Hige o Soru. Soshite Joshi Kousei o Hiroo – 01
Let me just say this, in the first place. In any efforts to take this show seriously, there are two huge obstacles. First, why would the protagonist do what he did, taking this girl into his apartment? He could be arrested for kidnapping. She could blackmail him. She could rob him blind and be gone in the morning. Why not just give her ¥2000 and send her to a manga kissa? It makes no sense, at least not as presented. And second, the constant fetishizing over the heroine’s body – the lurid lingering close-ups of her breasts or her panties. What kind of message is that sending about your intentions as a director and writer?
That’s a shame, because Hige o Soru is not terrible by any means. That protagonist, Yoshida-san, is by all accounts a basically decent guy. Not only does he decline the chance to sleep with this unrealistically busty teenaged girl, he actually gives a shit about her. He even gives her some good advice about respecting herself a little. And after the fact, he’s not so stupid that he’s blind to the risk he’s taking in doing what he’s doing (though he still keeps doing it, even taking the heroine – Sayu – clothes shopping). In addition to that the writing (Akao Deko is adapting and she’s no slouch) and direction is decent. The dialogue is quite natural, when it’s not drowning in its own absurdity.
The illogic of the initial setup will pass I suppose, but the elephant in the room here is what happens once the two of them settle in together. There’s a sizable squick factor to deal with if this becomes an age-gap romance (as the premiere suggests it will), and the coming plot twist will complicate things further in that respect. But I liked the tone of the series enough to at least watch another ep or two out of curiosity, because there are obviously competent people involved (even the LN writer did HaruChika, which wasn’t catastrophically awful) and if they can somehow make a silk purse out of this big of a sow’s ear, they might have something genuinely interesting on their hands.
Odd Taxi – 01
I had absolutely no idea when I chose to pair these two shows off in a digest post that both would be dealing with the theme of adult men hiding high school girls in their apartment. That very much appears to be the case, but apart from that you aren’t going to find many similarities between Hige o Soru and Odd Taxi.
There was never any question that Odd Taxi would (aptly) be a strong contender for the weirdest series of the year. One early commenter on Twitter referred to the premiere as “if Polar Bear Cafe was The Wire” and if I wasn’t sold already, that would have sealed the deal. Upon watching the premiere I wouldn’t quite go there, but I get the notion. In point of fact Odd Taxi ended up being less weird than I expected – to the extent that a show with this premise and cast can not be really weird. There was a plot, consistent characterization, not as much surrealism as I expected. But yeah – still pretty weird.
The story behind this one is also odd. As far as I know both the director and writer have never worked in anime before, though the latter – Konomoto Kadzuya – is a mangaka. Most of the cast seem to be non-seiyuu too – manzai comedians, et al – though there three well-known names in central roles. Kappei Yamaguchi is in his sweet spot as a lonely 41 year-old janitor (and monkey) looking for online love, and Kimura Ryouhei as gorilla doctor Gouriki is the best part of the premiere – it’s a killer performance that lets Kimura really go outside his usual comfort zone. But Hanae Natsuki as protagonist taxi driver (and walrus) Kotokawa is downright, well- odd. He’s so obviously miscast that maybe it sort of works? Check back with me in a week or two, I’m still not sure.
The recurring plot set up by the premiere has Kotokawa letting a runaway teenager stay in his apartment (again, I had no idea), and a possibly rogue cop who likes to hassle him in league with a banchou named Dobo who’s supposedly a suspect. That’s fine, but the best part of the premiere are the weird, rambling conversations presented in such a way that it feels as if we’re eavesdropping. Like Kotokawa with the kid (hippo?) trying to go viral (like “foreigner views on gender in Japan”), and the hilarious exchange between Kotokawa and Gouriki about Bruce Springsteen’s role in the “We Are the World” recording session. Oh, and Gouriki’s nurse is apparently stealing drugs.
I’m fascinated to be sure, but I don’t have a handle on Odd Taxi yet. The cast being animals so far isn’t really mined for any material impact, it’s just kind of there for its own sake. As for Kotokawa his extreme anti-social behavior is sort of interesting, and he has a backstory too (can’t sleep, abandoned by his parents). This series doesn’t fit into any anime boxes so it’s pretty much impossible to figure out where it’s headed, but that singular nature is its most obvious drawing point. This was one of my sleeper picks for a reason, and the premiere does nothing to suggest I was wrong. It’s still a mystery but if you like distinctiveness you’d be crazy to ignore this series.