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Reviewby Theron Martin, Sep 24th 2006
High school student Hibia is quite the rough-edged fighter, albeit one with a thing for protecting the weak. Despite his resolution not to get involved with women because of all the trouble and complications they bring, he winds up being assaulted by gorgeous Nima, young leader of the obscure and secretive Tattoon tribe, who marks Hibia and declares that they are now married, much to Hibia's consternation. It turns out that Hibia's adventurous mother had discovered the Tattoon people and promised her son's hand in marriage in exchange for an opportunity to study their powerful Tattoon magic, and Nima fell in love with the mother's photo of Hibia. It's more attention than Hibia wants, and puts him at the center of a rivalry between Nima and his bow-wielding female class rep (who has a secret crush on Hibia), though it delights his voyeur father to no end. Further trouble comes when young man who has his own command of Tattoon magic seeks revenge on Nima for a past wrong.
ADV originally dubbed and released on VHS this two-episode turkey of a 1996 OVA series in early 2000, and for inexplicable reasons Media Blasters has opted to pick it up and give it a recent all-holds-barred DVD treatment under their AnimeWorks label. Absolutely nothing new is presented here; it's got the same dub as before and no extras beyond dated company trailers. Someone at MB must have taken a liking to it, however, because that's the only way to explain how such a mundane OVA series merited a DVD release.
The plot, story content, and cast composition are as generic as they come. Hibia (Eric in the dub) is the stereotypical “thug with a heart of gold,” a point which the series goes out of its way to emphasize. He sees girls more as a nuisance than something to go ape over, which is necessary to justify why he isn't falling all over such a sexy babe as Nima (Bala in the dub) when she is so clearly willing. Nima is the stereotypical hyper, ditzy magic-using princess-type from another land/planet who is, of course, utterly enamored with the guy she's chosen, and Fujimatsu (Lisa in the dub) is the stereotypical uptight class rep who's secretly interested in the thuggish type. She's also the typical Character Who Illogically Carries Around A Weapon In School And Gets Away With Threatening People With It, although in this case it's a bow instead of a katana. There's also the expected incompetent friends for Hibia and the Characters Who Have Been Wronged In The Past for Nima. The only somewhat original characters are Hibia's father, who's always trying to snap pictures of his son in compromising positions with Nima, and a certain surprise guest appearance late in the second episode.
If this sounds like some third-rate cross between Urusei Yatsura and Midori Days, that's basically what it is, although it predates the latter by several years. It tries hard to be funny, but the only time it fully succeeds at it is towards the end of the second episode. Its fan service is sparse and tame by OVA standards, enough so that it only carries a 13+ age rating, and the magical displays and fight scenes are very mediocre. It achieves just enough of a fun factor that watching it isn't a total waste of time, but it's not a series likely to make much of an impression.
The artistry and technical merits are no more impressive or original than the characters and storytelling. Nima looks good regardless of what she's wearing, but her design is still that of the classic blonde high-fantasy pretty girl. Everyone else looks very ordinary, although Fujimatsu's rounded glasses just look odd. Background art is a little better but still nothing special. The animation is rougher than one would expect for an OVA, and the completely unremarkable musical score is only mildly effective at playing up the comic and action moments.
The vocal performances in the English dub are surprisingly good despite a cast composed entirely of second and third-stringers and bit players that only an extremely knowledgeable dub fan might recognize. Lauren Worsham, whose other anime dubbing credits are very limited, is right on the mark as Nima/Bala, but none of the other VAs are bad fits and they turn in at least competent performances. Where the dub could be said to go badly wrong is in its total rewrite of the original script. All of the characters are renamed with more conventional Western-sounding names and what's being said in the dub often bears little resemblance to the subtitles. We're not talking about Cardcaptors or Battle of the Planets-level changes here, and the rewrites are done with enough skill and wit that the series is arguably a little funnier in English, but many scenes play out a bit differently depending on your language setting. I am only penalizing the dub rating for the name changes, but the rating would certainly be much lower for those of a more purist bent.
Despite my criticisms, Tattoon Master isn't outright bad, it's just not good. It isn't a closed story, so it leaves one with the impression that it was intended to be a test-run for a longer series. The lack of quality and originality it shows is a good indicator of why it never amounted to more.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ Sexy female lead, surprisingly good voice acting.
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