Otherside Picnic, Vol. 1

By Iori Miyazawa and shirakaba. Released in Japan by Hayakawa Publishing. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.

This is the third in J-Novel Club’s line of “sci-fi yuri”, and it’s arguably the least sci-fi of the lot. In fact, I’d argue it’s more straight up horror with elements of folklore, though there are lots of explanations for what’s going on in scientific terms, and even a “works cited” at the end. As with the author’s previous book, Side-by-Side Dreamers, I think this book would be more for the horror fan than the yuri fan. That said, the relationship between the two leads is one of the main reasons to get the book. It’s told in first-person POV, and does a good job of sublimating its “I am attracted to this woman” vibe beneath a general “she is pretty while I am so plain” mindset. But it’s the plot that brings them together, as they’re relying on each other while exploring – and later, trapped – in another world which has very lethal dangers to both of them. The dangers are the reason I called the book horror – this book is TERRIFYING at times.

Sorawo is our main heroine and narrator. She presents herself as being your typical introvert with a normal past, which turns out to be mind-bogglingly far from reality, but we don’t find out about that till the end. She likes to explore abandoned areas, and one day found an entrance to another world. After a couple of brief minute-long explorations, she decides to investigate for real – and ends up about to drown in a marshland. She’s saved by Toriko, who appears to be Sorawo’s opposite, but again, appearances can be deceiving. She’s in this other world looking for her friend/mentor/crush, who disappeared a while back. They decide to team up and try to find her, and also learn more about this world and its monsters, which are seemingly based on Japanese urban legends… something Sorawo is very familiar with.

I will state here that there was one aspect of the book I wasn’t too fond of. The concept of the brilliant scientist/doctor/genius who looks like an elementary schoolgirl has been done to death in Japanese media, and I don’t think we needed it here. Honestly, Kozakura would have worked exactly the same without that aspect of her character, functioning as “mission control” and later brought in, much to her dismay, to the actual otherside world. It was hard not to think of her as Hakase from Nichijou. Other than that, though, this ended up being a ball to read, though I will state those who dislike horror imagery may want to give it a pass. There’s lots of images and phrasing designed to scare, and it works. Sorawo also grows greatly throughout the book, forced to examine her own personality and realize her shortcomings. Toriko doesn’t fare as well, as we get no POV of her, but the good news is that for once this is not the first and only book in the series, and there are two more to date. Which is good, as the book ends with everyone still trapped, and I’d like to see how/if they get out.

If you enjoyed Last and First Idol and Side-by-Side Dreamers, there’s no reason not to immediately get this book. For those new to the “genre”, I’d recommend it for thrills and great dialogue and imagery.

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  1. Thanks for taking the time to review this one! I really enjoyed the volume, too. I’m always on the hunt for yuri fiction like this one, where the romance is a subplot instead of being the sole focus. I felt like the romantic parts were a bit on the dry side (i.e. described with relatively few words), though not to an extent where I’d count it as a big problem.

    Indeed, the horror and the investigation did not disappoint. I was pleasantly reminded of the atmosphere of RPGMaker horror/adventure games from the late 2000’s. It’s easy to imagine this story playing out in a game like that.

    My least favorite parts were the recap sentences, that kind of spoonfed information we already learned in previous chapters. As for Kozakura, at first I was apprehensive too, but she really grew on me, at which point I didn’t really care that much about her child-sized-professor aspect.

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