Eita Miyazawa’s Otherside Picnic manga is an adaptation of a series of sci-fi/adventure novels that were written by Iori Miyazawa. I haven’t read these books, or seen the anime adaptation based on them, so this will be a review of strictly the manga version of this story.
Surly college student, Sorawo, isn’t very good with people and generally tries to avoid them whenever she can. One of her favourite hobbies is urban exploring; she loves finding quiet, abandoned places that only she knows about. So, when she accidently stumbles upon a portal to another world whilst poking around a derelict building, it seems like a dream come true. Now she has a secret place that’s all hers!
Well, turns out it was to good to be true, and this other world is filled with bizarre and deadly monsters that can drive a person mad! It isn’t long before Sorawo finds herself in the clutches of one such being, and she only manages to escape when another explorer happens to stumble upon her and steps in to help. This adventurous young lady is Toriko, a beautiful and confidant girl who casually wields guns and seems to know quite a bit about this strange dimension. Toriko is hunting through the other world, which they dub the otherside, in search of her missing friend, and she’s eager to have some company. Before she knows it, Sorwo has been roped into being Toriko’s exploring buddy, and the two of them are fending off danger and trying to work out the mysteries of this strange world together!
Otherside Picnic mixes some horror seasoning into this sci-fi adventure medley and serves it up with a side of romantic angst. The creatures inhabiting the otherside are creepy and nightmarish – the first one Sorawo encounters is an twisting blob that is vaguely shaped like a person, and which has the ability to drive people who look at it too long mad!
The girls catch glimpses of other peculiar creatures on their journey – the scaly foot of some monster residing in the darkness, a freakishly tall woman who uses your memories of loved ones against you, just to name a few. All of these beasts are unsettling and very deadly, but the monsters are only the start of Sorawo and Toriko’s problems. So many of the otherside creatures seem to possess mind altering abilities, and staying in the otherworld too long could potentially cause you to loose your sanity. The girls will have to be wary of any other humans they encounter while over there, and will need to be on guard against loosing their own grip on reality. The tension is high as Toriko and Sorawo make their way through this unfamiliar landscape and try and find Toriko’s friend, before it’s too late.
Despite the grim situation, Toriko remains unflappable – she’s determined to save her friend, no matter what. Her devotion to this missing companion is so deep, it even starts to make Sorawo a little jealous.
For her part, Sorawo is a loner, or at least she thinks of herself as one. She doesn’t like other people and prefers to be alone as much as possible, but Toriko manages to slip past her defenses. Toriko’s cheerful friendliness, even in the face of danger and Sorawo’s prickliness, quickly endears her to Sorawo, as much as she hates to admit it. When Toriko invites Sorawo to explore the otherworld with her, Sorawo is initially happy that Toriko wants to hang out with her. It doesn’t seem so bad to share her secret place with someone, if that other person is as lovely and cool as Toriko. But it isn’t long before doubts creep in and put a chink in their developing repour. Sorawo can’t help but wonder: Does Toriko actually like her? Or is she just using her to try and find her friend?
Looks like the beginnings of a yuri love triangle (assuming the enigmatic friend they’re searching for is still alive)!
While there wasn’t much focus on romance in this volume, as the girls were busy trying to figure out how to kill the wiggly goo-monster they named “The Wriggler”, a lot of ground work was lain for their developing relationship. Toriko’s bright disposition allows her to draw Sorawo out of her shell, and the two work well together and trust each other when things go awry and they need to improvise. Despite this, Sorawo is wary of Toriko on a more personal level, lacking the self-confidence to believe that Toriko would genuinely want to be friends.
Toriko seems to like Sorawo quite a bit, at least, when she isn’t being sulky and jealous. If she feels anything more than that, we don’t know, as the manga is told from Sorawo’s point of view and we aren’t privy to Toriko’s thoughts. This heightens the mystery surrounding her friend’s disappearance and the exact nature of their relationship. It should be interesting to see what happens if the girls ever manage to actually find this friend of hers.
Despite their numerous trips, the otherside remains enigmatic and spooky, only becoming more unsettling as they venture deeper. A lot of the creatures the girls encounter bear striking similarities to monsters from urban legends that Sorawo has heard. This raises the question as to whether this is because people have caught glimpses of them after accidently stumbling into the otherside and then told stories about it, or if collective human imagination somehow influences the otherside and causes these beings to manifest? I found myself very intrigued by the nature of the otherside and it’s bizarre monsters. There was a lot of action in this volume, but there was also a lot of time spent on pondering what exactly the otherside is and how it came to be. I can’t wait to find out more about it in future volumes!
With its many mysteries and cute lead characters, Otherside Picnic proved to be an engaging read. I’m looking forward to picking up more and seeing if the upbeat and brave Toriko, together with the dour and cautious Sorawo, will manage to conquer the otherside and find the person they’re looking for. I think sci-fi adventure fans will get a kick out of this and I’d recommend it to yuri readers as well.
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
For more information on this manga, visit Square Enix Manga and Books website.
What did you think of this manga? Are there any fans of the novels or anime out there who have thoughts on how the manga compares? Let me know in the comments!
Be sure to check out some of my other recent yuri manga reviews:
- I’m in Love with the Villainess (manga) Vol 1 Review
- The Whole of Humanity Has Gone Yuri Except for Me Review
- Superwomen in Love! Honey Trap & Rapid Rabbit Vol 1 Review
- Roll Over And Die (Manga) Vol 1 Review
- Dear NOMAN Vol 1 Review
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It’s been a while since I read a sci-fi manga, I’ll have to look this one up. It sounds really interesting and I like the character dynamic.
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I hope you enjoy it, I found it to be a really intriguing story so far.
“The Wriggler” — I see the girls thought long and hard about this name! Although I guess it’s less scary when the name sounds like a new Jell-O dish.
Yeah, why give it a scary name, like: the murder monster. You would just psych yourself out 😉
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It’s loosely based on Roadside Picnic By Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, two Russian SF authors. Good book, made into the Tarkovsky film Stalker. This is a cool take with the protagonists visiting the same world. I really enjoy it. I’d like to see the novels as well some time, but thus far this is great
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Oh, cool! I’ll have to look into that book.