Meet Sorao, a nerdy and lonely college student, and Toriko, a cheerful yet impulsive explorer of the Otherside, the mysterious realm that is home to creatures we meet in creepypasta and urban legends. Together, they look for Satsuki—Toriko’s former companion—defeat otherworldly threats, and uncover just a little of the overwhelming mystery surrounding the Otherside.
Urasekai Picnic (Otherside Picnic) started off strong in the Winter 2021 anime season but the audience’s interest winded down along the way. Part of that was due to the criticism regarding the quality of CG animation in the monster scenes, and the division among anime watchers and light novel readers, who had different expectations for the adaptation.
The series adapted chapters from the first three light novel volumes, synthesizing materials and focusing more on exploring the Otherside and its many dangers, with a generous side of comedy and a bit of romance.
In this review, we will focus on the horror-supernatural element and the romance element, given that this is what we were expecting when we got into it. Let’s see what we think of this atmospheric supernatural yuri series!
Atmosphere: Balancing Horror and Comedy
The series managed to recreate the eerie vibe of the Otherside, with some drawbacks. The opening scene, where Sorao is contemplating death and is rescued by Toriko, foreshadows their strong connection effectively. They immediately get into trouble by having to confront a mysterious formless creature, the Wiggle Waggle. Recreating the look of an unknown horror must have been challenging for the animators, and they delivered a solid terrifying presence. The soundtrack added to the creepiness factor, along with the body horror elements, after Sorao and Toriko’s partial transformation.
The creepiness factor was, however, uneven. Along the way, we were introduced to several creatures coming from urban legends and internet lore. If the first episode sets the expectations, we were not ready for the comedic turn the series would take. Not that we are against it! For example, we had so much fun watching Kozakura losing it every time she was transported to the Otherside. However, the tone was inconsistent at times. This might have been on purpose, to contrast the everyday lives of the protagonists to the sudden transfer to the Otherside.
The use of CG animation didn’t help either. We are not against the use of CGI in anime, however, we have to admit it has its drawbacks and its use does not guarantee a better result. Just compare the monster episodes with the Meat Train episode, which delivered one of the most chilling scenes in the series with just a few simple elements. It’s when Otherside Picnic keeps it simple that it excels in its delivery of horror; the less we see, the creepier it gets. Or, let’s not forget about episode 4, where Toriko almost became part of this alternate dimension—the dreadfulness of that scene was real using just a few elements. Similarly, the creepy phone calls in episode 5 between our world and the Otherside were a nice touch. Taking the everyday, phone calls, train cabins, and twisting them just a little, ups the uncanny factor by far. We would have loved to see more of that instead of relying on CGI too much.
Admittedly, it’s challenging adapting an ongoing light novel series that is a pioneer in its genre. We don’t get yuri sci-fi often that does well enough to get an adaptation and become fairly mainstream. Even though Otherside Picnic at times felt like ticking monsters off the creepypasta checklist, it delivered a solid result.
Like a Buddy-Cop Flick But Make It Gay
Having said that, the comedy aspects worked pretty well in connection to the budding romance between Toriko and Sorao. The official images, cute girls posing with guns, prepared us for this feeling of camaraderie. Their building intimacy is shown through details, their body language, and flirty teasing. Also, their complementing powers—Sorao’s eye, and Toriko’s hand—create a literal bond between them and the Otherside.
Still, we don’t get to see Sorao’s inner monologue, so we are missing out on her developing crush; we can see her blushing but not what she is thinking. From what we hear, the yuri element is stronger in the light novel, where Sorao is constantly gushing over her pretty blonde friend. We would have loved to see that happening, but it does make sense that Sorao does not confess yet. What we watched was only part of their adventures, after all.
Given that the story is ongoing, no resolution was given about Satsuki either. Satsuki’s presence is looming over them and affects Sorao’s growing uneasiness. The point where Sorao is told she starts resembling Satsuki was eerie, to say the least, but there was no conclusion at this point (Is she turning into Satsuki? What’s the deal?).
Finally, the romance is validated by the side characters, too. Kozakura was an absolute delight to watch, sighing meaningfully every time Sorao simped too hard for Toriko. Also, Akari and Natsumi’s connection mirrors that of Toriko and Sorao.
Did we enjoy watching Otherside Picnic? We definitely did and we recommend it to supernatural anime lovers, especially if you prefer a comedic touch. We still want to point out what could have been done better, without diminishing the effort made in adapting a unique light novel series. Watch the anime and read the light novels for the complete experience. And, don’t shy away because of what you heard about the use of CG animation, Otherside Picnic has many redeeming qualities. See you on the Otherside!