Fri. Dec 3rd, 2021

Through the miracles of science, it has become easier than ever to measure our success in the world, and compare it to the wealth of others. Where once we might have fretted blindly over the potential riches and happiness of our peers, now their successes are easy to tabulate – just a click away, listed and formatted through a whole ecosystem of social media platforms. Never again must you be tormented by the fear that unknown others are beating you at life; now you can know they are, through their carefully pruned instagrams and twitter feeds and facebook pages.

Via the advent of social media, our every statement has become a performance, declaring our wit and wealth and social worth. Thousands of also-rans clamor for the spotlight, hoping to one day know the pleasure of waking up in fear every morning, terrified that your audience will figure you out. Everyone is a showman, and everyone is a fraud. We construct ideals out of quips and personal victories, sweeping all that might irritate the beast behind the show curtain. Even our admissions of weakness or exhaustion carry a hint of salesmanship – after all, vulnerability is relatable.

Odokawa never intended to serve as a weird human antidote to modern malaise; in fact, basically all of his life choices seem to reflect a man with little sense of self-worth, who’d rather drop out of society than contend with its trials. Nonetheless, his taxi cab has become a sanctuary of authentic performance, and over time, a source of meaningful personal bonds. In the back of Odokawa’s taxi, no one is performing for society – his seat is the place between performances, where characters like Taichi or Shun can catch their breath between fabrications. It is not to our followers, but our service workers who we present our most authentic self; and through this shelter of identity, Odokawa has cultivated friends who might just see him through the trials ahead. Let’s return to the remarkable ODDTAXI.

Episode 10

“We Have No Tomorrow.” I’m sure the episode to come will give this a more specific resonance, but it sure does feel like an appropriate description of the show as a whole. A great portion of our modern malaise comes down to the younger generations’ “certainty of uncertainty” – our understanding that both the social/economic structures and physical resources that previous generations took for granted are deteriorating, and that this process cannot be stopped. We will never possess the professional or financial security of the past several generations, and even if every country agreed to institute stringent environmental regulations tomorrow, our world is already being corrupted by the effects of climate change. The final, bitter punchline of our perpetual social media performance is that we’re essentially playing on the deck of the Titanic; the world is definitely not getting better, and all signs point towards it getting worse. Generations that grew up through continuous growth can’t really parse the fundamental psychological weight of knowing the world is ending; it might take another thirty years for our fates to no longer be decided by people who are categorically oblivious to the trials of their successors

The performance and the fatalism also play into each other, of course. If our economies still provided stable, fulfilling, and meaningfully remunerative jobs, we’d be less desperate to prove our success through social media artifice. At a certain point, labor was a source of both pride and community – in the modern world, we’re forced to make do with the appearance of both

We open on a massive skyscraper in broad daylight. I appreciate what a clear concept we’ve gained of Odokawa’s general jurisdiction – this spot feels too directly downtown for his routes. A reflection of ODDTAXI’s careful articulation of Tokyo’s various neighborhoods; the city itself is a character in this show

The Homo Sapiens are up for their final round!

Aaand they failed. So it goes

Poignant composition as they head outside, with our two comedians captured between the branches of a tree. The last falling leaves on this tree echo the feelings of Shibagaki, who likely saw this as his last chance at stardom

Their fan Nagashima walks up to critique Shibagaki’s performance

“The population density of smoking areas in Shin-Osaka is brutal.” God, this show’s writer has such a strong ear for natural-sounding yet idiosyncratic dialogue. This sequence of Shibagaki awkwardly explaining his joke is both totally natural and extremely true to his character

Nagashima wants to replace Shibagaki’s partner

“That’s not that funny.” “Because you didn’t draw out my best qualities!” Shibagaki does indeed have the patter and self-deprecation of a natural comedian – but his comedy is wry and subdued, generally evoking more of a chuckle than a belly laugh. He’s too authentically himself to really please a crowd

“When I saw you perform today, I felt like Baba-san had lost his passion for manzai comedy!” Stories tell us that enough perseverance will generally bring success, but in reality, the world is wearing down on our resources just as we try to wear down on its resistance. Even the best creators just get tired of fighting eventually; our inner fire is not an unchanging quality, but a resource we must expend carefully

Yano reveals that Dobu mentored him, back when he was “a country boy raised on the streets”

Yano plans to compete with Dobu for the one billion, and isn’t fooled by Imai’s apology tweet

Yano then scrolls to a Donraku tweet, which is sadly untranslated

Meanwhile, Yamamoto is plugging Odokawa for the dash cam again. “I’ll use force if necessary.” “You’re starting to show your true colors”

Odokawa reveals he knows about Ichimura’s badger games, and about Kakihana

“He’s an idiot, but he paid for his mistake. What about you, then? Have you gotten what you deserve yet?” Odokawa tries not to be a hero, but goddamn can he pull off a badass line when he wants to

A bold fucking play by Odokawa, as he attempts to use his full knowledge of Yamamoto’s wrongdoings to make him flip sides. He shows no fear as Yamamoto directs them to a construction lot, the perfect place to dispose of a body

Unsurprisingly, Yamamoto just tries to choke him instead

But it’s Shirakawa to the rescue, and she’s got her capoeira forms at the ready! For all this show wallows in the tragedies of modern society, it’s also quite good at giving the audience precisely what they want

Ahaha, she just completely dismantles him. So I guess Odokawa’s the detective and Shirakawa is the muscle

“How do you get into capoeira, anyway? It’s in my top three things I don’t know how people get into.”

“I got it. It’s the only way to protect Mystery Kiss.” In spite of it all, Yamamoto truly does want Mystery Kiss to succeed as idols. His most fundamental wish is innocent, but he’s been tangled up in something large and monstrous, and now feels there’s no safe way out

Outside of Yano, there aren’t really any characters in this show with purely malicious goals. But the ways we are forced to perform in order to rally people to our cause, and the contortions we must make to succeed professionally, generally drain the innocence and integrity from our actions

Odokawa’s confused feelings towards Shirakawa come through clearly in their drive back. He’s still a little angry at her, so he attempts to use his shifting feelings about Dobu as a kind of jab – but then she agrees that Dobu actually isn’t a bad guy, and so he gets angrier at her for defending him. In truth, he likely just wants to apologize and recover their friendship – but he’s not a person who’s good at acting on his feelings, and is also still concerned about her safety

“What is it?” “For unrelated reasons, a guy with a gun is trying to kill me right now”

Odokawa once again proves his oddly detective-ready talents, as he discovers the GPS device stashed in his back seat

At the sauna, Odokawa runs into the higher-level yakuza boss

The yakuza comments that the sauna is always empty, and Odokawa responds in his usual blunt fashion, saying everyone is frightened of his tattoo-covered yakuza self

The yakuza knows Odokawa by name, due to his potential involvement in the mob daughter’s kidnapping

“Odokawa, do you not want money?” “Thankfully, I don’t have money problems.” Odokawa’s unique situation keeps him somewhat apart from the rat race. He can choose to opt out of society in a way few others could hope to

Meanwhile, Iwai’s thoughtless uploading of another video leads to Yano pinpointing his location. ODDTAXI’s murder mystery conceit naturally emphasizes its points about the intended and actual uses of social media: we attempt to employ it for something approaching earnest self-expression, but in the end, it’s most functionally useful as a tool for surveillance and harassment

Based on three idle tweets, Yano’s man pinpoints him to a precise apartment number

Damn, Dobu’s setting up quite the heist for the billion yen

“That’s my plan. I call it… ODDTAXI.” Goddamnit, Dobu

Odokawa doesn’t want any of the money, and asks Dobu to instead make sure he’s free of Skull Mask

Dobu shows Odokawa a girl from the dash cam footage, who is not the mob daughter, but is apparently the only person in the footage who matches her description. Of course, we don’t get to see this picture, because ODDTAXI is a jerk

Ah, it’s the Mystery Kiss girl

At the same time, Odokawa is planning to use Yamamoto to disrupt Dobu’s plan, potentially getting both Dobu and Yano arrested. He’s really reaching here, attempting to manipulate a whole bunch of undeniably dangerous people

Odokawa tells Iwai that he’s about to be kidnapped by yakuza, and his only thought is that he might miss the Mystery Kiss release party. What a sad life he’s leading

“If you can be patient for one week, both you and Mystery Kiss will be free.” I’m really intrigued by the role Mystery Kiss are assuming in this episode. All of the fanfare around their work has framed them as a tragic reflection of modern performance, from their manipulative manager to their exploited background artists to their deluded fan. But here, they’re being treated as if their group is the one true innocent in all this business, even though it’s clear Rui is directly involved in their seedier operations. For Odokawa, at least, this seems like a lie – he’s playing into Iwai’s perspective of them, just like he played into Little Daimon’s perspective on justice

Iwai doesn’t actually care about the money that much – “I’ll just go back to how I was before, and keep supporting Mystery Kiss.” There’s a weird, misguided nobility in him

The body in the bay was Yuki Mitsuya, the former member of Mystery Kiss. Oh boy

And Done

Well that was busy as hell! With only four episodes to go, the overt plot kicked into high gear this time, as we sped towards the confrontation between Dobu, Yano, and a clean majority of our other characters. As a result, there was much less time for devastating cultural analysis or character drama, but on the plus side, there was also Shirakawa beating the shit out of Yamamoto. It’s hard to complain about a gift like that, and it was quite interesting as well to see how Yamamoto’s perspective changed when he lost the high ground. All of ODDTAXI’s characters are being forced to grapple with what they truly care about, and acknowledge the desires behind their fraying performances. Operation ODDTAXI is fast approaching!

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By admin