Judging by its surface-level elements, Otherside Picnic (Urasekai Picnic) should be right up my street. It’s a series about exploring a mysterious world, after all, that draws inspiration from internet lore and the paranormal, and contains lots of yuri fanservice (shoot me, I like WLW). Nevertheless, while many of these elements are present in LIDENFILMS and Felix Film’s winter season anime, its adaptational approach means that much of it gets lost in translation.
Contains spoilers for Otherside Picnic up to episode 6.
Episode 4 of Otherside Picnic has to be one of the worst episodes of anime I’ve seen in a long time. The premise is fine, seeing main characters Sorawo Kamikoshi and Toriko Nishina break apart after a brief spat; it’s the usual ‘act three’ of any romantic comedy. As a result, Toriko wanders into the mysterious ‘Otherside’ on her own, attempting to fulfill her goal of finding her long-lost friend, Satsuki. She then runs into trouble with the mysterious ‘Space-Time Man,’ an internet folklore figure who warned Sorawo earlier in the episode not to visit the mysterious dimension again, lest they be trapped there forever. By the end of the episode, the drama is over and the relationship between the two characters restored, stronger than ever.
The problem comes, however, in the pacing and structure of this episode. Apparently, Sorawo visited Toriko’s apartment earlier in the day before she went to see Kozakura: an Otherside researcher whose character has also been seemingly gutted in the process of adaptation. Yet, instead of showing us this first-hand, Otherside Picnic episode 4 makes the baffling decision to tell us this by way of expository dialogue. This makes following the timeframe and order of events unnecessarily hard.
The episode then hard cuts to a bunch of mysterious callers at Kozakura’s door: not much is explained about them other than the fact they ‘remind’ Sorawo of the Space-Time Man. The story then rushes into the Otherside, where Kozakura and Sorawo have to team up to find Toriko: an interesting story exploring why Kozakura doesn’t go into the Otherside and how she would react now that she’s inside is wasted when Sorawo climbs up onto the top of a building, manages to spot Toriko from about a mile away, and resolves the entire thing. There’s a good bit of worldbuilding at the very end as Toriko says that the inhabitants of the Otherside can only communicate ‘through fear,’ but that’s about it.
Episode 4 typifies everything wrong with Otherside Picnic’s adaptation. In condensing the source material down to a single episode (in the first novel, the Space-Time Man section is the fourth arc) LIDENFILMS and Felix FIlm have completely gutted the story’s flavor, texture, and comprehensibility. No time is spent exploring the concept of Space-Time Man and building up its overwhelming presence, no space is allotted to exploring Kozakura’s actions in the Otherside, and no care and attention was spent in ensuring that the story wouldn’t suffer as a result of the adaptational changes, which are inevitable when bringing a story to another medium.
Another great example of this last point is Sorawo’s right eye and her ability to see ‘glitches.’ At the beginning of the series, she and Toriko come into contact with a ‘Kunekune’ and end up obtaining special abilities as a result: Sorawo can perceive the true form of Otherside phenomena thanks to her blue eye and Toriko can touch them thanks to her transparent hand. In episode 2, a character by the name of Abarato then adds another layer to the traversal of the Otherside by pointing out the existence of glitches: ‘supernatural traps’ that will kill anyone who steps on them in an instant. They sound very dangerous, but are hardly mentioned ever again.
In the episode following (episode 3), Toriko and Sorawo make an attempt to watch out for glitches while traversing the Otherside by throwing stones to see if the path ahead is clear. Yet, this is only sometimes replicated in future episodes. If glitches were so numerous and so deadly, wouldn’t that be the two characters’ number one preoccupation?
One reason it isn’t could be that Sorawo actually has the ability to see glitches using her right eye, but this isn’t mentioned nearly enough to solidify it as a consistent feature in the story. Furthermore, the question of why her eye is only sometimes blue and sometimes appears normally is only answered in episode 6, where it is revealed that she wears a color contact.
Why was this not explained before? And why does the story keep forgetting about glitches? This comes, once again, down to a question of Otherside Picnic‘s adaptation. The story arc in episode 6 (Station February) is actually File 3 in the light novels, but is swapped with File 4 (Time-Space Man) in the anime. Instead of making sure that the two stories work well side-by-side with no inconsistencies, the anime literally just adapts them as is but out of order; the glitch problem is also likely to do with the anime either not explaining the phenomena properly or not representing how the characters overcome it in the novel on screen.
As a result, Otherside Picnic makes for a very annoying watch. You’ll spend most of your time shouting at your TV like I did, wondering why on earth certain things weren’t explained earlier instead of taking in the intriguing world and cute characters. The internet lore is also hardly explained properly either, leaving viewers to do their own research via the wiki.
That’s a damn shame, because I wanted to like Otherside Picnic. I really did. At the very least, I do enjoy the back-and-forth between the two main characters, but there are literally hundreds of other yuri series I could dive into out there to get my fix.
If you’re interested in the premise of this series but have yet to pick it up, then I would strongly recommend diving into the light novels instead. They’re available via J Novel Club. The manga is also forthcoming from Square Enix.
Only watch the anime as it airs on Funimation if you dare.