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.
At first glance, I was ready to write this anime off as a weird and almost budget title, as nothing impressed me within in the first minute or so. But as this show went on, man did it catch fire.
Taxi Driver vibes are hard to fend off as our main character’s occupation is taxi driving. However, were far too early to truly understand the main character’s, Odokawa, reason behind taxi driving. Though we do know he is sarcastic and brutally honest. He rarely leaves to doubt what’s on his mind. No, he’s not likeable and you’d have to have his sadistic sense of humor to love him. Yet, over time you find yourself rooting for him. I dont know if I would say he becomes more noble or more relatable (I really want to say he becomes more humanized since all the characters are animal.)
With early thoughts out of the way, let’s jump into the plot. A teenage girl has disappeared. She was last seen getting into Odokawa’s taxi and was not seen again. Of course suspension is turned onto Odokawa following the news. However, there’s a baboon named Dobu who is a gangster. Some people believe he is the one who kidnaps her. Dobu is interested in talking with Odokawa because Dobu believes Odokawa kidnapped the girl and Dobu is being set up. Dobu’s boss also has interest in finding the girl and hires him to do some snooping on Odokawa to get to the bottom of it.
So, more or less, that’s the plot. Why did this girl get in Odokawa’s taxi? Why is she hiding from her father? How does the mob tie into all this? Not to mention wondering how all the side characters fit into the puzzle. There’s an alpaca nurse who is believed to have stole a ton of drugs from the pharmacy. Odokawa’s buddy, Kakihana the gibbon. And the latest development, a girl band lead by a trio of puddles. Their agents are sneaking around in the background. And a radio duo are trying to navigate their careers.
What’s makes this show so darn exhilarating is, first and for most, the main plot. This show is not afraid of some really cool scenes. Such as when Dobu gets in Odokawa’s taxi and tells him to drive while he holds him at gun point. On top of the mystery and noir genres being perfectly executed, theres all the background subplots. On top of the main genres, we have a slice of life, a buddy film, flashes of musical, and so many other genres and plots flawlessly being weaved together. The characters are not only very well written, they are well performed as well. Most of the dialogue is so fluid and smooth. It’s like watching Pulp Fiction meets Taxi Driver and for that, I think we can call this one heck of a ride.
Of the animes I’ve seen this season, this one has been my favorite for sure. I can’t wait for more episodes to roll out. This one was very hard to review. It does not fit in a generic mold. It’s unlike most animes I’ve seen. It has so many highlights it is hard to pick a favorite aspect. Yet, at the same time, there’s so many mysteries. It is hard to gauge how good the characters are right now. Will the subplots have pay offs? There’s a lot still up in the air. With that said:
Score: 9.5 out of 10 (For now)
Watch it on Crunchyroll now: https://www.crunchyroll.com/oddtaxi/episode-1-the-eccentric-driver-810846
Next up is probably To Your Eternity.