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The main character of Taboo Tattoo is named Justice Akatsuka. And, like his name implies, he maintains a strong moral sense of right and wrong. It’s this sense of justice that made him save a strange man and in return receive the superpower-granting Spell Crest on his hand. But, as the anime preaches, “Justice without strength is not justice” and when Justice encounters a man far more experienced and powerful, he is given a lesson on just what justice is.

[Note: This article contains spoilers for Taboo Tattoo.]

The character of Justice is your standard naïve hero template: He has a strong moral compass and a personal ambition to be a hero. He’s taught martial arts by his grandfather, who–after Justice gets his ass handed to him by US Army agent Bluesy–reminds him that his father died because he tried to protect the weak despite lacking the strength to do so.

Justice bears a psychological scar due to the strong sense of morals his father imbedded in him and the fact that his father was unable to uphold them. Justice has a deep-seated need to win and, in order to do that, he has a drive to be stronger.

In a way, it’s a boon that Justice received a Spell Crest. One of the effects of activating a Spell Crest is that it boosts the user’s physical attributes. The stronger the user is, the more their strength and speed is increased, giving Justice an even greater motivation to train himself. Unfortunately, Justice’s particular Spell Crest, added with his personality, make for a bad combination.

Called the Void Maker, Justice’s Spell Crest can erase things, literally gouging out pockets of reality. Justice’s headstrong tendency to act first and think later turns him into a powder keg that can often do more harm than good.

In the latest episode, Justice encounters the Spell Crest user, Brad Blackstone, a.k.a. BB. BB is one of the other owners of a Void Maker Spell Crest. Unlike Justice, however, he not only has full control over its abilities, but he also has the mental capacity to analyze a situation and can act accordingly. BB also has his own moral code of justice and quickly shows Justice that the world isn’t just black and white when they face an enemy researcher who is studying Spell Crests.

The researcher unleashes brainwashed test subjects for mass produced Spell Crests. These test subjects have bombs implanted in them that are set to explode if the subjects lose consciousness. Justice is faced with the dilemma of wanting to save the test subjects, but being unable to incapacitate them.

It’s through this battle together that BB teaches Justice that everyone has their own values and sense of justice–that trying to hold on to one’s principles means eventually clashing with someone else’s. To be a true hero, one must not only have the necessary strength, but be willing and prepared to step on other people’s principles as well.

BB then proves his point by not only simultaneously incapacitating the test subjects and disarming the implanted bombs, but also by capturing–yet not killing–the researcher and his assistant.

I’m sure Justice will soon have to take these newly learned philosophical lessons to heart as he continues on his personal quest to be a hero. Even if it means going up against people he may admire or care about.

Pretty deep there, Taboo Tattoo.

Taboo Tattoo can be viewed for free in the US with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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