Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

How did it all come to this? Somehow, the spiraling conflicts of ODDTAXI feel both implausible and inevitable, a thousand quirks of fate culminating in an unstoppable tragedy. Odokawa has never done more than drive his taxi and try to protect his friends, but he has nonetheless found himself at the core of a deadly conspiracy, suspended between crooked cops and violent criminals. He is now possibly the only person who can save Taichi – and yet Odokawa himself is the biggest mystery of all, with his tragic history, strange skill set, and ominous closet all presenting their own questions. In another show, this lack of explanation might feel frustrating. In ODDTAXI, Odokawa’s personality has been presented with such nuance and clarity that he still feels like a close friend, even for all his secrets.

Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that. Odokawa might conceal information, but he does not lie about his feelings. He is always earnestly himself, regardless of the circumstances. This might sometimes get him in trouble, as during his engagements with Dobu and Yamamoto – but it also attracts fast and loyal friends, who appreciate the company of someone who says what they feel. While characters like Kakihana or Taichi seek validation through the assumption of an online persona, they are ultimately promising more than they can provide, and eventually find themselves consumed by a culture whose hunger can never be satisfied. With his gruff yet undeniably earnest nature, Odokawa has won the trust of the people he cares about, and cultivated bonds that just might carry him through the waiting crucible. Let’s see if he can rescue Taichi from himself!

Episode 9

“The Hero’s Melancholy.” ODDTAXI seems to possess a fond irreverence for the genres it’s playing on, with noir/mystery enduring the most ribbing. The show plays with our expectations regarding the resolution of mysteries – it self-consciously draws attention to secrets like Odokawa’s closet, then ignores them for three episodes to focus on something else entirely. As for noir, Odokawa himself feels like a cheeky stretching of the usual brooding noir lead, possessing none of the self-conscious or melodramatic affectation you associate with noir’s memorable heroes, and generally trying to avoid drama, and just drive his taxi. This disconnect between convention and execution is then further underlined by this episode title, which entrusts Odokawa with the mantle of “hero,” and melodramatically canonizes his sadness – all things Odokawa himself would hate

Though Nikaido is the only one with fully rendered eyes in the intro, her glassy-eyed stare makes her seem even more intimidating than the others

We open with Odokawa sharing the Dobu tape with Little Daimon

“That’s right. Evil is afoot.” Odokawa knows just how to push Little Daimon’s buttons. To be fair, Little Daimon is a pretty simple machine

“If you don’t tear it out by the roots, it just comes back.” “That’s right. You’re quick on the uptake.” Little Daimon’s conception of “evil” seems entirely informed by children’s media, and utterly divorced from the reality of why people actually commit crimes. He sees lawbreaking as representative of some antagonist, perhaps even conscious malevolence, rather than just individual choices made by desperate people. He is a child, but it’s easier to manipulate a child through flattery than scorn, and so Odokawa is willing to flatter his foolish beliefs

The slight cardboard-esque texture on these backgrounds does so much for creating a distinctive, cohesive aesthetic. This show is an exercise in minimalist aesthetic elegance, shining in often unnoticed areas like its overall composite

He messages Taichi that “one hour from now, Dobu will show up at the wharf. Be a real Hero.” Taichi is much like Little Daimon – enraptured with a simplistic view of good and evil that provides meaning and nobility to his own life. Odokawa is banking on the hope that Taichi will be equally easy to manipulate

Taichi has been sleeping with his followers. One of them lazily details every ongoing criticism of Taichi – that he’s a fraud, that he’s not a real hero, that he just uploads videos for clout with no intention of taking action. The moment Taichi stops producing videos and feeding the beast, social media turns on him. After all, the only thing the internet loves more than a hero is a villain

The hunger and ferocity of social media in aggregate genuinely terrifies me. It feels like a dangerous creature that exists apart from our individual desires, in the same way a corporation can act far more malevolently than any of its individual employees. The combination of divorcing ourselves from the immediate humanity of others and empowering our beliefs with the rush of group-sanctioned righteousness makes us a monster of collective action, an elemental force that will raise people up or strike them down with equal moral indifference and emotional ferocity

“Society made all this fuss about me! They thrust this attention on me, put me in the line of fire!” Ah, here’s where the title comes from. Like Kakihana, Taichi was initially desperate for the validation the internet could provide, but soon realized the attention he attracted isn’t necessarily what he wanted

“I didn’t ask to be deified!” It’s fun until it isn’t, but you can’t turn it off. Taichi is a commodity now, whether he wants to be or not

Odokawa and Dobu head to the wharf

“I don’t care about the decorum of your criminal activities. I only care about rescuing Kakihana”

Dobu explains that there’s an unspoken rule about not interfering with each other’s business. He’s a real idealist yakuza, enamored with concepts of honor that don’t apply to the modern world

As usual, Odokawa is profoundly observant, and notices a van seems to be tailing them

It’s Tanaka, who immediately starts firing

Odokawa loses him when he brakes to avoid a cat. Once again, the presence of mundane cats in this world seems to imply the cast’s animal designs are more a mental conceit of Odokawa than a fact of reality

“I can’t let you or I die right now.” Odokawa doesn’t value his life for his own sake, but he’ll cling to it for the sake of his friends

“Why are you scared of water?” “Who knows? Maybe I drowned in a previous life.” I love these specific, ominous details. Nothing may come of Odokawa’s phobia at all, but it still provides a sense of suspense and lurking danger, like Odokawa has an almost supernatural understanding of this story’s ultimate trajectory. Details like this are one of the many ways this show feels specifically Lynchian; his works also emphasize that the world is stranger than our capacity to understand it, through odd details or moments of surrealism that are never fitted in or explained. Audiences crave resolution, and denying it can make them feel unmoored or unsafe in a way that can be very dramatically compelling

“I’m sure Yano-san will find a way to turn your life into money.” Yano’s scheme is framed as the inevitable endpoint of selling your identity to social media: being converted entirely into a monetary value, while your individual personhood is destroyed

“You made a man with an honest job your underling? You’ve fallen far, Dobu”

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” Odokawa really can take the hero’s form, when he feels like it

“What are they doing?” “They’re idiots. They’re idiots, so they don’t know how to express their feelings. They use duty and human nature as an excuse for violence. I guess it’s what you’d expect from living creatures.” Is this the crux of it? Did Odokawa witness something so terrible in his past that he was forced to recognize human beings are ultimately just animals, and has subsequently viewed them as literal animals? This is certainly far more honesty than we usually get from him, and it’s clear he possesses a profound distaste for violence. Certainly throws a new light on his relationship with Dobu – I imagine he can barely stand the guy, and was mostly swallowing his disgust to ensure this plan worked

Their fight is not glamorous; it’s clumsy, stupid, and sadly inevitable

“It’s your fault that you couldn’t beat me.” Every element of their interaction emphasizes how childish their mindset is, and how shallow their reliance on violence. These moments of petty discord are contrasted against the nearly-broken Kakihana, a man reduced to a shell for the sake of their puffed-up egos

Dobu is shot in the leg by “Skull Mask,” who could be either Taichi or Tanaka. I now appreciate how they intentionally gave both of them a blue-against-grey color scheme, to allow for ambiguity in moments like this. In contrast, it seems beyond question that their conspirator here is Shirakawa; pretty hard to confuse her design with anyone else

“Remember how we went to Hakone for off-campus education in high school?” What a weirdly touching moment between Odokawa and Kakihana. ODDTAXI’s avoidance of any clumsy exposition once again reveals its dramatic usefulness, as we’re treated to the offhand gift of just now learning Odokawa and Kakihana have been friends since high school

In general, when you’re tempted to include exposition, consider if it can instead be relayed as revelation or drama. Is this actually the best time to reveal this information to the audience, or just the most immediately convenient? What is the current dramatic purpose of revealing this information?

Odokawa tells a long, nearly pointless story about a puzzle box Kakihana once owned. A moment of recollection with no real conclusion, shared between friends who’ve been through the world together. ODDTAXI is so, so good at these moments – these fragments of purely incidental experience, which aren’t designed to most efficiently progress the narrative, but instead to capture an earnest, lived-in moment shared by its characters. Like Shirakawa sitting silently in the cab all those episodes ago, when we are divorced from narrative momentum, we are forced to actually assess our situation, and live in the experience of the moment

It is indeed Taichi, who demands that Dobu “apologize to the world.” This is the point where the assumed righteousness of social media mobs always sort of quietly grumble about what the “next step” should be. In truth, there is no acceptable apology once you’ve gained the ire of an online mob – they are seeking blood, not redemption. But acknowledging that would require acknowledging that we’re engaging in cyclical witch hunts just for the fun of it, contradicting the assumption of righteousness that is so critical to witch hunting’s appeal

While Taichi is busy addressing his haters, Dobu gets him in a headlock

Taichi wasn’t actually the one who shot him, and immediately surrenders

“As you can see, I can’t beat you in a fight.” Oh the difference a computer screen makes! Taichi’s bravado vanishes in an instant

“You vowed to catch me, when your resolve was this weak? You never had any sense of justice or resolve to begin with.” Oddly enough, Dobu of all people is likely the closest this narrative has to the kind of person Taichi imagines himself as: genuinely tough, and driven by an iron code of justice. Of course, as Odokawa just articulated, Dobu’s ideals are a very childish way of life

“Now try digging a little deeper. Why did you want attention?” Oh my god, Dobu is giving him the therapy session he needs right here and now. This is amazing

“Why did you want approval from others? Because you have no self-esteem.” In spite of his archaic code, Dobu is actually a pretty smart guy

“I hated who I was before I got attention. That said, receiving attention didn’t magically make me like myself. But it felt so good, so I kept escalating. Now I’m so scared, I don’t know what to do.” Feeding the beast provides a rush, but Taichi was feeding it a lie about himself, and he couldn’t keep it up. Plus, how is entertaining the internet with a flattering lie supposed to make him like his actual self, who’s perpetually struggling to keep up the act?

“Normal people aren’t that interested in themselves.” What a goddamn insightful line. It’s true – the people prone to narcissism and depression are frequently those who can’t stop looking inward, and who have trouble busying themselves with the external world

“Find a mentor you trust, not an unspecified large number of people.” If you’re seeking validation from the mob, you will always be hungry, and they will never be satisfied. You need to find people who can support or challenge you as an individual, not as a representation of something they love or despise

“Because of you, my eyes have been opened!” Oh, Taichi. This is certainly a positive step, but also reflects just how untethered he truly is, that Dobu’s straightforward speech could be a “life-changing event”

Odokawa takes Kakihana to Goriki’s clinic, where he explains he plans to bring down Dobu’s entire organization. Is this yakuza group tied to his dark history?

“Following Dobu’s instructions was her strategy for survival. She felt that cornered.” Odokawa has nothing but sympathy for Shirakawa – he was likely so terse with her because he felt that would be the best way to keep her safely away from him

Taichi uploads a meek apology video

Kakihana tosses the ring off a bridge, but then rushes down to retrieve it. It’d be a nice gesture in principle, but the dude is broke

ODDTAXI is more specifically invested in social media and identity, but the generally fraught nature of our economic moment still informs its drama. All of its characters are perpetually desperate to sell something, all working multiple gigs to get by, all realizing their intended professions are either out of reach or less glamorous than they’d hoped. Nobody here gains happiness or contentment from their actual work, and so they are forced to scrounge for it elsewhere – Taichi is the most dramatic example of abandoning the working path for social media validation, but everyone here is suffering from the fact that we’re all overworked and underpaid

Goriki meets Odokawa’s landlord. We find that she’s also Odokawa’s guardian from the foundation, and that his rent is covered for life

He’s been living alone off the foundation’s money since the fifth grade. We see a dog who looks just like the landlord through the window – presumably, one of this dog’s predecessors set Odokawa’s mental image of her

Odokawa actually chose to live alone

And though he told Goriki his parents are missing, the landlord knows they’re actually dead. Those red-tinted memories, too harsh for Odokawa to even look at straight on

And Done

The pieces are really slotting into place now, huh? We even resolved a couple of ODDTAXI’s conflicts this time, letting poor Kakihana escape his imprisonment, and teaching Taichi a thing or two about social media and self-worth. I really wasn’t expecting Dobu to offer Taichi a seminar on self-worth, but it turned out to be an episode highlight. Additionally, I am loving the sense of purpose and anger Odokawa is bringing to his current quest, which is aligning neatly with the unveiling of his original trauma. Other than a lamentable lack of Shirakawa, that was an excellent episode!

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By admin