by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Twenty minutes sure do zoom by when you're sitting in the backseat of this particularly peculiar cab. Beyond the gradual quickening of the story's pace as we race uphill, gathering energy for the climax, it also feels increasingly evident that not a single second of Odd Taxi has been wasted. It's easier to see now, with big payoff flowers finally springing from the tiny seeds planted months ago. While the richness of the characters and their setting are rewards in and of themselves, Odd Taxi's deft plotting is the star of the show this week. And coming from me, that praise really means something. Plot is usually what I consider the least important aspect of any piece of art I enjoy, but when it's this good and tightly-written, I have to give it all of the due credit.
There is, arguably, one moment of clumsy contrivance this week. There's no discernable reason for Shirakawa to have been standing around in that construction site waiting to rescue Odokawa. However, the scene itself is so good, I'm perfectly willing to allow some convenient hand-waving in order to make it happen. Odokawa's been threatened a lot, but Yamamoto checks his hard-boiled act with actual violence, and the result is pretty darn nail-biting. By contrast, Shirakawa's masterful display of capoeira combat is a wonderfully whimsical callback, defusing the situation in Odd Taxi's infallibly idiosyncratic fashion. That alpaca packs a punch. And a kick. Moreover, it's good to see her refuse to be sidelined by Odokawa's stodgy sense of chivalric masculinity. It doesn't stop Odd Taxi from being an extremely dude-driven narrative, but every little bit helps.
Now that he knows Dobu better, Odokawa also ends up sympathizing more with Shirakawa, which is another positive development for their relationship. Dobu is an excellent character—he's smart, driven, and extremely charismatic, so it's no wonder that people keep falling into his orbit. Whether he's being tongue-in-cheek or not when he says it, I genuinely believe that Odokawa started feeling some camaraderie with Dobu. Just look at the ease with which the baboon, while bleeding out, turned Kabasawa around last week, mixing thoughtful and actionable advice with threats and robbery. That is, essentially, what makes Dobu such a dangerous guy. He knows exactly how to manipulate people for his own gain, and how to make them feel like he's granting them a favor by doing so. Odokawa now understands the kind of position Shirakawa used to be in, and that probably just galvanizes him even more to exact some justice.
Meanwhile, the Yano side of the equation progresses exactly like Dobu and Odokawa predicted, aided by Imai's hilarious lack of awareness about what “going into hiding” actually means. I don't know how many more times Odd Taxi will have to scream “Don't tweet!” at us before we heed its message, but I'm glad the anime is so impassioned about improving the lives of its audience. Yano is just a super fun character too, and I need to commend the translator(s) for going the extra mile and localizing his rapping so exquisitely. I especially love that he calls himself a porcupine in one of his verses, but due to the context, it's impossible to tell whether this a metaphor or not. I'm still on team “it's all in Odokawa's head,” but I respect the show's commitment to keeping its anthropomorphism as ambiguous as possible for this long.
Speaking of commitment, how about that cliffhanger? I was completely dumbfounded at first, but after reviewing some of the prior episodes, I think I have a clearer (though not transparent) picture of what's going on. There are, in effect, two Mitsuyas: the real original, and the new fake one. The real one is the body that was just identified, and she died before the show even started, only to be replaced in Mystery Kiss by the fake one. This lines up with a lot of past details, including the way they suddenly started wearing masks, and Imai's comment in episode two about her dancing looking sloppier than usual. If you look closely, the girl in the episode preview also looks subtly different from the Mitsuya we met in Odokawa's car. What's less clear to me right now is how this ties into the boss' classmate's missing daughter and/or the missing Nerima high school girl. The dead Mitsuya is likely one of those people, but now I'm thinking these might be two different cases that the show has wanted us to conflate together. I'm sure there are other clues that would clear this up, but since it looks like we'll be getting a flashback about the real Mitsuya next week, I'll leave further speculation to the more stalwart sleuths out there.
Besides, the most important part of this episode has nothing to do with idol doppelgangers and everything to do with Dobu namedropping the title after ten weeks. That's a pro move executed by a decidedly pro anime, but the pièce de résistance is Odokawa's completely deadpan reaction, as if he'd be embarrassed to be associated with a name that stupid. I love it. Dobu's explanation is also interesting. Along with the obvious meaning, “Odd Taxi” works as a pun on Odokawa's name (and Odokawa + Dobu, now that I think about), but Dobu emphasizes that an “odd” object is one that can't function without its pair. Really, I think Dobu is just very bad at coming up with code names, but this might be an unintentional thematic clue about Odokawa's childhood accident, which Goriki is tantalizingly close to unearthing. Odokawa's sauna conversation with Dobu and Yano's boss also seems to imply some degree of familiarity between the two, even if it's only one way. Maybe the yakuza have something to do with Odokawa's mysterious benefactors. Bear in mind, I'm just spitballing again, but Odd Taxi deserves credit for inspiring me to spitball this much.
I have to wrap up, yet I feel like I barely scratched the surface of everything that went down in this week's episode. In short, though, Odd Taxi is still pretty amazing! I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the next episode. I also can't wait to watch the whole shebang again somewhere down the line. Given the number of details that popped out at me just from skimming through a few old episodes, rewatching the anime with the entire plot in mind should feel like a markedly different and complementary experience. I'm excited to see the full extent of the craft that went into making this thriller so uncommonly good.
Odd Taxi is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is hungry for anime and on the prowl for Revenge this season. Learn about this and more (i.e. bad anime livetweets) by following him on Twitter.
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