Everyone knows Robert De Niro’s legendary performance as the eponymous “taxi driver” in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic. But what if De Niro’s disgruntled worker was also a feisty walrus who spoke Japanese? That idea only scratches the surface of Kazuya Konomoto’s deftly deadpan and deceptively brilliant anime series. ODD TAXI (based on his manga of the same name).
All you have to do is imagine yourself in contemporary Tokyo. The girl you have a crush on is an alpaca, your doctor is a gorilla, and the badass you go drinking with is a white gibbon. One of your clients is a Gen Z hippo vying for social media fame, another is a skunk who’s a self-proclaimed J-pop fanatic, and the cops who hit you for speeding are — why not? – Meerkats who also happen to be identical twins.
Does it look a bit Bojack rider? Well…aside from the anthropomorphic animal element, the two programs couldn’t be more different. What sets this show apart from the rest, aside from its detailed characterizations and amazing voice acting, is that it’s a surprisingly good and modern crime thriller. Not an overly violent or spectacular crime thriller, but one rooted in surprisingly down-to-earth reality. For all of the series’ conceptual excesses and frequent absurdities, the many animal characters are all surprisingly human, and you might be shocked at just how much you remember yourself and your own insecurities.
Why should you see ODDTAXI?
Some people wrongly judge the anime genre (and even animation in general). Many assume that anime is a collection of potentially off-putting tropes and clichés—big eyes, shrill voices, and the like. It would be fair to say that much of the anime incorporates or draws somewhat on these tendencies; What many don’t realize, however, is that these clichés don’t define the genre as a whole, and there are plenty of clever and excellent anime films and series out there. The best entertainment brings something unique to the table, even if some components seem familiar.
The reason we recommend ODD TAXI, in particular, is that it breaks with so many of these tendencies, making it a great starting point for any anime newbie, if only to prove what the genre is capable of. The character of Odokawa (our walrus taxi driver) is the kind of protagonist that has rarely been seen in popular animation in general, let alone anime. He’s effectively deadpan and communicates everything monotonously, making him an odd choice for our window into this world. And yet the writing of the dialogue is so tight and Odokawa’s delivery so perfectly dry (voice actor is the incredible Natsuki Hanae) that you can’t help but be drawn into his perspective.
Odokawa seems to embody the somewhat age-old idea of being “over the top” so to speak; He’s surrounded by people (well, animals actually) vying for higher status, attempting Insta fame, or turning to crime out of desperation. He often seems to roll his eyes inwardly at the sentimentality, dishonesty and opportunism of modern society. In this way he is in a sense in a continuum with taxi driverthe aforementioned Travis Bickel; Odokawa is just less psychotic than Bickle, and as mentioned above, he’s also a walrus.
A character like Odokawa, who spends most of her time silently observing others, has to have something going on inside, and — vague spoiler alert — turns out it is. Odokawa is more like the disheveled animated morse code counterpart of mad Menis Don Draper, a man with an uncertain past who remains a mystery to all who meet him, so the mystery doesn’t just describe the thriller about murder and disappearance. The characters themselves also have an air of mystery, leading the show to transcend its sitcom traps and grow into something more than the show’s obvious gimmick suggests. It’s a rich, if not terribly intense, slice of life, full of funny, disturbing, and moving surprises.
Who will enjoy ODDTAXI?
ODD TAXI will particularly satisfy those who have a soft spot for films by Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch or even the Safdie Brothers or older series Flight of the Conchords or The Life and Times of Tim. The exhibition’s naturalistic approach to dialogue is strongly reminiscent of certain aspects of these works.
The program is also reminiscent of one film in particular, and it would be Jarmusch’s night on earth, a film collection featuring stories about five different taxi drivers and their passengers in five different cities around the world. The difference here is that ODD TAXI is a continuing story, not an anthology format, but the two plays are similar in their use of silence, the awkwardness between characters, and the idea that the energy changes depending on who’s in the cab.
Kids, subs and dubs
For English-speaking anime viewers, the question always arises as to whether to watch with English or Japanese dubbing with English subtitles. The truth is that the versions with the original sound are, we would say, much closer to the original intentions of the creators ODD TAXI and in general, unless you’re watching with young children, subtitles are almost always the best solution.
Speaking of which, even though this particular show has some mature themes and violent moments, it’s still pretty safe for kids, especially compared to other popular anime. We’d give him the equivalent of a PG-13 rating, but some kids might find he moves slower than most cartoons.
what animal are you
Are you the idealistic Capoeira Practitioner Alpaca Nurse? Or are you the sensitive kangaroo bartender? Maybe you’re the boar comedian in trouble. Or maybe you are his much more successful riding partner. Can you imagine an intimidating baboon gangster? Or maybe you’re just a mobile game addicted cougar who quickly slips into an all-consuming psychosis? You know what? I know who you are. You’re the porcupine that only speaks in rap verse.
The only way to know for sure is to check. ODD TAXI is available on the Crunchyroll streaming service with both English subtitles and English dubbing.
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