how much it can accomplish on its own, how sometimes color distracts from the story or muddles the artwork.
What is also amazing about this series is how Urasawa and Hokusei Katsushika manage to tell so many standalone stories but craft an overall narrative/journey for Keaton at the same time. It reminds me a lot of TV in that way. Each week on a show you have that episode’s story, but then there’s still the character’s journey to build as well. It’s almost effortless how easy the storytellers make it look, and it’s a lost art in manga. Since reading this series, I have yet to find another modern comic that does this that isn’t just trying to tell cute meaningless stories that lack any character development.
This final chapter wraps up all the stories lines in Keaton’s life but in a clever way. Nothing is handed to Keaton, no, instead he stumbles and falls into it like he’s done everything else. The ending is the perfect fit for the character and the world. What’s more impressive is that the story manages to recap/inform the reader of every storyline and character that the series has introduced over the course of this volume. If this final volume was your first volume, you’d still come away knowing everything that happened to Keaton in the first eleven, and that is fantastic storytelling.
I will miss Master Keaton. I wish I had found it sooner and I sure as hell wish more manga was influenced by it, but then sometimes when a great story comes along its too hard to mimic or follow. If you have the chance, read Master Keaton. It’s extremely rare that I read older manga. Usually, the art puts me off, but with Master Keaton, it really is timeless looking.
Master Keaton vol. 12
By Naoki Urasawa
Story by Hokusei Katsushika, Naoki Urasawa
Viz Media/Viz Signature