Taboo Tattoo

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I’ve been trying to avoid reserving the top of the review for any story recap material; it leads to things potentially feeling formulaic and stiff, which is the last thing I want. However, Taboo Tattoo seems determined to thwart me at every turn, so here we go:

This week on Taboo Tatoo, Seigi, Izzy and the other Sealed launch an attack on Princess Aryabhata, dueling with the Vice-Captain of the Brahaman and her cronies in the process.

And that’s it. Sure, we meet some new characters, and BB pops up near the end of the episode for reasons, but it’s all inconsequential. This week’s episode is largely an extended battle sequence, beginning with the American troops’ assault on Aryabhata’s ruins and ending when things look the most dire. There’s virtually nothing by way of developing either plot or character; just twenty-odd minutes of flashy choreography and violence, and then credits.

This would be totally fine, by the way, if any of it meant anything to the viewer. There have been many shows that reserve entire episodes for prolonged battle sequences; the difference between Taboo Tatoo and those series is that the latter take their time to build up the conflict. Most of the time, prolonged violence and chaos only work when they serve to amplify the emotional stakes of a plot. These kinds of episodes are usually reserved for the climax of a story, be it an entire narrative or only one small arc amongst many. If Taboo Tatoo had been building up to this fight for weeks, carefully developing its main players and then thrusting them into a maelstrom of gripping conflict, that would be one thing. But Taboo Tatoo hasn’t done any of that .

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In fact, the transition from last week’s episode to this one is so abrupt and out of nowhere that I was certain I had missed something. I went back to the last episode to see if there was anything I missed that might have made sense of these events, but nothing turned up. Seigi and company are just on a plane with Col. Sanders and some other Sealed, off to battle the Brahman. Touko’s presence in an American military engagement is especially nonsensical, since this is a girl with no combat training or expertise to speak of. She’s just tagging along because Seigi is there? It doesn’t make any sense at all.

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The show introduces a handful of new characters, some Sealed by the name of Wang, Johnson, and Leonardo Burns. If you’re curious about who these characters are outside of their euphemistic names, then you’re out of luck, because they’re little more than cannon fodder for Cal Shekhar, the Brahman’s Vice-Captain. The setup here is lazy and amateurish at best, which makes the battle that follows incredibly difficult to engage with. Its sound and fury divorced from any emotional context, a sequence of decently animated set-pieces with no through-line to justify their existence.

In other words, this episode is really, really boring.

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The tonal shifts are the most obnoxious they’ve been in a while too. Attempts to mine comedy out of Aryabhata’s odd sexual advances fall flat yet again, and there’s a bit about Cal being in love with BB that just comes out of nowhere, right after a fairly intense scene of Aryabhata torturing Seigi. It’s as if the show is afraid to go too long without some humor to lighten up the mood, but instead of finding a balance between humor and drama, the show just randomly sticks in gags where it needs to fill some space. It isn’t entertaining, and it certainly isn’t funny. It simply doesn’t work.

In fact, outside of some admittedly cool moments littered throughout the fight against Cal, almost nothing about this episode works at all. It isn’t offensively incompetent, nor is it enough of a trainwreck to be ironically good. It just kind of sits there, without any reason for being. Maybe the next few episodes can bring up the quality or at least provide a modicum of cohesion to the story. If we’re really lucky, we might even get to see the Stray Cat again.

Rating: D

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