Honestly? This one was just a shot in the dark. And my god, this show was way more involved than I ever thought it would be. Both in a good way…and a bad way.
A body is thrown into the harbor, a police report for a missing girl has been filed, and a private taxi driver is thought to be someone who had driven the girl sometime before is said to be one of the few leads to the missing girl case.
A simple synopsis for a mystery whodunit for sure, but one that executes on this story in a complex yet somehow rewarding narrative that trails numerous plot threads that all arrive in some form or another, a single point. Odd Taxi is certainly a strange show, one that mixes budding idols with Yakuza and medical professionals all to create a sort of thrill show that both talks a lot and does a lot. From the beginning, the show sets out a lot of pieces on the board. Practically every character that the show focuses on has some kind of importance to the story which can vary from being a starting gun to an event before going on their own personal arc, to a relatively unknown character becoming a reckoning force for one reason or another. Because of this style of writing, the show ends up flip-flopping through a lot of perspectives, sometimes focusing on one branch of the cast before swapping to someone else for whatever character arc they’re going through. It’s all a jumbled mess at first, but it comes out surprisingly cohesive since some threads start to get resolved before the show’s runtime reaches its end. Durarara and Baccano initially come to mind when talking about stories that have this sort of converging storyline, but unlike them, Odd Taxi lacks clarity a lot of the time.
While the missing girl at the start of the series is the supposed main priority of the show, it often doesn’t feel like that on account of the fact that the show tends to pull itself in many other story directions. Because every character has some kind of individual arc to them, the show comes off as unfocused sometimes, as plots of thievery, internet clout, and whatever the hell the comedy duo was supposed to be started to become more important to the story instead of figuring out who was the real culprit at the end of the day. And while things do end up configuring themselves into a neat shape at the end of the day, the show feels like it has a lot of extra fat to it that should’ve been cut out. The result of this creates a number of plot conveniences whose sole purposes are just to drive the plot forward at an even pace without thinking too much on the logistical stuff of how things got to that point in the first place.
So while the complicated writing certainly is part of the show’s downfall at the end of the day, there’s still quite a lot to love about this show. The dialogue for one thing with some of the interactions that the characters have (especially early on) feels very modern and doesn’t feel scripted, but instead just two individuals talking. On top of that, the way that things sort of fall into place feels oddly rewarding to watch after you’ve figured things out. The show has a lot of little clues sprinkled around the show, a lot of key elements and small details that end up snapping into place once the reveals happen. It’s a fun puzzle to watch from start to finish, and it has quite a number of engaging elements I feel because of that.
Overall, I feel like Odd Taxi is a wholly unique experience that serves as an individual puzzle box with sometimes way too many moving parts at the end of the day. Personally I feel like a third of what was presented here didn’t need to be here, and a number of the less than impactful plot threads could’ve been done away in favor of a better paced ending that didn’t feel like it threw in a bunch of poorly paced and sudden details that ended up making a rather cohesive ending. On top of that, the show has several scenes that I personally found very difficult to watch. No, there’s no crazy amount of blood and gore here. But in place of that, characters that’re related to social media or the internet in any fashion have some of my least favorite plotlines that generally didn’t have much to do with the story and either obstructed the flow of the story or ate up time. Great commentary pieces on our society for sure, but they only tangentially related to what would be regarded as the ‘main’ story most of the time.
Odakawa as an entity is one that interacts with everyone but is also mostly shrouded in mystery. He’s an independent taxi driver, one that works on his own hours and just so happened to ferry a number of different key individuals in the story. The thing I find strange is that he’s oddly chill about everything that’s happened and or is going on, which leads him to be a more grounded protagonist in comparison to the rest of the typically more aloof cast members that he’s surrounded with. Personally I like the contrast, and it brings a sense of level-headedness that only breaks when things go wrong, thus adding more to the tension of the show. On top of that, he’s got his own mystery to himself, one that sets a completely different character in the cast on a journey to figure out what happened to this walrus in the past. Despite that interesting little tidbit however, Odakawa is mostly just a blasé protagonist that seems a little too chill about everything that’s happening to him. Sure it works for the narrative, but because so much of him is saved till the end of the show, he feels lackluster for a greater majority of the runtime.
So because there’re so many other characters in this story, I’ve decided to lump them up in one section because there is honest to god over a dozen other characters in this show that have about the same, if not just barely under the same kind of importance that Odakawa has. Kakihana, Goriki, Dobu, Shirakawa, the comedians, all 3 members of Mystery Kiss, Yano (fuck you, btw), the Daimon brothers, the gacha addict, all of them have some kind of connection to the story that makes them an integral part of the story. Now, this kind of cast bloat isn’t a bad thing because everyone has some kind of overall story importance or plays a part somewhere, but, at times, it becomes a little too much. In particular, the story threads involving the clout chaser, the comedians, and Kakihana are ones I don’t feel have that much importance in the show because they kind of go off and do their own thing instead of relate back to Odakawa most of the time because the show usually has to cut to them individually in order to show off what they’re doing at the time. Which oddly enough, these are the three that eat up the most time as well, so make my bias against them as you wish.
OLM and P.I.C.S. put together a show that to me is aesthetically show that’s both simple and eye-pleasing to watch. The show has this almost crayon style for its art, which, combined with all of the characters being anthropomorphic animals makes for a unique looking experience that really I haven’t seen done anywhere else aside from something like Beastars. True, you won’t be able to remember all of the character names because quite frankly there’re too many characters, but you will remember their appearances since everyone is a distinct animal that makes them easy to recognize. (Which now that I think about it, is way more genius from a narrative perspective for a number of reasons.)
The only downside I can see from the art and animation is the usage of CGI cars. They kind of clash with the overall aesthetic of the city, and it’s kind of a letdown seeing these car chases be done with sterile moving boxes that they call cars. It’s alright, but definitely not something that I’m too thrilled by.
Skirt and Punpee’s “OddTaxi” is a fucking masterpiece. I don’t usually say that about openings unless it’s something that’s really memorable, and this song is memorable. It’s a song that sounds like it belongs in a lofi tracklist. With its mellow beats and soulful saxaphone solo, OddTaxi is a song that really stands out in a landscape of J-pop and gives it a unique flair that you can’t really find anywhere else. For this fact alone, this song gets high marks from me, and has quickly become one of my favorites of the season. “Sugarless Kiss” by Suzuko Mimori is by contrast…a J-pop song. Which makes sense considering there’re actual idols in this show, but I don’t really like this one all that much because it’s just kind of like a generic idol song. I will say it is kinda funny to hear this after a really dramatic cliffhanger, so I’ll give it that pass.
While I have some reservations with how the show portrayed its story (on account of the numerous unnecessary plot threads), I’m overall satisfied with what we ended up getting. Odd Taxi was a show that I threw out as the dark horse of the season because it looked like a wholly unique experience that didn’t seem like it was getting talked a lot about.
For me, the story was certainly thrilling, and definitely had a lot to love about it because of the numerous twists, turns, and inconspicuous red herrings that were thrown in there to insinuate one point or another. The opening graphics of all things had significance to this too, which made it so that every bit of this narrative indicated some kind of weight no matter how small. On the flipside though, I do still feel like the show had bitten off more than it could chew. The narrative had to resort to various plot conveniences in order to keep the story going at an even pace, and also confused me on what was going on sometimes because there was just so much to keep track of. All of this leading to an ending that had to effectively speedrun through its final loose ends in order to create a fully cohesive story. Which is not the best look for a mystery series that had spent a greater majority of its time to build tension and create an intricate web of characters with a variety of relationships and interactions with each other. Had the story had a few less characters to consider, I think it overall would’ve been a better experience.
But at the end of the day I’m still satisfied. Odd Taxi to me is an underrated gem that stands out because of its unique presentation that at times feels like a slice of the real world. With its twists and turns, it manages to create a surprisingly cohesive story that despite some of my gripes with it, manages to conclude in an ok way even if the road to get there was kind of rocky. Thankfully there aren’t any loose ends with the show at the end of the day, and I’m happy for that even if it went over the speed limit.