In Taboo Tattoo’s first episode, titled “Tattoo,” we meet Justice Akatsuka, who receives a strange tattoo as a “thank you” gift from a man he saved from a robber. Not long afterward, Bluesy Fluesy begins stalking him. Akatsuka’s day goes downhill rapidly from there.
The anime is based on a series of paperbacks. Here are some of them you can buy from Amazon (along with another potentially interesting book):
What Happened (Spoiler Free)
Bluesy Fluesy chases down a man with missing teeth. She leaves him unconscious with a bloody palm.
Justice Akatsuka defends a frail-looking man from a hoodlum. The man rewards him with a strange translucent slate that dissolves to leave a tattoo on his palm.
The next morning, Akatsuka’s running to catch up to his friend on their way to school. He literally runs into Bluesy, who reacts without thinking and sends him head over heels. As she helps him to his feet, she feels an electric shock from his new tattoo. Her expression guarded, she excuses herself.
That night, while he’s waiting for his friend to finish shopping, Akatsuka sees Bluesy again. This time, she steals his cellphone and leads him on a chase that ends in an empty warehouse. Browsing through his personal information, she asks where he got the tattoo. Before he can answer, she attacks him. Despite his years of martial arts training, she slams him to the ground. The knife she raises is very real.
The rest of this review may have spoilers, so please be careful!
What Happened (Spoilers!)
Bluesy Fluesy, wearing a black trench coat over what looked like a high school uniform, chases down a man with missing teeth. She leaves him unconscious, his palm bloody.
Maybe on the same night, Justice Akatsuka, trained by his grandfather in martial arts, defends a man who appears frail against a common thief. The man thanks him by giving him a translucent slate that leaves a strange tattoo on his palm.
The next morning, Akatsuka’s running late, and his friend, Tōko Ichinose, is waiting impatiently for him. As he’s running to catch up, Bluesy Fluesy steps out from a recess. Startled, she lashes out, and he crashes to the ground. When she tries to help him up, she feels a shock; she knows that he must have a tattoo. Akatsuka and Ichinose make it to school on time.
During school, Akatsuka picks at the tattoo, but it remains affixed to his palm. Some of his friends have read urban legends about similar tattoos being an American invention that convey uncanny powers. The tattoos were apparently stolen and were now making their way through Japan’s underworld.
That night, on the way home, Akatsuka sees Bluesy again. This time, she steals his cellphone and runs away. He chases her and doesn’t seem to notice she leads him to a deserted warehouse. There, he finds her reading his phone and ridiculing is name (Justice).
Throwing off her coat and jumping to the ground several meters below, she asks him where he got his tattoo. She doesn’t give him time to answer; she attacks him. His martial arts training saves him from being slammed to the ground immediately. She tells him she needs to take the tattoo back because it’s an American secret, and she’s faster and apparently more skilled than he is. Soon, he finds himself on his back, Bluesy straddling him, with a knife beside his face.
Surprisingly, she apologizes, saying that his skills without using the tattoo surprised her. Since he fought well, she tells him that each tattoo receives power from different sources. Hers is chalk.
That night, when Akatsuka is practicing martial arts at his grandfather’s dojo, his grandfather tells him that justice without strength is nothing. That’s why his father died.
In a cafe, Tom Shredfield asks Bluesy why she let Akatsuka get away. It turns out she bugged his cell phone and is trying to listen in. She asks that the he leave the boy to her.
Bluesy spends the next few days stalking Akatsuka until even Ichinose has had enough and asks bluntly what Bluesy’s doing. Akatsuka tells her to go on ahead and confronts the other woman. He asks her how to activate his tattoo, since he tried chalk and it didn’t work. She confesses she doesn’t know what will trigger his tattoo. Everyone’s trigger is different.
Out of nowhere, a man attacks them, and Akatsuka’s training takes over. He instantly knocks the man down. Bluesy sees that he man on the ground had just disabled Tom, her fellow operative, who was trying to get to his feet a few meters away. That meant the man was more dangerous than he appeared. Bluesy realizes the man on the ground is another of their targets just as he rises and attacks Akatsuka. The first blow sends Akatsuka flying.
Though he was thrown dozens of meters away, Akatsuka refuses to yield. Bluesy warns him that his opponent is using his tattoo and that Akatsuka doesn’t stand a chance. Moments later, despite fighting well for an unaugmented human, Akatsuka finds himself bloodied and nearly unconscious, on his back, with Theodore Wilson, his enemy, on top of him. Akatsuka’s taken a hit so hard that he’s bleeding; his tattoo is covered with is own blood.
In his last moments, as Theodore is about to crush his skull, Akatsuka remembers his father saying to reach out to take what he wanted. So, he did. Luckily for him, it wasn’t chalk that activated his tattoo. It was blood.
Akatsuka’s power was “Void Maker.”
Theodore lay broken and unconscious several meters way.
Bluesy was not expecting that.
What I Liked
I think this show makes it official: If Kadokawa‘s involved, I’m probably going to like the show. I see their name on a lot of the anime I watch. I wonder what that says about me…
The thief that Akatsuka chased off in the opening scene said he was going to tell his mommy on Akatsuka! While I have to feel some sorrow for his lack of masculinity, I have to admire his intelligence: he knew when he was beaten, and he didn’t stick around.
Interesting twist on the “toast in mouth” trope: Akatsuka was the one who was late, and he didn’t just fall, Bluesy hit him so hard he flipped at least twice before crashing to the ground. If you have to use a trope, why not amp it to 11?
Ichinose kept asking Akatsuka what he wanted for dinner, and even though he tried to let her fix whatever she liked because he appreciated her taking care of him, she insisted he choose. So he made something up: “European-style American Indian curry udon.” That was funny enough, but then she figured out how to make it! Well, she figured out how to make a derivative: Jamaican style. It’s kinda sad that the whole tattoo thing seems to be taking him away from her. They seem to make a good couple.
I debated whether I liked this part or didn’t like it; but because Akatsuka seems to earnest, and Bluesy seemed to react to that, I kept it positive: I decided I gave him a lot of information for free. She let him know that she was much older than he was, and that the tattoos consumed material, different for each tattoo, to power up. What tipped my opinion to the positive was that Akatsuka held back out of an honest concern about hurting Bluesy. Only when it became clear that she was very powerful did he let loose. I respect that. Of course, he ended up flat on his back with a very large knife millimeters from his face.
The animation, particularly in the fight scenes, was exciting to watch.
Looks like Bluesy has an appropriately cute chibi form. That’s important! If you’re going to have chibi forms, they have to be cute, adorable, innocent, and cute. And yes, I know I mentioned cute.
Another aspect of the show that I debated about liking was Bluesy stalking Akatsuka. At first, I wondered why someone with her field experience would be so obvious about tailing him. Then, I thought that might be the point: get him to understand they had unfinished business, so he he could feel more inclined to talk. Show him a little feigned weakness after beating him so soundly. It seemed to work!
Because of his extreme strength, Theodore Wilson’s nickname is “Teddy Bear.” Bluesy laughs at the name despite the severity of Akatsuka’s circumstances. Her reaction reminded me of how someone who’d seen innumerable fights would respond: yeah, this fight’s dangerous, but what else is new?
Through most of the show, Bluesy was calm and collected. Even when Akatsuka almost ran into her, she reacted reasonably. But when she found out what kind of tattoo Akatsuka had, she seemed shaken. Yeah, it’s cliche for the main character to have unexpected powers. Yeah, it’s cliche for the main female character to be impressed. But what can I say? The scene worked for me.
What I Liked Less
This isn’t so much something I liked less as a cliche that bothers me: why do so many male main characters in anime have high school friends who have enormous busts? It made sense in Heaven’s Lost Property, because the show was all about Tomoki Sakurai’s unabashed lust. So, of course, the characters had to be a little over the top. Oh, wait, did I just answer my own question here?
Apparently, Akatsuka doesn’t know how to lock his phone. A little investment of time would have saved him from Bluesy’s ridicule. It pays to be secure, especially with your personal devices!
The more seasons of anime I watch, the more some tropes grate on me. When I first read about this show, I was afraid it would veer into the harem genre, which I think is pretty crowded and thoroughly mined out. It takes something really different like Monster Musume to present a fresh and interesting angle. I’m not convinced Taboo Tattoo won’t go that direction, but to be fair, it hasn’t yet. I really liked the first episode.
I think the show has these things going for it:
- Bluesy shows no signs of falling in love with Akatsuka (at least not yet)
- She seems powerful and confident in her abilities
- The story had a good explanation for Akatsuka’s fighting ability (his grandfather’s training and the added urgency of his father’s death)
- The episode didn’t use exposition to introduce us to the tattoos; it showed us (I have to admit I enjoyed seeing Akatsuka accidentally figure out how to activate his tattoo)
- The fight scenes are exiting to watch; the choreography feels realistic
- The animation seemed top notch: solid scenery, character models that stayed on point, and robust facial expressions for the main characters
Despite my initial misgivings, the first episode held my interest and made me want to watch the second episode. That’s a good start!
What do you think? Am I being too optimistic?