Otherside Picnic, Vol. 8

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.

For the most part, this book is an emotional journey. It’s about Sorawo, a woman whose emotions have always been something of a foreign country (to herself, not necessarily to others) learning about what love is, what it means to love someone, and how that can change a relationship. And she has perfectly normal fears. She has a great relationship with Toriko now, one defined in the first book: they’re accomplices. But Toriko wants something more, and Sorawo knows it. That said, in case you were worried that this book would be all fluff and lack the sheer horror of the previous books, fear not. The middle of the book is here for you. What’s more, given that the book is about Sorawo’s feelings about Toriko, it makes sense that the horror is all based around Toriko. Let’s just say I hope this is never animated – I deal far better with horror as a written word than I do with horror as a visual medium.

Toriko has confessed to Sorawo, and says she wants a response. But she knows Sorawo is who she is, so she’s giving her a week to come up with this answer. This allows Sorawo to do a minor tour of the supporting cast to get some advice. College friend Benimori gives probably the most sensible advice, and seems delighted to find Sorawo, who has a bit of a reputation at their college, going through a real relationship. She talks with Natsumi, whose advice seems to be more about Natsumi than it is about Sorawo. She talks with Kozakura, who points out that their desire to go to the Otherside constantly, something almost everyone else would find terrifying, is what unites them – but that Toriko would stop doing it without Sorawo. And then finally, after a bus ride home that devolves into a series of Toriko-related visions, she goes to her apartment and confronts the girl she loves but barely knows.

I emphasized the horror, but rest assured there’s a lot of funny stuff here as well. The entire scene with Natsumi is amazing, complete with Natsumi calling Sorawo a “raging lesbian”, which is projecting if ever I saw it. Kozakura’s talk with Sorawo goes off the rails thanks to the presence of Kasumi, and leads to a self-help guide from hell. And the last part of the book, with Toriko and Sorawo opening up to each other, while also filled with sweet, touching moments, has its share of hilarity. We’ve known for a while that Sorawo is an unreliable narrator, but Toriko describing how Sorawo is ogling her constantly ever since they first met drives that home very well. Of course, we the reader have also seen that, but it’s been in the context of her internal monologue, so it hadn’t been apparent that it was written all over her face as well.

The sweet emotional bits are there as well, of course. I loved Toriko trying to do research into what she feels Sorawo’s issues might be – it’s a sign of how much she’s prepared to devote to their relationship, but also a sign of how little Sorawo opens up about her past – her matter-of-factness is disturbing, not edifying, even when she has to bluntly say “my family did not sexually assault me”. We also finally get a long look at Toriko’s mothers, what they did and who they were, as Sorawo finally realizes that in order to be Toriko’s lover, she needs to know who Toriko is and where she came from. And then there’s the part of the book that I think everyone will be talking about, the sex scene. At first disappointing, though very true to what Sorawo has told us, the reader, about her sexuality so far, it then rapidly moves in a very different direction. What follows is not only fulfilling for both of them but also 100% in character – both for them and the book. Kozakura would be completely unsurprised. They’re freaks, of course they have freaky sex.

We’re caught up once again, so I’m not sure where the series goes from here. We were introduced to a new character, who I didn’t have room to talk about, so it may do something with her. That said, this book is for those who’ve been waiting forever for these two to get together.

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