Otherside Picnic, Vol. 4

By Iori Miyazawa and shirakaba. Released in Japan as “Urasekai Picnic” by Hayakawa Bunko JA. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.

Last time I talked about the fact that the narrative voice in this series is Sorawo’s, and how that makes the character of Toriko more intriguing. After this book, I’ll go even further and say that the narrative of Sorawo is vital to what makes Otherside Picnic so good, and that it’s even better because it can’t be trusted. In the first story in this book, Sorawo worries that she and Toriko are becoming desensitized to horror, but quickly shoves that off to the side, which is a shame, as yes, she absolutely is. More to the point, the horrific urban legends that she and Toriko are seeing are starting to be personally aimed at her, to the point where 3/4 of this book takes place in the “real world”. Sorawo’s past is not a pleasant one, and this book wants to remind her of it and, if ,possible, drag her back into it again. And then there’s Toriko, who is finally able to get Sorawo to stop denying what’s really, really obvious.

There are four short stories here. Two are good (1 and 3), two are great (2 and 4). The first sees our girls joining Migiwa and the rest of his organization in cleaning up the remains of the “farm” where Sorawo was kidnapped, and finding several Otherside creatures and booby traps along the way. The second sees Sorawo being threatened by something in the apartment next door to hers, to the point where she’s forced to stay first with Akari (to the displeasure of a jealous Natsumi) and then Kozakura, before finally confronting the source with Toriko. The third story sees the two (plus Kozakura) at a hot spring, which is mostly Toriko trying to make her feelings clear but also involves a brief brush with mannequins. Finally, after getting their APV upgraded, Sorawo and Toriko spend a night in the Otherside… at a crumbling and abandoned love hotel, where Sorawo’s past finally catches up with her and tries to get her to make a tragic choice.

I joked on Twitter about how Sorawo made a deal to have all that urban legend knowledge (her bookshelves are RIDICULOUS) at the expense of being unable to recognize lesbians, which is not really true, but it feels like it at times. She doesn’t seem to quite get why Natsumi is jealous of her staying with Akari, and the first half of the book has the usual uncomfortable denial of Toriko’s feelings. After a while, though, it becomes more clear that Sorawo really does know what Toriko means, but is too busy being scared and self-loathing to confront it. She can say ‘I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you” here, but that’s not quite the same thing as what Toriko wants – Toriko wants physical affection. It’s not clear where things go from here, but after confronting her past again in the Otherside (that kerosene bit – brrrr), I do think they’re in a better place to actually be in a relationship.

The anime is airing as I type this, and seems to be leaning more into “cute girls doing cute horror things” than I’d like, but for those who would like a bit more terror and a bit more yuri, this volume fits the bill perfectly.

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