The anime ODDTAXI begins with a subdued and moody opening that feels mysterious and haunting upon first viewing. As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that it’s the perfect encapsulation of the series: a mystery and drama whose complexity and maturity belies its furry aesthetic. But unlike other popular anthropomorphic titles in recent years (Beastars, Zootopia), ODDTAXI is less an allegory or thought exercise into a society of civilized animals, and more a noir tale that peers into the people’s relationships with modern-day vices.
When a girl is reported missing, a middle-aged walrus taxi driver named Odokawa Hiroshi is one of the last people seen with her. Brusk, awkward, and largely unremarkable, Odokawa has an unusually keen eye for human observation and his own sense of right and wrong—which reluctantly draws him into the seedy underbelly of Tokyo.
While figuring out the truth behind the missing girl (as well as myriad other enigmas) is one of the main driving forces of the series, ODDTAXI is also a collection of character studies that spotlight the particular kinds of darkness that regular people face in the 21st century. While the cultural image of the noir genre is often rooted in an older era (think Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon), here we have characters who are obsessed with the idol industry, exploitative collectible mobile games, social media clout, and more. The characters who fall victim to these addictions feel current, yet rhyming with a history of similar dangers in past eras.
What’s more, these vices all tie directly into the main plot, meaning that the keen observations seen in these situations also provide a narrative function.
Odokawa also makes for an interesting protagonist precisely because he often seems so ill-suited for the role. Noir protagonists tend to be flawed characters, but Odokawa’s deficiencies aren’t those of a grittier and more masculine type that one might expect from the genre, making him potentially more relatable to contemporary viewers. The fact that he’s fairly eccentric himself means there are plenty of questions surrounding Odokawa, and having the protagonist himself be surrounded with unknowns provides an additional layer of fascination. Fortunately, ODDTAXI delivers here as well.
ODDTAXI is not a straightforward story, with many different threads running and getting intertwined into a web of relationships and motives. However, rather than feeling wholly disconnected, the anime turns out to be an excellent mystery with many seemingly disparate moving parts slowly fitting into a larger puzzle. The outcome is a series that treads ground in a way that feels familiar yet unique, and makes for both a really solid mystery and an interesting psychological look at how we try to mentally survive in society.