Odd Taxi – Episode 1

1 month ago 25

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’re checking out another currently airing show, as I’ve been hearing all manner of wild things about Odd Taxi. Sources have reported that Odd Taxi’s dialogue and structure put it squarely in “how the hell was this ever greenlit” territory, and I’m always down for an anime that’s artistically ambitious and relentlessly unmarketable. Even the show’s staff is profoundly strange: Odd Taxi’s director Baku Kinoshita has no other anime credits, yet has handled every single storyboard for the show so far, along with its character designs. My only expectations so far are “refreshingly human conversations between genuinely adult characters,” so with that frustratingly rare treasure in mind, let’s dive right into the show. What’s your deal, Odd Taxi?

Episode 1

Aw, this rough painted style for the opening is abundantly charming, and we open on the protagonist saying hello to a cat. This is going to be a good show

This song is quite pleasant too, and the storyboarding of this OP is playfully ambitious. Looking at the staff, I am once again presented by a storyboarder who has no other credits in anime. What is this show?

God, the rough color work, the transforming compositions driven by rough splashes of paint, the playful interpretations of each character’s daily life – this is a truly excellent OP

The show opens on an ominous note, as a bag with cinder blocks wrapped around it is dumped into deep waters. Someone is getting rid of a body

Sharp transition out, using the bubbles rising to echo our protagonists’ rush into wakefulness. And the resulting composition feels genuinely filmic, with the muted lighting and sound design crafting a surprisingly convincing mood

The radio announces a high school girl has gone missing, strongly implying that was her body in the water

Generally smart direction here, and a careful attention to detail in what objects the camera highlights. We essentially use this bottle of tea to introduce the contents of the car, as the camera follows the driver’s arm, introducing aspects like his prescription medication in the glove compartment

Also like the use of the radio to create a general tone of the larger world around this character. Evangelion also used that trick to great effect, frequently puncturing a character’s silent reflections with babble from the television one room over

The CG car’s a necessary concession, but I appreciate that the backgrounds are maintaining that rough-edged, painterly style from the OP

Clever use of diegetic music to transition into introducing the overall world; the failed comedians drew our attention down to the cab itself, but now this song acts as a sort of binding agent for this montage across the city

It actually looks like the girl singing this song will be one of the show’s passengers

What confident transitions! This director’s lack of experience in anime seems like an actual bonus; rather than cutting at the tempo of adapted manga panels, he’s cutting like a feature film, making even tiny sequences like this transition back into the cab feel fun and energetic

Out of the blue, this hippo passenger asks if anything interesting has happened to the driver

“I’m starting to realize I wasn’t that interested in the answer to my own question.”

The vocal direction is also more evocative of live-action cinema than anime, enhancing the show’s realistic feel

The hippo wants to go viral. The dialogue is resoundingly naturalistic, and I am so here for it. Already, this script feels more adult-oriented than the bombastic anime standard

Our driver is not one to mince words. He immediately despises the exaggerated, self-aggrandizing, twee affectation that people tend to evoke on social media. I like this guy

“Wholesome posts tend to go viral, too.” God, this segment is such a delightful skewering of the vast insincerity of social media, and how even expressions of “earnest” connection are frequently a fabricated thrust against our fundamental sense of isolation. We are deeply alone, and so we perform the idea of a happy, collective society to earn clout with each other

We at last get the driver’s name: Odokawa

The cop brothers are looking for the monkey with the gun from the OP. Odokawa implies that the older brother already knows him, which he denies

Because almost all the animated action takes place inside the cab, the show is free to paint all its exterior backgrounds in the beautiful style of the OP. Odd Taxi is making maximum use of its aesthetic resources, and actually looks really good on the whole in spite of its obviously modest production

This next scene offers another neat example of this show’s humble yet expressive choices, as these wipe transitions and static red-saturated images evoke a painful history for Odokawa

Now the would-be radio comedians are bickering with each other. I like how they serve as a tonal reset back to the silent cab, as well as creating another thread of character continuity within the production. They evoke something almost like the general bustle of the city itself, a comforting background noise that assures all city dwellers of their ultimate interconnectedness

Yes, I am a fan of cities

Graceful plotting, too. After the hippo predictably leaves his phone behind, Odokawa checks in on the viral tweet, and notices the monkey lurking in the background

The monkey appears to be meeting with the adorable llama character

More delightful backgrounds as we arrive at Odokawa’s home. The cohesiveness of this production’s every element seems like it must be the result of Kinoshita having his hands on basically everything

The repeated intrusion of news reports on this missing girl creates a building sense of dread, like a darker world is slowly creeping up behind Odokawa. Another classic film trick, where the characters are preoccupied with their daily lives, but we in the audience are being primed for disaster. The intersection of storytelling and human behavior is kinda funny that way – people within a narrative have no reason to believe every news report they hear is relevant to them specifically, but us in the audience know that a story wouldn’t be showing us something if it wasn’t important, thus creating a natural sense of dramatic irony

It seems like the missing girl may actually be hiding out at Odokawa’s place

More wandering, matter-of-fact dialogue as Odokawa visits a clinic, and ends up chatting with the doctor and nurse about his favorite rakugo performer. Odd Taxi consistently includes all the odd stops and starts that define real life conversations, which are generally sanded off for the sake of propulsive narrative drama. It’s a bit novelistic in its approach to dialogue

Odokawa is a pretty blunt person, with a lot of negative takes. It’s now clear why he generally tries to think of a diplomatic answer when people ask him questions: his natural inclination is to say things that will make people mad

“Drop the generation gap crap.” The doctor keeps trying to find a point of commonality, and Odokawa keeps shooting him down

Ahaha. At last they connect on music, which leads into a rambling discussion of how nice “Bruce Springsteen” sounds to say

Odokawa has been having trouble sleeping. I like all these quiet indicators of his life spiraling outside his control

And as he leaves, the llama nurse is wreathed in a golden halo of light from the window. We clearly haven’t seen the last of her

This direction is so confident! I love this transition to the cop reflected in Odokawa’s car window, like a vulture looming above his business

They’ve allegedly received information linking him to the disappearance. “If you’ve got nothing to hide, open your door”

They take his dashcam footage, and warn him that if he goes to the police, an armed criminal might kill him. Oh law enforcement, what would we do without you

We cut to a monkey lamenting his job at a local bar, while disinterestedly swiping on a dating app. Odd Taxi really understands the cadence of modern life, and this focus on adult life is so refreshing in this adolescence-obsessed medium

The monkey reveals that Odokawa’s parents abandoned him

We also learn that the monkey with a gun’s name is Dobu. I love how after a full episode following Odokawa, we only start to actually learn names and relationships once we check in on his far more gossipy neighbors

The doctor learns more pills have been stolen from his clinic. It feels like the show is deliberately setting us up with a red herring here, implying that Odokawa and the nurse are collaborating in some seedy underground business

Ah, she’s an alpaca, not a llama

Unsurprisingly, the cop is working with Dobu

And Done

Oh man, what a good fucking first episode that was! Confident, naturalistic dialogue, terrific storyboarding, charming background art, and an overall clear sense of purpose and momentum, which kept the overarching narrative moving while still letting individual conversations breathe. I quite frankly don’t normally expect this tier of writing and cinematography from seasonal shows; the script possesses both a mastery of formal execution and a clear ear for the nuances of everyday conversation, and the storyboarding demonstrates a flexibility and confidence that can only come from a broad array of visual influences. What a wonderful surprise of a show!

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