Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

The lines are taut and bait is set; all that is left is to spring the trap. In spite of his professed desire for a simple, solitary life, Odokawa has found himself at the center of a deadly conspiracy, with the lives of half of ODDTAXI’s weary souls on the line. Though he claims indifference to fame and fortune, his concern for the lives of others would put self-professed “hero” Taichi to shame, while his understanding of justice far outstrips the insecure Little Daimon. He has seen the true face of his city, suspended in that liminal space between departure and destination, where their masks slip for a moment and their fears breach the surface. He has seen the faces we hide behind our social media avatars, and he has accepted them. Though he is gruff and impersonal and rude, he expects nothing more from his passengers and friends; his poise offers the quiet promise that we can learn to accept each other, even without our airbrushed profile pictures.

Other characters have begun to receive their honorable discharges, as they fly too close to social media glory and have their wings melt back to wax. Kakihana claimed wealth beyond his means, and was robbed for his trouble. Taichi claimed a hero’s mantle, and learned what happens to old heroes in turn. When you wish upon the monkey’s paw of social media, you must learn to live with the results; and now, it’s Iwai’s turn to either escape or pay the parasocial piper. Let’s begin Operation ODDTAXI!

Episode 11

Wait, scratch that, this episode’s called “If We Could Go Back To That Day.” Let’s begin Operation Odokawa’s Backstory!

“Since I was a child, I’ve hated losing more than other people do.” Ooh, we’re actually getting Rui’s story? She actually seems like one of the most menacing members of the cast; when Shiho was attempting to get free of the badger games, Rui showed even less sympathy than Yamamoto

“My report card described me as ‘an ambitious child overflowing with vitality.’ However, we can’t avoid losing in life.” So she’s got a hardcore Type A personality, and also sees life as a clear zero-sum game of winners and losers

“There was always someone better than me. Except in looks”

At her idol audition at 16 years old, she meets Yuki Mitsuya, the dead former member of Mystery Kiss

Yuki had far more experience than Rui back then

Both of them make the team, and Yuki maintains a professional idol schedule while still participating on her school’s track team. Rui became an idol so she could be the best at something, and you can already hear the frustration building in her voice

“Comedians I’d never heard of poked fun at me. It was humiliating. I thought they must be losers accustomed to defeat.” Yeah, she really has one of the most dangerous personality types. Capitalism itself sorts people into winners and losers just fine, we don’t need actual people swearing by its inhumane philosophy of value. Rui’s type is one of the few that actually benefits from social media’s commercialization of identity; unlike someone like Taichi or Kakihana, what she’s really seeking is not the intimacy that we’ve lost in this era, but the anonymous commercial platform that we’ve replaced it with. All her life, she has not been looking for friends, but followers – she was born to be a star, and in the internet era, we are all stars of varying luminosity

Baba actually annoyed her at first, and so when he talks to her on the train, she speaks frankly about his lack of success as a comedian

The “real Rui” is petty, mean, and obsessed with status, but even still, she could find friends if not for her drive to succeed

Baba brightly agrees. “At first it frustrated me, but I’ve given up. I’m much happier now.”

“I thought that mentality meant a person was finished, but I also thought my life might be easier if I felt that way, too.” I greatly appreciate that Rui’s as much of a person as anyone, even if she is one of this show’s villains. She feels driven to success by a fundamental urge that is beyond her control; she can’t change the person she is, just as others can’t change themselves to possess her inner drive for victory. In spite of this, she still wonders at what could have been, and can feel jealousy at Baba’s carefree approach to life. With a different set of circumstances, and in particular a different set of social incentive structures, she could have been happy without the violence. As ODDTAXI has demonstrated again and again, the forms we must contort ourselves towards for social media are not amenable to sustained happiness

“For whatever reason, we exchanged contact information.” She can’t acknowledge it, but she’s tempted by the life that could have been

When asked about their reasons for becoming idols, Shiho states that her family is poor, while Yuki admits that she thinks Rui might be able to carry them to greatness. And for the first time, Rui sees a shared victory as a possibility

And then, a producer says they should make Yuki the center. Hoo boy

“I can make excuses, but I think my desire to kill her was already growing by this point”

But by the time she arrived at the agency, Yuki was already dead. Yamamoto shows up, and she tells him everything

Yamamoto brings in Yano and Sekiguchi. “The cost of disposing of the body would be half of Mystery Kiss’s future profits, and to allow them to use our members however they pleased for work.” No wonder Shiho misses this era; it seems like it’s been a continuous nightmare since

“Even after she sank, I kept staring at the water.” Once again, the water serves as an arresting reminder of mortality

“We convinced Yuki Mitsuya’s family to let us use her name, so she could keep working when she returned.” What a ghoulish “solution.” And in its own bleak way, it fits perfectly with how ODDTAXI has been portraying our public-facing personas. Our performative selves, be it for idol shows or the general approval of social media, are distant enough from our true selves that you could just hire someone to replace us, and keep the performance going without the soul behind it. Through attempting to prove our existence to the world at large, we paradoxically make ourselves anonymous, and that much more easily replaced

The “new” Yuki Mitsuya wants to become famous so she can support her single mom. The only motivations we’ve seen from these idols are either “I have a fanatical desire to be number one” or “my family needs the money”

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve caused nothing but trouble for my mom. I have no strengths, you know? Sometimes I wish I could just disappear, but seeing idols on TV cheers me up.” Growing up in this society that only values us for what we can offer it, she has naturally come to see herself as unworthy of living

“If only Yuki Mitsuya were here.” The team is far weaker without her talent

“The problem was the taxi she took back then.” At last, we loop back around. Very fun to see this narrative told from the other side

Yano eventually learns of the connection between Yuki and a criminal organization. Then we get a scene of Yamamoto talking to Donraku himself, who… what, is he Yuki’s father? How are we weaving Donraku into this whole ordeal

“Perhaps I’d repeat this cycle for the rest of my life.” Rui’s life has become a heightened version of the internet’s surveillance, with every waking moment spent worrying that the mask will slip, and someone will find out the truth

“It was Baba who supported me. I didn’t tell him anything, of course. I was just saved by his existence.” With the glory of fame having turned sour, Rui finds solace in the route she initially disregarded: the simple, honest joy of sharing time with genuine friends. Her ordeal has actually forced her to find validation in a healthier place

“I hated to lose, and his way of living permitted that. It was okay if I lost. Of course, it was okay if I won, too. It didn’t matter either way.” When the reach of our words is quantified by clear numbers, it is easy to slot us into social “losers” and “winners.” But when we simply spend time with each other, with no one keeping score, the hollow nature of our social media victories becomes instantly apparent. Who cares who’s more popular if you’re both happy?

With the news of Yuki’s body being discovered, we drop in one week before the planned operation. Apparently it will all be going down on Christmas

Yuki’s discovery complicates the operation, as it both might mean Yamamoto isn’t there, and also might change the route that Yano takes

Oh right, Imai’s all sad because Mystery Kiss had to cancel their events and CD. Almost forgot they were his reason for living

“Now that I think about it, the Yuki Mitsuya wearing the mask was a different person.” Even Mystery Kiss’s greatest fan only realized the actual human behind the performance had changed once they learned of Yuki’s death

“I’m sure some of the five guys who attended our first concert remember her face, too. It’s not possible.” Yamamoto still hopes that Mystery Kiss can continue, but Rui has accepted the game is over

“I promise I’ll come back from this, too.” Once again, Baba is her rock

Aw, jeez. Shibagaki snaps at Baba, and Baba decides it’s time to break up the band

Meanwhile, Goriki finds a news article about a couple that drove into the sea and drowned, a potential double suicide

“Their son, who is in fourth grade, escaped on his own, but is in critical condition.” No wonder he’s terrified of water, and that he doesn’t remember what happened. His parents tried to kill him along with themselves

When asked how Yuki died, Yamamoto states that “she promoted herself on social media, and was close with fans as well.” Simply engaging in social media apparently means accepting some risk that you might just get killed

Yep, Donraku is Yuki’s father

Meanwhile, Goriki has tracked down Odokawa’s initial post-trauma doctor, and learns of a “memory notebook” he used to keep

“I’m not asking to see it because I’m his doctor. I’m asking because I’m his friend!” In spite, or more likely because of his personality, Odokawa has gained friends whose loyalty extends beyond their immediate perception of him

And Done

And so the day arrives! As it turns out, we actually did learn Odokawa’s family history, though that took far less time than Rui’s story. I figured we were past the point of personal fables about modern alienation, but Rui’s tale served as a perfect example of the form, as her ostensibly internet-friendly ethos was dismantled by Yuki’s tragedy, and she ultimately found solace in Baba’s accommodating presence. Even someone as hungry for victory as Rui found herself exhausted by this world’s demand for perpetual showmanship; when she told Yamamoto that the group was finished, she seemed almost relieved by the prospect. The mysterious Rui has turned out to be just as lost and desperate as the rest of our stars – and why wouldn’t she be? Human beings weren’t built to survive the scrutiny of idolatry, and in the era of social media, we are all idols under the lights.

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By admin