Otherside Picnic – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser January 4, 20210 Comments
Toriko with her gun and Sorao collapsed in fear

What’s it about? Isolated college student Sorao is on the verge of death in an unknown world until she’s rescued by the strange and somewhat trigger-happy Toriko, who suggests they start hunting down the monsters of the “otherside” for a profit.

Content Consideration: Mild body horror.

“Is this the first yuri anime that’s not mainly about high schoolers?” I thought to myself partway through Otherside’s premiere. After about ten minutes of wracking my brain, I came up with last year’s Idol Budokan, but that series is built on a foundation of the two leads being unable to have a simple conversation about their feelings for a number of reasons. There are a few series that have secondary romances between adult women as well, but as a main focus? Anime has a long way to go to catch up with the ever-increasing number of manga on the subject.

close-up of Sorao and Toriko. subtitle: We could make some good money, partner.

That may be a major reason why Otherside Picnic often shows up on a very short list of well-regarded yuri light novels, but it’s not the only one. This first episode proves that it’s got a solid sci-fi/horror premise to back it up, making it an early contender for my favorite premiere of the season.

Rather than western high fantasy or technology-focused sci-fi, Otherside pulls from modern urban legends, mixing its own stories with existing rumors like the Elevator Game. The titular otherside is a liminal space that looks just-off from the world as we know it, allowing the anime staff to go wild with eerie images of abandoned spaces and overgrown nature. The monsters themselves suffer somewhat in translation from prose, as their main gimmick is a cosmic horror element where looking at them will cause the viewer to go mad.

the two girls in silhouette with a giant red and black shape descending on them

The anime tries to make up for it by keeping elements of internal monologue and using some very cool body horror that nails the episode climax, but other shots aren’t sure what to do beyond slapping some filters on top of blobs and calling it a day. If the intense one-on-one encounters continue to go well it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s a hurdle of stylistic impact versus practical animation needs that I imagine will persist.

Fortunately, visuals matter less when the show is carried by such wonderfully dynamic leads. I feel like I have a handle on why I should invest in Sorao and Toriko while also wanting to know more about them (and wanting to see them learn more about each other, too). Neither feels like a cookie-cutter archetype, and their interactions are engaging to watch even without wondering about a turn toward romance.

Sunao with blue tendrils growing out of her eyes. subtitle: I got it! I got it! I got it!

Although on the kissing front, I’m eager to see what director (and also, unusually, series composer) Sato Takuya brings from his experience directing both the Kase-san OVA and the recent Shimura adaptation Happy-Go-Lucky Days. We’re off to a strong start with a lack of fanservice, at the very least.

Queer audiences, self included, are constantly on the lookout for genre fiction that happens to feature queer romance, so I’m hoping with all my heart that this one delivers until the end.

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