I watched Episodes 4 and 5 of Odd Taxi Monday. I was going to do a review over both episodes, but from what I remember, there was almost a disconnect between episodes. And it was episode 4 that stood out to me.
Both episodes were good. 5 was more of that gangster, noir espionage feel that the show has used to great effect. Episode #4, however, had a unique vibe. It told a different, but still interwoven, story about a cat and addiction. His addiction centers around collecting, gambling and loss of self identity. In an essence, it tells a story of consumerism stealing our meaning in life.
This topic hits pretty close to me for two reasons. The first is that I work at a hobby collectible shop and we see a lot people make bad financial decisions in order to obtain cool stuff. Personally, I believe people work for money and would gladly trade that money in for happiness in the form of trinkets and games. I think that part is natural. Though, there is a line where it becomes unhealthy. Some people do it because of the dopamine hit. Others do it to belong to the exclusive clubs that come along with the items. Others determine their whole self value based off of what they have in their possession. Obviously rich people do this too (keeping up with the Jones). And that lifestyle leads to bankruptcy and burn out. It happens to the lower-middle class as well.
The second reason is because in my sustainability classes, we actively preach against the false comfort that is consumerism. We talk about the power of freeing yourself from the shackles that are identifying your worth based off what you own. (Not talking about assets like stocks and such.)
The story follows Tanaka, a cat whose life is spiralling out of control. It’s been a 16 year build up of just bad decision after bad decision. The beginning of this episode deals with school yard psychology as Tanaka and his class peers compete to have the rarest most collectible erasers. One kid’s parents travel and as a result can buy exotic erasers from other countries. Tanaka cannot compete with this. I think this is an important lesson for kids and adults. There will always be someone richer than you. Dont compete with money. If I am remembering right, we never see Tanaka use any of his personal traits to win the kids over. He never uses his humor, his charm or any interesting facts about him. He just tries to impress the kids with expensive erasers. And how does he do that? He steals his dad’s credit card and pays a ridiculous amount for something half the price. This earns his father’s ire.
I’m not sure what message the show was giving by having the expensive eraser never be shipped after he won it from ebay. My only guess is to make the username the antagonist. As the username will pop up later. The next step the show takes is to have his classmates move on from eraser collecting and the eraser never shows up. However, I thought it would have been impactful for him to rush to class to show off his new eraser and the other students dont even acknowledge it or even make fun of him for still liking those while he desperately clings to the item he just spent a small fortune on.
Either way, fast forward I think 16 years and we find Tanaka has a nice job and hes learned his lesson. He still likes collecting but now its digital through a free to play zoo game. The game gives daily coins for free and will mostly reward you with common and uncommon (not rare or super rare) animals. For the ol giggles, he checks the player with the best rated zoo. It’s the same name as the eBay seller from 16 years ago. That old primal rage is resparked. He now wants the best zoo. He starts off small, only putting in a 1,000 yen a week. However, frustrated with not seeing the results he wants, he ups the spending big time. Before long, he has put about a million yen in a free to play.
This is the huge PSA announcement. The social commentary here is how predatory gacha machines and similar games can be. It feeds off of gambling tendencies and our rush of dopamine from the chance of pulling something rare. Tanaka plays as a stand in for the audience. For the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost countless money on these gimmicks.
So, finally after 16 long years Tanaka gets his revenge. He hatches the dodo bird (the rarest animal in the game). He literally starts crying tears in the middle of the street. His joy is cut short when a crazy taxi driver (you’ll never guess who) drives recklessly around a corner. This causes Tanaka to jump out of the way, dropping his phone on the ground and into a ditch of water…
He retrieves the phone but the progress is lost. The dodo bird no longer resides in his zoo. To make matters worse, Tanaka’s real bird dies. While burying the bird he stumbles upon a gun. Now, with dead eyes and a taste for revenge, Tanaka sets out to kill Odokawa.
This episode is a masterpiece. Plain and simple. The fact that they can, in the middle of the anime, shift gears and focus on a formerly nameless character and it still has the same feel as the right of the series, you know theres something special about this anime. I love the nonlinear storytelling, the narration and dialogue, the characters and the world, it all just blends seamlessly into a near perfect anime. You have to observe everything because it could become the focal point of another episode soon enough. I’m completely sold on this anime. I already was, but now its official. This anime is genius and I cant wait to see how it end.
Today’s Manga Monday will examine Jujutsu Kaisen. Jujutsu Kaisen was written and drawn by Gege Akutami. It began serialization in 2018. It was brought stateside thanks to Viz Media.
Spoilers: Only regarding the first manga. Nothing series wide.
Plot: The plot centers around a young protagonist named Yuji Itadori. For the sake of not just regurgitating the story, we will paraphrase. Yuji Itadori and fellow classmates recover an ancient talisman, a cursed finger. Well, time has passed and the protection thought to be derived from the talisman is beginning to fade. With it fading, demons and curses are attracted to the negative energy school yards attract. All of this is explained by a jujutsu sorcerer to Itadori. Understanding the dire situation, and while facing very strong curses, Itadori consumes the cursed finger. With this, the super graded demon lord, Sukuna the King of Curses possess Itadori. Now, just like in Tokyo Ghoul and Parasyte, our main hero is also the antagonist.
Yuji Itadori- As a lead character, I don’t think we’ve seen him fully developed of course. However, as a person, we have a lot to go off of. He is extremely selfless. With two of his classmates life on the line, he rushes into combat. He has no powers, yet. Still he aggressively fights high grade curses with no regard for his own life. This attitude continued through the 7 chapter volume. When he comes face to face with another high level curse, he buys his teammates enough time to escape from the curse. I cannot wait to see Itadori keep evolving into a great lead character.
Jujutsu Sorcerers- Most of the other characters we spend time with are jujutsu sorcerers. Think of these people almost as ninja’s infused with chakra in Naruto. These sorcerers can sense curses, use “magic” (I guess?), and ultimately fight the evil curses. These characters are Satoru Gojo, Nobara Kugisaki, and Megumi Fushiguro (pictured below, respectively). Fushiguro is the character with the most panel time, but I don’t remember if he got fleshed out yet. However, when the characters are together, in any capacity really, they are enjoyable. The chemistry is good, the dialogue is enjoyable, and they get to fight a good bit of curses throughout these early chapters.
The World: The world is pretty similar to ours but there is a big difference. Spirits, demons, and curses are all real and materialized. There is a Jujutsu Sorcery school where people are trained to become elite sorcerers. Personally, I hope the school and the rest of the sorcerers get more panel time as the series goes on.
Recap: Jujutsu Kaisen is the next in Shonen Jump’s signature action packed comedy realm that they just exceed at. Akin to other shonens of the past like Naruto, Jujutsu Kaisen is an easy to jump into kind of manga.
Action: Plenty. Definitely a strong suit for the manga.
Romance: None at the moment. At least I did not pick up on any.
Plot: I like it. I’ve read a few super natural mangas and this ranks with the best of them.
Characters: I really like the 4 main characters. The villains seem interesting but I’m mostly projecting here.
The World: While similar to ours, there is enough uniqueness to make the world cool.
Humor: The manga is funny, but not nearly as funny as some of the others we’ve reviewed. You will certainly chuckle at some parts though.
Verdict: It is a great time to jump in as the anime is only about 3 episodes deep as of the posting of this blog. This manga follows in the long line of epic Shonen Jump’s from decades past. A must for fans of the genre.
Score: 9 out of 10. This manga has all the makings of a classic. It has humor, action, and likeable characters. The first chapter was a little slow. The fight scenes and some of the more hectic panels are hard to follow but that can be a weakness in a lot of black and white manga. I think it assorted itself as a clear top tier manga while falling just short of some of the heavier hitters like Tokyo Ghoul. I am excited for the anime and to follow the manga closely.
Thanks for reading! Have a great day!
Continued Reading Below!