2017’s Otherside Picnic: Volume 1 is the first volume in Iori Miyazawa’s light-novel cosmic-horror series. The 2019 translation is by Sean McCann
The Otherside is a bizarre dimension filled with creatures straight out of urban legend. Few humans have found their way there. Fewer have found their way back.
This is pitched as a light novel but it is really a fix-up of four shorter pieces.
File 1: Kunekune Hunting
Travelling to the Otherside is all fun and games until one finds oneself paralyzed and on the brink of drowning. Sorawo Kamikoshi is on her back, waiting for water to rise over her mouth and nose, when Toriko Nishina stumbles over the debt-ridden student just in time to save her.
The experience leaves both young women transformed. One of Sorawo’s eyes becomes azure, and one of Toriko’s hands becomes transparent. Sorawo develops an immediate (although unarticulated) crush on Toriko, enough to guarantee the continuation of the partnership.
File 2: Hasshaku-sama Survival
The smart thing to do would be to return to the human realm and never return to the Otherside. Toriko is determined to find her lost friend Satsuki. Sorawo could be a useful ally in this quest. Toriko entices her new acquaintance into helping her with the promise of riches paid by researcher Kozakura. The money is enough to pay for luxuries and, more importantly, to pay down Satsuki’s massive student debts.
The pair’s next foray into the Otherside comes close to ending with both dead. They survive in part thanks to the timely intervention of Abarato, a guide who survives long enough to point out some of the dangers of the Otherside (before succumbing to one himself). Also they discover that their new bodies are but the outward sign of new powers: thanks to her new eye, Sorawo can see the supernatural; Toriko’s new hand can touch what would otherwise be intangible.
(Well, Toriko’s combat training and cache of firearms are also useful.)
File 3: Station February
Sorawo and Toriko inadvertently wander into the Otherside at night. The Otherside is dangerous enough in daylight; nighttime is much worse. During their excursion they encounter some heavily armed US marines who have been trapped in the Otherside for days. Shell-shocked and paranoid, the Americans are inclined to see the two Japanese women as yet more Otherside monsters.
File 4: Time, Space, and a Middle-aged Man
Toriko vanishes into the Otherside. In a turnabout from their first meeting, it is up to Sorawo to find and rescue her, with the extremely reluctant assistance of their financial benefactor Kozakura
The legends and creepypastason which the series draws.
I am unenthusiastic about the translation. Like a lot of Japanese > English light novel translations, the prose seems flat.
Field research into the Otherside seems to be carried out by enthusiastic amateurs. If there is a formal structure for examining what seems to be an ongoing danger to Japanese people, it is kept offstage for this installment. It’s possible that whoever or whatever is responsible for the Otherside is able to intervene in our realm to forestall official investigation (although surely someone is missing those marines?).
This is pitched as a yuriseries but at least in the first volume, it’s very low key. Sorawo latches onto Toriko as soon as they meet and despite frequent expressions of annoyance at the inconvenience involved in accompanying Toriko into the Otherside, never hesitates to tag along. I suppose it helps that the pair reap stacks of cash for the objects they retrieve from the alien realm.
A mostly harmless episodic adventure series. I don’t know that I will seek out a second volume.