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.
After starting the series off showing us a terrifying, lethal, transforming Otherside, it is somewhat amusing to see that the parts of this book that actually do take place in the Otherside are the most relaxed. Essentially, Sorawo and Toriko decide to settle in and do some dry-walling, and they have a great deal of fun. They don’t have any terrifying experiences there because the real world, and the space between the real world and the Otherside, is scary enough as it is. Starting the book off with a Sorawo who seems to be a normal, non-urban legend loving college student, the book takes off running as our heroes battle T-san, a man dressed like a monk whose features seem to invite unreliable narration. Akari gets involved as well, and before we know it we’re dealing with someone who is perfectly happy to walk into their psychiatric hospital/prison and wreak havoc. This is Otherside Picnic: the Movie, kids, so buckle up for a roller coaster ride of thrills.
As you may have guessed, this book is one long story, involving a young (?) man (?) who is tall (?) and wears monk’s robes (?) and is currently in Sorawo’s college seminar. As I noted above, at the start of the book Sorawo has amnesia, her “Otherside” eye is not working, and she’s rather startled by these other two girls who seem to know her. That thankfully gets resolved quickly, and we’re back to our normal Sorawo who insists that she doesn’t really care about other people even if her actions belie this quite a bit. T-san the Templeborn is another urban legend, though the author, who I already suspect is making up all of their ‘cited sources’, admits this one is probably more fictional than the others. Instead of the Otherside, T-san is threatening the real world, erasing the connections between people and that universe with a shouted “HAH!”. Can they stop him in time? And are they going to need the help of an old enemy to do so?
Gotta admit, my favorite parts of this book are the parts with Runa Urumi, who is (possibly?) trying her best to be the Hannibal Lecter to Sorawo’s Clarice. She’s awake once more, bored out of her gourd locked up in DS Research, and promises to be a good girl if they just let her surf the internet a bit. Needless to say they are very distrustful of her, especially as remorse does not seem to be happening anytime soon, but a later scene where she ends up, somewhat reluctantly, helping the other inmates when T-san visits the facility makes me suspect this plotline is not going to be dropped anytime soon. As for Sorawo and Toriko’s relationship, it’s notable here mostly for Toriko’s jealousy when it comes to Akari, which is so obvious this time around that even Sorawo, never the brightest bulb when it comes to social cues, has to reassure her that she does not like Akari in that way. I also don’t see this plot going away anytime soon, though.
Oddly, for something that was supposed to be a grand movie version of the series, this was rather sedate, with only a bit of action in the final parts, and very little shooting of guns. This is, of course, because most of it took place in reality, and I suspect that the link between the two worlds will continue to fluctuate in future. But yeah, good book, go get it.