Taboo Tattoo
Episode 8

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Taboo Tattoo ?

Let's take a moment to mourn Touko, shall we?

Here we had a bright, chipper young girl who only wanted to spend time with her best friend/crush. Her dedication to Seigi not only got her involved in an otherworldly conflict beyond her comprehension, it even put her on the front lines. It's a genuine tragedy that such a naive, under-prepared child with no combat experience or training of any kind would be brought to such a battlefield (for seemingly no reason I might add). Thanks to the irresponsibility of her friends and elders, she was torn to shreds by a monster she never had any hope of defeating. In any other story, Touko's sad end would make for an impactful, emotionally devastating event, a turning point for the show and its characters.

But in Taboo Tattoo's hands, it comes off as exceptionally dumb.

Never mind the fact that Touko's presence in this fight is perhaps the most egregiously inane thing this show has featured so far; the series could have bent over backwards throwing out a thousand reasons why the US military bothered to bring a 14-year old civilian to a monster fight, and it wouldn't have made a difference. Of the three characters to even be given personalities in this series, Touko was almost certainly the most endearing. That's saying a lot considering what we knew about her is basically limited to these two facts:

1. She liked to cook.

2. She liked Seigi.

Upon this mountain of nuance and development, Taboo Tattoo has decided to raise the stakes, and it just falls flat completely. Touko was barely a presence in her best moments, and she'd been completely delegated to the background in the past few episodes. For the show to kill her off with so much pomp and circumstance is just foolhardy, begging its audience to compare it to better shows while it falls apart at the seams, as a narrative and a piece of entertainment.

Frankly, none of the show's characters have enough weight to warrant this kind of intense emotional reaction. The show spends almost all of its runtime this week killing off people's significant others in comically over-the-top ways, making it feel like a parody of itself. Relationships are introduced only to be destroyed literally seconds later, and the over-acting and over-directing of every scene would lead you to believe that we're actually supposed to care. The problem is, I could hardly tell you most of these characters' names, let alone who they're in love with and why it should be sad when they die.

It certainly doesn't help that the moment-to-moment workings of the story have devolved into gibberish. Most of the characters spend their time vaguely elaborating on how their tattoos function and whatnot, but whatever coherence the writing might once have had is lost in the flash and din of the fight scenes. The action here is admittedly competent in its staging and camerawork, but the setting and context around it just don't work at all. There are seeds being planted regarding Professor Wiseman's plans for Seigi and the true nature of BB's past, but none of it is any more or less sensible than what the show's been giving us for the last seven weeks. The show hasn't lost the plot so much as its buried the plot in the backyard, hoping that it can make enough noise and spectacle to distract people from the suspicious odor of a decomposing narrative.

This episode feels like an ending in more ways than one. Touko's death doesn't just close the curtain on this act of the story, but also on Seigi's last shreds of innocence. This episode also feels like an ending of a more broadly existential kind, with the show's numerous narrative and directional problems hanging over it like a portentous cloud. Touko and BB weren't the only casualties this week. Whatever potential Taboo Tattoo had to deliver cheap, easy fun is more or less gone now too. The show seems determined to undermine itself with every step it takes. We'll see where things go from here, but I fear the damage has already been done.

Rating: D-

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

Taboo Tattoo is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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