It always seems to be that if an anime is under twelve episodes, the series can either can go two different ways. It can be a relatively okay to bad anime with no satisfying ending (My Mental Choices Are Affecting My High School Romantic Comedy) or it can be a pretty good anime with a strong conclusion (Murder Princess). From what I’ve seen, there is little middle ground. The fact about these series is that because they are shorter, they have to grab the attention of the viewer faster than normal. They want to you to become invested right off the bat, so you will watch the entire series. Longer anime have the luxury of dragging it out a bit and can ease you in little by little. Of course if your series is less than three episodes, you really need to make sure you can get your viewer invested right from the get go.
Tattoon Master is a two episode OVA (Original Video Animation) released back in 1996. This vintage and very unknown anime stars Hibio, a woman-hating delinquent who lives with his father, a failed author. Hibio’s mother is an explorer who has abandoned her family to go off hunting for a tribal culture known as the Tattoon, who are known for their tribal tattoos which grant them mystical powers. When Hibio’s mother eventually finds the Tattoon, their leader threatens her because she entered their land, until a picture of Hibio that falls out of the mother’s pocket. Immediately becoming entranced by the picture, their leader Nima allows her to stay and study the tribe on the condition that Nima is allowed to go live with and marry Hibio, to which the mother agrees. Nima then runs off to Tokyo to seek out Hibio, and when he finds out the situation his mother put him in… Well, you know where this is going.
Although Tattoon Master is a short series, they manage to fit in enough storytelling and character development to rival other shows. The first episode throws a lot of plot development at you at one time: First, Hibio’s mother finds the Tattoon tribe and marries off her son. After leaving the tribal lands, Nima joins Hibio at school where you meet Fujimatsu, the teachers pet with a crush on Hibio. Due to the jealousy of both her and Nima, they battle against each other using archery and supernatural powers. That’s quite a leap in only twenty-something minutes. Episode two provides us with a little back story as to how Hibio became his woman-hating self, straight from the mouths of his two closest acquaintances. In this episode, we also see characters who were scorned by Nima and the Tattoon tribe, and by the end, we are granted with another battle, but with a new twist. At the end of the episode Hibio has warmed up to Nima just a bit, and shows he has a softer side after all. If these different overarching stories could have been dragged out and been given some more time to blossom, they would have the potential to create something truly memorable.
The art style of Tattoon Master resembles other 90s anime like Yu Yu Hakusho, and even the main character Hibio looks a little bit like Yusuke. Both episodes have a pleasing art style which allows the characters to pop out just a bit more. While the landscape is your standard Tokyo backdrop, with the school, the dark alleyways and the city line itself, the artistic style features little details that help draw you in. Each battle that ensues is memorable on their own because of the different powers that were used. For example, in the first battle Nima pulls out a bow and arrow combination made of only pure energy, and as she is readying her shot the wind blows around her and her hair blows with it. It’s these types of small but simple details that tells you the artists put an insane amount of effort into the scene.
The fact that there is a rather small cast of characters gives each of them a chance to stand out more. Most of them are given at least a little bit of back story, so you can get to know their motivations and who they are. In the Japanese dub, each voice matches their characters perfectly, and there is enough of a blend of humor and drama to keep you enticed. The only downside of Tattoon Master is its shoddy English language dub. In the English dub, characters names are changed, the plot gets dumbed down and the intricate detail it takes to match English voices to an already dubbed character is nowhere to be seen. The dialogue for the English dub sounds like it was written by Tommy Wiseau. The dialogue is uninteresting and the emotions aren’t conveyed like they should be. But for an anime that does so much right within a span of two episodes that’s only a small blemish.
To put a nice little bow on both episodes, Tattoon Master plays it’s lighthearted theme song “Lovely and Lonely” by Marsa Sakamoto, with scenes from the episode playing against the credits. As for the background music, even though it doesn’t go far beyond your generic fantasy anime music, it does well to convey the emotion and the action of the anime. At times when Nima is trying to get to know Hibio or flirt with him, a lighthearted tune is playing in the background giving the scene a little more feeling of joy. On the other hand, when the action starts to pick up, an epic fantasy starts playing. It’s not a hard gritty song, but more of softer toned battle song.
The fact that Tattoon Master is a two episode anime means nothing negative overall. Yes, it could have been longer, but the fact that they included so much in so little time and still made an interesting series, easily makes up for that. it’s a fun and lighthearted romance tale with a bit of action thrown in. With it’s short length it gives you the chance to be entranced quickly instead of having to go through so much fluff to get to the real story. Tattoon Master, despite it’s goofy name, is one anime you should add to your collection.
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