Friday, May 7, 2021

Episode 5 Odd Taxi


Odd Taxi proceeds with its careful work of setting up dominoes in perpetually byzantine and dubious game plans, yet the repressed second to-second character collaborations keep its wheels rolling and motor murmuring. 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 the 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 assumes a lower priority subsequent to hoarding the spotlight to tell his story of gacha trouble, yet he's not a long way behind. All things considered, the main portion of the scene centers around the symbol business, as Odokawa helps administrator Yamamoto get the two supporting individuals from Mystery Kiss. While the series doesn't recapitulate the savage beatdown it gave getcha, 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 criticizing 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 additionally may be associated with the vanishing of that adolescent young lady, given how much interest he shows in Odokawa's story and camera information. 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 example, obviously returns farther than one between a specialist and his sleep-deprived person 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.

While there's a sour sort of eccentricity in Odokawa's luck undertakings through the wrongdoing hidden world, Kakihana's supper with Ichimura is unadulterated, undistilled recoil. 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. Kanazawa'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, however, to close the flinch parody of the date on the scene's most unfortunate 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.

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