By Iori Miyazawa and shirakaba. Released in Japan as “Urasekai Picnic” by Hayakawa Bunko JA. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.
The second volume starts up with a dangling plot form the first volume, as Sorawo and Toriko go back into the other world to rescue to US Marines who remained trapped there. It makes for a tense chapter, as moving an entire company (which has been growing smaller the longer they stayed there, admittedly) is not that easy in a space like that, especially when they come across the Japanese Urban Legend Monster of the week. After this they end up in Okinawa, and decide to stay and hit the beach… but instead end up back at the other world, beach version, which features more disturbing things and the appearance of the woman who is Toriko’s obsession and is rapidly turning into Sorawo’s nemesis, Satsuki. Both of these chapters are well told, and the characters are fun to read, but I felt they weren’t quite as terrifying as the first book could be.
The third story delves more into the characters, as we meet another student at Sorawo’s university, who has heard rumors that she can help with supernatural issues and is being stalked by ninja cats. Yes, ninja cats, and a good deal of the chapter is spent trying to deal with the seeming silliness of the proposition. The ninja cats do end up posing quite a threat, and there’s another tense sequence, but mostly what this third wheel does is show off how tight-knit Sorawo and Toriko have become, as well as the difference between them – Sorawo is distancing herself from everyone but Toriko – at least in her head – while Toriko sees it as Sorawo having opened up to other a lot more – so much that she doesn’t need Toriko anymore. This miscommunication leads to the fourth and best chapter, where the horror pops back into the pages like it was waiting for you to relax.
The final chapter shows us who Kozakura is getting the money from to pay for Toriko and Sorawo’s other world finds, and also shows us that the other world is a big business… and one that is breaking many other people. From the moment we enter the seemingly empty building that serves as the “lab” where Satsuki worked, everything becomes terrifying, with some of the most evocative descriptions of body horror I’ve read in some time. It’s clear that Toriko’s hand and Sorawo’s eye are relatively minor compared to the issues of other researchers. This reach a fever pitch when Sorawo triggers what might be a trap set by Satsuki… a literal puzzle box that starts to kill the other of them in a nasty and lingering way. Can Sorawo work together with Toriko to stop it? And stop Toriko sounding as if she’s about to run away forever and/or kill herself?
My first review mentioned this was the first license from Hayakawa’s “yuri line” that was multiple volumes, adn I’m even more relieved that there’s at least two more after this, as I’m becoming very invested in the story. The yuri, while still not explicit, is much stronger here, and the horror is a slow burn till the end when it hits a fever pitch. Recommended for fans of both genres.