The US has had its time of both coppers and robbers that live on in infamy throughout our history. People like Al Capone and John Dillinger roll through our minds when we think about that period of time. Keyman: The Hand of Judgment takes us back to those times but of course, with a twist. Superhero, Keyman, patrols Rockville City, thwarting crimes and bringing criminals to justice, most of the time. Does he go too far though? Detective Alex seems to believe so and works to expose the hero. But everything goes sideways when the invulnerable hero suddenly turns up dead. Alex is forced to investigate into this murder and come across one major clue in the form of a little girl named Dr. Necro. From there, things just get worse and worse.
To begin, the manga is gorgeous. Creator Warai Naku seemed to go through extensive research to get the visual feel and ambiance of the times. Buildings and vehicles look accurate to history, and even the feelings of troubled time during the times of prohibition when all was hush-hush are relayed properly. But going far beyond just the environment, even the mannerisms and concepts of characters feel like an old black and white mob movie from the 1930s and 40s. Though touching on the characters, there are more than just humans and supermen. Naku has incorporated anthromorphs (humanoid animals) into the story in such the way that it feels natural and you don’t even question it. Detective Alex is a T-rex, his captain is a gorilla, and their mortician is a turtle. And as much as this should be sending up flags in our minds, the way they’re written makes the concept come across very nonchalantly and you just accept it. Though it is a manga and a story about superhuman men called Keymen. So some suspension of disbelief is acceptable.
To say the least, this manga is dark, and not just in the way that there is so much use shadow and black space. Like all stories, you’re introduced to a few characters, good and bad, but what sets Keyman apart is that there’s no clear evil in view. The superhero can be viewed as the villain up until his death and then you’re not really even given a real person until about chapter four. When Dr. Necro makes her appearance, the amount of information and how quick the story picks up goes pretty swiftly. The story crafting makes it feel like you’re reading an old mob tale mixed with suspense. You find yourself with a kind of who done it scenario as you’re trying to understand Dr. Necro’s goal, who Frank is and what he wants, and what’s going to happen to Alex and the police. More and more freakish concoctions are thrown at our heroes and it just comes across that our enemies are getting stronger while our heroes are looking for those much needed power ups. There’s a deep interest in the characters’ development that even unfolds in the first volume. Even couple of chapters, someone bleeds and you end up praying that Alex or his friends aren’t reaching the end of the road. The manga comes across as the type of story where a main character could die and we as the readers would just have to keep shoving on hoping that the end would have everyone being avenged.
Currently on volume six, the manga has more than enough of a following to hope that this whirlwind ride doesn’t end soon. The characters are loveable and tragic. The story is deep, dark, and addictive. And the creator is a genius storyteller, which is not a declaration that should be thrown around loosely. If you haven’t checked the series out yet, don’t miss your chance. And as always, don’t stop laughing, smiling, and being the amazing otakus you are.