by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Otherside Picnic ?
After this week's episode of Otherside Picnic, I have to admit that I may have been hasty in my assessment of the show's seeming resolution of the Kisaragi Station storyline back in Episode 6. It brings it back up purely as a driving motivation as we creep on a continuing storyline in this entry, but the writing still makes clear that we are not done with those soldiers stuck on the Otherside, nor with interrogating the girls' decision-making process that led them to leave them there. Indeed, we've been watching a full character arc in how they regard and care about others, particularly Sorawo and her always-wavering focus on herself. This episode at first appears to be another simple, stand-alone adventure, but has enough attention called to the idea of who the various characters care about, and how much they go out of their way to help others, to indicate a more robust resolution to that unresolved encounter at the sinister station.
Otherside Picnic's somewhat stringent insistence on formula means it can lead into this particular encounter for its own sake as usual before casting those aside glances to the mobilized motivations of the main characters. Once again a simple attempt at a night out results in an inadvertent trip to Scarytown for our heroes. There's an amusing dissonance to Sorawo hypothesizing about how dangerous it would be if it were really too easy to enter the Otherside, given we've seen these girls basically stumble into it in new ways week after week. At least it's not specifically Sorawo and Toriko this go-around, as they instead pursue the less-experienced Akari who ends up wandering into the bizarre middle realm nicknamed ‘The In-Between’ while attempting to, of all things, get a table at a barbeque restaurant. It's practically a running gag at this point how consistently Akari is the person they're willing and able to help with Otherside-ly troubles, but that turns out to intentionally speak to that idea of selfless salvation being pushed in this episode.
Sure I can admit I was wrong in my harsh judging of the Kisaragi Station storyline for its apparent resolution all those weeks ago, but I also get to revel in how directly the writing calls Sorawo out for it. It does feel a bit revisionist in heaping much of the blame specifically on her here, with Toriko being the one to bring up her feelings on the unfinished state of the situation, as if she weren't party to most of the selfish, boneheaded decisions that resulted in the mess in the first place. But Otherside Picnic has since been rounding to Sorawo's evolving sense of self-focus as her character arc specifically, so by this point it at least feels thematically consistent. It's intertwined with dialogue indicating that Sorawo is still carrying some residual jealousy over the idea of sharing Toriko with anyone else in a group, while still jumping to go after Akari after she realizes she needs to be saved. It almost seems intended to be a case of Toriko's more open, naturally-helpful nature rubbing off on her, which is an appreciable example of the show using that central relationship as a mechanic on various fronts of its storytelling.
It's not just Toriko though, as Kozakura comes along for the ride again in this one, much to my delight. Her contribution to Toriko and Sorawo's dynamic seems to elevate the proceedings even more, especially as she acts as another extremely-clear arbiter of the issues being taken with Sorawo as a character here. Kozakura very literally articulates the question of ‘caring about others’ and how Sorawo has or hasn't embodied that as we've gone on. Along the same tack, Kozakura demonstrates clear selflessness even through her own fear towards the end of the episode, just to make sure we understand the contrast between her attitude and the one she accuses Sorawo of having. It's perhaps a bit more blatant than the internal ruminations on other subjects the show has more successfully entertained before, but given how contentious the subject of Sorawo's supposed selfishness was, I think it might work better for Otherside Picnic to be as obvious as it can about it in this case. It gives me a clear idea of where the story stands, and which station this train of thought is headed for.
The topical turnaround is obviously exemplified in other ways as well. Lady Hasshaku's hat is briefly brought up again here, but this episode actually acts as a mirror of that second episode, with pointed call-backs such as the established elevator-based gate to the Otherside, or Sorawo's rescuing a hallucinating Akari in the same way Toriko saved her way back when. It keeps us considering how far Sorawo has come since these regular supernatural day-trips started, and how that has affected her growth as a person. Otherside Picnic understandably thrives on depicting the ambiguous, the terrifying unknown that even extends to our understanding of ourselves, but in this particular case it's appreciable that it can make clear what components of character growth are intentional. Even then, it still leaves us questioning the motives of someone like Sorawo, seeing her using the unconscious Toriko's hand to tear away the apparition of the seemingly always-looming Satsuki Uruma at the end. Was that just to protect the group from another Otherside apparition? Or was it emblematic of Sorawo feeling her relationship with Toriko being threatened by the former friend, even willing to manipulate Toriko herself to disrupt it? These are the kinds of ambiguities about the character that compel me, especially as the show makes clear we are supposed to be interrogating the kind of person Sorawo is at this point.
That's all effective, long-term character work that should make return viewing of the Kisaragi Station storyline less questionable. It makes this episode work so well at what it needed to do that I don't even mind the more rudimentary presentation as we ostensibly enter a weirder realm than the Otherside itself. The focus on long-held shots sells some of the mundanity in the regular-world bits, but sticks out as our heroines traverse the escalating symbology of the In-Between. That said, I do like how well some of the pregnant pauses in their dialogue highlight the residual uncertainty in Sorawo and Toriko's relationship. There's nothing Sorawo fears more than losing Toriko now, so marking it with that all-important horror of the unknown makes that dread clear. Contrary to the uncertainty I previously had with the Kisaragi Station story, this episode of Otherside Picnic comes across like it knows exactly what it's trying to communicate to me through its characters and their feelings.
Otherside Picnic is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
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