And yes, there really is a reason why everyone is an animal.
Deep in Japan, whenever a new anime is being pitched, I like to think there is some kind of small goblin that springs up out of nowhere during the meeting. “It has to take place in a high school, with a tediously upbeat protagonist that gets hit on by a harem of girls mainly distinguished by the colour of their hair, also the school is in a generic medieval fantasy land because the protagonist has been transported to…another world!” the little goblin creature screams. Everyone awkwardly looks around at each other, but for some unknown reason they must obey this angry creature. Now, I don’t dislike the premise in a vacuum, but good god that goblin could be describing dozens if not hundreds of anime out there. Yet, when it came to Odd Taxi, I don’t know if someone changed the locks to the building or something, because that little goblin’s input seems nowhere to be found, well…Odd Taxi does have a plot thread about an idol group, so maybe it snuck in right at the end just before lunch.
Contrary to a lot of anime out there (and I mean a lot of anime out there), Odd Taxi is a show where being 28 is still considered young and the protagonist has actual depth and nuance to them – I know right. Odd Taxi’s strength is how it weaves a bunch of seemingly random people’s lives together into the large tapestry that is the overarching plot, with a 41-year-old taxi driver caught up in the middle of it all. Starting with that taxi driver (named Odokawa), the show does something that is quite rare when it comes to the protagonist: they hide aspects of them from the audience. It is usually common sense to have your viewer know everything there is to know about your main character early on. Maybe there’s a tragic backstory revealed in the second act to garner some extra sympathy, but the writer will often try their best to endear you to the protagonist as quickly as possible.
Not to say that Odokawa isn’t endearing or relatable, as he is usually the straight man (or straight walrus in this case) around a cast of more vibrant and wacky characters, but the show also paints him as someone whose got something to hide. It’s a tricky balance to pull off as you can imagine, making a character that is both loveable but also slightly suspicious, yet, Odd Taxi pulls it off effortlessly. But this is more than just a story of one person, and the supporting cast manage to have their own compelling struggles, mysteries and goals for the viewer to get invested in, with pretty much everyone getting their personal time in the spotlight. But intrigue is what Odd Taxi excels at, and despite its adorably quaint art style, there are some scenes that get pretty dark towards the end, adding that spice of danger to events. With a brisk 13-episode runtime, it manages to tie the majority of its loose ends into a satisfying finale, and while the potential for another season is certainly there, I would be genuinely okay if we didn’t get any more Odd Taxi after this.
My only quibble with the writing is a certain dialogue exchange that happens about three or four times during the show, and to better illustrate what I mean, I’m going to create an example of it:
Jimmy Two-Legs: “It’s going better than expected, we’ve got even more people joining our cause.”
Phoenix McCooldude: “Even more people, that might be a problem.”
Jimmy Two-Legs: “What do you mean by that?”
Phoenix McCooldude: “Nothing.”
Jimmy Two-Legs: “Oh, ok then.”
As you can see, Jimmy is an idiot for not further questioning Phoenix about what he meant, or at the very least becoming wary of him. And Phoenix is an idiot for saying, “that might be a problem” in the first place if he didn’t want Jimmy to know what he is up to. Again, to be fair, it only happens a few times, but it was jarring enough to take me out of the story every time.
Honestly, I had to dig deep for any criticism of Odd Taxi, and overall, it is a very solidly put together show that offers something different. So if like me, you are ready to tap out of anime because you can’t stand wading through the deluge of uninspired shows that recycle the same setting, the same characters and the same plot points over and over again, give Odd Taxi a watch instead.