Isn’t this exciting!?! The very first review of this new season, it’s a brand new series, Otherside Picnic, and I have a brand new kollaborator! See what I did there? Are you impressed? Whatever! I’ll impress you next time… It’s not like I wanted your approval, grumble…

Oh wait, some people might not know what I’m doing here. OK, everyone, please say a big hearty welcome to K! How are you K? Did you enjoy the holidays?

Haha, well I was impressed. Thanks for such a warm welcome, it’s certainly appreciated during the winter season. I’m doing well, the holidays were a nice time to reflect upon and appreciate a lot of things that came out of last year. All and all I greatly appreciate the many memories and friends I made last year, but I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping this year can treat everyone a little bit nicer. Hope your holidays were fun, if you have any interesting stories do tell.

I don’t know how much you knew about Otherside Picnic going in. I basically knew only what AniChart had told me which wasn’t that much. In any case, I was imagining a grim tense, uhm romance? O.k. so I didn’t know what I was in for. I was hoping for actual picnics though. 

This said one of my readers today  (Monday) told me that it was based on a novel that was “god tier”, so I went in ready to get my mind blown. 

Absolutely nothing! Honestly, you said you were looking for partners to watch stuff with, and as someone who has never watched a seasonal before…who better to do my first one with! I read brief loglines for each of the winter series, and gazed at the promotional posters. Since then I have looked into the studio. Unfortunately, I am rather unfamiliar with LIDENFILMS, but I’m sure you are someone in the comments will have thoughts when I say the studio behind: Senyu, Miss Monochrome, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. (I liked Yamada-kun…)

Since this is our first time working together, I should warn you that I am not so much an anime critic, as I am an anime cheerleader. So the incisive analysis and commentary is all on you pal. I’m just gonna ohh and ahh and comment on how nice them silhouettes are in the closing credits Ok Great, thanks! 

I don’t know if this is just for me, or going in the article but cool I get to be bad cop! This is technically our first time together but we’ve occupied the same spaces before (Space is the Place, April Fool’s, a little cameo in my video). I think it’s safe to say we’re fans of each other’s style, so do what you do best and find things to appreciate and admire. I, on the other hand, like to think I’m fair and honest, not afraid to call a spade a spade. I’m optimistic about this series, but hopefully I can do my best in providing some good analysis and/or commentary.

The very first thing that hit me, is that Otherside Picnic has really great characterization. I feel like I understand Sorao and Toriko better at this point than characters I have watched for a full 12 episodes. And the development was beautifully organic. Despite most of it being dialogue-driven, I never once thought that I was sitting through an exposition dump. 

At one point I wrote down, I have no clue what’s going on and yet I completely understand these girls. And they make great foils for each other. Do you have a favourite yet?

I have to agree, I’m really enjoying their dynamic right now. On paper it’s a very familiar character type; an introverted pessimist, and an extroverted optimist. Yet, they don’t lean too heavily into the stereotypes and end up writing characters that feel very natural and balanced. I like a lot of how they achieved that characterization throughout this episode as well. While most of it was set in the Bridge to Terabithia “Other World”, I do like that we get a glimpse of them in a more average setting. 

Also appreciated that they come across as a tandem with both contributing to the table. Both Sorao and Toriko have already proven their value to the team, by demonstrating their strengths. Still, I think the show makes a lot of interesting decisions to allow the two to bounce off one another. For instance, it’s cool how in a way they’re both the expert. Instead of having one fish out of water, Sorao has greater experience inhabiting the Other World, while Toriko better understands how the other world works.

As for who is my favorite? I think I’ll say I’ll lean towards Toriko, who I think is naturally charming. But, my hunch is that Sorao will have more character development that I could be swayed in the end. I think Toriko kind of reminds me a bit of you Irina, would that mean she’s your favorite right now?

Honestly, at this point, I like them best as a team. I think neither quite works as well independently for now. It is just episode 1.

From what I can tell, the story draws inspiration from a mish-mash of urban legends and creepypastas. I think I recognized three in this episode. I love urban legends and really all forms of folklore both classical and modern. It’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to stories with Yokai in it. I have to admit, these allusions to popular myths without spelling them out too much, had me really excited. 

From your reviews, I get the feeling you’re also a fellow mythlover. (Why does that sound kinda dirty…) Am I wrong? Did you pick up on any more urban legends?

Oh I do, enjoy tales of the strange and unnatural. Honestly, when I heard about the series I kind of just came to the thought of how cool a series like Supernatural or Gravity Falls would be done as a yuri anime. I wish I knew more about Eastern mythos, so I think spotting them is going to be a little easier for you.

It is interesting that you said Creepypastas, because it does feel a little bit more of modern mythos. It sort of reminds me of SCP and how people on online forums are creating these new monsters and myths. Maybe it was the open field but I couldn’t stop thinking of Siren Head. A Siren Head sighting would feel fitting for this universe.

Things I did notice, sort of fall under speculation. First is with the elevator, as when I watched Another I learned about Eastern Tetraphobia. Basically, 4 in Chinese phonetically sounds similar to the word for death therefore, it’s a superstitious number across a few Eastern countries. The same with how in the US and Canada we consider 13 bad luck. With these numbers it is actually common that elevators won’t have a button for them. So, maybe it’s just coincidence but it was interesting that the first number they press in the elevator is 4.

And the numbers game is quite close to the Elevator game creepypasta. That was probably too obvious to mention but just in case. See K does the deep interesting stuff, I just throw in the easy things in case one of my readers is too young to have heard of it.

This is the one I wasn’t going to include because it’s fairly straightforward but after researching it, it’s really fascinating. When they first meet, Toriko quips that she thought Sorao was Ophelia. It’s a very obvious connection, as she’s lying in the river and they even show an image that resembles John Everett Millais’ painting of the tragic Shakespeare heroine.

However, Ophelia actually has a rich history in Japan and with it an almost entirely different connotation. The branch off which Ophelia began to receive new meaning (pun intended), is most credited to Soseki Natsume’s Kusamakura or The Three-Cornered World. This Natsume’s book is not so much about friends but rather:

“The protagonist, a painter, curiously compares O-Nami, a strong-willed, rebellious woman, to Ophelia. The novel also draws on certain Japanese legends and horror tales that link Ophelia with Japanese revengeful female ghosts and monsters” – Yukari Yoshihara, Ophelia-cult in Japan

Ophelia has since been a very prominent figure. Ophelia has even become tied to feminism as one of Japan’s earliest and most iconic actresses Sada Yacco played Orieko/Ophelia in 1930. Since then Ophelia has been depicted numerous times in Japanese media, but has become less and less about madness. As the case with Ponyo, Romeo X Juliet, Claymore, or countless other depictions Ophelia has become something eternal typically representing purity and female agency. Honestly, this is something that’s only hitting the tip of the iceberg. 

There’s other things like the iconic image of Ophelia with an expensive handbag in a piece about exploiting iconography for commercialism but I share all this because I think it could be very interesting to Otherside Picnic. I think the comparison of Sorao to Ophelia might go deeper than the initial visual. Maybe Sorao will also rise from turmoil and be a strong-willed and pure figure.

I should have warned people that I am long-winded and tangential, but nobody is here to hear what I have to say so…please take the mic back.

There’s actually a lot of very interesting conspiracy theories about Ophelia in Shakesperian lore as well but I’ll let you guys look them up for yourselves. Let’s just say it could be foreshadowing in which case…trust no one!

I have been reviewing anime for a while now, and that’s the only reason I have become a bit more sensitive to actual animation. In this case, there wasn’t much at all. The first episode was very still in many ways. No hair blowing in the wind, no dancing shadows unless they were narratively important. And the action scenes used a lot of shaky camera work, successive still shots and repeated cells to make it appear as if there was much more movement than was actually shown. 

The fact that they are using these techniques right from the start when they need to hook viewers makes me think 2 things. 1) This show probably has a tight budget and 2) this director knows exactly what they’re doing. I mean, I noticed it right from the start and it didn’t annoy me at all. I really like that they established this animation style now so that it won’t be jarring later. And the tradeoff is that the art consistency was fantastic. Obviously, this is a production team that has experience. That’s a great sign.

Yeah, I mean I would make a distinction between stiffness and stillness. I watched a couple episodes of The Netflix Spanish anime, The Idhun Chronicles and that one is a little janky looking. I think that one looks stiff, as it’s prone to rely on camera movements and artificial zooms to portray action.

I’d say Otherside Picnic is very still, there’s not a lot of extravagant movements but it seems to match the mood. I think the editing and cinematography are really great so far. I really like the shot composition and all the different angles they show. I think a lot of credit goes to the director of photography Takeshi Kuchiba. I looked up trailers of some of his other works and maybe it’s just trailer shots but Fragtime and Kase-san and Morning Glories do look remarkable in terms of the camera work. Right now, the series looks like it is in great hands.

All said, I really liked this first episode. It did everything it was supposed to do. I already have a minimal attachment to the two main characters. The world and setting are mysterious enough to make me want to know more just to understand what’s going on but familiar enough that I’m not just left scratching my head. The OP was super fun and surprisingly cheery. And the silhouettes of the two girls in the ED were hot…

What are your takeaways from episode 1?

I know it’s not a practice in anime, but I always treat the first episode like a pilot. I found this to be a successful pilot, it sells you on the characters and the world and doesn’t try to do too much. Honestly, I was nervous after the trailer that the supernatural element was actually going to be different interactions of the wiggle waggle. Who let’s be honest isn’t the most visually remarkable design. It’s not bad, but it would have been disappointing if they were just running around with a bunch of special effect nonsense chasing them.

I’m excited to see where the series goes, they definitely hint at a lot of interesting things in the OP. Nice to see Nao Tomori will join the series eventually, I wonder what dynamic she will bring. I’m a little confused why this already has over a thousand ratings on MAL, but I’m not making any judgement calls yet. It looks promising, and I’m excited to see where this goes.

Thank you so much for letting me tag along for the ride, hopefully this is the start of a really great series of reviews.

18 thoughts

  1. A minor trivia note. Ophelia’s picture has a censor bar across her face, which I take to be how accident victim photos are presented in Japan.

  2. I’m glad you liked the episode. But man, based on your screenshots, the anime’s depiction of the Otherside is a lot different from how I pictured it in my head, and I kind of prefer my version! I made it look more vibrant and oversaturated, to give it an abstract beauty that contrasts with how terrifying it actually is. I don’t know if that’s how it was meant to be imagined, but I’m sticking with it! I hope you keep liking this series as is!

    1. I never read the novels but I can see what you mean. If otherside was some type of eden that you just want to go back to because it’s so beautiful it would add another layer. Not that I disliked the visuals. A quiet pas apocalyptic sort of world. But it’s a different feel

    2. I see what you mean I also thought there could have been some heightened reality or surrealism. Maybe not go full Alice in Wonderland but like you said some saturation or deviation to make it seem abnormal. Then again first episode so maybe this is just the brim and a launch point for more bizarre environment and creatures to be seen.

  3. Really liked the first episode. K’s infor about Ophelia in Japan was interesting and new. And I think I agree with you that I like the girls best when they play off each other. It’s one of those shows that makes you trust the story even though it doesn’t give the game away. I’m in for the ride. One of the better premiers so far.

    1. A very strong start, let’s hope it can keep up the momentum. And K is an awesome source of info in general

  4. Had zero knowledge about this going in – just the synopsis to go on, and the sense that there’d be a mystery to solve for the girls, so I took a look and I’m definitely keen to see more – looking forward to more of these posts, cool!

      1. Me too!

        Meant to add a comment too, def agree that the dialogue did some heavy lifting re: exposition + character here. Just watched ‘Scar on the Praeter’ ep 1 and in comparison, the dialogue was pretty clunky in bits.

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