Odd Taxi ‒ Episode 13

2 months ago 40

How would you rate episode 13 of
ODDTAXI ?

After 13 weeks of compounding convolution and mounting danger, ODDTAXI literally soars through its finale, sticking the landing with all the stalwart and slightly askew swagger that has come to define the series. It's satisfying in big and small ways. Big, because it takes its large main cast and gives everyone some closure, and small, because that closure is more often than not just a short and open-ended character beat—a comma instead of a period. That brevity is an inevitable consequence of the runtime, but I also believe it's consistent with ODDTAXI's understated mood. Despite Odokawa's increasingly hard-boiled adventures, this world and these characters always felt bigger than this story. They extend into the past, and now, into the future. We probably won't get a sequel (and I don't think we need one), but on the streets of this wild city, these people will continue living their lives, a little wearier, but also a little closer to each other.

The best example of the finale's elegance lies in how it handles its biggest reveal. And although it's related to it, that reveal is not Odokawa's visual agnosia. The episode actually displays incredible restraint in not making that the dramatic centerpiece of the conclusion, because a lesser, more sensational series would have languished in that last-minute twist. ODDTAXI respects its audience. It expects them to have figured out the trick behind the animal people a while ago, so it takes a comparatively clinical approach when unveiling that diagnosis. ODDTAXI instead reserves its drama for something much more important and affecting: Odokawa's childhood memories.

I expected a lot of good things from the finale, but I can't say I expected it to squeeze my heart so firmly. If anything, prior to this episode, I thought the biggest flaw holding ODDTAXI back from being a legendary anime (instead of a merely fantastic one) was its relative coldness. The neo-noir tone was impeccable, and the contemporary satire was bracing, but the emotional core was lacking. However, this installment delivers warmth in spades, and it does it so simply by reciting the diary that Goriki had pleaded so genuinely to obtain. Odokawa has done a lot of unbelievable and suspicious things this season, but here, his truth is laid bare, and the show reveals a lonely and sensitive kid who fixated on the few sources of respite he found in his broken home. He couldn't make friends. He couldn't look people in the eye. He just wanted to be loved as much as he loved the animals at the zoo. And as his mother drove him and his father towards annihilation, all he could think about was how nice it was to be together with his whole family in the car. It's heartbreaking.

Odokawa's life since that moment has been anything but perfect, but he lived all the same. Little by little, he managed to grow, connect, help others, and be saved by them. And now, he's grown enough to take his training wheels off and look others (and himself) in the eye as people, with all the nuances, nakedness, and newness that come with being vulnerable. The animal people weren't just a quirky aesthetic choice that helped ODDTAXI stand out from the crowd; they were an inextricable part of Odokawa's development as a person. That's more satisfying than any other twist the show could have thrown at us.

Lest I get too sentimental, ODDTAXI's finale also made me laugh a lot—although sometimes in short gasps in between the tears. The flying taxi scene is a perfect example that evokes all emotional extremes. It's a beautifully-constructed climax, visually marrying the movie-magic absurdity of Odokawa's moonlit dive with the other characters' various mementos of their individual tragedies and regrets. But in Kabasawa's case, it's just another chance to go viral. Or there's Shibagaki, who, in the middle of a touching heart-to-heart with his partner, and without missing a beat, delivers the scene's punchline. That's a quintessential ODDTAXI moment, and this episode is full of them. Another great example is Odokawa's near-death scare, which is made sadder and more stressful by his reminiscences, only to be expertly defused by Shirakawa's powerful application of her underwater queixada technique. I can't think of another story where a drowning victim is rescued by capoeira, and that's why I cherish ODDTAXI.

There are too many other details and moments to list that go into making this finale feel so satisfying. It's so fun to see everybody's real faces, and I love that we can immediately tell who is who based on visual input alone. That's a masterstroke of character design on both the human and animal fronts. The reveal of Odokawa's pet cat is also exquisitely deadpan. He seems as relieved as we are that he really was a good guy all along. Additionally, everyone gets a nice little bow tied on their character arcs. Some turn over a new leaf (I'm happy for Tanaka), some are still in the process of working things out (good luck with that job hunt, Kabasawa), and some mend what was broken over the course of the show (glad to see Goriki and Shirakawa working together again). In all cases, though, these stopping points feel natural. Homosapiens might have lost their radio gig, but they're still partners, and that's what matters. And we don't need to know whether Rui gets wrongfully convicted of murder; it's enough to know she managed to be true to her conscience.

There is, of course, one huge unresolved exception to these neat and tidy conclusions: Yuki's real murderer.

I prefer when endings aren't clean. I'm one of those sickos who don't believe Breaking Bad had the best final episode of all time. I'd much rather be perpetually haunted by the last note, like the eerie unmoored wail of Twin Peaks: The Return. ODDTAXI provides a refreshing blend of these extremes, taking its usual painstaking care to follow through on its dense web of setup and payoff, while also leaving one lone knife to dangle from the ceiling on one lone spidery thread. I guessed correctly that Sakura was the killer, but I didn't foresee how unnerving the revelation would be, nor could I have foreseen the deafening mic drop ending. It's bold as hell, and it's earned. ODDTAXI was always a little sinister. It always knew how to draw blood from its viewers. So this, too, is a follow-through that makes sense. I respect it. I love it. I hope we don't get a sequel, because this feels perfect to me. I can already imagine what happens from this point onwards, and I think ODDTAXI is smart enough to let me own that.

ODDTAXI is an easy Anime of the Year contender and a definite all-timer. It's one of the tightest-written television series I've ever watched, with a strong and idiosyncratic identity to boot. Kadzuya Konomoto has no other anime writing credits at this time, but I will be on the lookout for anything else he does. And similarly, while director Baku Kinoshita has no other anime credits, he's clearly a force to be reckoned with, able to extract a whole lot of personality out of a fairly modest production. However, even if they reunite on their next project, there will probably never be another anime quite like ODDTAXI. It's lightning in a bottle—an original series from fresh faces with a nonstandard aesthetic and a nonstandard approach to characters and dialogue. It waged battle against anime titans in an unusually stacked season, and it won.

Odokawa, refreshed after his nap, adjusts his cap and glances at the passenger through his rearview mirror. He asks the chipper young girl, “Where to?” She doesn't answer, but she doesn't have to. I already know where this taxi is headed: straight into my heart.

Rating:

ODDTAXI is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is hungry for anime and on the prowl for Revenge this season. Learn about this and more (i.e. bad anime livetweets) by following him on Twitter.

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