In Taboo Tattoo’s eleventh episode, called “In the Palm of the Hand,” we learn that Cal Shekar is still alive, and even without her most dreadful power, she’s still formidable; Justice Akatsuka is much stronger but still struggles when it comes to situational awareness; Bluesy Fluesy demonstrates how well she can fight with an artificial arm (hint: very well!); and Princess Aryabahta shows that planning ahead has major benefits.
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What Happened (Spoiler Free)
Akatsuka and Tom Shredfield find the spot just above the Tattoo ruins. Tom stays at the top to relay radio signals back to base (where Wiseman, among others, is listening). Akatsuka uses Void Maker to tunnel straight down. As he emerges into the cavern, Cal Shekhar attacks him.
At the same time, Takami has his hands full with a Sealed whose power spikes when she’s close to death.
Can Bluesy and Takami break free to support Akatsuka? Can he survive against Cal Shekar to fight the Princess herself? And even if he does, will it end any better than it did in episode 8?
The rest of this review may have spoilers, so please be careful!
What Happened (Spoilers!)
Akatsuka and Tom Shredfield arrive at a spot directly above the subterranean Tattoo ruins. Leaving Tom to guard the entrance, Akatsuka uses his Void Maker to tunnel straight down. As he bursts into the cavern, Cal Shekar launches her attack. Though Brad Blackstone’s (a.k.a. BB) attack destroyed her ability to use her Tattoo’s absolute boundary, she is still very, very dangerous.
Bluesy continues her fight against Lisa Lovelock (possessed by Iltutmish, which is why she’s fighting Bluesy) and R. R. Lurker. The latter keeps us a steady stream of lewd comments as a form of psychological warfare. They’re fighting on a cliff overlooking Tamaki as he battles a Sealed who loves being beaten close to death. Almost by accident, just after Bluesy strikes Lisa so hard that it dislodges Iltutmish (like back in episode 3), the two fights converge: Bluesy shoots R. R. Lurker with a snake-venom infused bullet. She then kicks him in the crotch so hard that he flies off the cliff and manages to get right in front of Takami as he delivers a finishing blow to his enemy — effectively destroying both enemies with a single strike.
The fight with Cal Shekar goes on, each side landing a blow, each side’s healing powers trying to keep up. BB’s memory avatar helps Akatsuka find an opening, and he’s able to defeat his opponent. But his victory comes just as Princess Aryabahta completes her task of absorbing the crystals and energy in the ruins. Akatsuka wonders if he’s too late.
Bluesy and Takami meet Tom. Together, the three of them try to join Akatsuka.
The Princess’ powers have grown significantly. She tells Akatsuka that since the first they met, she had been manipulating him. She even manufactured his desire for revenge (by killing Tōko Ichinose) so he’d be sure to come after her — just so he could deliver the key when she needed it.
She needs it now.
Bluesy and the others arrive at the site of the battle to find Akatsuka impaled on a half dozen stone spikes.
What I Liked
It was nice to see Akatsuka’s Void Maker be useful as it carved a way into the underground Taboo complex in the Grand Canyon.
It was also nice to see Cal Shekar wasn’t killed in previous episodes — thought BB and Akatsuka wounded her enough to destroy her “absolute boundary control circuits.” Consequence in action — always a welcome sight!
Akatsuka wasn’t some bumbling kid as he fought Cal Shekar. Seeing him fight well was refreshing! He played the psychological warfare card well, too, reminding her that BB — her love — was within him even during their fight.
The pacing was much better during this episode. The plot interwove the three fights smoothly — moving from fight to fight at a dramatic points.
Lisa Lovelock wasn’t brainwashed, as I had initially thought last episode. Instead, Iltutmish had possessed her. I’d forgotten that Iltutmish had that power. It’s a clever use in this context. Aryabahta’s people seem to have a much better grasp of strategy and tactics than our heroes. I wonder if we’re rooting for the right side?
Part of me wants to rail against the show for being too gory; another part (the realistic part) wants to applaud it. The Sealed have varied and dangerous powers; effects like being able to use wires to slice someone into dozens of pieces seems pretty realistic to me. Add a personality like R. R. Lurker, and it’s almost inevitable that people are going to die messily.
Bluesy shooting R. R. Lurker with a snake-poisoned bullet, then kicking him hard in the crotch was a perfect instance of poetic justice. I’ve rarely seen a villain killed in such a deserving way.
The Princess pointed out that Akatsuka’s hatred and drive for revenge dulled his edge — a theme I found insightful. Akatsuka’s drive had always been a deserve to be a hero for justice. That seems completely forgotten now.
So Sanders finally did something smart — he brought a nuclear weapon to the ruins. And he didn’t talk about shoving anything untoward into anyone’s backside. He’s maturing!
There was a quick shot of Wiseman giving Akatsuka a drink with some pills in it. Supposedly, the pills were to reduce soul fatigue, but Wiseman’s expression as the other drank looked sinister. I don’t think he’s working for the Princess, but I wonder what his game really is? Is he trying to pull the same maneuver that Doctor McCoy did in Star Trek’s Amok Time?
With the exception of the jet fighters (which looked like low-resolution renders), the animation was fluid and engaging. As usual, the fights were a lot of fun to watch. The sound in this episode, like in previous episodes, was engaging, too. The show’s technically solid!
What I Liked Less
At bullet speeds, wouldn’t fiction have destroyed the snake venom?
Cal Shekar’s description of how the Princess will become a god — and what that will mean — wasn’t very interesting to me. I was hoping for something more original and compelling. As it is, it sounded more like personality aggregation without any real convincing concepts of divinity. The comment about the “god” constantly rewriting herself seemed inconsistent with godhood, too. I mean, what god is so imperfect that it needs continual revision? Sounds more like a demigod to me. And please don’t tell Rory Mercury I said that…
This episode, the plot seemed to be more or less on solid footing, so I was able to take a step back and consider the show’s ascetic. I realized I’ve been missing something, something very important, since episode 1: Bluesy’s chibi form! That was one of the reasons I kept watching the show. My theory is that if a show can execute chibi form well, it can’t be all bad!
I miss Bluesy’s chibi form.
Cal Shekar is a powerful woman. There’s no doubt about that. Then why did she have to be in love with BB? I understand the drama that romance can inject into a scene, but I saw no basis for her attraction to him. It just seemed to weaken her persona of strength. If they had built some kind of relationship together in the flashback episode, I might feel differently. As it is, the whole thing just felt cheap and undermining.
I think Akatsuka was unprepared to fight Aryabahta. She was more powerful than he could imagine a year ago — and now, she was yet more powerful. He should have anticipated that! He should have been better prepared. As it was, she had defeated him psychologically before delivering the final blow.
Am I the only one who thought Akatsuka looked a lot like Bluesy’s dead brother? If the show invokes the cliche of him actually being her brother, I don’t think I’ll be ecstatic.
It’s easy to dismiss a series after it stumbles; to downplay good work that come after, well, less good work. I’m not making the case that Taboo Tattoo has suddenly become something on the same level as Cowboy Bebop. I am suggesting that this episode was probably the most cleanly plotted of the series to date. Sure, it still had its odd moments, like Bluesy flashing back to her dead brother or Cal Shekar’s inexplicable love for BB. But by and large, I want to give this episode credit: it felt coherent.
I think the previous episodes have obscured it, but the show actually seemed to have a compelling theme this week: namely, that hatred and a desire for revenge blunted Akatsuka’s powers. I say other episodes “obscured” it because the Princess is acting out of hatred in some respects: specifically hatred for her father and those who tortured her people. Yet, for some reason, she’s not hampered the way Akatsuka is. I hope the show explains that apparent contradiction in the final episode.
Do you think this episode’s plot was stronger than previous episodes? Do you think we’re rooting for the correct side! Let me know in the comments!