Odd Taxi Review: An Intriguing Mystery About Animal Tokyoites Chasing Goals In The Concrete Jungle

Odd Taxi review

Despite its cutesy Animal Crossing-esque art style, Odd Taxi is nothing like its calm and relaxing anthropomorphic counterpart. Intense, riveting, and surprisingly dark, Odd Taxi follows an enigmatic middle-aged taxi driver who unwittingly becomes involved in a high school girl’s disappearance. 

With the movie adaptation Odd Taxi: In The Woods hitting the theatres in April, we figured there’s no better time than now to review this criminally underwatched anime series. There will be major spoilers ahead, so be warned. 

– What we loved –

1. The twist

Odokawa’s flashback to his childhood in episode one, showing Odokawa as a human child
Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Set in a Tokyo where anthropomorphic animals reside, Odd Taxi seems like a run-of-the-mill series that happens to feature a bunch of cutesy Animal Crossing-esque characters.

But unlike popular series such as BEASTARS, which puts animalistic features at the forefront of the plot and has rules set in place for herbivores and carnivores, Odd Taxi barely mentions the presence of different species in its series. 

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

In the first episode, it’s subtly hinted that the characters we see may not actually be animals. They look that way because we are watching the story unfold through Odokawa’s eyes.  

When Gōriki asks Odokawa what he looks like, our protagonist simply answers, “A gorilla.” Later, when he calls Shirakawa an alpaca, she laughs in response, as if it was a joke. 

Gōriki and Shirakawa in human form
Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Odokawa is also able to easily recognise other characters, even when they are in the crowd, as he differentiates them through their prominent animal features. 

Later on in the series, it’s revealed that Odokawa suffers from a childhood trauma that causes him to see everyone else as animals – it’s a huge plot twist, unless you’ve been picking up on the hints dropped throughout the series. 

2. Dialogue between the characters

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Witty, deadpan, and oftentimes cynical, the dialogue in the series is arguably one of the best draws about Odd Taxi. As a taxi driver who’s well into his 40s, Odokawa doesn’t bother with polite conversations and often blurts things out without sugar-coating them.  

When he talks about listening to rakugo on cassette tapes, the young Shirakawa claims that she does not know what that ancient relic is. Odokawa’s response? He goes on an unprovoked mini-rant and tells her to “drop the generation gap appeal”. 

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Dialogues in Odd Taxi often comprise quick back-and-forth banter, long drawn-out pauses, and sharp humorous retorts. Characters don’t hesitate to butt in and interrupt when needed, which makes them fluid and much more natural, unlike the dialogue we normally hear in other anime series. It adds to the realism of inhabitants of a city just going about with their daily lives. 

3. Additional audio drama

Image adapted from: Odd Taxi Official 

Episodes of the anime were supplemented with audio drama clips, which were uploaded on the official YouTube channel. Framed as a podcast hosted by Nagashima Satoshi, a high school student in Odd Taxi, the audio drama reveals bugged conversations between other characters in the story.

Lucky ballpoint pen ends up with Yamamoto in episode five
Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Nagashima got his hand on unfiltered conversations using the Lucky Ballpoint Pen, a wiretapped pen that finds itself with different characters as it gets passed around. 

By utilising a radio receiver he uses to tune in to concerts for free, Nagashima is able to listen in to the conversations recorded by the pen as the receiver happens to come across the pen’s frequency. He then begins to broadcast the content in the form of a podcast, giving us additional context for the show. 

Sakura holding the ballpoint pen in the final episode
Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

In the last episode, Sakura is seen holding the pen while she reveals to her mother that she murdered Mitsuya, seemingly confessing to her crime. 

However, if you’ve tuned in to the audio drama, what had actually transpired here is that Sakura is well aware of the wiretap – she even assaulted Taeko to retrieve the pen. With the additional context, Sakura’s confession is thus deliberate and a way to send a warning to whoever’s listening.

4. Quirky characters

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Odd Taxi has no shortage of interesting characters, but our personal favourite is none other than Yano, a rapper porcupine who’s constantly dropping sick rhymes. Whether he’s coercing Kakihana or engaged in a pedestrian altercation, Yano raps all his speeches without fail.

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

The character is made for the Japanese-speaking viewers as his raps are full of wordplays that aren’t the easiest to translate into English. But even for the non-Japanese speaking crowd, it’s fun to bop along to the beat.

Yano is voiced by METEOR, an actual Japanese rapper who is beloved in the Japanese hip hop community. The voice actor even went on to do a collaboration with PUNPEE, the band who did the opening theme song for the series, in a track titled “My Name Is…”.  

5. Seemingly unrelated characters turn out to be connected

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

When Odd Taxi first began, we are presented with multiple stories that involve a bunch of seemingly unrelated individuals. 

Yet, as the story progresses, we slowly find out that the animal-like inhabitants of the city are interconnected in one way or another, even if the characters themselves are unaware of their places in the relationship chart.

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

The cast is as diverse as it gets. Besides an unenthused middle-aged taxi driver, Odd Taxi also has struggling comedians, corrupt police who are working with criminals, a university student thirsty for internet validation, catfishers, and many more unique characters. Their stories interweave to paint a believable image of life in a city.  

6. Proper mysteries from beginning till end

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

A good gripping mystery series involves suspense, puzzles that can be pieced together, and effective world-building. Odd Taxi ticks all the right boxes as the overarching mystery is straightforward. Mitsuya, a high school girl from Nerima, goes missing. It’s up to the audience to figure out where she has gone. 

Though the series is a character-driven one, it never sidetracks from the missing case. Instead, as the plot unravels, it is revealed how the characters are connected to Mitsuya’s disappearance in a myriad of ways. 

Odokawa’s abusive childhood.
Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Beside the obvious mystery of a girl’s disappearance at the forefront, Odd Taxi also develops the side story of Odokawa’s background in tandem. Unrevealing and reserved, the grumpy walrus protagonist’s history is shrouded in mystery.

Though we are given brief flashbacks throughout the series, which hint at his tragic backstory, it’s never fully revealed until the last episode, culminating in a satisfying end. 

7. The main protagonist is a middle-aged man

Odokawa as a human
Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

As far as anime protagonists go, Odokawa is an odd one out in a sea of young, hot-blooded, and often idealistic characters. Taking centre stage, the 41-year-old walrus protagonist delivers dry humour, sardonic remarks, and unpopular opinions that actually make sense. It is refreshing to see a character that goes against every fibre of a generic anime protagonist.

8.  Features Japanese comedy

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Japanese comedy is the cornerstone of Japanese entertainment, yet it’s rarely featured in most anime series. The manzai comedy duo Homosapiens, which consists of Shibagaki and Baba, are played by two real-life comedians with the same name. Shibagaki is the boke (funny man; ボケ), while Baba takes on the role of a tsukkomi (straight man; 突っ込み). 

Thanks to their natural comedic banter – no acting, just straight up showing how Japanese comedians talk on radio shows and television – it adds to the realism of the series. 

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

While the comedians are relatively removed from the central plot, their appearance in the series doesn’t feel redundant as they are connected to the characters in the story – Shibagaki knows Imai, and Baba is dating Nikaido. 

– What could have been better –

1. Shirakawa’s role in the series

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Admittedly, we all had our doubts when the alpaca nurse Shirakawa approached Odokawa, given her shady track record of stealing medicine from Gōriki. 

But we came around by the time she revealed that she is well-versed in the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, even showing off some moves that are described by Odakawa as a “funny-looking dance”. 

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

Despite the glimpse of her character as someone much more mischievous than she first lets on, her role later plateaus as she is relegated to the side without much development, only appearing at critical moments to save Odokawa from dangerous situations. 

More could have been done to flesh out her motivations and inner thoughts, especially why she’s attracted to Odokawa and wants to stick by his side. 

2. The ending may be too ambiguous for some

Image credit: OLM and P.I.C.S.

While it’s not necessarily a cliffhanger since all the mysteries presented in the series have their loose ends tied up, the ending with Sakura getting on Odokawa’s taxi can be left open for interpretation.  

For fans who prefer something more conclusive, this ending can come off as too ambiguous. Does Odokawa lead a happy life like he deserves, or does he get murdered by Sakura after going through all that trouble? We need answers!

Odd Taxi review: There’s more to this hidden gem than meets the eye

Though the 13-episode series is short, Odd Taxi is nothing short of a wild ride and worthy of a rewatch just to spot all the Easter eggs. Odd Taxi: In The Woods is slated to be released on 1st April 2022 in Japan and we certainly hope the film lives up to the impossibly high standards set by the original anime series. 

For more, check out: 

Cover image adapted from: OLM and P.I.C.S. and OLM and P.I.C.S.

Xiu Ting Wong

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