How Crunchyroll’s Anime ‘Odd Taxi’ Casually Uses Technology

From what I’ve seen, most people vaguely agree that modern technology causes problems, from decreased attention span and self-esteem to lack of interpersonal communication skills. The strange thing, though, is that no one likes to hear criticism, especially if they’re in their twenties or younger. We get defensive and make fun of anything bad that is said about phones, social media, TikTok, etc.

Part of that is because it’s repetitive. The same criticisms of modern technology and the Internet are constantly being repeated; normally, that would be seen as a pattern that should be listened to. In this case, it looks more like a nuisance, because it almost always comes from people older than us and the classic generation gap prevents us from taking it seriously.

It also doesn’t help that he doesn’t deliver well, often coming across as more ignorant criticism than constructive criticism. That makes sense to me, because I don’t think there are many people alive who really understand how modern technology, especially the Internet, has changed society and human beings in general. There are thousands of studies and articles on how it affects the brain, psychology, politics, economics, and every other facet of society, but it has gotten so big in a short time that I feel like we haven’t absorbed all the ways yet. we commit to it.

All of this context is what makes “Odd Taxi,” a Japanese anime television series, such a blast. It feels like it was written by someone who really understands the relationship between people and technology. And it does so with the story of an anthropomorphic walrus.

“Odd Taxi” centers on Odokawa, a world-weary, misanthropic taxi driver, who spends his nights touring Tokyo picking up customers. Through a series of coincidences, he finds himself in a tangled web of pop stars, social media influencers, mobsters, crooked cops, and struggling comedians, all of whom have taken his cab at some point. He must use his wits to pit them against each other and get out of this mess alive.

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Aside from a reference to a social media influencer, you’ll notice I didn’t mention technology in the plot synopsis. That’s mainly because the show isn’t about technology; is a surreal crime drama thriller that treats modern technology as part of the narrative, rather than a focus. So why did I use my first three paragraphs to talk about technology? Because while “Odd Taxi” isn’t trying to say anything about technology, it understands that technology is a part of everyday life and is honest about how and why people use it.

For example, Odokawa’s best friend is an older single man who lies about his annual income on a dating app profile. This gets him a date, but also gets him into financial trouble, as he borrows from the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, to maintain his wealthy fa├žade. He wants to be admired and loved so badly that he is willing to go bankrupt for it.

There’s also Tanaka, a guy who not only fell for an online scam that cost his family a fortune as a kid, but got addicted to a mobile game as an adult, sending him into a downward spiral. He was so obsessed with winning that he did something stupid when he was a kid. That stupid decision would indirectly ruin his life when he grew up.

In both cases, the show doesn’t entirely blame the technology; it is just one more step in the personal tragedies of these characters. Odokawa’s friend downloaded a dating app and was so desperate for attention that he opted to lie and take out loans instead of hoping for a real connection. Tanaka didn’t know he was being scammed by an online scam, but he let his competitive pride get the better of him when he stole his father’s credit card when he was a child and emptied his bank account as an adult. .

Even the social media influencer is not used to constantly criticizing the Internet. He uses it because he has low self-esteem and his exploits are used for comment, but he doesn’t feel forced. He feels less like a public service announcement about the dangers of social media and more like we’re just watching someone’s self-esteem worsen. It feels like a real situation rather than a textbook example.

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The difference between “Odd Taxi” and something like “Black Mirror,” a Netflix show described as “a sci-fi anthology series (that) explores a twisted, high-tech near future where humanity’s greatest innovations and the darkest instincts collide.” is that technology is only part of the story and not the center. Also, while there are comments about people’s relationship with technology, they are less fatalistic and preachy. It doesn’t feel like there’s an agenda behind it, it just feels natural.

Let me put it like this: what most modern media do with cell phones and the internet is often minimal or commentary only, which makes it feel dangerous and out of the realm of normal, even though they have been a important part of most people’s lives for over a decade now. It would be like they started making movies about how new or dangerous cars were when the Model T came out, and then barely had them in any movies that didn’t focus on their dangerousness or novelty by the time everyone had one.

And the program reminds that the human element exists. Technology not only presents corruption problems, it presents them to already corrupt people. If Odokawa’s friend hadn’t lied on a dating app, he would have lied in a newspaper ad. If Tanaka wasn’t addicted to a mobile app, he would be a game addict. If the social media influencer didn’t have the internet, he would seek validation through anything else.

In “Odd Taxi,” the technology isn’t strange or new or particularly dangerous (although Odokawa doesn’t fully understand it); it’s just there, like a car. This casual acceptance and integration into the story is unusual, which is strange in itself. Why do so many stories ignore modern technology except for the occasional cell phone call?

It’s very strange, don’t you think?

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