Otherside Picnic

Tagged: TV

Japanese animated tv series (2021). Based on the Light Novels by Iori Miyazawa (illustrated by shirakaba). Liden Films, Felix Film. Directed by Takuya Satō. Written by Takuya Satō. Voice cast includes Yumiri Hanamori, Rina Hidaka, Ai Kayano and Miyu Tomita. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.

As the title suggests, this work is influenced by Arkady and Boris Strugatski's Roadside Picnic (1972; trans 1977).

Toriko Nishina (Kayano) is searching the Otherside, a Parallel World accessible via portals in our world, which is a Ruined Earth inhabited by Japanese creepypasta, which are Internet Urban Legends (see Supernatural Creatures). Toriko searches for her friend, Satsuki, lost in the Otherside for three months: she thinks she has succeeded, only to find it is Sorawo Kamikoshi (Hanamori) a trapped University student. They are attacked by a Kunekune, which drives those who look at it mad: Toriko defeats it, whereupon it becomes a mirror cube. Days later, Toriko asks Sorawo if she wants to return to the Otherside to get more cubes, as these are valuable: Sorawo reluctantly agrees. Confronting another Kunekune results in Toriko's left hand becoming translucent and Sorawo's right eye turning blue – the hand can touch supernatural creatures, the eye can see them for what they truly are (see Perception).

Toriko works for Kozakura (Hidaka), a Scientist researching the Otherside: she utilizes UFO terminology to do this, describing the pair's changes as Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind – "a physical impact on the body". Sorawo accompanies Toriko in further visits to Otherworld – not that she actually wants to, as it scares her, but she has developed a crush on Toriko. Odd events also begin to happen in our world and a series of adventures follow, including meeting up with karate girl Akari Seto (Tomita), who knew Satsuki – and remarks on how Toriko resembles her.

They meet other supernatural creatures such as Hasshaku-sama, a tall white-hatted lady; Kankandara, a giant snake-woman; the Space-Time Man, who inhabits a region between our world and Otherside; the Horned Man, a giant with tree branch antlers, and the Walking Gallows, a transformed military machine. The true appearance of each, as perceived by Sorawo, differs from what we initially see.

The adaptation rearranges some of the light novels' events, clumsily leading to a hat being destroyed in an early episode, only to reappear untarnished in a later one. Otherwise, this is an enjoyable Anime which suffers from a lack of narrative drive: the main arcs seems to concern Satsuki (it is perhaps not coincidental that Sorawo has twice been mistaken for her) and the romance between the two protagonists (though this has not moved far beyond blushing); but both are still in their early stages. The first season's main purpose seems to be to provide world building and character familiarization – and is intriguing and engaging at this level, but the main event, the discovery and rescue of an American battalion lost in the Otherside seems tangential, though it does provide development for the introverted Sorawo – who initially had no interest in helping the soldiers, only doing so because Torika wants to; she also begins to conquer her fear, staring down the Kakandara. Meanwhile, Torika, by working with Sorawo, is losing the loneliness that overwhelmed her after the loss of Satsuki. [SP]

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