Anime Corner: ODDTAXI Review

Where to?

What’s the Story?

Odokawa is a taxi driver who lives a pretty mundane life. He has no family and his only real friends are his doctor and an old classmate from high school. He very much lives for his work, ferrying the somewhat-odd patrons of his taxi around town to wherever it is they want to go. From a college student obsessed with online fame to a struggling comedy duo and even an idol group with some shady connections, there’s all sorts of people he gets to meet. Odokawa’s mundane life isn’t going to last though, as he soon finds himself tangled up further and further in a story of murder, blackmail and warring gangsters. Our innocent walrus is in for one heck of a ride. Let’s hope he survives the journey.

The Review:

Writing is hard guys. It feels self-aggrandising to say it, but it’s true. There’s always the misconception out there that writing a story is easy, that all you need to do is sit down with your laptop and this great master work will come flooding out of you. Well, as a writer I’m here to tell you that’s not how it works. Writing takes time and effort, you’re constantly thinking about the minutia of your world, building the story and characters piece by piece. And that’s before you even try to put it all together, heck that’s before you even know whether what you’re doing is any good or not. The reason I’m going off on this little ramble is because, all hyperbole aside, Oddtaxi has one of the best constructed stories I’ve come across in years and I want everyone to appreciate that.

Oddtaxi’s story structure is, in a word, beautiful and I’m in awe of it. What started off as this funny little show about animal characters getting into comedy skits in the back of a taxi, morphed before my eyes into a tense and complex crime drama! There’s so many different plot threads, so many characters you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s no possible way to pull them all together, I certainly did. Yet, somehow, this show manages it. Every character has a purpose, every line, every bit of imagery it all circles around and weaves together into this incredible whole.

The series starts off with a couple of mysteries to hook you in, like a missing girl and Odokawa talking to someone in his closet. While they just sit there and stew, the show spends its time developing its characters and building the connections between them. Before you even realise it suddenly we’re dealing with gangsters, corrupt police and a maniac running around with a gun. It’s like a magician’s trick, distracting you with a funny interaction or one plot thread, before revealing this other part of the story that you hadn’t even noticed yet. Add on the expert way in which this series lays out breadcrumbs for its various mysteries before revealing the answers with perfect timing and this series is something to behold. Seriously the scripts for this show should be dissected in script-writing classes.

Okay, so the story for this series is pretty much perfect as far as I’m concerned, but what about everything else? Animation-wise the series is fairly basic and really that’s all it needs to be. The anthropomorphized animals all look cute and have their own distinct looks, there’s nothing overly flashy here and considering the amount of care and thought that’s clearly gone into this series, I can’t help but feel that’s intentional. The stripped back nature of the visual really highlight the story and helps you to keep your focus where the story wants it to be. Plus who doesn’t want to look at a walrus driving a taxi, that’s just a cute image.

I want to go on praising this series forever and ever, because it deserves nothing less, but I should really be wrapping this review up. On a final note, I’ll give a word of praise to the characters. As great as the story is and no matter how much the visuals support that, this show would be nothing without it’s wonderful cast. I’ve well and truly fallen for Odokawa’s charms and I want to do nothing more than take a ride in his taxi and have a conversation with him. Every character gets their own little arc and while some are explored more than others, everyone gets a little bit of the spotlight and some time to shine.

The Verdict:

In the end, Oddtaxi is a master class in story-telling. From the hook of the initial mysteries to the moment when all the many, many plot threads get woven together, this series will grab you and not let go. It’s like staring into a pond and slowly realising just how deep it goes. The attention-to-detail and level of craftsmanship to this series just makes me want to applaud non-stop. Every character has a purpose, every plot is relevant and it all comes together in a satisfying package. What more could you really ask for? If you haven’t already checked this series out then you’ve done yourself a disservice. Check this out now!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

First Impressions Spring 2021 part 1

Spring is here and the digital fields of the Internet are just bursting with new anime coming into bloom! Sorry, I may be a tad excited at the minute, at the time of writing this Lockdown is slowly being peeled back in the UK and I’ve actually been outside for the first time in months! I’d almost forgotten there was a world beyond my front door, but we’re not here to talk about that. Anime! There’s plenty of great offerings up for grabs this season, some shows that have taken me by surprise and others that have set some pretty high standards for the series to come. Enough waffle though, let’s get to it. Bring on the anime!

Vivy-Fluorite Eye’s Song-

100 years in the future the A.I. apocalypse is upon us. Over the past century A.I. have become much more commonplace, autonomous androids finding their way into all areas of daily life, but, for whatever reason, those androids are now in open war with the human race. Our only hope for preventing the utter annihilation of our species is a program sent into the past and an A.I. programmed for singing? This unlikely pair will have to find a way to put their difference aside and prevent key moments in history from going the wrong way, at least that’s how things appear.

This series took me completely by surprise. Maybe it’s the glut of disappointing Terminator sequels, but I heard time-travelling back into the past and my brain immediately tuned out. Thankfully there have been some really good reviews for this series so far that convinced me to give it a chance and I am so glad that I did. This show grabbed me by the collar at episode one and it hasn’t let go since. Whether it’s the brilliant back-and-forth banter of Vivy and Matsumoto, the excellent action pieces or just the clear amount of thought that has been put into this plot. I’m pretty sure we haven’t gotten the full picture from my favourite talking teddy bear yet, but I’m definitely sticking around to see it. If you’ve skipped this for whatever reason, do yourself a favour and check this out!

Joran The Princess of Snow and Blood

The year is 1931 and Prince Tokugawa Yoshinobu reigns over Japan with an iron fist. Under his rule their have been great advances in technology, but though all appears peaceful, there are shadows lurking in every corner. To battle those shadows there is Nue, the government’s secret executioner group. One of their top assassins is Sawa Yukimura, when she was just a child her entire village was massacred and she has since sworn herself to revenge. Quite by chance, the man who took everything from her also happens to be the one currently plotting to bring down the government.

I feel like I should be more into this series than I am. This is one of those rare animes where I actually saw the trailer before the show started airing and there was a lot that got me excited. Three episodes in though and there’s just something not clicking with me and I can’t put my finger on what it is. There’s a good set up and I do like the focus on the political goings on and espionage stuff, but maybe it’s a case of there being a bit too much world for me to get my head around. There’s just a lot of stuff that hasn’t been shown to us yet, or explained in all that much detail so it feels like the show is trying to keep me at arm’s length. Add on the fact that our main character spends most of her time either confused by, or suppressing her emotions in order to be an effective killer, and is it any wonder I feel no connection to what’s going on? I’m going to keep trying with this series, but so far it’s not looking good. That and the fights are over way too fast!

SSSS.Dynazenon

Yomogi Asanaka used to be just like every other Japanese high school student, but all that changed when he met Gauma, a self-proclaimed ‘kaiju user’. Now, alongside Gauma and two other strangers, a girl from his class who’s notorious for breaking promises and an unemployed slacker, they each pilot giant robots and defend the city from kaiju attacks. But why are the kaiju suddenly appearing and who are these other mysterious kaiju users and what are they after? More importantly, can this unusual group come together and stop them?

I really enjoyed SSSS.Gridman when it aired a couple of years ago, it had a real sense of nostalgia without actually being nostalgic for me. SSSS.Dynazenon gives me much the same feeling. I’m a big Power Rangers fan, have been since I was a kid, so when I see a show about teens piloting giant robots and combining them together to fight monsters, I’m automatically on board. You add on the usual style of great character designs we get from studio Trigger and a rockin’ soundtrack and I just know I’m gonna have a lot of fun with this show. I also like the little details, like how it keeps bringing up the damage that is being down by the battles with the kaiju. Of course there’s going to be damage, and consequences, to these fights and I’m so glad they’re not just being relegated to the ‘abandoned buildings district’ like other shows. I’m not really sure where the overall story is going, but I’m more than happy to stick around and find out.

Dragon Goes House-Hunting

Dragons are majestic, fearsome creatures, rightfully touted as one of the most powerful creatures in existence, but every rule has its exception. Letty can’t fly, he can’t breathe fire and he was just kicked out of his family’s lair. Alone and defenceless, he needs to find a new home fast if he wants to stand any chance of surviving. Luckily he’s engaged the services of Dearia, the Demon Lord of Real Estate (he has a business card and everything). Whether it’s a hidden-away cave or a newly built dungeon, Dearia promises to find you the home of your dreams, no matter how long it takes.

This show is fine. That’s about all I can say really, and I feel kinda bad about that. It’s not mind-blowing, it’s not earth-shattering, it just does what it does and moves along. The animation is fit for purpose and no more, the characters are fleshed out enough to set up the gags and that’s it. It’s not doing anything bad, but it’s in no way spectacular either. I can see the gag of Letty getting scared/upset by whatever home that Dearia shows him running a bit thin in an episode or two if they don’t add in any other elements, but honestly I don’t think I’m going to be watching this series that long. There’s a lot of really good shows this season and so something that’s just fine isn’t enough to hold my attention. As I said I kinda feel bad, because any other season I’d probably stick with this show, but not this season.

OddTaxi

The life of a taxi driver can be an unusual and ever-so fraught one. Take Odokawa for example, he’s the quiet type and doesn’t like to talk all that much, and yet that’s all his passengers ever seem to want to do. Whether they’re a college student looking to become famous online, a nurse with a confession to make or a criminal baboon, they’ve all got something to say. The question is, what does all this have to do with a missing girl, and who’s that hiding in Odokawa’s closet?

I’ll be honest, I was planning on skipping this show when the season started. As I mentioned with Dragon Goes House-Hunting, there’s a lot of really good shows airing at the minute and this one just didn’t grab my attention. My mid-week’s a bit light on shows though so I decided I’d give the first episode a try and I’ve been gripped ever since. Each skit with Odokawa’s passengers, or friends, are fun in and of themselves (the ones I get at least, I’ll admit a couple of the jokes have gone over my head), but then there’s that mystery plot. I’m a sucker for a good mystery and that’s exactly what this series is. There’s still so many questions and puzzle pieces and each interaction feels like its offering up another tantalising clue, or maybe it’s a red herring, or maybe it’s another mystery all together. I’m questioning everything and mentally trying to link all the pieces together and I can’t remember the last time a mystery series caught me like this. If you’ve skipped this show, for whatever reason, do yourself a favour and check this out right now!

Megalobox 2: Nomad

Seven years after winning the first ever Megalonia tournament, the legendary ‘Gearless’ Joe is no more. Now calling himself ‘Nomad’ and drowning himself in pills and alcohol to numb his pain, the boxer is a shadow of his former self. That’s when he meets Chief, a boxer with drive and a goal. He wants to buy the land his community is currently living on so that they can finally have a place to call their own. Joe decides to help him, but first he’s got to face his past and the pain that had been crippling him.

This is not the sequel I was expecting to Megalobox, it feels like a completely different series in some ways, but a natural evolution in others. It’s hard seeing the unbeatable Joe in such a sorry state in the first couple of episodes, and we don’t even know the full story of how he ended up like this. He’s still a compelling character though, maybe even more so now, and I’m rooting for him just as much as every time he stepped into the ring before. All the characters feel so real and Chief might just be one of my favourite characters of this season, if not the whole year. I adored the first season of this show and I’ve got a good feeling that I’m going to adore this season just as much, if not more.

That’s all for this week. Come back next week for more first impressions, including a house covered in soot, some non-autonomous robots and a shape-shifter discovering what it means to be human. See you then!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.