FEATURE: ODDTAXI's Gritty Story Is A Gripping Nod To Hardboiled Noir Detectives



ODDTAXI started as one of the dark horses of anime — and was then recognized as one of the best shows of the year thanks to how good a story it spins. The premise is simple — taxi driver Odokawa happens to become embroiled in a murder mystery that includes one of his passengers and he’s labeled as a suspect. While the plot sounds basic enough, there are many dots that connect the mystery together.


Sometimes gritty, sometimes witty, one major aspect of the series is how much influence it takes from the visuals, storytelling, and other styles of film noir. As Odokawa becomes further involved in the murder mystery of a black cat he took as a passenger in his cab, the more the plot branches out to include other characters’ involvement.




No character is without motivation. From the idol group members of Mysterious Kiss, the eccentric nurse Shirakawa, and Taichi who is obsessed with going viral, these somehow randomized points all lead to a central point in the series. Don’t let the adorable animals fool you — as the series continues, it’s revealed that it has grittier, darker themes.


This comes to light through the actions of the characters, the many conversations Odokawa has with the passengers of his cab, or even through the directions of the scenes. There’s no exception, everyone is connected in some way, whether they want to be or not. From the first passenger the audience is introduced to, it’s clear that no one is completely safe. 


Shirakawa, the lovable alpaca who acts as Goriki's assistant nurse, isn't as clean as the audience is led to believe. She steals prescription medicine and sells it on the black market to pay off her debt. That isn't the only big hit, as Mysterious Kiss — a beloved, sugary pop group who are exploding in popularity — turns out to be quite rotten. Under orders from their manager, they conduct badger games to steal money from rich men and even their own fans. 




Despite Odokawa’s attempt not to get involved, he’s already been put in the hot seat from the beginning. This brings to light disturbing truths of certain characters, as well as deepens the pessimistic and often hopeless tone throughout the series. This is furthered by how bleak everything looks — the lighting is always somewhat dark and the only characters who wear bright colors are the idols.


There’s cynicism hidden behind each and every character — with one of the most extravagant examples being how one character’s obsession with finally winning, then losing, a rare character in a mobile game drives him to the point of insanity.



Although film noir is difficult to define, one of the things that makes ODDTAXI stand out is how cynical Odokawa is as a character. He lives alone in an apartment, has a dreadful outlook on the world, and often has deadpan and realistic responses to every quip. 


This theme is furthered by the appearance of Dobu — a criminal he joins hands with to figure out what happened on the night of the murder, as well as help aid Shirakawa get out of a predicament. This is when the hard-boiled realism of the series begins to rear its ugly head. One of the key points of noir films is detective work — and when Odokawa and Dobu begin to work together, the homage becomes apparent. 


They both sit together in an office, blinds closed, cigarette smoldering in a dimly lit room, and discuss their plan to expose the culprit behind the black cat's death. This is a textbook example that paints a vivid — or perhaps dim — picture of countless noir detective films, such as A Blueprint for Murder and Naked City




The art direction itself and cinematography show the prominent influences of film noir. The environment is dark, every character seems to be corrupt or involved in some way, and there’s something darker going on behind the scenes.


While “film noir” can either be considered a mood or a genre, in this case, it acts as the tone that sets the series apart from other anime. With a harsh perspective of life and the mystery that only becomes crazier the more you watch, ODDTAXI is a love letter to film noir. 




Whether that’s what the creators of the series were going for is a mystery in and of itself, but whatever the case may be, it definitely made quite the impression.




Brianna Albert is an author, writer, reader, Japanese translator, and seasonal anime watcher. She has been watching anime since before Naruto became Hokage and trying to figure out how to bend air since she was in kindergarten. You can follow her and her witty conversations on Twitter or watch her content on YouTube.


Do you love writing? Do you love anime? If you have an idea for a features story, pitch it to Crunchyroll Features!

Source: Crunchyroll


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