Monday, April 6, 2015

Master Keaton Case 1: Man in a Maze


 
 
Case 1:  Man in a Maze

I want to make a special note, I will be doing any and all anime reviews whilst watching their English language dubs.  If no dubs are available I will of course use their subtitled versions but this will be a very rare occurrence.  If you don’t like that factor well…I’m sorry but I was born and raised in the United States of America and while I like watching subs I actually only speak my native English language.  I just generally get more enjoyment out of dubs (usually) than subtitled versions of anime or films.  That’s not to say the dubbed versions are superior but as a native English speaker I listen/watch and enjoy those more than versions where I’m constantly staring at a 1 inch frame of space to read subtitles whilst missing the nuances of character reactions or beauty of backdrops and character interactions. 

That said I won’t comment on performances all that much as that can be a very touchy subject for most fans.  Subbies and Dubbies still exist, they’re still animalistic with each other, and I don’t want that shit coming in and ruining reviews or even just genial discussions any of you may want to have in the comments below.  If you like or dislike a performance that’s fine.  If you despise an actor that’s fine, but don’t hound about it in the comments. 

In terms of the dub of Master Keaton I have watched the original Japanese version a handful of times but I much prefer and enjoy the dub version produced by Ocean Group.  Why?  Well it’s an odd thing but in Japanese the actors only do one thing:  speak Japanese.  There are no real attempts at any sort of accentual changes or ways of really speaking.  In the English version we are able to have the actors speak one concrete language but have the actors use accents varying by character and the region in which the stories take place/characters are from.  While many praise the anime’s dub as one of the better dubs Ocean Group produced they also comment about the accents used in the show.  Most think a majority of the accents are over exaggerated.  I’d say for me there are one or two characters where this is the case but most of the actors make their accents more realistic which fits with the show.  Now, off of my soap box and onto the review!!!

 

 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

We open with a shot of a man lying at the base of a bluff.  Said man is identified as Leon Papas, and we see from an insurance report that the cause of death is listed as “bruised and bleeding from a fall.”  We then transition to a history lesson about ancient Greece and Morocco and how sports like wrestling ended up being the origins of gambling.  “[Gambling] has since branched out into recreation and business.  The business of betting on whether a policy holder survives within a certain time frame…the origin of life insurance.” 

We see here an example of how Keaton, as a teacher, tends to mix various parts of his skills and knowledge into his explanations.  He actually makes his lessons fascinating to listen to while also being incredibly educational.  It’s a skill Keaton excels at, speaking in laymen’s terms but sharing a vast wealth of knowledge.  We see this skill of easy explanation displayed time and again by Keaton in various situations and to various people.  Keaton is incredibly bright and intelligent but doesn’t flaunt said intelligence in people’s faces like some professors (that I’ve know personally) would. 

Keaton’s class ends as he tells his students that he won’t be seeing them next week.  A few of the students talk amongst themselves about this, saying he’s been skipping classes lately and that it’s highly likely he’ll be fired because of it.  While Keaton is in the staff room he picks up his last paycheck, the clerk asks if Keaton has moved again as another paycheck has been returned.  This is something I never quite got whilst watching the series or reading the two volumes of the manga that are currently out via Viz’s prints.  This same remark, that Keaton has moved again, is stated in the manga too but we never really go anywhere with it.  It’s true that the series is an episodic one and other than a small handful of recurring characters each episode has unique characters in different settings.  But regardless of Keaton’s travels we never really see evidence of his moving (except for in Case 5:  Paris Under the Roof, where Keaton has been fired from a college in Tokyo and takes a job as an instructor at an adult education center in France).  Even then however no clear evidence of his moving is readily shown, his apartment isn’t filled with boxes and his daughter doesn’t seem too surprised when she visits him (even though he’s in FRANCE NOT JAPAN). 

Anyway back to the episode Keaton writes down his new address and steals the clerk’s tape without him knowing.  Keaton is also told that he’s received a call from Lloyds Insurance, a company Keaton works for as we soon discover, and we learn a little bit about the company as the two clerks discuss it (and that their tape is missing again…apparently Keaton’s got slight kleptomaniac tendencies).  Lloyds is an Insurance Consortium where individual syndicates pool their resources together to provide multifaceted policies for people, usually those who are well off.  In an intriguing twist Lloyds is actually a real insurance market with a long history.  Keaton, as we’ll have mentioned in later episodes, works specifically for Lloyds of London, which is the birthplace and main office of Lloyds services.  (If you’re interested, the wiki article is actually well referenced here ) 

As Keaton travels to Greece we learn that Leon Pappas, the deceased, was a mercenary from Greece who, until recently was living a quiet life pulling up artifacts from sunken ships off the coast of his hometown.  Said hometown is now mostly abandoned and Pappas was hoping to find rare artifacts to both spread history and to raise money to keep his town as a cultural landmark itself.  Pappas has a girlfriend, a young woman from the village named Sofia; however strangely enough Pappas left neither of them any money from his insurance, instead it all went to Ox Art Company.  Keaton is given a photo of Ox Art Company’s President Ox Bayer.  Keaton immediately recognizes the man, even knowing his name and states that he “sort of” knows the man.  Keaton’s partner, Daniel O’Connell provides him with a ticket to Greece and asks Keaton to investigate why Ox has been named the beneficiary and to discover the true reason behind Pappas’ death. 

Isidoras Village is over 2000 years old, and is struck by frequent heavy winds.  The winds are so strong in fact that they’ve managed to wear down the carefully cut stones used to make the winding streets and archways of the town.  Keaton’s taxi driver states that the village is practically abandoned and that the tourists won’t visit until the Summer.  Keaton simply marvels at a still standing 2000 year old village, even if it has no electricity.  Knowing Keaton that’s probably one of the things he absolutely loves about the place.

We learn that Sofia doesn’t really like to talk to people, and we see the woman in question being pestered by Ox Bayer and some cronies.  Before they can make good on any threats Keaton glides in with the natural charm and bumbling nature that we learn is actually quite genuine but that helps others completely underestimate him or think him weak and simple minded.  A simple thing like a crumpled paycheck (Keaton’s pay he was unimpressed with from the college at the beginning of the episode) allows him to step between Bayer’s men and Sofia without causing a big scene.  As Keaton passes by and comments on the wind Bayer remarks that something about Keaton strikes him as familiar and that the two may have met before.

Sofia initially ignores Keaton and puts on her diving gear while he tries to question her.  Keaton’s patience pays off however as Sofia leads him to the house she and Pappas used to share and Keaton marvels at the ancient city around them.  He notices a keystone in an archway is quite loose…hmm…that might come in handy later.  The city is built like a giant maze (hence the name of our episode) and we hear that a large number of Greek ships used to sail by the village in ancient times.  Keaton asks Sofia relates that she has always considered the man her hero ever since she was a little girl.  Pappas was the strongest man in the village and held the ideas of truth and justice close to his heart.  Bayer and his men meanwhile have been outside of the house keeping an eye on Sofia and Keaton as they discuss Pappas’ past.  Bayer has heard that Lloyds of London has sent an agent to investigate Pappas’ death and Bayer will use any means necessary to prevent Keaton from completing his investigation and leaving the island. 

Sofia recalls that when Pappas joined the National Liberation Front he came back a changed man.  Whilst he had a good head on his shoulders and romanticized ideals he also held a soft spot for places full of history.  The war, Sofia laments, didn’t just wound his body but his heart too and the man who returned from war was not the same man whom had left for it.  Keaton surmises that Pappas probably started collecting relics of ancient times to try and repair his wounded soul.  Shortly after Pappas’ excavations began Bayer and his men appeared.  Any and all artifacts Pappas brought up from the ocean floor were willingly handed over to Bayer and his men.

Keaton asks if they were extorting Pappas and reveals an awful lot of Bayer’s back story.  Bayer became a Sergeant Major in the British Special Air Force but was discharged and then fought in Africa as a mercenary where he met Pappas.  While they were in Africa their squad was attacked and Pappas was tasked with blowing up a temple to kill the men attacking them.  However Pappas couldn’t do it and many of his friends died during the fight.  Pappas blamed himself for the men’s deaths and Bayer used his guilt to extort the treasures from Pappas and raise a small fortune for himself.  However there was one treasure Pappas refused to give Bayer.

Before Keaton can discover what this treasure is he notices Bayer and his men approaching the house.  They are armed with pistols, a point he explains to Sofia by explaining how their suit jackets are buttons and arms are away from their sides because of their shoulder holsters.  Keaton hastily looks around the house for some form of protection from the armed men and spies a wooden spoon which he grabs before he and Sofia run out the back door.  As Keaton leads the men through the maze of city streets he whittles away at their numbers by removing the loose keystone he noticed earlier.  Keaton then takes the tape he’d borrowed earlier and breaks the wood spoon while Sofia asks what he’s planning to do.  A rock suddenly comes flying towards one of Bayer’s men, hitting him straight between the eyes and knocking him out cold.  Bayer suddenly remembers Keaton’s identity from the look on his face and we discover that Keaton is no seemingly ordinary and clumsy man.  Keaton was in fact a Survival Instructor in the SAS and was referred to as “Master.”  (An interesting tidbit, this title will come up much later in the anime so try to keep the title in mind.)  Keaton quickly dispatches Bayer and lectures him on the faultiness of firearms in locations with high wind values and how simpler, more primitive weapons can in fact be much more deadly and accurate.

Sofia takes Keaton to a hidden cave and he finally sees the treasure Pappas fought so hard to keep out of Bayer’s hands:  a collection of long lost coins from Ithica Island.  Bayer apparently kept hounding Pappas about the coins and threatened the man with revealing his military failures unless he and his company were named the beneficiaries in the incidence of Pappas untimely death.  However Bayer’s greed got the better of him and when he had finally had enough he pushed Pappas off a cliff, killing the man in an area that could be deemed treacherous enough to make the fall look like an accident so that they could still get the money from his demise.  Keaton reminds Sofia about the legend of Ulysses and the hardships he endured something which directly paralleled to Pappas’ own past.  Sofia insists that Keaton take a coin for his help and her own appreciation.  The episode ends with Keaton agreeing to take a single coin and telling the taxi driver from before that it was “just as [you] said” and that there was nothing to see in the village.

Case 1 of Keaton does a good job of setting up the world in which we find ourselves in.  There are no super powers or large eyes here, the world we are shown is in fact our own set sometime in the early 90s (timelines in the manga are never strictly presented so one has to infer by storylines, history given for the world and comments by things Keaton has participated in).  Keaton remains one of my favorite anime protagonists of all time.  What we get here are the basic building blocks of his character.  Keaton is a lecturer of history.  He knows a lot about history and especially about artifacts and ruins.  He is also incredibly intelligent and mild mannered.  Keaton is the kind of man that blends into the crowd rather than sticks out from it.  He slouches his shoulders, he ducks his head, he’s sometimes absent minded and has some kleptomaniac tendencies, he trips over curbs and acts innocent but behind all these appearances is a mind more akin to Sherlock Holmes than a buffoon.

However Keaton isn’t only a lecturer he’s also an ex-military man in the SAS.  For those unaware the SAS is the Special Air Service, a British Special Forces unit (it’s now a corps as of 1950) which serves as a model for special services around the world.  The unit does everything from covert reconnaissance, to counter-terrorism, to direct action and humanitarian intelligence gathering.  While we don’t get much background on it in this episode (we get more on it in later Cases) we can tell by Bayer’s flashback that its training is incredibly challenging and for Keaton to be the Master of said training means he’s more than well versed in survival techniques and methods, and has highly trained senses and a unique set of skills.  In other words Keaton knows how to blend in; he doesn’t announce his presence which makes it easy for people to constantly underestimate him.  But Keaton isn’t full of himself, he knows his skills and his limitations but he also has a keen mind and is able to find the weaknesses of his enemies.  While this episode might not have the best story it does a good job of setting up Keaton as a character whilst giving us a small glimpse at his past and his capabilities and interests.
 
What further adventures await Keaton?  What more will we find out about his past and his skills?  Tune in for Case 2!
 
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