Tag Archives: Signature

Master Keaton Volume 1

Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, the son of a Japanese zoologist and a noble English woman, is an insurance investigator known for his successful and unorthodox methods of investigation. Educated in archaeology and a former member of the SAS, Master Keaton uses his knowledge and combat training to uncover buried secrets, thwart would-be villains, and pursue the truth… When a life insurance policy worth one million pounds takes Master Keaton to the Dodecanese islands of Greece, what will he discover amidst his scuffles with bloodthirsty thieves and assassins?

Master Keaton Volume 1
MasterKeaton-GN01-3DBy Naoki Urasawa; Story by Hokusei Katsushika, Takashi Nagasaki
Publisher: Viz Medial
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★★★★★

Master Keaton is one of those licenses that was always talked about but never dreamed it would become reality. Or maybe, dreaming was all fans of the series could do. A 24 episode anime was released here by Pioneer/Geneon back in 2003, but that was as much of the story as fans could hope to get. I was so thrilled when Viz Media announced it last year. It is one of the few titles I will pre-order, sight unseen.

I almost had my doubts at first. Urasawa has been hit and miss with me. I loved Pluto, but didn’t care for Monster or the latter half of 20th Century Boys. But I am happy to say I was not disappointed with Master Keaton. What initially drew me to the series was the title character, Taichi Hiraga-Keaton. He is both an archaeologist and an insurance investigator, combining to things I love; archaeology and mysteries. I really liked Keaton as the absent-minded professor type. He is easy-going, and a bit of a dreamer, but behind this non-threatening facade, is a keen eye and a sharp wit. Even though it is a convenient plot point, I love his quirk of taking seemingly random things that end up helping him get through his current adventure.

Most of the chapters are stand alone cases, with a few multi-chapter stories. Sometimes Keaton gets a case due to his knowledge of archaeology, but in almost every case his skills as a former S.A.S. member and survival skills trainer come into play. Both these skills mesh nicely in the two-part story “Hot Sands, Black and White” and “Qehriman of the Desert.” Not every chapter is a case. This volume also introduces Keaton’s daughter Yuriko and his father. These stories are more about his relationships with his family. He helps out Yuriko when she has problems with a teacher at school, and a girl who thinks his father is also her father. These chapters were just as enjoyable as the more action-oriented chapters. They give more insight to Keaton’s character. “Journey With a Lady” was another wonderful chapter where Keaton’s patience is tested, and ultimately rewarded.

This series is from 16 years ago, but the art is still very Urasawa. The characters are recognizable as his work, and match well with the story. Urasawa’s more technical skills are put to the test as he has to draw, old ruins and life-like statues to fit the archaeological side of the story, and he does it well. The backgrounds are very detailed too, giving the feeling of the place Keaton is in, whether it is England, Italy or the Taklamakan Desert.

Master Keaton is a great series. The stories are well written, and very engaging. I didn’t want to put it down once I started. The investigations are readily solved, with all the piece set in place before hand. There is plenty of action and mystery to keep fans of both happy. I certainly am. I highly recommend it.

PR: Viz Media Acquires Junji Ito’s New Horror Collection

I know everyone raves about Junji Ito, but I’ve found a lot of his work too far on the disturbing side. I don’t think I’ve been able to finish one of his titles, and I’m still haunted by Gyo‘s fish with metallic spider legs. **shudder**. It’s great that we’re getting this new collection of his so soon, but when are we gonna get his Cat Diary? I’ll bet that’s a series I can complete!

Continue reading PR: Viz Media Acquires Junji Ito’s New Horror Collection

Viz Media at NYCC

West Coast publisher Viz Media was the only publisher from this coast to attend NYCC and hold a panel. While their panels this late in the year usually consist of reiterating want was licensed at the beginning, this year they had two new licenses to announce. Tokyo Ghoul will be a Viz Signature title and So Cute It Hurts will be a Shojo Beat title.

Tokyo Ghoul Tokyo Ghoul comes from Shueisha’s Weekly Young Jump magazine. There are currently 14 volumes out in Japan. The series follows Ken Kaneki, an ordinary college student. Tokyo is being haunted by “ghouls,” who devour humans and whose identities are shrouded in mystery, leaving people in the grip of panic. While at a coffee shop he likes to frequent, Kaneki meets Rize, an avid reader just like him. But his life is changed forever when he becomes the first half-human, half-ghoul hybrid. Straddling both worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn about Ghoul society and master his new powers. Tokyo Ghoul recently had an anime that was streamed by Funimation, and has been on fans radars for a while. For me to enjoy a good action/horror title, it really has to be something really good. I just not sure Tokyo Ghoul will have the appeal I’m looking for. But there are plenty of fans out there it no doubt will. The first volume will be out in June of 2015.

So Cute It HurtsSo Cute It Hurts comes out of the gate not being something I’m too interested in. This title runs in Shogakukan’s ShoComi magazine and there are currently 8 volumes available in Japan. This series revolves around twins Mitsuru and Megumu Kobayashi. Megumu is good at history, Mitsuru not so much. In order to keep from loosing his weekends to extra history classes, Mitsuru convinces his sister to switch places with him, and help him pass his tests. What Megumu doesn’t know, is that Mitsuru has been going to a school for delinquents, and when confronted by a gang of bullies, she meets a mysterious boy with an eye patch. I really don’t care for gender swapping in titles, and this one doubles the whammy by it being twins doing the swap as well. This series will have to get a big wait and see from me. It might have potential. The first volume will be out in June of 2015.

Also discussed at their panel was the two initiatives started for Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine. Jump Start and Jump Back. Cute names, huh? Jump Start is a way to bring over and preview new titles simultaneously with Japan. Several chapters of a new series will run as well as one-shots. Jump Back is a way to bring back older popular titles from their catalog. The first of these Jump Backs will be Death Note. Besides having cute names, I think these initiatives are great for readers of WSJ. They give new titles a wider reach, and could possibly lead to new licenses as well as introduce older titles to a new generation of fans who may have missed them the first time around.

Vagabond Volume 1

Shinmen Takezo is destined to become the legendary sword-saint, Miyamoto Musashi-perhaps the most renowned samurai of all time. For Takezo is a cold-hearted killer, who will take on anyone in mortal combat to make a name for himself. This is the journey of a wild young brute who strives to read enlightenment by way of the sword-fighting on the edge of death.

By Takehiko Inoue; Based on the novel “Musashi” by Eiji Yoshikawa
Publisher: Viz Media/Viz Signature
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Historical
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond. I had read an excerpt of it a few years ago in a Viz Signature sampler I got at SDCC, but it didn’t really interest me then. Based on recommendations however, I picked up volume 1 to see what everyone was talking about. It’s filled with a lot of great action and drama, but I think I have to go with my original reaction and say this is not a series for me.

Vagabond starts out at the end of the battle of Sekigahara, a pivotal battle in Japanese history that gave the Tokugawa control of the shogunate. Shinmen Takezo and his childhood friend Hon’iden Matahachi, seventeen-year-olds looking to make a name for themselves, have somehow survived. Wounded, they search for shelter to recover while being chased by Refuge Hunters. They are found by a woman, Oko, and her daughter living alone in the mountains. Takezo kills the leader of a band of robbers who harass Oko, but it’s Matahachi who takes her and runs off, leaving Takezo with the responsibility of telling Matahachi’s mother and fiancée of his decision.

I’m not quite sure what I was looking for in this first volume, but I felt ambivalent through most of it. Takezo’s journey doesn’t have to auspicious a start. He somehow survives the battle at Sekigahara, including nearly being trampled by several horsemen. He fights off Refuge hunters and a band of thieves, ends up being deserted by Matahachi and betrayed by that Matahachi’s mother when he goes to tell her what has become of Matahachi. The Hon’iden family are jerks. He seems to have a way with the ladies, even if he doesn’t seem interested. Both Oko and her daughter Akemi seem to like Takezo more than Matahachi, and when pressed by Matahachi’s mother, Otsu, Matahachi’s fiancée, couldn’t agree with her that she hates Takezo.

The one thing he does know is how to fight. With either a sword or a stick and some rocks, no one who tries to kill Takezo seems to come out of it alive. He takes on practically the whole Tsujikage gang alone, as Matahachi proves to be more of a lover than a fighter. There are several pages that run black from all the blood and severed body parts. This is very much not a story for the faint of heart. Inoue has no problems with showing every graphic detail. I don’t really have a problem with the realism, it just doesn’t appeal to me personally. I read to escape the real world, not to relive it.

One thing I did enjoy was Takezo’s character design. He is very much the brash older teen with wild hair, and piercing eyes that make one think twice about taking him on. I really didn’t care for the look of most of the other characters, but their designs matched their personalities, which should tell you how I felt about a lot of them. Matahachi lacks the look of confidence he thinks he has after making his first kill, and Granny Hon’iden is as ugly on the inside as the outside. All of the characters are drawn realistically, but still seem just off enough to not feel real.

For a historical drama, Vagabond hits all the right marks. It’s gritty and realistic look does make it feel like the 15th Century Japan. The action hits hard and fast, and the drama feels as real as it looks. But in the end, it’s just not a series that interests me. while I like Takezo, the rest of the characters and the story didn’t engage me. This is how I felt when I first read the preview chapter, and now having read a whole volume, I can say nothing much has changed. If you enjoy this kind of story though, I would highly recommend it.

Oishinbo a la Carte: Fish, Sushi, and Sashimi

Yamaoka and his father Kaibara Yuzan, have never enjoyed an ideal father-son relationship.  In fact, it’s about as far from ideal as possible, and when they start arguing about food–which they inevitably do–the sparks really fly.  In this volume of Oishinbo, the subject of dispute is fish, starting with the question of whether mackerel can ever be truly good sashimi.  Later, things come to a head during the “Salmon Match” which pits father against son in an epic contest to develop the best dish before a panel of judges.  Will Yamaoka finally defeat Kaibara?  Or will he once again be left in his father’s shadow?

Story by Tetsu Kariya; Art by Akira Hanasaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Food
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★½

The overall premise of Oishinbo is that Yamaoka and his partner Kurita are compiling the “Ultimate Menu” of Japanese cuisine for the 100th anniversary of the publishers of Tozai News.  Each volume of Viz’s compilation of this long running series is centered around a type of food. This volume is all about fish.  The stories are episodic, and can be broken down into two types; Yamaoka helping someone out or putting someone in their place about food, and Yamaoka vs. Kaibara, his father, over some kind of food dish.

Yamaoka comes off as lazy and a cynic, but at heart he really is a good guy.  Whether it’s coming to the defense of a young boy’s opinion, helping a man get over being dumped by a girl, or a student accept getting into his second choice college instead of the first, Yamaoka finds a way through food.  I really enjoyed these stories, as they showed both Yamaoka’s knowledge and skill as well as his good heart.

What I didn’t enjoy were the stories with Yamaoka competing with his father Kaibara.  Now, I don’t mind the competitions themselves.  They require both skill and knowledge, with much of the latter being imparted to the reader.  What makes a good sashimi, why salmon and other fresh water fish shouldn’t be used as sushi and what’s really important when making a meal for someone are all topics covered in this volume.  While I found the information interesting and informative, I just couldn’t stand Kaibara.  His overly smug attitude toward Yamaoka, and people in general really struck me the wrong way.  I know I’m not supposed to like him, but his whole demeanor made some of these chapters just unpleasant to read.

The art in Oishinbo isn’t very realistic.  It’s rather simplistic, with a newspaper comic feel to it.  There aren’t a lot of the manga conventions you see in a lot of other titles, making this very friendly to a non-manga reading audience.  The food and the fish are very realistic, on the other hand, showing the emphasis is on the food more than the people.

Overall I found Oishinbo A la Carte to be an enjoyable read, though Kaibara did drag it down some.  Other people may not be bothered by Kaibara so much, so this is still a title I recommend.  If you’ve ever wanted to try a manga without all the baggage, or are just curious about Japanese cuisine, this is a title you definitely want to check out.