Otherside Picnic Series Review – A Brilliant Premise with Shaky Execution

Series Review Template

I’m not going to lie – by the end of 12 episodes of Otherside Picnic I was getting serious Annihilation vibes, particularly when we introduced the soldiers who were lost in the Otherside. Whether that comparison is favourable or not will really depend on how you liked Netflix’s Annihilation.

For me it was a beautiful movie that made absolutely no sense and even after a rewatch and thinking it all through, it still makes no sense and a lot of the weird things that happen seem to happen without rhyme or reason and a lot of the time without even a real connection to the overall plot. They just kind of happen.

Urasekai Picnic isn’t quite so random in that most of the events do link to the character story being told, but there’s still a lot that a viewer just has to shrug and accept in order to get into this narrative. Here are my thoughts as I moved beyond my first impressions of Otherside Picnic.

Otherside 3
That said, Kozakura is definitely the best character and the one who has the most logical reactions to things. I just wish there was more of her in the story.

As is clear from that first paragraph, Otherside Picnic has some issues with its narrative and world building. None of which are fatal to the enjoyment of the story but certainly may put some viewers off, particularly if another season isn’t forthcoming and all the potential connections and half-hints never actually end up going anywhere.

I think my main issue with the plot is that we really never progress beyond the nebulous MacGuffin of find the missing Satsuki as a reason for the girls continuing on their adventures as a whole. Sure we get mini-quests along the way such as saving Akari from the ninja-cats and again from being stuck half-way to the Otherside.

They also pull out a fairly dramatic final arc with the girls returning to a previous location to save a group of soldiers they’d encountered. That makes for an excellent set-piece for wrapping up this season and gives the story a nice dramatic conclusion and yet ultimately I’m not sure what it does for the overall narrative other than perhaps mark the beginning of Sorao acting more for others and tightening the relationship that had been developing between Toriko and Sorao.

Not to mention, the quality of the final encounter the soldiers have in the otherside is pretty lame when you consider that the enemy they were fighting mostly just sat there and waited for someone to figure out how to destroy it.

Otherside 9
Girls with guns.

For those not particularly concerned with overall narratives and who are happy enough just kicking back and enjoying the various adventures and dangers the girls encounter along the way, this won’t actually be a negative at all. For me, it felt like a missed opportunity for what I felt could have been an excellent anime.

Similarly, the Otherside that has been constructed is a vast and potentially interesting world. However, in the course of 12 episodes we learn pretty much nothing about it. Sure we encounter various dangerous creatures and the girls learn to avoid the glitches in the world.

But what it is and why it is there and how it came to be connected to our world (and why punching elevator buttons might open a door) all remain unaddressed. For the most part I can just roll with it because it is a fantasy. Where I started seriously questioning the world building was when entrances started just being wherever the writer seemed to feel they were needed.

Rather than characters returning to the elevator we found passageways at shrines, through other doorways, using a hat, and just wherever was apparently convenient at the time. It ultimately makes it feel less like a real place the girls are passing into as the story goes on.

Otherside 2
And if you want to know who this guy is… Don’t ask the anime series because the answer is not here.

But those are definitely the smaller disappointments while watching the series. There’s absolutely a lot to like while watching starting with the central characters. Toriko and Sorao just have great chemistry, which is probably really important given the Shoujo Ai tag this anime has.

The anime covers around three months from their first encounter and does a decent job of building up their friendship and definitely suggests that their connection is moving deeper the more they explore together. Certainly their teamwork, communication, and trust has deepened significantly by the time we get to the final arc of this series and it makes their final discussion, where they actually address one of my main concerns (Sorao’s motivation in continuing to accompany Toriko) head on.


It definitely made me feel like the series really understood these characters and while we’re clearly still early days into their story they were starting to feel like real people who were going to continue to grow and develop beyond this final episode. That doesn’t mean there weren’t a few questions about these characters along the way, such as why does Toriko enter the Otherside while wearing high-heels given she knows how rough the terrain is going to be, but I at least genuinely enjoyed spending time with these girls and watching their encounters.

Otherside 10
Best use for a beach episode.

The central duo are supported by the snarkier Kozakura, who I definitely wanted more of in this series. She really does come across as the voice of the audience and most definitely reacts the most appropriately to the weird and dangerous situations they come across when she’s dragged from the safety of her house.

Less welcome was Akari, a supporting character who got dropped in for the weak ninja-cat story that felt really out of place in this series and then kind of hung around. While Akari did provide a bit more of a push toward the mysterious Satsuki, but that ultimately didn’t go anywhere in these episodes and so Akari largely felt like a tacked on extra.

The girls from Otherside Picnic
Our brave and adventuring heroes?

I absolutely loved the sound design of Otherside Picnic. I’ve read some tweets and one particular review on MAL that really disliked the audio of this anime, but for me, from the opening music all the way through each episode to the ending theme, the music was kind of spot on. Sure, it isn’t exactly easy listening, but it perfectly sets the mood of each sequence and definitely helps support the mystery aspect of the story. I also liked that characters falling, guns shooting, everything just sounded like it had some weight behind it.

The final episodes, where the girls are helping the soldiers out, really make the most of the sound and music design and it absolutely brings the sequences to life and makes you really feel the danger and urgency of the situation as well as the tension Sorao is under as she is forced into a more commanding position than she usually takes, even if the visuals aren’t really holding up their end by this point.

Otherside 8
Um… No idea what that is but pretty sure it is scary.

Visually the anime has done a great job of keeping the Otherside and the normal world distinct and even the effects used to show transitional moments are nicely placed. The bleak world in the Otherside with its broken buildings and dead looking trees, while still filled with wild grasslands and strange and dangerous life-forms does exactly what it needs to do. While the animation isn’t quite as polished as some modern anime, it does well enough and largely these girls aren’t action heroes so it isn’t as though they are looking for a stand-up fight sequence anyway.

Ultimately, I had fun watching Otherside Picnic. It isn’t perfect and without a continuation and some actual answers this isn’t an anime I’d buy on DVD or really jump into a rewatch of, but if we go with the idea that the journey is more important than the destination, the journey these 12 episodes take you on is worth watching.

I’d love to know your thoughts on Otherside Picnic so leave us a comment below.

Images from: Otherside Picnic. Dir. T Satou. LIENFILMS. 2021.

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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Watch or Drop? Is Otherside Picnic Worth watching?

Watch or Drop Otherside
Otherside Picnic - Sorao stares at a Wiggle Waggle
Covering your eyes doesn’t work if you leave gaps.

Watch or Drop? Rules

Rules modified for the Autumn 2021 season.

  1. The anime must be new (not a sequel or spin-off).
  2. I’ll watch as much as it takes to make a decisionas to whether the anime will be added to the watch/review list or dropped and forgotten. For good.
Otherside Picnic - Sorao and Toriko
I doubt any of your decisions have really been good – but if you don’t go we won’t get to see what happens next.

First Impressions:

There’s a definite excitement about going into something and having no clue what to expect. I had no knowledge of the source here and largely managed to avoid reading any posts about Otherside Picnic prior to doing my three episode run. Which is weird considering after I watched it I realised that lots of bloggers have been talking about this anime and I’ve just somehow avoided any mention of it.

That said, these early episodes kind of give you a feeling that the smart thing for these characters to do would be to stop crossing into the otherworld and leave things well enough alone given if they did they’d be perfectly safe and the story would essentially screech to a halt. While they’ve made some effort to give Toriko a plausible reason for not taking the safe path, the same can’t be said for Sorao and so I’m left largely just questioning her basic decision making skills.

Outside of that, I’m fascinated. The Otherside is both bleak and yet beautiful; feels empty and yet is filled with dangers and perils. I want to see more of it even while I want the characters to stop putting themselves at risk for very little reward. They have at least set up a potential plot point where someone (who may or may not have been crazy) suggested that creatures from the Otherside were already on Earth so maybe walking away isn’t actually an option going forward. There aren’t a lot of answers in the first three episodes but there’s definitely some potential for interesting exploration.

Series Positives:

I absolutely have to praise the music here. Both the opening theme, Minikui Ikimono by CHiCO, and the ending, You and Me by Miki Satou, are absolutely brilliant and very much frame the viewing experience and set the tone. Sound and music are also used really well within the episodes even if most of the time it is creeping you out or helping you experience the franticness of a particular situation.

There was something very final about the sound the glitches make when the turn rocks into ash and between the sound effect and the stunned expressions of the characters they manage to drive home the danger of walking unknowingly into a glitch without extended exposition.

Otherside Picnic - Sorao and Toriko freak out.
That’s it, keep calm.

Outside of the sound, the chemistry between Sorao and Toriko, while at first a little rocky, has found firm footing over the first three episodes. As the two have gotten used to working together and started to establish a fairly good rhythm in their interactions. Sorao’s more reserved and cautious personality makes a good comparison to Toriko’s more easy-going and adventurous spirit.

That said, there are definite questions about Sorao’s motivations going forward and why she knows about some of the things in the Otherside and why she ventured there at all, let alone allowed Toriko to talk her into going back. Still, the two are a bit of a joy to watch as their relationship is developing nicely in these early episodes and it will be fun to see how these unfold.

I also have to give absolute credit to the atmosphere of the Otherside as it feels like a real world that has opened up to explore. While some of the rules and why it even exists have yet to be established, it is just a fascinating setting and again contrasts nicely with the scenes that are set in the ‘real’ world. Definitely has me wanting to know more.


Series Negatives:

So far other than a few eyebrow raising decisions made by the main characters as well as a general incredulousness that anyone would name something a wiggle-waggle, I’m mostly not finding much negative here. There is, of course, the standard concern when an anime is setting itself up as mysterious and that is that we’ll either never get to a resolution because the anime won’t cover the whole story and won’t continue past a first season OR we’ll get an answer and it just won’t be worth the build up. Still, that’s a risk with any mystery story so hardly unique here.

Otherside Picnic - Trsanslucent hand.
Not sure she did it by choice.

I think my main gripe would be the fairly nebulous character motivations presented. Toriko claims she’s looking for someone but doesn’t really have a plan and doesn’t appear to have a real sense of urgency about it. Meanwhile, Sorao’s motives are really unclear. This may not be a negative in the long-run but it kind of makes me wonder why she is putting herself into a world that has already nearly killed her multiple times.


Karandi Excited Transparent

Curiosity is definitely a powerful motivator and by and large I really enjoyed these first three episodes. The characters are fun to watch together, the setting is interesting, and hopefully the mystery will pan out as the series continues. For now though, this one is definitely on the watch list.

Other Impressions:

Images from: Otherside Picnic. Dir. T Satou. LIENFILMS. 2021.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James