Sorawo Kamikoshi has found her way into an alternate world (soon to be dubbed the Otherside), but she's now despondent (lost, perhaps?). But she's found, and saved from one of the place's more horrifying apparitions, by a pistol-wielding girl named Toriko Nishina. She becomes involved in Toriko's attempts to find her friend, Satsuki Uruma, who has disappeared into the Otherside.
The first thing to note is that despite the show's title, being in the Otherside is often no picnic at all. Either its denizens, or the place itself, can deceive visitors with utterly convincing illusions, and can induce madness, and it's not just the mind that's in danger- there are point locations, which the girls call Glitches (a group of soldiers will call them "bear traps"), which are as destructive as land mines to those who step on them. Still, the girls get some advantage in this weird world, ironically through a Close Encounter with one of the "monsters": Sorawo's right eye, which turns blue, is able to see through the place's illusions (and spot its traps); while Toriko's left hand, turned translucent, is able to strip some of the Otherside's appearances aside like a curtain, often allowing access to what the place is concealing (e.g., a means of escape).
Before we go on, let's define the bottom line about this show: it's basically the U.S. show Stranger Things with that show's "Upside-Down" dimension reconceived as the Otherside, and with a strong feminist/yuri feel. (The principal characters are female.) I'm going to be nitpicky about some things, but I'll say up front that I very much enjoyed the show, for its portrayal of the growing relationship between Sorawo and Toriko as much as for its creepy atmosphere, suspenseful moments, and general weirdness.
(I'm not always clear where the transition line is between a close female friendship and yuri. At least in the show SO FAR, the relationship between Sorawo and Toriko seemed to me more one of buddies than lovers, even though Toriko DOES kabedon Sorawo at one point. (That is the move where one party backs another up against the wall, and then slaps the wall with one hand. It's beloved in both shoujo and yaoi manga.) The yuri vibe seemed to me stronger between two other girls in the show, Akari Seto and Natsumi Ichikawa. By the way, I had a problem with Natsumi: she's an auto mechanic, but has very long hair. That would hardly be practical- given her occupation, how would she keep it clean?)
The show's missing quite a few details, some of which apparently CAN be found in the source material. It's speculated that fear MAY be the only way the Otherside entities can communicate with human visitors, but whatever their intentions, our heroines' response is to blast away with pistols and, later, assault rifles. (Toriko has had firearms training.) For some reason, Otherside menaces often appear in the form of Japanese urban legends. (Perhaps the Othersiders are pulling these from the humans' minds, a la Solaris.) Later, the Otherside will show a distressing tendency to edge into OUR world, but initially our pair of adventurers are there for two purposes. One of these is to retrieve Satsuki (I think there's a hint of resentment on Sorawo's part that Toriko is using her to help recover her "real" friend.) The other is to collect "mirror cubes", which are sometimes found (or formed) when monsters are destroyed. These are sought for a researcher named Kozakura. The party that finances Kozakura is more vague in the anime than in the light novels, it seems.
I had one big problem with Kozakura- she looks WAY too young to be any kind of serious researcher; in fact, she looks younger than our two principal heroines (who are college age.) To be fair, it might partly be because Kozakura seems a bit diminutive, and is always sloppily dressed. I found it fascinating that Kozakura is an utter coward (FORGET that picture of her holding a rifle in the box art; that AIN'T her style at all), and her discomfort when she sometimes inadvertently ends up with the other two in the Otherside is a wonder to behold. (One time this happens while they were TRYING to get to a restaurant.) I think my feelings of schadenfreude toward her terror may possibly arise from the fact that Kozakura always seems morose, and chronically complains. (I confess I also was delighted when Kozakura went through the roof over an unusual purchase Sorawo and Toriko made.)
The show's feminist attitude was particularly refreshing with a group of U.S. Marines, because rather than the soldiers doing the rescuing, Sorawo and Toriko finally must attempt to save THEM. (The Japanese VA's here do at least make a commendable attempt at English, really better than what you hear in some higher-profile shows.)
(Speaking of speaking, I knew I'd heard Sorawo's lower-register voice somewhere recently; Yumiri Hanamori also voiced Yuka (Ryuji) Ayukawa, the trans girl in Blue Period.)
The show has a major continuity error involving a hat. Crunchy readers attribute this to events in the light novels being adapted out of chronological order. Fixing this would require slightly altering the visuals in one scene, and excising maybe a couple of lines of dialogue. Someone really should have caught this at the production end.
The closing theme is as pretty as it should be for a yuri show- even if your yuri show has quite a lot of blasting away at monsters.
Gun Girls in Love, maybe? Seriously, despite some illogical spots, it's a very interesting work of Fem Sci-Fi. It's not gotten much notice, and that's kind of a shame. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Rightstuf rates the Blu-Ray 14+. It's mainly for violence and horror elements, I suppose, though our heroines do don swimsuits for the obligatory "beach" episode. (And NO beaches are more private than Otherside beaches.) Sorawo and Toriko also like to party (in other words, drink a lot of beer.)
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Otherside Picnic © 2021 Liden Films/Felix Film
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