by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Can you hear the sound of the engine? That's right, it's Odd Taxi, pulling up with another episode, dropping off big answers, and keeping some bigger questions still locked in its trunk. This Mystery Kiss-focused installment winds the clock back and elucidates a lot of the head-scratchers that came with last week's reveal about Yuki Mitsuya. It also gives us a more complete picture of our idol frontwoman Rui Nikaido, who falls in line with most of the damaged personalities we've followed on-and-off throughout the narrative. As always, there are a dozen other balls being juggled as well, yet Odd Taxi continues to keep them airborne with unsettling deftness. With only two episodes remaining, they're all poised to fall down at the exact same time. And that just might be Odd Taxi's big plan.
Rui, it turns out, has a lot in common with other focal characters like Kabasawa and Tanaka—namely, a crippling lack of self-esteem exacerbated by the alienating anxieties of modernity. Competitiveness haunts all of them and drives them to extreme measures, but Rui at least had opportunities to escape self-destruction. Although she's jealous of Yuki, she finds herself admiring her once they get to know each other better. Although she resents Baba's easygoing attitude, she sees the appeal in accepting oneself, flaws and all. She can start to imagine a different and healthier perspective, which makes it all the sadder that this doesn't inoculate her from the suffocating surfeit of external pressures that assaults all of us, and women in particular. And this makes it even sadder and more ironic that, despite not killing Yuki, she still burdens herself with the responsibility as if she did.
The story of Mystery Kiss is also the story of Odd Taxi: big dreams turned sour by a fundamentally exploitative society. Managing this idol group was going to be Yamamoto's ticket out of the underworld, which is a dream he clings to even now. Each of the girls had their own reasons for auditioning, but they also found solidarity between themselves. Rui and Yuki, in particular, were in the process of developing a healthy reciprocity before show business ruined their relationship and killed Yuki. A single producer's callous words spiral out of control, entombing Mystery Kiss alongside a mystery murder, dragging Yamamoto back to his criminal contacts, turning Rui into a paranoid wreck, and forcing Shiho to play badger games with hapless victims. Yet on the surface, Mystery Kiss continue their debut unabated and bubbly. Rui sings and dances alongside a doppelganger of a corpse she helped dispose, while fans wave penlights and purchase CDs in bulk. It's all a cruel farce, and everyone buys into it, knowingly or unknowingly, right up until the exact moment the mask falls.
We still don't know who killed Yuki, but after this episode, I don't think that question is a relevant thematic concern any longer. We know, in abstract, what killed Yuki, and we know how it relates to Rui's insecurities. That context is satisfying in itself, and I'm more interested in how Rui, Imai, and the others will approach the future of Mystery Kiss than I'm interested in who the murderer is. But don't get me wrong; I'm also very interested in who the murderer is! Her father being Donraku is a brilliant curveball of a revelation (I'm still dying to see what happens to that eraser), which may or may not have anything to do with her death. Of the current cast, I'm most suspicious of Yuki's replacement, Sakura, now that we know she also originally auditioned for Mystery Kiss. Let's not forget either that she helped Tanaka plant that phone in Odokawa's car. The show is also being really cagey about who Odokawa drove on October 4th. We've been led to assume that it was the missing girl/murder victim, but what if it was the murderer this whole time?
I don't have the space to talk about everything in an episode this stuffed, so if I have to choose, I'm going to devote a paragraph to the Homosapiens. While Baba might have influenced Rui to mellow out a bit, Rui in turn influences Baba to be a bit more assertive about his career and passions. This explains his expansion into entertainment outside of the manzai duo, to Shibagaki's chagrin. The show doesn't portray either partner as being entirely in the wrong here, and that only makes their fight hurt that much more. They simply may have been destined to drift apart, with Baba's newfound go-getter attitude at odds with Shibagaki's boomer bitterness. On the other hand, airing their grievances out like this could be just what they needed, both as friends and as comedians. Manzai, after all, depends on the machine-gun-quick combative rapport between its performers. Their last hurrah might deliver their best guffaws.
Meanwhile, Dobu's Christmas Day robbery plan is about to begin. Given that there are already two major complicating factors—Yamamoto dropping out and Yano most likely moving his base—this is definitely going to be a complete disaster, and I can't wait. Little Daimon's radio silence also makes me suspicious, but so does everything else at this point. In happier news, Goriki is a true friend, even if he's a snoopy one. He unearths just enough information to keep the gears in our heads turning, without Odd Taxi revealing its entire hand. Business as usual. But if Odokawa's parents weren't killed in an accident, that might help explain some things about his unusual living situation after he survived. Although the article calls it a double suicide, Odd Taxi's hard-boiled disposition makes me suspect foul play. And if the mafia was involved, they might also be the benefactors supporting and keeping tabs on Odokawa. Or maybe Donraku is behind this, since he seems to be relevant to everything else in the story somehow.
We're almost at the finish line, and Odd Taxi still manages to delight and disturb me in equal measure. While there aren't as many admonishments of social media in this week's episode compared to last, we do get to see some cute cartoon animal people dismember a dead body, so I think that more than makes up for it. I can't believe it's almost over, and I can't believe I have to wait another full week for more of it.
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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