Odd Taxi is an eccentric anime about a cantankerous walrus who drives a taxi and finds himself in the middle of a deadly mystery. It’s unique, engrossing, and one of the most memorable and emotionally affecting anime in recent memory.
With the animated film adaptation of the series, Odd Taxi: In the Woods, making its streaming debut Thursday on Crunchyroll, what better time than now to revisit its absolute banger of an opening which, aside from prefacing one of the best anime of 2021, easily stands as one of the best anime title sequences of last year itself?
Directed and storyboarded by Ryoji Yamada, known for his work as a director on Millennium Parade’s psychedelic 2021 music video “Trepanation,” and featuring a groovy hip-hop title track written and performed by Japanese singer-composer Skirt and rapper PUNPEE, the opening title animation for Odd Taxi stands as one of last year’s best and a supremely entertaining sequence to watch on its own. It’s essentially a montage of a night in the life of Odd Taxi’s 41-year-old taxi-driving walrus protagonist, juxtaposed with scenes focusing on other major characters from the series. The opening is rendered in a beautiful abstract art style that combines digitally animated foreground characters, scratchy chalk-like backgrounds, watercolor, construction paper, and broad-tip marker textures, and a particularly clever wipe transition that emulates the motions of a windshield wiper.
All of these elements culminate in a sequence that’s as entertaining to watch and listen to without context as it is revelatory to rewatch upon finishing the entire series. Yamada’s Odd Taxi opening lays out the show’s entire thesis with nary a word of dialogue, communicating in abstract symbolism the ways in which people are led astray by their own desires in a world inundated by the stimuli of social media and where nothing — and no one — is entirely as it seems.
The original anime, directed by Baku Kinoshita (who also served as the series’ character designer), written by Kazuya Konomoto, and co-produced by creative company P.I.C.S and anime studio OLM, tells the story of Hiroshi Odokawa, a 41-year-old taxi driver who also happens to be a walrus in a world of talking anthropomorphic animals. When Odokawa is implicated in the disappearance of a young pop idol, he’s forced to contend not only with conniving yakuza enforcers and crooked police officers, but a homicidal masked stalker and a begrudging love interest in the form of a young alpaca nurse named Miho.
Despite flying under the radar of most viewers when it initially aired in spring 2021, as it competed with major titles like My Hero Academia, Tokyo Revengers, and Megalobox 2: Nomad, Odd Taxi’s slow but steadily engrossing psychological crime drama and richly developed characters won it a place on our best anime of year list (and in our hearts). It also eventually garnered recognition at the sixth annual Crunchyroll Anime Awards, taking home the prizes for best protagonist and best director.