by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Otherside Picnic ?
For all the ups and downs I've had throughout Otherside Picnic, alongside the show's understanding of how to present its own material, I have to admit, they kinda crushed it for this last episode. Narratively speaking, this is obviously just a stopping point in Sorawo and Toriko's story, a break in animated action where you're now free to go check out the source novels if you would like. But as an emotional finale, the kind of fulfilling resolution you would want from a single-cour show? I think it's pretty much all I could ask for. Yes I was critical in some of my assessments of the show's mid-season episodes, what do you want from me, I'm a critic. But I can't tell you enough how happy I am to report that, at the end here, Otherside Picnic is pretty much the show I hoped it could be back when I first started it.
All the heavy lifting involved with setting up the situation with escorting the Marines was handled in last week's episode, so this one just gets to deliver one last brawl with an urban-legend monster before everyone goes home. This stands as easily one of the most intensely-portrayed encounters that Otherside Picnic has delivered as an anime, climaxing with the characters weaponizing the military vehicles themselves to ram into the final boss snake creature. The standout of the sequence, however, is Sorawo herself: She strongly elaborates to herself and us the point that she has to do something, not for herself or Toriko for once, but to save everyone involved in this situation. It's another case where the anime understands it can't really show the strain of something driving you insane merely by looking at it too long, so we rely on the character's reaction and acting to carry that internal intensity. And it does mostly work, if anything because of how here I am for Sorawo's energy.
Sorawo's declaration that she's not afraid anymore, after everything it took her to get here, is a directly-stated refutation to that all-encompassing fear of the unknown. That's something to note that will be explored later on, of course, but in the moment, it's an aspect of her growth for the audience to applaud and see rewarded as, just this once, everyone gets out perfectly safe, with the girls completely succeeding in what they were trying to do. The only real casualty is one of the most entertaining lines from the book not making the jump to the anime, but I'll wave that one off. Though they do leave in the Marines' earnest affectionate nicknaming of the girls as ‘The Girls’ (and I'm with Toriko, I like it). But overall, it makes perfect sense for this last big adventure in the Otherside to be about clearly overcoming that fear of the unknown. It's stated how the Marines' fear of a previous horrific experience is what was holding them back from finding their way home. Hardly subtle, to be sure, but directness in the face of frightening uncertainty is a point Otherside Picnic has obviously been able to make work time and again.
So it goes that that plot wraps before the episode is even halfway over, and Otherside Picnic's real finish is spent on the activity we began with Sorawo and Toriko doing: Just finding their way into the Otherside. I'd been monitoring the aside gag of the AP-1 harvester the pair had bought still lingering outside Kozakura's house, and I was glad to see it picked up as this final plot point. The machine itself turns out to be an incredibly apt metaphor for the characters and their story: It seems an awkward, odd choice to do anything at first glance, a decision seemingly reached half-randomly in a drunken indulgence, but once the girls allow themselves to try it out, it turns out the harvester's vaunted multi-purpose functions all suit their own purposes quite well, complimenting them perfectly and carrying them to the next stage of their weird, weird life together. And yes, that's another almost too on-the-nose connection said all-but-literally by the characters, but in this case it speaks to them realizing how far they've come. Like the gate to the Otherside that turns out to be next to Kozakura's house, what they were looking for was right where they always needed it to be.
But thrilling supernatural climaxes or amusing side-plot resolutions aren't the sort of things that automatically make a show's finale a winner to me. If you know me, you know what really pushes it up is a whole final chunk of the episode dedicated to the characters simply discussing the ideas explored by them and the story up to this point. So what else could this show do but have Sorawo and Toriko take one last little picnic to the Otherside, rolling into the bizarrely beautiful scene of them just riding their tractor around this nightmare dimension. They're empowered in their exploration of this realm now, explicating on how their horizons were expanded by their adventures, how they moved past their limiting fears to grow and change the way the rest of us have to in our home dimension.
The more enigmatic elements of Toriko's motivations finally drop at the end here, indicating how close she and Sorawo have actually grown in the three months we're told they know each other. We of course knew of Toriko's motivation of finding Satsuki, but she lays bare in this last scene the raw feelings she had powering that search. It turns out she was as singularly fixated on her connection to Satsuki as Sorawo was with her, initially feeling she would happily safeguard only the two of them together at the expense of everyone else in the world. The ironic fact that Satsuki was the only one she did lose forced her to reach into the unknown on her own, but for only a moment of that crushing loneliness before she found Sorawo. There are countless others to connect with if you only reach out, as blatantly symbolized in Toriko's hand being the part of her that wound up empowered by the Otherside, as she went on to be the one encouraging further continued interactions with the likes of Akari or the Marines, despite Sorawo's guarded protests.
We might have picked up on that since the opening shots of the series, but that's reiterated in detail here because Sorawo, by contrast, was happy to be on her own for a time. Her direct description of her elation at discovering a world on her own pointedly mirrors Toriko's explanation of her greatest fear: "I'll have to live alone forever", the irony being that with no one else in her life, Sorawo became immobile anyway, adrift in the limbo of no one noticing whether she was gone or not. Just as her eye was granted the power to perceive the beings of the Otherside to let them be hurt, Sorawo simply has a need to be known herself to actually engage with her own existence. Again, Otherside Picnic is the opposite of a subtle show as our heroines detail the themes like this, but it's framed and performed with such an earnest emotional connection built between them that I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.
The Otherside is a place that is dangerous, terrifying, and beautiful, much like the world of relating to new people. And while Otherside Picnic's exploration of its story could be clumsy, the show is as direct and earnest as its heroines' travails in its world. Getting lost in there as they found themselves is absolutely part of the experience that results in the show pulling off this simple success of its thematic declarations here at the end. As its final ending song sings over the landscape of this finish, "Please don't try to find us", we can worry all we want about Sorawo and Toriko making the ‘wrong’ decisions or behaving in ways at odds with the selfless priorities they'll come to understand; In the end, they'll eventually find their way back on their own. All we really have to do is have faith, and appreciate the trips they take us on.
Otherside Picnic is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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