Interview: ODD TAXI Director Baku Kinoshita

In 2021, ODD TAXI captured the hearts and minds of anime fans across the globe with charming characters, a mysterious story, and a soundtrack that perfectly captures the atmosphere of nighttime in the big city. At Crunchyroll 2022, Anime Trending and several other outlets were fortunate enough to sit down and talk with director and character designer Baku Kinoshita about the show and its conception. 

Image: Baku Kinoshita

Did you think that ODD TAXI would be such a fan favorite series during its production? How has it been to hear the response and love from fans? 

During production, I didn’t really think that it would take off and become super popular like it did.  But it did with the fans after they watched it. I got a lot of messages that they loved the series, and I saw a lot of fan art online. Once I saw the response from the fans, [it] just felt like it was such a great project that I worked on. So, it made me very happy to see that. 

Anime Trending: To overseas viewers, the movie ODD TAXI: In the Woods, hasn’t been made available to the U.S. yet. So what kind of things do you think overseas viewers should be excited for? 

For the movie, instead of Odokawa being the main character, the story is seen from a third party view. And then of course, there’s gonna be many characters and then, there’s gonna be a lot of the mystery aspect: what’s true and what’s false. Those things will make you think. And I think also for the last scene, there’s some kind of closure there, so please look out for that. 

ODD TAXI is fantastical, given the fact that all the characters are anthropomorphic animals, but it’s also very grounded. How do you balance the character designs against the series’ larger themes? 

So in terms of balancing, I did the cute animal designs and created those beforehand. But I also like the crime and suspense themes in movies, personally.  I think matching them up together gives ODD TAXI its uniqueness. Combining them wasn’t something that was hard to do. For me, it was a pretty smooth process. 

Anime Trending: So one unique aspect about ODD TAXI is that each and every character has a personality that makes them alive and believable, and kind of human, even though they’re presented as animals. How did you decide which animal to assign to each character? Did you have a set of personality traits that you made an animal character for? Or did you have an animal and then decided how they were going to be portrayed? 

For ODD TAXI, the animal designs actually came first before the script was written. In my mind, I already had the look of a character, what kind of work they did, their age, whether they’re male or female. So I had the animal designs and character designs first, and then I committed that to the script writer. From there, the script writer worked his magic and started building a story from there. I think that gave the characters more depth.

Do you identify with any of the characters in ODD TAXI? Who and why?

I feel like I identify with Odokawa the most and how he’s kind of cynical. And then, something I also do is I look at people and apply animal characteristics to them, see them as animals. So I feel like Odokawa is who I identify with the most.

Anime Trending: How did you come up with the title for the show? It’s mentioned within the series by Dobu. But how did you come up with the title?

Originally, the story was going to take place in America. For the walrus character, I had named him Odd. It was his name, so “O-D-D,” and then later we changed it. The show’s setting became Japanese. So we changed the character’s name from Odd to Odokawa. So the name changed.

And then we looked up the meaning of “odd” in English. And I was like, “Okay let’s keep it Odd. But the main character is a taxi driver, so let’s put those words together.” So, Odd Taxi — that’s how we came up with the title

What has been the most fulfilling part of drafting ODD TAXI as a series and a film?

I think the most fulfilling part is I got to meet different people who said they really enjoyed the series. I was able to give them great entertainment through this series. I’m very happy that they felt that way, and a lot of people have expressed their excitement and thanks for the series. 

For me, personally, I got to meet and work with many people. I feel like that’s what has been most fulfilling. 

Anime Trending: As an illustrator and character designer, what do you think makes a good or memorable character design, and what character from the show do you think best exemplifies those traits?

I think a good or memorable character design- What I’ve been told is when you make them a silhouette and you can recognize the character, [that] is when that’s a good character design. People can recognize them, even as a shadow. But of course they also have to have a theme and the character’s concept has to be solid.

So it can’t just be a good design. You have to know how they move, how you move them, what kind of camera angle to use when you show them, and what kind of words they say. Those are also part of that memorable experience for the character. 

For Odd Taxi, I think Yano really was a good example of that.

You can watch ODD TAXI on Crunchyroll

A fan of shows with lots of talking. Non-anime hobbies include trains and trading card games.
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