Taboo Tattoo Review
Warning: The following review may/will contain spoilers of the series Taboo Tattoo. If you wish to stay clear of what happens in this show's story, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched said show. Or, you know, you can take that warning with a grain of salt, and still read on anyway. Whatever floats your boat.
Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:
Maybe a show's story didn't sound like your cup of tea or just seemed sketchy in itself. Maybe the characters weren't fleshed out, and you didn't care about them as they went on with their lives. Maybe the animation wasn't the prettiest and you had to avert your eyes from the screen multiple times because you couldn't believe that what you were seeing was real. Regardless, various elements to that series pissed you off, plain and simple, to the extent where you couldn't enjoy it anymore.
But you still wanted to see how it ended. You wanted to know where that colossal trainwreck would lead as it came to a halt because even though this show ended up being a steaming pile of s**t, it also became a guilty pleasure in itself. Like the old saying goes, there's always light at the end of the tunnel, right?
Taboo Tattoo was the one show that stood out in the summer of 2016 for the wrong reasons. Though it had potential with a well-known director, studio, and seiyuu cast at the hem, it failed to impress most viewers for a variety of reasons. Curious to see how bad this show would be, I decided to give this show a watch, also knowing I'd seen updates about it on ANN. Despite the premise sounding generic as all generic premises do, I was interested to see where this show would go.
Let's also add in the fact that I was curious about R.R. Lurker once seeing his design.
Moving on from that, though, I watched this series twice. Once in the fall of 2016 in Japanese, where I got it all done in about 2 weeks thanks to a four day weekend (which helped give me time to watch episodes in the morning on both Friday and Monday), and in the early stages of winter this past year, once the dub had came out (yup, this got a dub. Some of you are undoubtedly thinking, "Why on Earth did this get one?"). It looked fairly promising and would serve as a reminder of what I forgotten almost a year prior thanks to my careless abandonment of this blog.
Both times, I had the same reaction:
Taboo Tattoo wasn't as bad as other anime critics/viewers have said it was, at least for me. It provided some fun entertainment with its action and dub (thanks, Christopher Bevins), had slivers of promising character development, great action choreography along with pretty fluid animation, and an excellent score. I also found one of the best anime villains even with flaws in her character, so cheers to that!
Of course, it wasn't amazing, either. The first half isn't too bad on its own, but as soon as Episode 7 starts, everything just goes down the drain. The pacing becomes absolutely horrid, with too many events crammed into a single episode along with countless info dumps. The main characters don't really have that sweet payoff in the development standpoint, feeling bland, one-dimensional, or in some cases, degraded. It's a bad sign when despite flaws in the villain characterization, at least I can understand why they're fighting and can get behind them rather than the rest of the so-called main cast (R.R.'s motive is a bit shaky, though). On top of that, the animation steadily begins to dip, and it wasn't fixed for the DVD release, which makes me sad.
This show had a lot of potential despite sounding like stuff I'd seen before, and I'm disappointed that it wasn't executed as well. At the end of the day, this is another anime where the story and character development created a massive pileup, though compared to B-Project, at least I had a little more fun.
Time to talk about the premise:
Justice (nicknamed Seigi, which, funnily enough, is justice in Japanese) Akatsuka gets an odd "present" after rescuing an apparent homeless man from two street thugs. It comes in the form of a flat crystallized rock with a mark on it, and once it comes in contact with Seigi's hand, it fuses into his skin, creating a tattoo. If you're wondering about the apparent part in my description of the homeless man, that's because he isn't. He's actually a key figure in this show's plot later on, but I don't want to get ahead of myself.
In his third year of middle school, Seigi is stronger than most. Having trained in the Akatsuka-style of jujitsu since a young age under his grandfather, he vows to protect the weak by going after people who attack the defenseless. This makes him a perfect player in this game, especially when two US Army members come to town.
One day when running late to school, Seigi almost runs into a mysterious woman with white hair. Punching him in self-defense, the latter tries to help him up, but an electrical shock (sparks fly, it's like electricity) stops her from doing that. She leaves with an ominous warning that Seigi should watch where he's going. and oh boy, should he.
Later that day, when he's about to head over to his grandfather's dojo to practice after grocery shopping with his childhood best friend, Touko, that same girl from earlier apologizes for the incident she caused before quickly snatching Seigi's phone and leading him on a wild goose chase to an abandoned warehouse. There, she fights against him in order to retrieve the tattoo for the US military. This girl's name is Bluesy Frusey (nickname Izzy) who possess a tattoo herself. Along with her partner, Tom Shredfield, they are in Japan on behalf of the army to collect tattoos that have mysteriously disappeared from their grasp.
Of course, since Seigi's tattoo has already fused with his skin, that can't happen, but Izzy does briefly introduce her power after stepping away from the fight. Using chalk, she can manipulate air until it condenses and implodes. Following Seigi around for the next few days provides an accidental opportunity to see him in action against an American mafia member who also obtained a tattoo. On the verge of death, Seigi ends up winning the battle after his tattoo activates, revealing it as Void Maker, the Triggerless (the item that activates the tattoo is called a trigger, to clarify) Tattoo.
Knowing that Seigi can be of use to them (and so they can keep him under the radar of the actual military), Izzy asks him to join her military unit, Blue Moon, so they can defeat an even greater threat than just collecting tattoos. That threat is the Kingdom of Selinistan, where a princess named Aryabhata has overtaken the throne in a vicious coup. Along with several servants, Arya plans to start a new world order with her as the rightful ruler. In order to do that, she must connect with the ruins, where she will gain more power. After all, our protagonist can't be the only one who has a special tattoo, right?
As more players arrive in this game and chaos begins to stir, who will come out alive and who will end up dead? More importantly, will Seigi and his new comrades be able to defeat the princess in her quest for world domination?
There's one word that comes to mind when I think about this anime's plot, and it can be linked back to my Top 5 Worst Anime of 2016, where this made the Dishonorable Mentions. That word is none other than sloppy.
It's a word I didn't even think would describe a series' plot until I got to this one. And the odd part of it all is that this series doesn't have a bad start. In fact, I would say this show was good. Or, God forbid, entertaining. Well, if I could look past some of the problems this gave me right off the bat.
But then the second half came along, spat in my face, laughed, and ran away. When this show faltered, it faltered big time. The pacing became incredibly rushed to the point where I had no idea what was going on. Way too much was crammed into multiple episodes, and unlike with Yamada-kun where I enjoyed what was going on despite it being hella rushed, this series didn't grab my attention. It's so fast-moving to the point where it's easy to forget and blot out everything that happened, because the show doesn't bother to address certain plot lines or knows when to stop itself from going around in circles.
On another note, this show has horrible tonal shifts. I thought Bungo Stray Dogs had some pretty choppy ones, but they improved with time past the first cour. I thought Clockwork Planet had some bad ones, but at least there were some enjoyable funny moments. Here they're all duds. There is no proper way to go from a serious conversation after Lisa's hideout is ransacked to, "Oh, look, Lisa has a picture of Izzy in her panties as her phone background." There is no proper way to go from a confrontation between BB and Cal to BB asking Cal if she's in love with him following a scene where Seigi gets stabbed by a multitude of wooden sticks that Arya creates. These happen at least once per episode, too.
There's also the fact that when this show tried to be funny, it wasn't. Granted, there was this, along with, "In this world, you're nothing but a background character" (and a #meme I'll discuss later on) but other than that, if you count the tonal shifts, it becomes haha sofunny very quickly. The humor comes across as either very pretentious or very tasteless, and it's not fun to see when, again, this show has some moments that stick the landing.
To add insult to injury, we have another character death that's only used as a catalyst to move the plot along (we also get a pointless year time skip out of that woot). It didn't make me as enraged as Asuna from Dance with Devils, but still, it irritates me that this continues to happen. There are other effective ways to move the plot than thinking, "Oh, shoot, I've hit a roadblock. Well, if I kill off this character, then..."
So as a whole, this show's plot didn't really work for me. Even though it had promise despite initial problems, the rushed pacing, botched tonal shifts, and mostly flat humor had me souring on this series as I made my way through the second half. To top it off, when you decide to end a show with a teaser to a second season that probably won't come anytime soon, you're not doing yourself any favors.
Time to move on to the characters:
Ah, another weak part to this show. While these characters may have been clumsily handled to begin with, the fact that the heroes felt underdeveloped isn't a good thing. In fact, because Aryabhata had such an interesting motive despite her main shtick being tossed around in my face, I was able to sympathize with her more because I had a better connection to her than with anyone else.
It's going to take us a few characters to get to her, though, so I'll hold off on my spiel now and just go on to the first character, and our protagonist, Seigi:
Now, you're probably wondering why Seigi has such an odd name. The only reason Seigi gives in show is that his parents had "odd ideas," and were really excited to give birth to a baby. I'm going to assume Shinjiro (the original creator of this series) wanted to be punny, so here we have a middle schooler literally named Justice who has a strong sense of...justice.
Yeah, don't worry. I'm cringing, too.
As previously stated, Seigi is in his third year of middle school and has been training in the Akatsuka-style of jujitsu for most of his life. Since his mom is typically away on business trips, I think (and his dad is dead), his childhood friend, Touko, typically looks after him. He does seem to have a strong sense of independence aside from all that, though. I mean, he goes after those who beat on the weak.
His tattoo is the Void Maker, which allows him to create black holes and heal injuries if need be. It also has no special item to unleash it, so there are times where it could cause some trouble, like when it wipes out the majority of Izzy and Tom's "army hideout" or could swallow him whole. To control it, Izzy tells Seigi the tattoo's ability can only be unleashed by blood aside from applying the technical skills to hand-to-hand-combat. Of course, the writers occasionally forget that blood is a decoy to saying Seigi has no "trigger," but I digress.
When this series started, I didn't mind Seigi that much. Sure, he did come across as an annoying shonen protagonist with the signature traits (impulsive, questions authority too many times, yells a lot), but over time, I did think he developed more of a knack for his power thanks to not recklessly unleashing it and training. However, that weakens due to two things:
#1. The writers never decide on a clear motive for him.
I understand that heroes and villains can be more complex in media, but if they have one main goal in mind for why they fight, I want to make sure it's stated directly. This show bounces back and forth between two motives for Seigi: Protect the Weak, or Protect the Girl.
And look, it hurts to break the truth, Taboo Tattoo, but you can't have both. When you start the series with Seigi going after street thugs and stating he doesn't like people ganging up on the defenseless, I expect that to stay consistent all the way through. So having you whip out, "I want to protect you, Touko" during Episode 4 is a big red no.
#2: Post time-skip Seigi is an asshole.
After BB's own Void Maker ability begins to devour him, he implants his soul into Seigi so that his strength can live on and not be destroyed like the rest of him, I guess. With the help of Wiseman, he also implants a part of his subconscious into a machine so that Seigi can view some of his memories to better understand him. So skipping past the fact that a 30 or 40-ish man is in a teen's body almost literally, One Year Later Seigi is an ass.
No, really, he is. Despite the fact that he becomes even stronger with his powers, his personality isn't fun anymore. He's angsty, bent on revenge due to the Kingdom's meddling, and rude. Aryabhata even states in Episode 11 that wanting to get revenge consumed his body, mind, and soul. She's 100% right, too. Because of the fact that he felt he wasn't "strong enough" (which is debatable in itself), he wanted to pummel Arya to the ground. There has to be more to that, show. Your motive building is already pretty weak, and I've only talked about one character. He's the lead.
Also, I didn't realize how creepy the BB Being Inside Seigi's Body plot thread was until I rewatched this series. You see, BB and Izzy had a nice relationship going back when BB worked for the US Army, but Cal also has an attraction to him (and he uses that against her in battle in Episode 7, and oof). This becomes incredibly awkward when the writers force the Izzy and Seigi ship due to the former's backstory (which I'll talk about later), and when Seigi states in his battle against Cal in Episode 11 (where I mistook a detail and thought it was correct for a whole year because I really didn't care) that Cal shouldn't fall in love with him because he's a little too young for her.
Thanks, I needed that. Anyways, do I need to go on? Much like with the story, there was potential here with Seigi, but it was squandered. Hopefully the next character will be better.
Oh, she's not? All right then, time to bring out Izzy:
Izzy's full name is Bluesy Frusey. I'm not even sure how this came to Shinjiro's mind, but I imagine it was one of those moments where you think of something that sounds cool (even though it sounds pretty lame. I was guilty of this once. Every time I think of the word hotexy, I face-desk) and it's either really late at night or really early in the morning, but screw it. This idea sounds cool, so I'm going to stick with it. Then you look back and go, "Oh my god, WTF me?"
Moving on from that, Izzy is the US Army lieutenant in charge of locating the tattoos that have found their way to Japan. With the help of chalk, she can manipulate the air around her. She got (or in her term, was cursed with it) when her family (I think her parents were biologists?) visited the ruins located in the Grand Canyon. They were killed after her younger brother got too curious about how the ruins worked and tried to mess with them. As such, she was left with her tattoo and her growth was stalled, causing her to appear akin to a high school student despite being older.
Because of the pain her tattoo has caused her, she wishes for the tattoos to be eradicated, and she tells this to BB one day in the years prior . That becomes his goal once he leaves the Army, spies on the Kingdom, and then leaves them. Because love, devotion, and badassery, or something like that. IDK.
Izzy is another character who wasn't bad to start off with. She was strong, could get things done, and she was a good mentor figure for Seigi. But when her relationship with BB was introduced, I realized it caused a character shift to the likes I haven't seen in a while. She becomes more of a damsel in distress type of character, getting herself into situations where she's overpowered (losing her left arm, almost dying a total of four times) and then having men come and rescue her. Considering she was built up to be a strong female character, it seems counter-intuitive to go backwards on that statement and having her receive help from irrelevant or relevant male characters. It's like when a book's blurb promises a protagonist to be a badass and when you read it they're not a badass. It's kind of frustrating.
Coming back to the romantic side of things, her brother looks so similar to Seigi, it's uncanny. The only differences based on two locket pictures are that much like Izzy, her brother has white-gray hair and blue eyes. Seigi has black hair and brown eyes. There's no subtlety at all.
This may seem like the most irrelevant detail to get irritated at, but when Izzy flat out asks her brother in her mind if it was his spirit that led her to Seigi, you know my disbelief can only go so far. It makes the shipping between Izzy and Seigi so much more unsuitable if you add the fact that Seigi reminds Izzy of her long lost brother to BB, her former lover, who is now inside Seigi's body. I can't get behind it, I'm sorry.
One more character until we get to the princess. One more character until we get to the princess. Let's make Touko's section real quick:
Touko Ichinose is the character who dies in Episode 8 after getting devoured by Ilutmish when Arya unleashes her inner tiger (literally). She is as useless to this show's plot as the hard drive my parents had to get me in order to play Need for Speed Rivals on my Xbox 360, and she is as irrelevant to this show's plot as all the unknown phone calls I get.
The only reason why she gets wrapped up into the hunt for tattoos is when Il possess her body to warn the US Army of the Kingdom's plans. She gets a tattoo similar to Il's design on her forehead that increases her psychical capabilities whenever the former is around. It's hidden underneath her bangs, which is pretty convenient in case anyone might see it.
Really, Touko serves as both a catalyst to move the plot along and to provide "tantalizing" fanservice. Her boobs get groped twice in show and the second time it happens, it's when Aryabhata wins a match of ping-pong (which is where this show is at its funniest) and her reward is a feel of Touko's "goods." This leads to Seigi asking the former for more information about the tattoos, and she gives him some insight while in the background Touko is reacting to being touched. It's somewhat amusing, but it's also really uncomfortable.
Also, her death came as the result of her own stupidity. Not only did she serve no purpose in that battle to begin with, but she runs away from safety in order to be with Seigi because she can't be without him.
Look, Touko, I understand you're in love with the guy, but please don't let it cloud your judgement. If anything, I snickered when your hair tie flew into the air after you died.
And Seigi, it's not your fault you couldn't protect Touko when she might have been able to protect herself. You were in a sticky situation, so blaming yourself for "not being strong enough" doesn't seem like the right way out.
Regardless, Touko doesn't add much to this show aside from being the Childhood Best Friend trope and a plot device, so I don't really care that she's dead. This show's cast struggles to be relevant, anyway, so it helps to focus on the characters that really matter.
Such as the next one I want to talk about, the princess of the Kingdom of Selinistan, Aryabhata:
I don't know why she has this hairstyle for only one episode, but like with this show, we have to just roll with it.
Anyway, Arya was created through various experiments that affected multiple towns near the kingdom. While she and many other clones (referred to as her sisters) were created, it came at the cost of thousands of innocent lives. Once she found out about this, Aryabhata swore revenge on her father, and once she gained enough power and support from groups in the kingdom, she staged a coup d'etat where her parents were killed and she took the throne. Dedicated and vicious, she has no qualms to go to extreme lengths so she can create a world that fits her needs only.
She's also a horny lesbian who has no qualms with groping her female assistants, seducing Il, or having a chance at feeling Touko's breasts, and as much as the show drags this to the forefront every so often, I remind myself that she's a villain who has an actual motive rather than solely what I mentioned above.
Her tattoo is quite unique. Much like Void Maker, she doesn't need a special item to activate it, but unlike Void Maker, she is linked to all of the tattoos and can control all of the abilities from them at will. She was also created for that purpose. We need to have an overpowered villain somewhere in this show, right?
A lot of people don't really like Arya that much, but I liked her way more than anyone else in this anime. Aside from having a clear motive to fight despite having to cause chaos to get her wish, she was incredibly entertaining and provided so many moments that actually made me laugh. Like when she asked a maid whether BB or Colonel Sanders would be the submissive/uke in a relationship with each other out of the blue, or when she delivered the second greatest anime meme of 2016 right under Banana is Perfect:
The funny thing is that I watched these two episodes for the first time on the same day, so I got double the quotability just from watching these two scenes. I feel like a proud dad.
Before I start to go through my Ranmaru shrine, I should bring the focus back to Aryabhata. Aside from providing this show's only successful entertainment (outside of R.R.'s sexual snake puns in the dub) and for having development despite having such a cliche fanservice trope that caters to a set group of people, she's still held up in terms of anime villains in the shows I've watched in 2016 and 2017. She's creepy without just being that, you feel bad for what her father had to do to get her and her sisters created, and even though her plan might seem implausible to most viewers, there's thought put behind it from the writer and adaptive team's standpoint that it doesn't feel lazy.
I'm not going to lie here, I was rooting for her plan to succeed even though I knew it wouldn't work out in the end. And the first part failed only because she kissed Seigi for no reason in Episode 5 and formed some kind of bond with him or something. Sigh.
Oh well, at least there's this to remember:
Now time to talk about two of Arya's sidekicks. She has two more, but one I don't care about (Cal) and one doesn't really become important until the very end or he's in flashbacks (Ajita). So I'm just going to cover Il and R.R. because they're introduced as her primary fighters:
Otherwise known as Schrödinger's Cat, Iltutmish was taken under Arya's wing after they ran into each other when Arya was visiting a town in the kingdom, I guess. They kissed, Arya groped her butt, they're lovers now, I think?
Regardless, her tattoo allows her to travel through solid objects like walls or shipping containers as long as people don't figure out her movements. Il can also inhabit people's bodies by taking control of them whenever they are vulnerable.
R.R. Lurker (or Lakha depending on the translation), is, according to him, "twenty three years old, single, and ready to mingle." Let's not forget he's a sadist and wants to see Izzy with her clothes off. Charming.
The whip he's holding in the screenshot I picked out for him is his primary weapon of choice, though he also likes controlling wires with his fingers. I'm not sure if it's ever explicitly explained what his tattoo does (it flew over my head like various other things in this anime), but he does have an interesting look, which widens his appeal despite his trashy personality.
Before becoming a Brahman, R.R. was a med student who got kicked out after it was discovered he had way too many toys. I'm sure you have a good idea of what these "toys" consisted of, but needless to say, he could be quite handy if you get injured. Just be sure you have a can of mace at your side, though. Or snake venom.
At points in this anime, both of these characters feel underutilized. But at the same time, through the chaos and upheaval, they played their cards right and had enough screen time to satisfy me. To be honest, when R.R. reappeared in Episode 10 after getting injured a year prior (though he made a quick cameo in Episode 9), I cheered. Both villains are entertaining despite being archetypes (the girl who looks underage (though Il's age is unknown) and gets constantly sexualized, the guy who is a complete pervert), and I liked it whenever they were on screen.
My favorite moments between them happened in their hideout in the first half of the series when Il takes in a kitten the mother cat kicked out of the alley (the same one from the tumblr link) for being too weak. Before obtaining a white eyepatch, Il tries to give the kitten a bath, which leads to her chasing it around the apartment with a white hair dryer, which lands on one of R.R.'s feet when she throws it. It's kind of funny despite the fact I wouldn't go around chucking a hairdryer at a pet for refusing to stay still when getting dried off.
They also keep a capybara named Mickey, who also looks after the kitty and lets it back in the hideout after the white as snow pet is let go by Il. The kitten just finds the hideout again because, hey, Il took care of it better than its own mother did. That deserves a round of applause.
Again, these are the kinds of villains that would do better elsewhere. And by elsewhere, of course I mean in something that would actually make these characters flourish.
Other characters on the good side of the hunt include Tom Shredfield, Izzy's assistant who has a copy tattoo and is useless in most battles aside from being a gag character (and not a very good one), Lisa Lovelock, the commander of the Cruise Unit for the US Army who is completely wasted in terms of screen time, Colonel Sanders, the Brigadier General of the Army who eventually becomes an ineffective gag after losing his legs, his right arm, and his sight against Cal, Souha Tamaki, a solider from the Japanese Army who is actually kind of funny and whose fiancée provides one of the most surreal yet hilarious gags of the entire series.
The characters who are on the evil side are Cal Shekar (one I mentioned previously), the vice-commander of Arya's troops. A skilled swordswoman known as the Aegis Armadillo, her tattoo allows her to take down almost anything with thin sheets of sound. Though she has a serious demeanor, she can get easily flustered when the topic of love comes up. I didn't mind her, but I found her kind of bland, and when her crush on B.B. was brought up, it got pummeled to the ground to the point where it felt like she was fighting to prove that fact wrong.
Then we have Ajita (who I also mentioned previously), an older man who has a bulging left eye and doesn't do any actual fighting in show until Episode 10. He would have been cooler if he got more to work with.
Though they aren't necessarily evil, some of Arya's "sisters" do share the same views as her, but Kujuli, the eldest and the "mom" of the group, does not. The clones we get glimpses of have their own distinct personalities and looks.
The characters who are on no side are BB (his full name is Brad or Blood (depending on the translation) Blackstone), who worked for both the Army and the Kingdom (though the latter was an undercover job to get intel). He becomes the main mentor figure to Seigi on his quest to further develop his powers, and while most viewers found him interesting, I couldn't get behind him. Even though he had an entire episode dedicated to his work in the Kingdom. Sure, he's cool, but meh, those types of characters have been done better elsewhere.
Finally, we have Wiseman, the "homeless man" in the very first episode who gave Seigi the Void Maker in the first place. He went rogue from his work in America (for a reason I doubt the show goes into), and the writers try to paint him as an villain. It doesn't work, especially when I get the sense he's more of an antihero.
There are also some minor characters here and there, like additional US Army members and a spy to the Kingdom who is the king's secret lover (it's a man, BTW), but who cares about them? It's clear no one put any thought into developing these people.
The animation for this series was produced by J.C.Staff, who are also known for their work on shows such as Azumanga Daioh, Food Wars, and the three seasons of Shakugan no Shana.
Despite the fact that Taboo Tattoo's color palette isn't the best (several people say it looks dull and washed out; they're not wrong), this started off really well in terms of action scenes. The actual animation was also pretty good, don't get me wrong, but the team's detail to action was also really nice. A few of the fight scenes (as well as one flashback scene and a scene where Il and R.R. ominously pass each other on a sidewalk) come up with creative ways to contort the camera from various angles as well as create spectacular framing. It's very ambitious and helped give the series an edge above others.
However, as time goes on, these scenes appear less and less, and what I got instead were standard action scenes that didn't go the extra mile to wow me. Don't get me wrong, I was still engaged by what was going on, but the way the production team thought of movement made me really happy because it provided something of interest in this series outside of the fanservice and violence..
The actual animation budget for Taboo Tattoo also falls as the story moves on. An increased use of odd CG coupled with a final battle that just has two Void Maker monsters fighting each other with the same moves over and over again proves a decrease in effort. While the staff did replace the one opening scene they put in show albeit with minor differences (it was in Episode 9), there's one moment during the final episode where Aryabhata goes off-model during a monologue of hers that they didn't fix. This irritated me, because if there was one thing I wanted to see improve outside of, "Gee, how would this guy getting decapitated look without censoring?" it was that scene.
Alas, this is still a fine level of quality from J.C. Staff, and it's far from the worst I've seen in terms of animation. However, after being really impressed with what this anime gave in the beginning, being let down made me disappointed, because this is another area where potential was there, but not pulled through 100%.
The score for this series was composed by Super Sweep, who also worked on the score for No Game No Life. While four members of the group (Takahiro Eguchi, Shinji Hosoe, Ayako Saso, and Fumihisa Tanaka) worked on pieces for the latter series, only three have credits for Taboo Tattoo (Tanaka is the only one who doesn't, but on a good note, he did compose one of the most notable pieces of NGNL, All of you is all of me).
Much like with their previous work, Super Sweep primarily uses electronic elements as the backbone for their pieces. This genre of music is one of my guilty pleasures, so when composers come through, they really come through. Like with Aryabhata as a character, a lot of the reviews I've read don't really have much to say about this show's OST or don't like it at all. However, I found this score to be the best part about the anime, hands down.
All three members managed to give each track their signature flair while still keeping the style of the overall work consistent. Eguchi provided some of my favorite pieces out of the series, while Hosoe wasn't far behind (though he worked on a good bunch of pieces with the same arrangement. They're better to listen separately from the show). The battle music was always on point and made me either move my body to the beat, or make me think I was in a video game, much like with No Game No Life (it was more meta there, however, because the show literally focused on games).
However, that might be because before I rewatched this show dubbed, I was looking up R18 CG's for an omegaverse BL game (even though those aren't my forte) called Omega Vampire to the piece FUNimation eventually used as their trailer music for this series. Whoops.
Before I stop talking about the OST, I do want to bring up the music direction and how going back through the pieces was strange to me. I caught a few pieces I easily recalled, but stumbled upon a good bunch that I couldn't remember. This is probably because the show uses a lot of the same pieces multiple times in a single episode (which I don't believe I've seen happen to the extent in this series). This isn't bad, because there's one dramatic piece that could easily cut glass, but it got to the point where I felt some of the pieces were underutilized.
Now onto the voice acting, and this is where it gets really odd. When I watched this show originally in Japanese, I thought everyone did a good job with their characters (especially for Akari Kito, because this show was her breakout one). However, give or take a year and when I started watching the dub, my memory fizzled out faster than how my summer breaks go by. It's not that the Japanese was bad, but I think Christopher Bevins was able to get better performances out of the actors he worked with. Also, I think the English actors were able to understand the characters they portrayed much more than I thought possible. I mean, how can we explain the greatest ham performance of all time from Ian Sinclair?
But in all seriousness, I'm so thankful that Bevins was able to give his last dub from FUNimation that gravitas before his move to LA last August. Considering that the show he was given isn't the best, he made the most of it, and that's all that matters.
Highlights from the original Japanese are Mikako Komatsu, Tomokazu Sugita, Sho Hayami, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Akari Kito, Shiori Izawa, Kenjiro Tsuda, Hitomi Nabatame, Nobuyuki Hiyama, and Ryota Ohsaka.
Highlights from the English dub are Justin Briner, Monica Rial, Jad Saxton, Christopher Bevins himself, Jamie Marchi, Jeremy Schwartz, J. Michael Tatum, Carli Mosier, Sarah Wiedenheft, Andrew Love (most unexpected casting), Rachel Robinson, R. Bruce Elliot, Ricco Fajardo, Tia Ballard, Bradley Campbell, Chris Rager, Ian Sinclair, Jessica Cavanagh, Jeff Johnson, Greg Ayres, Akron Watson, Daman Mills, David Wald, Caitlin Glass, Alexis Tipton, and Anastasia Munoz.
Really, do I have to say more at this point? This show is the definition of mediocrity. It's so mediocre that when I was watching the final episode for the second time and had no idea when it was ending, I just kept checking the time to see how many minutes I had left. Compared to other shows that have gotten slightly lowers scores in the past, I did manage to find a little more fun with this show, but it wasn't much.
In the end, this show had a lot of wasted potential that its high points couldn't do much to repair the damage. When your show's "leader" for the heroes literally laments about how much of a fool he is while blowing up nukes on an abandoned island, you know you've dug yourself into a hole that's not going to be a easy climb out of.
The odd part about this in the end (aside from the review being angrier than I expected) was that I was planning a fanfiction for this revolving Arya and Il having a fun little dinner with friends at their college dorm room. But then I realized I should probably save the times I want to write fanfiction this year (and other original stories) to ideas or shows I actually like and can work with.
So in the end, I'd only recommend this if you don't have anything else to watch. Other than that, the clay thrown at this show is too much to work with.
The smidge of something good amidst a lot of bad.
Aryabhata is a shining light in the sea of stupidity (hey, nice callback, Dazz).
Animation is mostly consistent.
Action scenes start off incredibly strong with some amazing camera angles.
English dub provides a much-needed boost to this material.
Lots of wasted potential.
Story becomes rushed after the halfway mark.
Humor falls flat with odd tonal shifts and bad jokes.
Characters aren't developed enough to stand out.
Some characters are throwaways (Touko being the biggest).
Action scenes become less inspiring as the episodes go on.
Animation dips towards the end.
Japanese isn't as strong in terms of performances.