Ach ja, as of the time of writing this, Otherside Picnic has a score of 6.56 on MyAnimeList… and I genuinely do not understand why. Normally, scores in the middle 6 to 7 range are reserved for either stuff nobody actually cares about, like the anime tie-in to your next pretty boy/girl mixed media franchise, your seasonal light novel trash or anime with very obvious flaws in some department. Otherside Picnic is none of those things, so it just kinda boggles my mind.
Now, if I were to care about every anime the internet has different opinions about, I would have died by a heart attack a long time ago. It is just weird how a seemingly, for the lack of a better word, average anime with a perfectly reasonable normal distribution is scored so lowly. I also can’t make head or tails from the negative reviews. This one person on MAL went on a bit about the audio, while another complained about the episodic structure of the series and then there is this one clown on YouTube that was able to repeat “It’s great, but the CG” for five entire minutes. I mean, sure… I just don’t get it.
The cynic in me wants to blame it on the fact that Otherside Picnic doesn’t feature an overpowered male protagonist running through this other world effortlessly and and collecting cute girls like they are trading cards. This probably applies to some people, but I may just have to accept the fact that the anime community at large is not really into character driven episodic stories without a clear hook or end goal in sight. It’s like how some people entirely dismiss certain anime, because they contain Mecha. Not here to judge or anything, just being mad confused, because I think Otherside Picnic is great and a 6.56 score might scare interested people away.
Anyway, let’s finally start the review :D.
The story of Otherside Picnic is hard to pin down. On the surface, it is about two girls going to this other world and encountering different monsters based on urban legends or internet stories. It is, however, also about two girls being emotionally lost and eventually finding togetherness in each other via the dives into the Otherworld. There are two stories being told here, one about the Otherside and another one being about the relation between Sorawo and Toriko being formed through their adventures.
The actual plot of the episodes might pique a lot of peoples interests. The mixture of supernatural events coupled and partially grounded in reality (not realism) via the occult feels rather fresh and the selection and execution of these myths is fun to watch. It might be appropriate to call it a horror anime, but isn’t it that spooky nor trying to scare the viewer. It has a more psychological flair to it with the Otherside being this conceptually scary and dangerous world. Just being there messes with your mind and tricks you to lose a part of yourself. This was really potent when Sorawo thought Toriko was affected and tried to help her, only for herself to be the one actually being messed with.
What I also didn’t mind was the fact that the stakes are arguably not that high and the consequence close to irrelevant, if there are any to begin with. For me, the core stays the same either way. Sorawo and Toriko have such a great chemistry and I could watch them do literally anything. While subtle, they do change over the course of the 12 episodes and I don’t mind slow character arcs or development in general.
Another interesting aspect is the adaptation itself. The anime roughly adapts the first two volumes of the light novels, but changes the order of the chapters slightly and even adds two original episodes, written by the author. I didn’t notice any complications or plotholes (except the sunhat) with the reordering of the chapters, nor do I think that it obfuscates the progression of Sorawo and Toriko. I don’t think I care either way on whether the rearrangement make it better or worse, but the meta reasons for those changes sure are funny.
My praise ends, when we look on the production side of thing. I actually like the way the characters and monsters look, but they just are not animated that well. While there are great looking moments, these are few and far between and the anime is mostly stiff and doesn’t move that much. Add some rather conventual directing to it and Otherside Picnic is not the most interesting anime to look at. Then there is the issue with the CG. While the CG for stuff like vehicles, etc. looks on par with most anime nowadays, it are the CG characters that stick out like a sore thumb.
The weird thing is that CG was even used at all, as most of the shots, where the 3D character models were used, are not that much more complicated or difficult than the rest. Sometimes, the characters are just CG. They don’t move that much more than the rest of the hand drawn animation, nor is there any complicated camera work at play. If the characters are a good distance away from the camera, the 3D models are sometimes used. The models themselves are not that terrible and resemble the 2D work well enough, but they also do not quite fit into the backgrounds and appear often enough to be noticeable. Personally, it didn’t bother me that much, but I am also more accepting of CG.
The guns, for some reason, are always on point, though. Same can be said about the background art. Especially for the Otherside, the backgrounds look distinct and truly like another world, where the weather is always cloudy and everything is engulfed by a mist of mystery. If this project were handed to a less busy (LIDENFILMS helmed five anime in winter 2021) and more experienced studio (Felix Films only other project being Nekopara), this anime had the potential to look pretty great, as the design work is already solid. By all accounts, Otherside Picnic doesn’t look ugly or bad, just underwhelming.
Concerning the music… It was fine, I guess. I don’t have a rememberable track or anything, but I am also deaf. I didn’t even notice that Toriko was voiced by Ai Kayano. Both the OP and ED are great, however.
If there is one thing I agree with some of the other reviews, it is the interest to check out the light novels. I assume some aspects of the novel didn’t translate that well into animation and I also doubt that there will be a second season to come. I want to know more about the word and characters and Sorawo and Toriko are just so charming and fun to watch together and if there is one thing to take away from this review, it is that very feeling.
Otherside Picnic is fun, while also delivering on some deeper character beats. I don’t think the question of wether the story could be written better or not even matters here, as there are no obvious flaws in the narrative. Otherside Picnic is the story it wants to be and for my part, I like it.
Otherside Picnic is available on Amazon via Aniverse.