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Interview: ODDTAXI Director Baku Kinoshita

by Kim Morrissy,

ODDTAXI is an original anime co-production between the creative company P.I.C.S. and animation studio OLM. It tells an intriguing story about anthropomorphic animals, filled with mystery and drama. ANN reached out to director Baku Kinoshita to learn more about how this smartly-written and inventive anime was made.

Could you describe the kind of company that P.I.C.S is and your role there?

It's a production company that handles all kinds of visual works, including advertisements, music videos, live footage, dramas, and films. I serve the role of a character designer and animation director.

You're known primarily for your animation work on commercials. What made you want to work on a TV anime? How has the experience been so far?

I've also worked on a 3D-animated TV show called The Journey Home as a storyboard artist and assistant director.

My impetus for working on TV shows is my desire to create an entertainment work with dramatic elements that depict character growth, which you can't get out of a commercial or a oneshot comedy.

When I tried my hand at TV anime, it ended up involving an overwhelming amount of work, but right now I'm delighted that the drama everyone in the staff worked so hard to create is reaching the viewers.

© P.I.C.S. / ODDTAXI partners

What was it like working with Kazuya Konomoto on the script of ODDTAXI?

To begin with, I was the one who drew the character designs. I handed them over to Konomoto, and he wrote the script for me.

I had the loose idea for things like an individual taxi driver, but Konomoto was the one who fleshed out the characters and plot beats. The story he wrote juxtaposes ironic and enjoyable comedy elements with the darkness of society. The sense of balance is very refined, and the story has the kind of tone that I adore myself. The narrative structure, the meticulous foreshadowing, the characterization… Every element is superb in my view. Every time a new script was done, I would get really moved by it.

I was excited to bring out even more of what was great about the story by adapting it to screen, while also feeling the pressure not to diminish the appeal.

At what point did you decide to tell the story with animals rather than humans?

Right from the initial pitch document stage, we decided on making it about animals. We wanted to tell a realistic story about the human condition with cute animal visuals. If a heavy story has a cute-looking surface, it mitigates the feeling of gloominess and expands the scope of the story. We had confidence that the dissonance brought out by the contrast would be compelling.

© P.I.C.S. / ODDTAXI partners

To what degree do you see ODDTAXI as a mystery story? How much is it a human drama story?

The foreshadowing is weaved throughout the entire story, and there will be mysteries right to the very end, so I think the mystery elements are quite strongly pronounced. At the point when the mysteries are being solved, you can see the backbone of the characters, and from there you can feel the drama, so I think it's an anime that juggles both its mystery and its human drama elements to an equal degree.

ODDTAXI has some interesting voice casting choices, like Natsuki Hanae as a cynical 41-year-old man, and entertainers from the Yoshimoto Kogyo talent agency. What inspired these casting choices, and why did you decide to record the voices before the animation work (pre-score)?

Odokawa is the kind of character who became an adult while dragging along his child heart. To be frank, I didn't want to make him the typical middle-aged guy with a gruff and austere attitude. I wanted to express his internal youth and the purity of his heart. Hanae's Odokawa portrays him as the middle-aged guy he is while also bringing out his cool and collected side.

He may have a cold side, but he makes witty retorts and his conversations bring out his youth. He's not an older guy who has given up on various aspects of his life. I feel like Hanae's Odokawa has energy and vigor in the depths of his voice. I really like how much that suits Odokawa.

© P.I.C.S. / ODDTAXI partners

Also, the comedic conversations and verbal exchanges are a very important part, so I wanted to get professional comedians involved for those. The reason for the pre-score is the same. In order to bring out the feeling of reality when it comes to the gaps in conversations and the warmth, I had the voices recorded ahead of time and afterwards made the images match them.

You were also involved in creating the hybrid live-action and animated music video for the ODDTAXI opening theme song. How did you decide on this style, and what sort of challenges did you face in creating it?

For the music video, another director at the company I work for (P.I.C.S.) handled it. When I heard about the idea to synchronize the video with footage from the anime, along with all the other playful ideas that would heighten the enjoyment of anime viewers, I thought it was really interesting. I offered my assistance with the production of the animation parts.

Who is your biggest inspiration when it comes to animation?

I'm influenced by Ghibli and Satoshi Kon's works.

Is there anything about ODDTAXI that you'd like to highlight as the anime continues its broadcast?

The suspense heightens in the latter part, and many unique characters will appear. Dob and the opposing Gang Yano, the crazed Tanaka who is after Odokawa's life, and the video streamer Kabasawa who stirs up online drama will all have a big part to play (not in a good way). Also, I hope you'll focus on the climax, where the storylines of many different characters come together. I hope you'll watch it to the end.

ODDTAXI is available on Crunchyroll.

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