Odokawa is a taxi driver that has seen and heard many things. Seen and heard too much, in fact. So when the worlds involving his friends, the gangsters he gets involved with, and random people start to merge, he has to do some maneuvering to protect the people he loves and stay out of trouble. Or at least out of all he can get out of.
Hiroshi Odokawa is not a man of many words. He is not very interested in the lives of people he does not know and has an aura of a potentially dangerous man…or…walrus. Where most characters have weird hair or annoying voices that make them stand out, Odokawa stands out like a used sweater in a Goodwill, that is to say, not at all. Which feels odd given he is a 400lb sea animal. But that is also the theme of his character. He seems to want desperately to just drive his taxi, listen to the radio, and mind his own business, but can’t help but be front and center to all the action. Even Otokawa’s story started off feeling like he got involved just to stop the craziness and get back to his normal life, as if he could not be bothered to deal with anything else. That mindset made him an intriguing character to attach ourselves to, both in action and in mindset.
Eiji Kakihana is a lonely little monkey. At the ripe age of forty one, our hopeless romantic is single as the last pringle and about as visually appetizing. Kakihana seems like a good guy who works hard at his admittedly undesirable job of janitorial duties. In his best impression of me, Kakihana is on dating apps, with absolutely zero success. What I like most about him is the small elements that show how deeply this affects him. The incessant checking of his apps, the lying on his profile, and spending more money than he should to impress girls…or…dogs? The disappointment that comes with being unable to attract someone to your person feels so real in the desperate attempts that Kakihana makes. You feel bad for him, but you feel shame in his actions. It is part of what makes him the emotionally distressing character that he is.
Ayumu Gouriki is the purest soul in the entire show. Where we get so little information about Gouriki’s life, what we get in return is a complete investment in Odokawa. Gouriki has his own House-esque medical Sherlock Holmes subplot to find out why Odokawa is so…just…odd. Gouriki is understanding in the most stoic, masculine, way that I can imagine. He comes off gruff and impersonal, but it becomes clear that the basis of his curiosity in Odokawa is his long standing friendship as a family doctor. It’s exactly the kind of romanticized doctoral work that comes out of prime time television, without the weird makeout scenes in the medical storage closet. Gouriki was perhaps the most disconnected section of the puzzle that is this show, but at the end he gives us answers to questions we never knew we had, providing one of the most fun endings in a while.
Miho Shirakawa never really got the attention that other characters got. I thought it was odd that someone who was so sweet and so important to the main character didn’t get any of the dedicated investment that some characters, less important than her, did. In fact, her story is so critical to the plot that without her we would truly have no story and we get none of her perspective. Something that was obviously missing when placed next to other storylines that got adequate attention. In the end, it felt like she was heavily relegated to a humorous damsel in distress, leaving an oddly one dimensional character in a cast so intriguing.
Dobu is your regular ol’ gangster. Extortion, drug sales, illegal possession of a firearm; you know, the whole lot. He reports to a boss just like the rest of us. But he isn’t content with that. It’s not enough to simply do his job. No, he has to be the best and he is going to make Odokawa help him. Dobu comes across as a mildly violent thug without much depth, but as the show goes on it becomes more clear that he has his own aspirations. He wants to be a good employee. He wants to run bigger jobs than he has before. His career goals, while illegal, are admirable for their scale. A character I initially dismissed as a simple roadblock became almost full fleshed and was certainly important to the story.
I used to live with my grandparents while I worked about an hour away from my hometown. During that time I watched my Grandpa do what had to be a hundred puzzles or more. After breakfast a hard top cover would go over the tablecloth and the puzzle would start. I would go into my room to work, only coming out at lunch and dinner. On days that I was able to get a couple more breaks, I would go out to the dining room and try to place a couple pieces before my hands got swatted, but I was mostly interested in seeing the overall progress. Watching a puzzle come together has a particular satisfaction that feels missing from the timeline scrolling and media pipeline that I am used to consuming. Odd Taxi has the familiar feeling of a puzzle. All the pieces are laid out in front of you and the enjoyment comes somewhere from deep in the back of your mind. A feeling that hasn’t reached the surface in a long while. There is a light buzz of satisfaction as the picture becomes clearer with each piece moving to its home. As we start to see certain sections of the puzzle as we place more, the fate of each character becomes clear as they show us more pieces of their story, until the entire picture is in front of us. It is not an incredible feeling, nor is it new, but it is the satisfying feeling of an accomplished picture and the warm glow of a job well done.
I am always one that has been incredibly ambitious when I find passion in something. It feels like we hear all of these stories of CEOs and creators who leave people behind, cheat, steal, or otherwise do horrible things to make sure that they get to, and stay, at the top. And admittedly, once you get so passionate about something, it’s easy to see why, even if I don’t think I have fallen into those trappings. Odd Taxi has characters who have to go through just that. Are they willing to let their ambitions cost their relationships, their self image, and their career opportunities? Is the price of reaching your desired mountain top worth all the little prices that you have to pay along the way and how are you going to justify those prices to yourself and the ones closest to you? With multiple characters publicly and privately struggling with this issue, it felt like the largest theme that characters grappled with, whether it was meant to be the central idea or not.
Lately I have been playing a lot of Legends of Runeterra. This is basically the equivalent of Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering for the League of Legends Universe. There is a screen in that game where you can see the amount of cards you own compared to how many cards there are in the game. Now, I am someone who has a pretty strict financial policy about spending money on in-game loot boxes and whatnot, I simply don’t. But lately I just want to collect all the cards so badly. So I’ve been playing and playing and finally realized that I wasn’t really even enjoying the game. It became about the quest to see a number instead of the enjoyment that I got. Odd Taxi had a similar character, but they were obsessed with a Gotcha Game. His addiction to the game led him to ruin and he truly became one of the largest issues for the whole cast, even though none of them actually knew him. While incredibly dramatized, there was something too familiar about the incessant collecting and playing of the game that ruined relationships, his financial outlook, and his mental. Enough to make me reconsider the amount of games that I play in my free time lately.
If you think I have complained about my dating life enough before, this review certainly won’t be the last time that you hear about it, so you can be sad about that. But you should also be sad for Kakihana. Our little banana eating friend has just about as much money as he has dates lined up and that gets him in trouble. He starts lying about who he is and living outside of his means. But I get it. I get the emotional destruction that simply not being desired by someone for so long does to the soul. I have never resorted to lying or misrepresenting myself because my ego is too big for that, but when you watch him, you can understand he is just a guy who wants a shot at love and hopes he can figure out the rest later. The trouble that this leads him to feels justified, and unnecessary at the same time, and while not the deepest of ideas, was one of the best subplots to follow.
One of the first things that pops into the back of my head when I am introduced to a new character or a new storyline is, “What does this person bring to the story?” With the amount of characters and storylines added throughout Odd Taxi, I asked this a lot. In fact, I asked this so often that I simply didn’t believe that all of the characters would be relevant throughout the whole thing. Surely not all of the twenty plus cast could impact the whole story? Right? Yes, yes they did. I have yet to see a show integrate so many storylines since I read the Game of Thrones series my sophomore year of university. The pacing is the pinnacle of the show. Crafting a story that contains the convergence of so many ideas, motivations, and personalities is usually limited to epics or other longer media. The genius of Odd Taxi is doing this in just thirteen episodes. Not only does each character contribute to the story, but each storyline affected several other ones and gave me so many “Oh wow, that was good” moments.
Any anime that has animals as main characters is a red flag for me. I don’t make a point to share my opinions on many communities of people, but I refuse to be associated in any way with furries. I have no shame in wanting nothing to do with that community and as so, media with personified animals is usually a no go. Somehow, Odd Taxi found a way to pique my interest through the peephole in my castle walls. Right off the bat, there is little to no romance, thank the Lord. So what do we get? What we got was something that was unique, but not ultimately impressive. In fact, a lot of the art reminds me of a lot of digital concept artists that I follow. There are lots of large single color areas that don’t use a lot of details. But the animation was clearly not the focus of this story driven show. For that to be the case, bringing a unique art style that mimics the intentional pacing of the show does wonders. While I am not versed in how shows are animated, the movement of the characters truly reflected the gravity of the situations they were in. The common pitfall of characters’ mood and movement not matching their environment never feels like a problem here. Without the coherence with the rest of the story, the animation might suffer from its minimalistic style in a world that is quickly moving away from that being the cutting edge.
We are stuck. If we looked solely at Odd Taxi’s ability to bring all the character’s storylines together like a professional seamstress, arguably the best part of the show, we would simply have a three point category and move on with our lives. It would be that simple. Yet it isn’t, because we never really gave the actual locations in the show the love that they needed. The bar that some of our characters frequented did the job. You could tell it was a homey, local bar that was a little off the beaten path. But what about the rest of the world? For instance, we hardly saw anything in Odokawa house other than his empty room. The doctor’s office, which is actually important to the plot, really doesn’t get much attention at all. It felt like ALL the emphasis was put on the characters and their interactions with each other instead of creating a world that is as visually interesting as the storylines that intersected inside of it were.
So much of my focus in these reviews is about how these categories help tell a story, but rarely do these elements tell a story of their own. The Odd Taxi soundtrack does just that, it tells a story by itself. Listening to the soundtrack was like taking a ride through your hometown after moving away for a while. All the memories made along the way are so clear, so tangible. Where most soundtracks have me wondering where I heard each one, I could recall almost every track in Odd Taxi. There was so much variation between the pop music associated with the idol characters, the rap with the gangsters, and all the rest with our main characters that it felt like the soundtrack was telling as much of a story as the dialog. This was not something that I feel like I truly appreciated until I listened to just the soundtrack. Music that I liked, but noticed only intermittently, felt familiar. I saw them all in a little bit clearer of a light and would easily listen to the soundtrack again just out of pure enjoyment.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||5||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||4||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||6||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||4||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||2||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||3||3|
Rarely does a show do a good job at making side characters as important as the main character. While the art and the animals might put you off to watching this show, as it originally did for me, the sheer mastery of storytelling and weaving of plots should be enough to make you reconsider this stance. It’s no secret this anime is good based on the number of views it gets and the amount of attention, but I never feel bad adding to the chorus singing praise.