Otherside Picnic Volume 8: Accomplices No More



Well, with volume 7 out of the way (if you haven’t read the review, read it here), I can now talk about Otherside Picnic volume 8. I’d love it if I could just have a nice little celebration a la Moist Critical, but I do have to (excitedly) talk about the earlier contents of the volume. Because of that, this is a very big warning- read at your own risk as the spoilers here are incredibly heavy/important (in my eyes). With that out of the way, volume 8 of Otherside Picnic is everything that the prior volume 7 was made for. Shedding Satsuki Uruma, being able to step into the Otherside for each other, there’s been a huge leap in the story- so big that you might even call this a new part. So of course that means I have a world to talk about.

And by world I of course mean Toriko’s world: Sorawo. Since picking up the series, I’ve always been a massive supporter of how much of a dick Sorawo is. No, I don’t think them being an ass is “good” like that- I mean that from a narrative perspective it’s an excellent decision. Her avoidance and very strong fight or flight mechanism has been great as a way to prolong the fragile flame of this slow and awkward romance. Her almost talent for starting arguments and setting others off (much to her annoyance and embarrassment) teeters on the edge of a veritable power, but stays squarely within the bounds of her character. Until Otherside Picnic volume 8, that is.

Here, Sorawo is forced to face the feelings of Toriko and…. can’t quite match up. Derailing the conversation and getting near blackout drunk, she (indelicately) tiptoes around the issue and forces herself into a bigger one: having to respond within a week. Stuck between a rock and a the hardest place she’s been yet, Sorawo is turned towards the most unlikely of match-makers: fellow student Benimori-san. The catalyst for a series of renditions of romantic conversation, the fellow classmate opens the door on Sorawo’s heart as if there was never a lock on it. Sorawo’s conversation goes so smoothly, and is so exciting for Benimori, that our Otherside Experttm makes a passing comment about whether or not Benimori-san themselves is a yokai or piece of the Otherside. It is hilarious, but also incredible interesting because it puts a bug in your brain. Are all the weird moments that follow just a product of the Otherside in general, or are they the direct results of the being that has the name of Benimori-san? It’s a little food for thought that doesn’t matter much, but is still very fun all the same.

On the topic of new(er) characters, we get introduced to UBL researcher-slash-curator Tsuji. Sporting an obsession of the odd that rivals both Sorawo and her Otherside Evil Eye, the pair settle in for a lightning round conversation about your frame of reference in reality. You could spend a surprising amount of time on their discussion, but I’ll take the easy route and grossly simplify it: your perception of “another” in this world is what influences how the Otherside communicates with you. To Sorawo and Toriko, that’s a literal other world. For Tsuji however, that’s the occult. Cursed objects, magic- the whole nine yards except for Sorawo’s version of the Otherside. It’s a real eye opener that forces the reader to take a step back and recenter their understanding of human experience and a subjective reality. But, it still hammers home one thing- the Otherside is primarily attempting to initiate communication through fear.

Speaking of fear, and its manifestation in this volume, it’s all Toriko. “But it can’t be” ohhh, but it can. The absolute simplest reading is Sorawo is afraid of Toriko because of the love confessed for her, but Miyazawa’s buildup to this point highlights far deeper struggles. You can go a layer deeper and talk about the emotional struggle of romance in general for Sorawo, or you could make it into the territory of commitment issues. The final stopping point for that logic though is Sorawo’s experience with family. Being close to someone, bearing a label that brings her together with someone like that- it’s all deeply terrifying for her. And it’s a great read that’s been made by Miyazawa.

Especially so with the later context of Toriko’s comment in regards to potential repressed memories. Not so much that Sorawo does have those, but that her immediate reaction is to run away from the deeper aspects of her fear. The entire volume is dedicated to Sorawo coming face to face with that horror, and choosing to move forward. Intermixing one-on-one meetings with varied perspectives, and with a nice helping of Otherside horrors flitting by, Sorawo doesn’t find her answer. Rather, it’s a conclusion that she arrives at. I think this in particular is phenomenal. It allows Sorawo to sort herself out, to prepare for her coming conversation with Toriko. It keeps Toriko as part of this relationship, which is an important part of Sorawo’s character. Rather than forcing her way through, or just running away, she’s stuck facing up to the moment and going through with it.

The end result is some wonderful dialogue about the optics and anthropology of relationships and human connection (throughout the entirety of Otherside Picnic volume 8)… and a few other very good pieces. Regardless, Miyazawa’s ability to create conversations that you can filter through the horror side of this story is ever impressive. On its own, the conversation of partnership is an incredible dialogue- truly something that you’d be hard pressed to find in media in general. Within the context of Otherside Picnic though, it’s another way to look at how the difficulty of communication arises. Despite engaging in the same relationship, the methods and components can be wildly different.

Kicking off those other very good pieces though, we have Sorawo finally learning more about Toriko. It’s a fun piece despite its weight, and Sorawo’s logic about wanting to keep her Toriko and nothing else made a lot of sense. Having broken down those barriers though, the pair are able to make progress- which lets Toriko release all that pent up stress. Sorawo gets a tour of Toriko’s apartment, and comes to realize that she doesn’t have an exclusive monopoly on emotional struggles. It always made sense that Toriko chased after the older and more mature Satsuki, but seeing how her parent’s death has taken a toll on her, the weight of the relationship increases.

Though, that weight isn’t heavy enough to outweight Toriko’s hot. After all, the girl she’s been begging for has finally opened up, so it’s time to release all the limiters on her libido. It’s funny, it’s realistic, and it’s awkward- awkward in the sense that Toriko’s ready to do it right in her dead parent’s bedroom. Of course though, they change scenery and…. things don’t go well. I was very happy to see this. Miyazawa has done an outstanding job of illustrating the difficulties, shortcomings, and even outright failures of relationships and romance. It’s such a refreshing thing to experience, especially as you get swept off your feet by one of the best sex scenes you’ll have read, right after they mess up round one.

It’s a scene that is a realization of the distilled idea of “Sapphic sex”, in my eyes. Something that is far more about balance and communication than grunting and moving around, it’s a moment that’s tender and personal despite the intense heat and freedom the pair express. Though, a lot of its execution is owed to its connection to the Otherside. It’s perhaps the weirdest thing to say, but the scene is so phenomenal because of Otherside Picnics root in horror. The way that reality is torn to shreds in front of them, how every sense goes haywire and the entire experience is nonsensical. It’s a thing of beauty that cuts to the literal souls of our pair. No, I really mean it. The experience is so incredible and eye-opening to them that they choose to name their relationship after themselves- in the form of a Nue.

Though that’s really the most shallow part in terms of meaning. For one, they use their abilities on each other- inducing a very altered state. For another, they make it deep into the Otherside. But they’re not afraid of it. What does this mean? Well, mostly that freaky-evil-eye-and-translucent-hand sex puts you in such an altered state of consciousness that you’ll end up in the depths of the UBL. And you could also say that it holds a great deal of information in regards to how accessing the Otherside more effectively may work. One piece of that is during the moment, Sorawo provides the line, “So the only things Toriko and I have to fear are each other”. This posits that fear still exists in the primal and deep-meaning sense. It could be that they’re afraid of losing each other, or afraid of their abilities- or anything for that matter. The point driven home is that fear is a fundamental aspect of their existence, and acts in opposition to their love. Together, the argument that appears is that an altered state of consciousness that expresses more complex emotions is a key to diving deeper into the Otherside. In its current state, love and/or lust alongside fear works very well, but in the future they could find other mixes or pairings that get equal reactions.

So, taking a step back and looking at Otherside Picnic volume 8, I have this to say at the end. If volume 7 were a leap of faith, volume 8 would be the equivalent of landing on the Otherside. Through all the wild and unique content above, Miyazawa’s transitioned the series into an entirely different beast. We blew past the prior end goal, aiming towards foggy horizons upon a suspension bridge. The horror still remains, the awkward and funny girls are still there. It’s undeniably still going to be Otherside Picnic– it’s just going to be in a totally new light. Maybe the girls will finish their (various) construction projects. Maybe they’ll come closer to the truth of the Otherside. Or maybe, they’ll just have a bunch more afterparties. At the end, it doesn’t really matter. It’ll always be Sorawo and Toriko in the closest relationship in the world, and it’ll always be Iori Miyazawa delivering some wonderful horror and romance.

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