One of the most intriguing series from the last season is a slowburn mystery starring a walrus, an alpaca, and a mobster porcupine. ODDTAXI is the tightly-written noir we didn't know we needed. Nicky and Steve look into why ODDTAXI cannot be missed.
This series is streaming on Crunchyroll
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Nicky, every day I log onto Twitter and ask myself the same thing.
Well today I thought we could aim for virality (the good kind) by talking about this season's preeminent noir thriller, the wild ride that is ODDTAXI.
Wait that's not clickbaity enough to go viral, let me try again: The BEST ANIME of the season!! And it's about a talking WALRUS???
Strap in your seat belts, folks! We're going where the night is right, the city lights are bright, and the conversations are tight. The story of ODDTAXI, takes us on a trip in the backseat of the life of a 41-year-old cab driver named Odakawa. Immediately with its gently cartoonish style talking animals and bright color palette contrasted with the dark underpinnings of a classic noir-style murder mystery and the more down-to-earth focus on everyday idle chatter, everything about this show feels like a vehicle for something eccentric.
I think I've used the word "idiosyncratic" at least once per review this season, but there are any number of adjectives you can throw at ODDTAXI. It really does feel like a one-of-a-kind event, and it's been super satisfying to watch its patient slow burn story heat up into the fiery climax we're still in the middle of.
I also don't think I've ever written about a show with this many moving and intersecting parts. It's felt downright dizzying at times lol.
And it's surprising because there's a lot of elements about ODDTAXI that at first glance feel pretty lowkey. But even though an anime about a bunch of furries having mundane car conversations might not seem as impressive as its flashier contemporaries, it really weaves every single one of its gimmicks quite well in a way that you can tell it's well-crafted.
It becomes more and more obvious each week how much thought went into constructing an airtight narrative. There were hints buried in episode one that only just got revealed this week! It's nuts. But I think what really makes ODDTAXI special, beyond its plotting, are its characters. They're all compelling in their own way, and I have to admit I have a particularly soft spot for that pathologically Online hippo Kabasawa.
ODDTAXI truly understands the mind of a poster.
Yeah, mysteries require a lot of setup and execution, and even then it's really hard to pull them off satisfyingly. But I think part of what makes it work is a lot of the chill atmosphere. It gives you a rearview look at the interior of each of the passengers with conversations that stem from being funny, to relatable, to heartwarming. Even being able to poke fun at itself from time to time.
It's easy to forget when this week's episode gets so tense, but this is the kind of show that can spend an entire minute on a pointless conversation about Bruce Springsteen, and it kicks ass.
And although the show is quick to dismiss the concept of a "generation gap," a lot of its conversations do end up being jaded, boomer-heavy takes on modern absurdities. I like that tho! The show has a really distinctive voice that we just don't hear in other anime. And deep down, I suppose I just like watching middle-aged cartoon animals complain about Twitter.
That's just part of its influences and showing how deeply aware of how different it is. ODDTAXI is a cartoon but it's really pulling a lot from things more typical of live-action or radio. I also think behind a lot of the posturing, there's a deep sincerity about it that's really endearing. It's kinda like playing Animal Crossing but darker. One of the best singular episodes is about how gacha is evil and ruins lives.
Anyway, enough posturing. Let's examine the evidence and take a closer look at our suspects.
There are a lot of them! In fact there are so many that the official ODDTAXI site includes a helpful whiteboard that keeps track of all the characters and their relationships.
Its very own Pepe Silvia, as you'd call it.
Obviously we're not gonna cover all of these, but I just think it's really funny that the showrunners realized we would definitely need a visual reference at some point.
Despite taking place in a big city, I think part of what makes the story work is that every character somehow ends up being involved with each other with Odokawa at the center. Among the factions we have an idol group, the mob, a comedy duo, the police, the clinic, and a few others. While seemingly average, they all carry some shady elements to them. Odokawa is no exception; the nature of the story hinges on you suspecting the reliability of his perspective and his relationship to the missing girl. There's no shortage incriminating things about him. After all, he's like, pretty weird.
Good on ODDTAXI for keeping that someone/something in his closet under wraps for the entire season. It's only made Odokawa that much more interesting, because even though he's our protagonist, we clearly don't know everything about him.
I'm also holding fast to the theory that he has fursona-vision, and the only reason the show looks like it does is that we're seeing people through his perspective. I will be vindicated in the finale, and all doubters will be ashamed of their words and deeds.
I'm pretty sure that's just canon at this point. It's wild. But Odakawa is also as suspicious as he is sympathetic, as heroic as he is tragic, and as perceptive as he is vague. His voice actor, Natsuki Hanae, does a wonderful job performing as him too, despite being no where close to being an old man yet. It's Odokawa's complex personality that bring out the multitudes of everyone who enters his space too.
On one hand, Odokawa is a schlubby soft-spoken nobody, but on the other hand, he's really shrewd and deceptively disarming. Like, he pulls off some bold gambits: secretly recording Dobu, helping Imai behind the scenes, rescuing Kakihana, getting Little Daimon on his side. The list goes on. Even this week, right after the robbery, he's still throwing quips back at Dobu like it's nothing.
As time goes on, it's clear he's also got a keen sense of justice and that he would do anything to protect his friends. Likewise, although starting out casual, we see that others care about Odokawa just about as much as he cares about them, even as we're still suspicious of him.
Goriki's a true gorilla bro, but we all know who's really the muscle protecting our hero's behind.
I love how Shirakawa goes from a damsel for our hero to rescue after being victim to a bad situation (medical school loans!!) to totally saving his ass, lol. Even when her martial arts is totally played for laughs, at first.
Thanks to ODDTAXI, I will never speak ill of capoeira. Not that I ever would have in the first place, but should the temptation ever take hold, I'll always have an angry alpaca in my head as a deterrent.
The rapid-fire jokes being secret Chekhov's gun is really just icing on the whole chocolate noir-mystery cake. Just a delight to see the stuff that's supposed to be disarming also be some of the stuff driving home the tension of the plot. It's made ODDTAXI a really enriching experience every week. As an original, everyone is pretty much at the same mercy of watching everything unfold at the same time.
That's part of why I'm trying to be light on the plot spoilers here because Ifigure it's much more rewarding to watch and figure it out for yourself.
I mean if you're this far in the column and you haven't watched ODDTAXI, what's your problem? Get on that immediately! And once the show's done, you're probably gonna want to watch it over again, because I know I will. I've already rewatched some individual scenes for my weekly reviews, and I'm always amazed at how much context some of the later revelations add to the earlier episodes.
Same here, I've rewatched many episodes for this column and it's been deeply rewarding.
And I also think the anime's command of its tone is tremendous, and definitely contributes to its watchability. Like, using Tanaka's first rampage as an example, that's a legitimately scary scene that then gets defused by my favorite line of dialogue in the whole series. It's black humor done deliciously well.
The cast is also really idiosyntric and it makes each moving piece feel distinctive. One of the mob leaders is a rap-loving porcupine that can only speak in rhyme. This man spits bars like he's been cursed by a Hip-Hop Wizard and Dr. Seuss, combined.
He also can't deal with dead bodies despite being part of the underworld. Again, it's that stuff paired with the cute designs that creates something really endearing.
I've compared ODDTAXI to the Coen Brothers' films before, and I think they're still the closest to the offbeat crime thriller vibes I get from the show. But you can definitely draw comparisons to other voices like Tarantino or Scorsese—not obscure artists by any means, but it's rare to see an anime use and synthesize them in such a distinctive way. With furries.
Oh and there's also that time Kabasawa became The Joker.
Kabasawa is deffo important despite being mostly the butt of the joke. I think one of the things that sets ODDTAXI apart from the directors you mentioned is that it's trying to be a modern successor. It's got the aesthetic down, but also plays into the authenticity and intimacy that makes those kinds of stories intriguing to me. I talked about how we don't get many good mysteries in anime, but that can also be true of entertainment in general. It becomes increasingly difficult to deal with all the elements of a plot when everyone ALSO has a tiny computer in their pockets to grant them information.
It's halfway between a running gag and a legitimate thematic concern at this point, but ODDTAXI keeps finding new ways to tell people to log the heck off.
Dobu basically intimidates Kabusawa into quitting his YouTube Batman career by telling him to touch grass.
In a kind of endearing "old man yells at cloud" sort of way, but there are some deep nuggets of truth here! In fact, I love how real Dobu's advice gets.
Like, what a cutting and powerful statement from a cartoon baboon! That genuinely hit me. And then Dobu robs Kabasawa and leaves him stranded on the pier. That's what makes ODDTAXI so good.
TFW the local thug is more wise and emotionally stable than you.
I mean he's also a dangerous and manipulative sociopath who uses his natural charisma to suck other people dry. But he's still correct to tell Kabasawa to stop posting.
Strangely, he's one of the most straightforward characters. He's a thug but he's pretty open about his crimes and not too cunning. Odokawa gets dragged into working with him but only cooperates to ensure he sees real justice. But the fact still remains that he's too obvious to be the worst criminal of the bunch here. It's pretty clear he didn't do the murder and in fact catching him seems like the best outcome for him.
ODDTAXI doesn't really absolve anyone of their crimes but it paints such a human portrait of its anthro-characters that I kinda wanna know what it could do to take the best road out.
Yeah even former gag characters like the Daimon Bros get a nice slice of pathos eventually. Heck, I'm probably the most emotionally invested in the least melodramatic subplot of the series, which has nothing to do with crime, unless you consider manzai a crime against comedy, which might be fair.
Regardless, I like both Shibagaki and Baba a whole lot, and I genuinely want to see their friendship survive. All of my best friendships are built on bad jokes too, after all.
In fact, you can say that this whole column is actually just one bad comedy routine. Bad dum tish
Or maybe we're just too funny for simple minded philistines to enjoy. Have you considered that?
...it's actually becoming more clear to me now why I relate to Shibagaki so much.
I also just realized we've hardly mentioned the most evil presence in this or any series: idols.
Not that we need to go into the mysteries of Mystery Kiss, since they're also at the center of almost everything.
Look, other than gacha, the only other thing that can forge you into a cold-hearted murderer is the idol industry. The true story of Mystery Kiss is one I'll stay tightlipped about because it's so harrowing.
And we don't even have the complete true story yet, because, like any good noir yarn, we have an unsolved murder haunting every corner of the narrative up until its very last minute. I have my theories (well, one big one), but I'm eager to see the conclusion next week regardless of whether I'm right or not.
It's natural to assume the worst of every character involved in this whole she-bang at first and then the surprise comes from getting to actually know them. However, some of them can't escape that slight shadow of doubt that they might be a killer even when we're (literally) chasing the finale.
Quick! Everyone, get your theories about who you think the murderer is now before it's too late!
Honestly, barring some kind of unforeseeable last minute storytelling collapse, I have faith that the finale is going to be a banger. Every episode so far has oozed with cool confidence, so there's no reason why ODDTAXI shouldn't be able to stick its landing. Or whatever the taxi equivalent of that metaphor is. Parallel parking? Let's go with that.
Oh yeah, it's just been super smooth ride, through and through. Even in a strong anime season, I think it's easily the boldest. Also, it definitely has one of the coolest OPs of the season with a distinct watercolor-like look and chill beats. It's definitely gonna stick in my head for a long time like a grizzled detective's inner monologue.
Everyone bow down to the Tinder-obsessed Monkey.
Well, I think that just about wraps this case of serious sleuthing for this series. If you want to see us unravel more mysteries about what the best anime is: don't forget to hit the like button, leave a comment, and subscribe!
Y'know, I haven't picked a definitive seasonal favorite anime yet, but if a gacha-poisoned puma man put a gun to my head, I think I know what I'd say