Which is odder: being nostalgic for something that never truly existed, or years later finding something that fulfills the illusion you longed for all this time? Because god knows for what reason the vibe I get from Oddtaxi, of all things, is an old-school Adult Swim show.
For a programming block that’s turning 20 years old later this year, Adult Swim really should have a better reputation than it currently does, because underneath all the stoner comedies and reruns of Family Guy and Futurama, it has some surprising original shows. Hidden gems like Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law and Sealab 2021 and modern classics like Venture Bros. and The Boondocks; there’s legit good content hidden away in there, and Adult Swim deserves so much credit for helping anime get a foothold outside of Japan (despite some people saying otherwise). Cowboy Bebop wouldn’t be the cornerstone that it is without being syndicated all the way back in 2001, and the same could be said for dozens of other anime classics like Fullmetal Alchemist, Outlaw Star, and FLCL, just to name a few. Toonami is what got anime rolling as a commercial phenomena in the US during the late 90s, but Adult Swim showed audiences that these funny looking cartoons from Japan weren’t all just for kids — that they could be something… more.
Which brings us to Oddtaxi, which definitely has this vibe to it that you don’t get in most shows, partly because it somehow feels almost un-anime. Apart from being set in modern Japan and everyone speaking Japanese, it doesn’t look like anything else airing this season, so much so that I’d go so far as to say this series looks less like BNA and more like Bojack Horseman. This feeling is further compounded by the show’s tone; while we have been seeing more and more shows about anthropomorphized animals, Oddtaxi by far has the most down-to-earth direction and writing of its contemporaries. If Oddtaxi featured normal humans, this would be seen as a straight-up drama series.
But this isn’t just a drama, because Oddtaxi has a wonderful sense of humor to it that reaches its peak thanks to its visuals of talking animals. This juxtaposition of character designs with the show’s writing is what makes its weird tone work so well. I think that’s the aspect of this show that truly reminds me of Adult Swim: that sort of “off” humor that on paper shouldn’t work, but when you see and hear it in action really sets it apart from everything else. This isn’t to say the show is full of gut-busting moments, but the humor here is finely crafted to not only entertain the viewer but accentuate Oddtaxi’s drama, helping it hit home harder than it normally would.
And now for the awkward transition where I actually talk about what the show’s… er, about. Oddtaxi centers on a 41 year old taxi driver (and walrus man) named Odokawa who finds himself getting intertwined in the lives of people around him: his friend from high-school who’s trying to find a girlfriend, his doctor and nurse, a comedy duo who he listens to on the radio, a pair of brothers who work as cops, a yakuza gangster, a pop idol group who just mysteriously lost a key member… This show’s cast is astonishing in how big it is without you immediately noticing, and when you do it surprises you further by how fleshed out everyone is. By episode 4, it lands a triple whammy by dedicating over 20 minutes to someone Odokawa drives by without noticing, and how such a simple and mundane act can end up with lasting, dire consequences. I’m as tired as the next person whenever I hear something be compared to a Tarantino movie, but this show really does evoke Tarantino’s peak work in the 90s.
Oddtaxi is one of the most out-of-nowhere shows I’ve seen in the past few years. It’s an original work, it’s the first credit for both its director and writer, one of the studios behind it is best known for making Pokemon movies, it blends genres so well that classifying it as just one thing doesn’t feel right, and it’s a furry-anime that somehow wasn’t picked up by Netflix. This is something I could see myself recommending to non-anime fans; that’s how good Oddtaxi already is four episodes in. If you’ve been underwhelmed by recent shows in general, anime or otherwise, or just want something truly out of left field, I can’t think of anything else that comes close to this. Hop in: the water’s deep, but it’s more than fine.
Oh, and its OP is smooth as hell too:
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