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.
A new season of anime is upon us. The first one we will be reviewing is DON’T TOY WITH ME, MISS NAGATORO.
I’m going to be completely honest here. This anime straddles the line of cute and enjoyable to unwatchable all through out the first two episodes. The story centers almost exclusively around the two main characters: Nagatoro and Naoto Hachioji. Hachioji is an awkward introvert who mostly seeks to avoid attention from his fellow classmates. Nagatoro gets off to bullying Hachioji. Why she enjoys pestering him is still open for interpretation. Something cool the show did was it did not show any character’s (except for Hachioji’s) eyes until the 5 and half minute maker. Of course, Nagatoro’s eyes are the ones we see.
Hachioji explains why we don’t see the other students’ eyes. He says “Look away, close my mind” (at the 20:06 minute marker of Episode #1). All these students have bullied him throughout his life over his mangas and drawing. So, when we are introduced to Nagatoro and we see her eyes, I assumed she was going to be nice. Boy, was I wrong.
And that’s where my problems begin. She straight up bullies him. I sat through the second episode hoping the characters would become a tad bit more complex. Meh. There is a cafe scene that gives me hope the two will develop. However, for now, be prepared. Both of these characters are hard to root for.
Nagatoro is very harsh. She degrades him, mocks him, inflicts physical and mental abuse to him. I won’t even go into detail over some of the stuff she does to him but most of it is sexual abuse or at least taunting him. Which is what makes it so hard to watch. It is more than teasing, it is dehumanizing in a lot of way. If Hachioji could defend himself or create a line in the sand, I feel like we might get somewhere. For now, he is stuck in this mindset of “eww, she’s so mean” but also “ahhh, a cute girl”. Because he has been bullied his whole life, he tolerates her behavior.
It’s interesting to say the least. The animation is great. The sound effects and visual gags are highly entertaining. Some of the scenarios they find themselves in are innocent but still have high sexual undertones. These can be okay. For example, the vampire subplot was fine before she fell and groped him. She then used this as a chance to beat him down by mocking him saying that was the first time a girl touched him. Scenes start off fine and quickly cross a line. And based off of Hachioji’s body language it is hard to tell if he enjoys it or is too scared or nervous to ask her to stop. And Nagatoro’s outward demeanor makes it hard to gauge if she hurting him out of in
I can get the appeal of this anime. Again, it can look great and be funny. A socially awkward male lead combined with a cute and confident female do create a pretty unique working dynamic at times. Some of the teasing is entertaining. And again, the cafe scene gives hope for something deeper.
Still, as of the first two episodes this is a unique rom com that occasionally rises above mediocrity. The relationship between Nagatoro and Hachioji is different and interesting enough that’ll keep checking this one out and see if it becomes a guilty pleasure or slog to get through.
Score: 6 out of 10 (For now)
Next up, we review the first three episodes of Odd Taxi (spoiler alert- I love that one!)