Taboo Tattoo
Episode 5

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Taboo Tattoo ?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the die has been cast. It took five episodes, but Taboo Tattoo has officially gone over the border of being a “Guilty Pleasure”; right now, it's just plain guilty. If last week saw the show suffer a minor dip in quality, it decided to straight up swan dive off a cliff this week. I wish this wasn't the case, because there are things to like about Taboo Tattoo, but almost none of them were on display here.

The episode picks up right where last week left off, with Izzy facing off with Lurker in an effort to rescue Lisa; it's immediately apparent that even though the choreography and general direction are a minor step up from last week, the writing and editing are simply all over the place. We cut over to Seigi and Touko's fight with Iltutmish, and the back and forth between these two battles is so lopsided that I almost forgot Izzy and Runner were fighting at all. The actual showdown between Seigi and Il is put together competently enough, though we do learn that the basis of Il's Schrodinger's Cat power is literally rooted in whether or not she is being observed, which may take the cake for being the most ridiculous use of Schrodinger's Cat I've seen in a long time.

Nonsensical super-powers aside, the dramatic buildup of the entire scene is ruined when the creators decide to cap the fight off with a gag involving Il's little kitten. It isn't funny enough to justify inserting right into the middle of a supposedly gripping rescue operation, and it only serves to make the Princess Aryabhata and her underlings less threatening. Certain bits of the episode hint that Seigi's relationship with the Princess and her nation may be more complicated than just Hero vs. Villain, but that doesn't make the tonal dissonance any less awkward.

And if you thought the show's habit of arbitrarily shifting tones was bad in the first half, the second half of the episode takes it to an entirely new level. Once our heroes rescue Lisa from the Selistani forces, the plot of the episode has essentially wrapped itself up at only a little past its halfway point. In its remaining ten or so minutes, Taboo Tattoo veers into being a straight-up comedy, and it's enough to give viewers a case of mood whiplash.

First we're introduced to Izzy's commanding officer, a man named Colonel Sanders. I know this is supposed to be a joke, given the character's occasionally absurd looking bug-out eyes, not to mention the fact that KFC is a legitimate cultural staple in Japan. The problem is that this joke isn't funny. It's just a weird pop-culture reference that makes the whole story feel significantly less serious, which would make sense if the series wasn't also constantly throwing excessive gore and the Princess' weird proclivity towards sexual domination out in an attempt to be edgy. Taboo Tattoo has made it clear that it wants to be funny and suspenseful, but it's spreading its resources so thin that it fails to be either.

However, the biggest issue is the scene that follows, a misguided attempt at sophomoric humor that stops the show dead in its tracks. Touko and Seigi are out shopping for dinner ingredients when they run in to Aryabhata and Il, for no particular reason. While Touko's exaggerated determination to take down Aryabhata provides the only gag in the episode that works (see the above screenshot), their table-tennis competition is just silly. Not funny silly, but “shaking my head in disbelief silly”. When Seigi sits down to chat with Aryabhata, the Princess uses her table-tennis victory to fondle Touko throughout the entire conversation. Again, this is supposed to be funny, but it's just weird and off-putting. The resulting conversation doesn't even further the plot, so the entire event just ends up feeling pointless.

The show never recovers from there. Instead, it wastes more time delivering lame gags about Seigi's home life and then cuts to the credits at the most random possible moment. There's an after-credits scene, but it feels tacked on and doesn't save the episode from ending on a sour and sloppily edited note.

I won't lie: this was a bad episode. The technical competence of the fight scenes helped maintain a modicum of dignity, but the writing and direction fell apart at every other turn. I hate to say it, but this kind of creative nadir might be difficult to overcome. Whatever Taboo Tattoo delivers next week, I sincerely hope it's better than this. I struggle to see how it could be worse.

Rating: D

Taboo Tattoo is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is proud to say he made it through this entire review without mentioning Big Order. He spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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