Odd Taxi – A great oddity

Japanese Title: Odd Taxi

 

Similar: Aggretsuko

Baccano

Paranoia Agent

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Mystery

Length: 13 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Excellent main mystery
  • A strong finish
  • Memorable visual design

Negatives:

  • Some side plots are superfluous
  • Jarring CG cars

(Request an anime for review here.)

If you, like me, are a seeker of more unique anime each season, then this one is for you. Odd Taxi is the “something different” of the spring 2021 slate and one I recommend.

It follows a dulcet walrus taxi driver that keeps his tusks clean. Odokawa finds himself thrown from the comforts of his taxicab when he gives rides to several disparate characters, seemingly unrelated, amid the disappearance of a high school girl. He encounters a pop idol, a nurse, a yakuza member, and even the police, amongst others.

In addition to being the different anime, Odd Taxi is the “furry” anime of the season – seems to one in each slate these days. However, Odd Taxi’s use of animals as character is different from the rest. In fact, I can’t recall any other story using an animal cast in this manner, which it succeeds in doing. It seems arbitrary at first, but it makes sense as you progress.

Similar sentiments apply to Odd Taxi as a whole. It starts a little slow and the various threads don’t seem to have much connection or relevance for a few episodes, but it grows better with time and the final act is excellent. The various characters and their threads are fascinating to follow (for the most part – more later) as you piece together the mystery of the girl’s disappearance. I always say that to have a great mystery, the viewer should be able to solve it before the revelations, even if they are unlikely to. Odd Taxi succeeds in that regard, so I’ll avoid spoilers.

The character arcs are a mix of noir crime and social commentary. The former mostly relate to the primary characters – the yakuza, the corrupt police, the dame – while the latter is for subplots. Ironically, the main crime threads have more comedy than the subplots do, where the social commentary gets dark at times.

The most interesting of the subplots relates to a gacha addict. The obsession started in school after his teacher’s attempt at equality between rich and poor students backfired by promoting inequality in other ways. For this guy, it manifested in the form of rare eraser collecting. Whichever kid had the rarest, most valuable erasers was the king of the playground. One thing leads to another and this kid steals his dad’s credit card, gets scammed, and he grows up with an addiction to collecting expensive yet meaningless exclusives, like units in a gacha mobile game. Despite being a whale (big spender), he can’t compete with a super whale. He too crosses Odokawa’s path. I won’t give away anything further.

On the other side, some subplots aren’t interesting or even relevant. At worst, they feel like cast padding. As in, “This show has too few characters. Add some more, slap on some social stuff to give them arc, and don’t worry about tying them to the main plot.” The most egregious of these and the one I would outright delete is the lonely monkey in search of a girlfriend. He’s so desperate for a girlfriend that he doesn’t care about being a sugar daddy as long as there is the illusion of a genuine relationship.

Apart from recurring appearances, the show dedicates an episode to him and that is where I zoned out. Odd Taxi hadn’t hit its peak – the third act – by this episode, so I had doubts about it being worth finishing after wasting time on this guy and other minor characters. His minor relevance isn’t worth the screen time wasted or the pacing slowed. I thought perhaps that he was a poor attempt at a red herring on the writers’ part, which if done properly would have been good. This guy is seeking a younger woman; maybe he took it too far with that high schooler and now her body is in the drying concrete at his work site. Pick any Agatha Christie novel and you’ll find a sizeable cast of characters, all of which are relevant and engaging because they matter to the construction of the main plot. Thankfully for Odd Taxi, these excess characters don’t diminish the main mystery directly. They’re just filler.

I’ve noticed a lot of 13-episode anime recently that bloat their casts of characters when they don’t have enough screen time for everyone. May be a coincidence.

Speaking of coincidence, the final negative I want to address is the contrivance in some cases. Coincidences should be used sparingly, particularly for the purposes of solving a situation. Odd Taxi isn’t too bad in this sense but it would have been even better if the writers had shaped events to avoid coincidences.

Negatives aside, Odd Taxi comes together to deliver a great mystery in an excellent third act amid an eccentric cast of characters. Can’t forget the unique use of anthropomorphism either. Recommended!

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch it. Odd Taxi is a rarity in anime, being both unique and great. Ideally, go in blind.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Strong Lead Characters

Negative: None

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