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.
If Otherside Picnic is a series about ghost stories and legends, and going to another world to explore and confront them, then the series had to, at some point, deal with its own self-made ghost. Satsuki Uruma has been a part of this series from the very beginning, but we’ve never quite met her. Her presence has been felt, though, both from the impact her life and death had on Toriko and Kozakura and also because the Otherside has used her presence and likeness to hunt and destroy Sorawo. In this new volume, Sorawo finally meets Satsuki and has a conversation with her, and it helps to clear up a great many things. 1) the Satsuki they’re dealing with is not a human being, and b) Sorawo wants to murder her. Of course, this is Kozakura’s friend and Toriko’s former teacher/crush, so Sorawo will have to obfuscate her real motives… but not by much. Call it a funeral or an exorcism or what you will, it’s a final battle, and all it needs is a shootout.
While discussing Kozakura’s decision to take the wayward Otherside child Kasumi in (reasoning that she’s human because she’s not trying to look human), Sorawo and Toriko get into a fight because it turned out Toriko missed Sorawo’s birthday, which Sorawo doesn’t care about but Toriko certainly does. A few days later it’s not a fight but it’s not NOT a fight, so Sorawo, after her anthropology class, decides to return to the building where she first entered the Otherside and met Toriko. There she finds her doppelganger… and also Satsuki, who has a terrifying conversation with our heroine. After this, Sorawo is determined to do away with her, to the point where her romantic anniversary dinner with Toriko is somewhat waylaid by that fact. But how do you kill what Satsuki has become?
I brushed past the anthropology class, but it was a terrific part of the book, with Sorawo (who is no longer amnesiac, so is returning to her original topic) laying out the anthropological details behind ghost stories and the like. The class are doubtful but not mocking her, and the professor is quite supportive… especially when they do find evidence of T-san’s former presence. The other highlight of the book (aside from Sorawo really coming into her own as a leader and driver of the action) is, once again, Runa Urumi. Her interaction with Sorawo is fantastic, and I enjoyed seeing her assume that the only reason that Sorawo is allowed to walk around Japan with her eye that can drive people crazy is that she has friends in high places. Unfortunately, the final scene (which is both terrifying and vindicating, and makes you want to punch the air in victory) puts Runa away again” for a bit, but I now really look forward to seeing her again.
This is not the end of the series, but it’s very much the end of one of the major story arcs, and that makes it easier to wait for the 8th volume, which is not out in Japan yet. Till it comes out, this may be the best volume of the series to date.