What They Say:
Nothing burns hotter in the heart of Justice Akatsuka than the desire to do the right thing. When he’s stuck with a tattoo that holds an incredible power, he’s dragged into an international conspiracy that pushes him beyond the limits of right and wrong.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The mixes here are pretty good overall as there’s a solid amount of action throughout the series and that has a good flow and feeling to it. The stereo mix may not have quite the punch or bass level of the 5.1 mix but it conveys the impact of the actions well while the other areas with vehicles and nature sounds all are well placed and hit some sweet notes themselves. Dialogue is fairly straightforward throughout with not much that really stands out in a big way but it does what it needs to do very well with placement and depth as needed and a clean and clear design throughout with no problems such as dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a standard nine/three format. Animated by JC Staff, the show has some strong looking action sequences when it really works them and there are plenty of fanservice moments where you know they spent extra time and attention on. But the show has a kind of average look to it in general that is saved somewhat by the fact that most of the series takes place in darker locations once it really gets going and that lets it feel a bit more moody and shadowed in a way that helps it. The encoding for it does a solid job of capturing the look of the show and its color design with solid pieces, plenty of detail, and not much in the way of noticeable noise or gradients that isn’t in the source material itself. It may not be the most outstanding of shows with its design but the release brings it to life as it was animated.
The packaging for this release is in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case to hold the four discs from both formats on hinges in it. The set comes with an o-card slipcover that plays the colors a bit darker, which is good with the illustration used for it, in comparison with the case cover itself. But this also lets it tie in nicely to the black strip along the top with the formats listed. It’s a good illustrations even if the angle is horrible as it doesn’t do the character designs any justice, here or with any of the Japanese covers that did the same thing. The back of the slipcover goes in its own direction as it carries the white over and has a decent summary of the premise and presents three larger images from the show that gives you a better feeling for it than the usual tiny strip. It’s interesting to see the difference from the cse itself where it goes for black, has a key visual used, and four shots from the show that are larger in size than usual but smaller than the slipcover. Hopefully it’s part of an overall trend change for better back cover design. The set doesn’t come with any inserts but on the reverse side we get an illustration showing the heights of everyone lined up together that’s kind of cute.
The menu design for this goes for the simple static approach that works well enough as we get different pieces of character artwork for each disc. With it set to an off-white background, the character artwork such as we see on the cover is used here. There are some nice elements brought in with it, particularly the look of the fire on the second disc, but they do suffer a bit in the way the cover does in that the angles just feel awkward.The logo is kept to the center left just about and it looks good with it being laid out the way it is while the navigation along the bottom is the standard overlay stripe, this time in gray, with simple text that leads to the standard selections and layout. It works well both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback. It’s a solidly functional menu but not much else beyond that.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name from Shinjiro, Taboo Tattoo is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the summer of 2016 anime season. The original manga kicked off in 2009 and ran for thirteen volumes before completing in the summer of 2017 as serialized in Monthly Comic Alive. Suffice to say, the anime didn’t drive a lot of attention toward the manga and it’s not hard to see why. The anime adaptation is the kind of work that feels like it would have had a strong following twenty-plus years ago with what it sets up in concept but it has such a hard time executing it that it falls apart about halfway through, to the point where the mid-run segment is utterly forgettable. Which doesn’t help going into the back half, which uses a time-leap no less. And in a nod to fans, the post-credits piece provides some quick looks in animated form of what’s further to come in the manga that will never get animated.
The premise is straightforward enough in that middle school student Seigi ends up being drawn into an international war that’s brewing between America and a nation known only as the Kingdom. Japan is where the battleground is, however, as an array of special weapons built into tattoos have ended up scattered there. The US military has sent specific contractors there to get it, those with the tattoos themselves that give them powers, while those from the Kingdom are seeking out the same. They provide a chance to tilt the balance but the tattoos also come from the Kingdom originally so there’s something to said for them being drawn back to where they came from. For Seigi, he ends up in all of this when he helps some random homeless guy that was getting beaten up who actually has one of the tattoos and gifts it to him.
Naturally, Seigi’s tattoo is the rare of the rare in that it doesn’t require a specific trigger to activate and as a Voidmaker it has some pretty intense power to it. His introduction to all of this comes from the US military woman Bluesy Fluesy, who ended up becoming younger once she activated her power with the tattoo that she has. Which is perfect because Seigi’s in middle school and it’d be weird for him to be with someone who looked older. It’s not weird at all that the two of them do get closer over the course of it, though we don’t know how old she actually is. The fact that she’s an Army lieutenant, however, means she’s not anywhere near his age. But that’s just part of the usual creepy stuff we get with a series that starts off with middle school students involved in saving the world since Seigi’s best friend is Touko, his childhood friend who is deeply in love with him that has a massive chest that makes Bluesy jeakous along the way. And that the animation team goes all out on animating every bounce to perfect of unrealistic physics.
With that setup in mind as Seigi gets drawn into it since he’s going to side with Bluesy more than anyone else, the show digs into what’s going on a bit more with some mild training material, threats from the Kingdom, and the introduction of more characters. There are interesting areas along the way, such as with the character of Brad Blackstone, aka BB, who has a power similar to Seigi’s and is an old friend of Bluesy’s that offers to help a bit. This gives him a mentor under which to grow rather than completely by trial and error, or having Bluesy tell him what to do, but it also plays kind of old school with what happens to BB along the way that bonds him closer. The other piece that plays it closer to older shows than newer ones is with Touko herself, as she gets caught up in things slowly but surely but ends up paying a real price for it. You don’t expect characters to be killed in most shows these days, especially ongoing manga series, since the creators don’t like upsetting their fans since it’s usually bad for sales. But it works well enough here to give it just enough of an edge over other shows as it does go the distance. It doesn’t help with the basic problems of the show though, but it at least stands out from the pack because it does do what more shows need to do of this nature.
The problem with the show runs across a couple of areas and they’re familiar ones. The age of the characters makes it a very hard to connect with thing – and I had similar feelings with similar shows when I was close to that age myself. It’s one thing in the more brightly colored and not quite attempting to be serious shows, but something like this with it being series keeps it from connecting well. The awkwardness in dealing with adults and how all of it would work in reality is problematic, and that includes the closeness that starts to happen with Bluesy, but just the whole international side of it is difficult to connect with. The Kingdom never feels fully defined and as we dig into the background of it, well, that comes after the middle third of the series that ends up being quite boring and unmemorable, which doesn’t provide the energy to move into the final act. And the final act does itself no favors with the time leap of a year that tries to paint Seigi as much older, wiser, and experienced, without backing it up any. I do like that the show really does take chances with what it does in killing characters and really making them take some losses in other ways, but it’s not what makes it a good show.
Taboo Tattoo had me curious because it had some interesting character designs and a concept that could work well enough. But it ended up being problematic because of the age of the characters it wants to work with and not being able to really flesh out everything in a way that made sense and made it engaging. I really liked the animation for it and the use of the tattoos was definitely something that has been done before and can be done in really neat ways, but it’s just too light and superficial here with what it does. The old school elements are good in that it takes some risks and pushes the characters and story in some unexpected directions, but there are just a lot of underlying problems here that it can’t overcome. Funimation’s release is solid enough with what it does with the dub and dual format release so fans of the series will be pleased with what they get here.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 5th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.