Everyone knows Robert De Niro’s iconic portrayal as the eponymous “taxi driver” in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic. But what if De Niro’s disaffected worker was also a feisty walrus who spoke Japanese? That idea only scratches the surface of Kazuya Konomoto’s expertly dry 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-confessed J-pop fanatic, and the cops who hit you for speeding are — why not ? – Meerkats who also happen to be identical twins.
Does it sound a bit like Bojack rider? Well…aside from the anthropomorphic animal element, the two programs couldn’t be more different. What sets this show apart from others, aside from its detailed characters and incredible voice acting, is that it’s an unexpectedly good and modern crime thriller. Not an overly violent or spectacular crime thriller, but one that’s rooted in a surprisingly down-to-earth reality. For all the series’ conceptual enormity and frequent absurdities, the many animal characters are all surprisingly human, and you may be shocked at how much you’re reminded of yourself and your own insecurities.
Why should you see ODDTAXI?
Some unfairly prejudge the anime genre (and even animation in general). Many assume that anime is a collection of potentially off-putting tropes and clichés—the big eyes, the high-pitched voices, and so on. It would be fair to say that much of anime incorporates or draws somewhat on these trends; However, what many do not know is that these clichés do not define the genre as a whole and there are many smart, excellent anime films and series. The best entertainment pieces all bring something unique to the table, even if some components feel familiar.
The reason we would recommend ODD TAXI, in particular, is that it breaks with so many of these trends, making it a great starting point for any anime outsider, if only to prove what the genre is capable of. The character of Odokawa (our walrus taxi driver) is the kind of protagonist rarely 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 millennial idea of being “over it” so to speak; He’s surrounded by people (well, animals, actually) vying for higher status, trying to get famous on Instagram, or turning to crime out of desperation. He often seems to roll his eyes inwardly at the futility, insincerity and opportunism in modern society. In this way, he is moving on a continuum, so to speak taxi driverthe aforementioned Travis Bickel; Odokawa is just less psychotic than Bickle, and as mentioned, he’s also a walrus.
A character like Odokawa, who spends most of his time silently observing others, has to be up to something internally, and — vague spoiler alert — it turns out he is. Odokawa is more like the disheveled anime walrus counterpart to mad Men‘s Don Draper, a man of uncertain past who remains an enigma to all who meet him, so the mystery doesn’t simply describe the criminal nature of the murder/disappearance plot. There’s an air of mystery to the characters themselves, too, leading the show to transcend its sitcom trappings and grow into something more than the show’s obvious gimmick might suggest. It’s a rich, if not terribly intense, slice of life experience full of surprises that are funny, disturbing, and moving.
Who will enjoy ODDTAXI?
ODD TAXI will especially satisfy those who have a liking for the movies of Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch or even the Safdie Brothers or older series like this one Flight of the Conchords or The Life and Times of Tim. The exhibition’s approach to naturalistic dialogue is strongly reminiscent of certain aspects of these works.
The program is also reminiscent of a specific film, and that 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 continuous story, not an anthology format, but the two plays are similar in their use of silence, 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 whether to watch with English soundtrack or in Japanese with English subtitles. The truth is that the versions with the original sound come much closer to the original intentions of the creators, we would say with ODD TAXI and in general, unless you’re watching with young children, subtitles are almost always the best way to go.
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 practicing alpaca nurse? Or are you the sensitive kangaroo bartender? Maybe you’re the fighting boar comedian. Or maybe you are his far more successful equine partner. Imagine being an intimidating baboon gangster? Or maybe you’re just a mobile game addicted cougar who’s quickly slipping 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 it out. ODD TAXI is available on the Crunchyroll streaming service with both English subtitles and English dubbing.
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