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.
I’ve talked before about how this book is well served by the fact that Sorawo is our narrative voice. This means, of course, that we see what she thinks of Toriko’s words and actions, but don’t get Toriko’s own POV in reverse. The fun part lies when the reader is able to infer what Sorawo isn’t. Certainly Sorawo is correct that Toriko is obsessed with finding Satsuki, but she seems to equate that with a romantic longing, and on our end we’re not so sure. More to the point, Sorawo can be very savvy in some ways and not in others – there’s a scene where Toriko mentions the fact that she was brought up by two mothers, and it’s very clear she’s dropped this information on Sorawo to see how she’s going to react… because of course Toriko is in love with Sorawo, something that has been clear for some time but is increasingly textual as the book goes on. It’s good characterization, and the narrative POV helps sell it.
There’s three main stories in this volume. In the first, Toriko and Sorawo go back to the other world and try going in a different direction, but their rooftop picnic (love the idea of an actual picnic in this book) is interrupted by some time-stretching shenanigans and the ominous presence of Satsuki, who is invisible to Toriko but very visible – and terrifying – to Sorawo. The second story sees the return of Sorawo’s kohai Akari, who Sorawo continues to be wary and uncomfortable with, and Akari’s childhood friend Natsumi, who has unfortunately not done as the creepy urban legend told her to, and is suffering as a result. Finally, Sorawo and Kozakura are kidnapped by a cult, whose leader has a voice much like Toriko’s hand and Sorawo’s eye, and said leader really, really wants to meet Satsuki. Unfortunately for all concerned, she does.
I will admit, the actual urban legends/ghost stories presented here did not ring a bell for me, nor are they really supposed to for Japanese readers, I think, despite all the documentation of 20-year-old 2chan threads in the book’s appendix. Indeed, Sorawo makes an important distinction here, as she hates “I know a guy who this happened to” stories, which are far more likely to be made up, and looks for real “this happened to me personally” legends. As with the second volume, the scarier stuff is at the back half here, though those with teeth phobias may wince at the second story. This includes Sorawo herself, who upon being kidnapped and locked up brings to the fore another part of herself only concerned with survival (though honestly, there’s not much difference between this and her normal self, IMO – I think a lot of it may simply be her psyching herself up.) The climax of the book leaves one dead, one maimed, and one big Satsuki problem that still isn’t going away, but at least our heroines are OK.
This is getting an anime soon, apparently, and it will be interesting to see how they convey some of the concepts here – a lot of the horror themes work best on the page. As for this volume, it’s another strong one in the series, and I look forward to the fourth one, if only to see how – or if – Sorawo responds to Toriko’s words at the end.