Taboo Tattoo
Episode 4

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Taboo Tattoo ?

In my first write-up for Taboo Tattoo, I harped a lot on the show's similarities to Big Order. While Taboo Tattoo is much more successful in a lot of meaningful ways, it does seem to share Big Order's biggest problem: an inability to settle on a coherent tone. Mixing things up once in a while is usually something to celebrate, but sometimes a show will go overboard in trying to land as many different kinds of story beats as possible in one episode. This week, Taboo Tattoo tries to be an action series, a horror series, a comedy, a drama, and a romance all at once, and the result is honestly kind of a mess.

It doesn't help that nothing much happens in regards to the overall plot. Lisa, the American agent we met last week, is kidnapped by the Selistani agent known as Iltutmish. Our heroes try to stop her and fail, and the episode ends with Izzy mounting a second rescue attempt. Seigi and Touko ignore Tom's orders and run to help Izzy in the fight, destroying Izzy's house in the process. And that's honestly all we've got to work with. There are no real revelations about character backstories, or the nature of the tattoos, or the motivations of the Selistani Princess and her agents. An episode of build-up is fine, but this week felt more like stalling than anything else. So in the absence of any compelling story developments, the show needs to deliver some character development or spectacle to compensate, and that's where it really begins to stumble.

This week, Taboo Tattoo wants to be all of the things. It's been mixing in fairly broad comedy with its more serious set pieces since it began, but everything felt much more stilted than usual in this episode. The jokes generally fail to land, and even worse, they completely undercut the tension and drama this episode is working to build. For example, the scene where Tom and Izzy are investigating the bloody aftermath of Iltutmish's attack could have been fairly engaging if it weren't for the ill-timed gag of Tom checking out sexy pictures of Izzy on Lisa's phone. The same problems arise with Touko and Seigi's romantic subplot. I appreciate Touko trying to be more involved in the action in theory, but the episode stops dead in its tracks whenever Touko has to pontificate her frankly underdeveloped feelings. The entire episode is made up of scenes that could have been fine as individual pieces, but simply don't work as a cohesive whole.

The lackluster action also dampens the episode's impact. Lisa and Iltutmish's battle features the least engaging and most awkwardly choreographed fighting we've seen from Taboo Tattoo to date, and that's the area in which the series is usually the most competent. Everything looks murky and dark, and the camera work and animation can't work around the scene's cramped interiors and awkward angles. It's disappointing, because I've come to expect at least competent spectacle from this show. Hopefully, the big fight this episode teases can remedy my disappointment next week.

At the end of the day, this is an episode where the action isn't exciting, the comedy isn't funny, and the drama fails to resonate. Nothing about it is terrible, but it's easily the weakest episode Taboo Tattoo has produced so far. Hopefully this is just a temporary stumble, and the next episode can bring the show back to being dumb, competent fun.

Rating: C-

Taboo Tattoo is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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