by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Odd Taxi continues its meticulous work of setting up dominoes in ever more byzantine and precarious arrangements, but the subdued moment-to-moment character interactions keep its wheels rolling and engine purring. Seriously, it's hard work both writing and directing something like this. You have to ensure that all of these subplots line up in logical ways, while also compelling the audience to stick with the long journey towards payoff. In spite of that, Odd Taxi is still a breeze to watch—provided, that is, you have a penchant for slow-burn conversations pushing an even more slowly-moving plot along. If we look at the skeleton of this episode, Odokawa has three conversations, and then Kakihana has his dinner date. That's about it. Yet Odd Taxi weaves an entire tapestry out of its mundanity.
Tanaka takes a backseat after hogging the spotlight to tell his tale of gacha woe, but he's not far behind. Instead, the first half of the episode focuses on the idol industry, as Odokawa helps manager Yamamoto pick up the two supporting members of Mystery Kiss. While the series doesn't recapitulate the savage beatdown it gave gacha, it's unsurprisingly cynical in its portrayal of the idol business. Yamamoto is gruff and hands-on; he could've hired a taxi remotely, but he insists on picking up Mitsuya and Ichimura himself. He's also a cold businessman, lauding Nikaido's merits while disparaging the other two members in the same breath. We don't learn too much about Mitsuya and Ichimura, but they both come across as well-rounded as the rest of the cast, with their own idiosyncrasies and insecurities working in tandem. Ichimura also confirms that she's not too pleased with the Tinder scams they're running on the side. I like idol anime (hell, I'm reviewing one of my favorite examples this season), but I also think there's plenty of space to criticize how those in the industry can be manipulated and exploited by profit-seeking management. Therefore, I also like that this seems to be Odd Taxi's angle of attack.
Yamamoto also might be involved in the disappearance of that teenage girl, given how much interest he shows in Odokawa's story and camera data. Whether or not he did so intentionally, Odokawa has a gift for subtly egging on his passengers—like he says, he's very similar to a bartender in that regard. Of course, we don't know Odokawa's exact involvement in that disappearance either, so it's hard to say exactly what angle he's playing. That's part of what makes Odd Taxi such an effective thriller, though. Mitsuya has a hidden side to her as well; for some reason, she's working with Tanaka and plants a tracking device (i.e. a phone) in Odokawa's car. It's a fun wrinkle to think about: was she being threatened, or did Tanaka pay her, or does she know him somehow? Odd Taxi feels as sprawling as it does not just because of the relationships we see develop onscreen, but also because of all the ones it hints at.
Odokawa's relationship with Goriki, for instance, clearly goes back farther than one between a doctor and his insomniac patient. They meet up and talk like friends—estranged friends, but friends nevertheless. They don't have to state things outright for the other to pick up on their intentions, so Odokawa quickly susses out that Goriki actually called him there to talk about Shirakawa. Maybe he hopes her fondness for the walrus means that he has a better chance of getting through to her. Odokawa surprises us in turn by revealing that he's known about the drug dealing since episode one, which further complicates his meeting with Dobu. Alternately menacing and bumbling, Dobu's a fun character because we never know how seriously we should take him. One minute he's bemoaning a YouTube callout, and the next minute he's practically holding a knife to Odokawa's throat. This isn't the first hint we've gotten about his drowning anxiety, and I'm sure it won't be the last we've seen of it either.
Whereas there's an acerbic kind of whimsy in Odokawa's happenstance adventures through the crime underworld, Kakihana's dinner with Ichimura is pure, undistilled cringe. It's just nonstop pain from beginning to end, and I love every moment of it, from Kakihana's jittery faux pas to his date's unmasked disinterest. There's exactly one genuine moment between the two: Ichimura reveals that she's from a large and poor family. This implies why she might have joined the not-so-glamorous world of idols, and ironically, the one thing that might have forged a genuine connection between her and the destitute monkey. Too bad Kakihana's high-rolling lies prevent any possibility of that. Instead, he spends the whole date squirming around while Ichimura shows him funny stuff on Twitter and YouTube—not that bad a date to be honest, but probably not the one you want in this situation. Through it, we discover that the idol wota from a few weeks ago hit the jackpot (sure to be contrasted against Tanaka's gacha ruin with as much dramatic irony as possible), and that our favorite viral hippo has leveled up into an internet vigilante. Kabasawa's video is a beautiful parody of the kind of self-importance social media so easily fosters. The guy sucks, and I love him. Truthfully, there's a little bit of Kabasawa in all of us.
Leave it to Odd Taxi, though, to conclude the cringe comedy of the date on the episode's most heartbreaking note. Kakihana's huge and obviously predatory loan just paints the saddest portrait of a guy desperate to escape his situation but doomed to entrench himself deeper in it. At the same time, I appreciate that Odd Taxi doesn't completely exonerate him (a dude in his forties really shouldn't be trying to pick up 18-year-olds). I also very much appreciate that Ichimura is her own person with her own things going on outside of Kakihana's misguided attempts at romance. Every character in Odd Taxi has some interiority, and that's one of my favorite parts about it. The whole city teems with life, and it feels like we could zoom in on any background character and see a backstory on par with Tanaka's last week. Maybe we will! I never know what to expect from Odd Taxi, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
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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