Otherside Picnic – 07 – Queens of the Seaside

Those curious about what became of the American Marines get no answers this week, as the girls are on to their next adventure, this time on a beach. Sorao wakes up in a posh hotel room, having shared the bed with a naked Toriko. She can vaguely remember going shopping and bar hopping, and is proud of her drunk self for plugging in her phone.

While taking a taxi to the beach, both Sorao and Toriko nod off, and when they come to, the taxi is derelict and covered in plants and sand, as if it had been sitting there for years. It looks like they’re still in the Otherside, though with a very Spirited Away vibe with a lush blue and green palette.

The duo do a thorough search of a long-abandoned beach shop that, while creepy, contains no active threats, so on Toriko’s urging they change into the bikinis they bought yesterday(?) and proceed to have a fun time on the beach, drinking beer and practicing shooting. The Okinawan afterlife of Narai Kanai is also referenced as the two discuss the Alcatraz-like ruin on the horizon.

Sorao’s been letting her have her way so much, Toriko is worried Sorao could get sick of her, but that’s not the case. Indeed, Sorao again tries to bring up her feelings, only to miss her chance once again. Regardless, she’s happy to be having fun on the beach, a place she never felt was her scene. It’s also a welcome deviation from the standard Otherside aesthetic.

Their solitary fun is cut short when they hear odd noises and discover zombie-like punks beating up little kids. When Sorao and Toriko are rushed, Toriko freezes up, but Sorao shoots them all down before they can get to them. Toriko is impressed: Sorao can shoot and kill to protect herself and Toriko, but she credits Toriko with helping steel her resolve.

Sorao can also see with her eye that the punks weren’t human, but reanimated piles of washed-up beach detritus. Suddenly, the skies turn blue and brooding, which Sorao remembers the captive Toriko saying was the most dangerous time to be in the Otherside. A legion of creepy child-dolls bursts out of the beach shop while huge walrus-like beasts appear on the beach. The girls are well and truly freaked out.

They also don’t have enough ammo to deal with all of these creepy monsters great and small, so Sorao arranges for their exit, using her eye, Lady Hasshaku’s hat, and Toriko’s hand to open a portal. A great light flashes from the dissolving hat, turning all of the monsters back into garbage, and the girls fall through.

They emerge back in the normal world, apparently still on the beaches of a populated, non-ruined Okinawa, and perhaps where they had their day and night of shopping and drinking. Before the portal closes, Sorao spots a woman with flowing black hair. Could it be Uruma Satsuki, mentioned by one of the monster boys as part of the “Queen of the Beach” urban legend?

If it was, Toriko didn’t see her, and Sorao doesn’t bring it up. Instead, they have some beers and enjoy the fireworks, even though they’re broke and not sure how they’ll get home. As always, because they’re living in the moment together, nothing else seems to matter as much.

With its fun girls trip to the beach-turned-freaky seaside monster convention, Urasekai Picnic again scores high marks for its mastery of mood and atmosphere, and the cozily-infectious chemistry of Sorao and Toriko.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Otherside Picnic – 06 – To the Trained Eye

Lt. Blake takes Sorao and Toriko to Major Barker, the “current” commander of the unit, implying a previous commander was among the many casualties. Barker seems nice enough, but weary of the situation, and like Blake, isn’t sure how much longer things can stay “civilized.”

They are surrounded by “bear traps” (i.e. glitches) that either kill or transform whoever or whatever touches them. They are running low on diesel fuel and will soon be out of food. The girls are offered an empty tent that’s strewn with garbage. It’s empty because its previous occupants are dead. It’s just not a place you want to be, especially after a pleasant dinner and drinks.

Blake “advises” them not to use their phones, but it should have been an explicit order and explained that making a call, as the girls do to Kozakura, has an effect on the environment. Specifically, it calls the “Meat Train” to the station, and with it a frightening train of “face dogs”, on whom the soldiers’ mortars and gunfire have no effect.

Toriko hops onto a Humvee and whips out an M14 EBR, but even though Sorao spots the proper target for her, her shots never reach them. This gives Sorao the idea that the one perceiving the targets must be the one to pull the trigger, so she has Toriko anchor her so she can take the shot, all before the soldiers can stop them.

The face dog mass dissipates, but when firing the shot Sorao lost her contact, and the soldiers wig out. She and Toriko make a run for it, and are probably lucky none of the exhausted, extremely on-edge soldiers took any shots at them. Call it a win for Major Barker in keeping discipline under suboptimal conditions.

As the Meat Train approaches, Sorao has another hunch: even though it doesn’t look like it will stop, she belives they can board the train if Toriko reaches out and touches it with her translucent hand. Sorao repeats Toriko’s line about everything working out if they’re together, and take a leap of faith.

It works, and they’re on the train, but Sorao senses a great number of unspeakable, horrifying things on that train, the collective auras of which are enough to cause her to lose consciousness. However, when she comes to, Toriko is smiling from above, and a bright blue sky indicates that they successfully returned to their world, safe and sound.

That’s not to say they returned to Ikebukuro. The beach and palm trees indicate they could be in Okinawa, having used the same entry point to the Otherside the Americans used. Further weird details include the childish drawing of a train track in the sand, and a cut to Kozakura playing back her phone call with the other two, which is distorted and full of unsettling gibberish.

If they’re now in Okinawa, I’d think the next step for Sorao and Toriko is to report the whereabouts of Pale Horse Battalion. Yet even that carries some risk: Kozakura has never heard of such a unit, though the Dark Horse Battalion is stationed in Okinawa. Just what was that unit really up to in the Otherside?

Otherside Picnic – 02 – Beware the Slenderwoman

This week’s Picnic starts with a wall slam, but that’s misleading: Toriko isn’t seeking to ask Sorao out, but to suggest they visit a researcher acquaintance. Toriko seeks answers about her newly-transparent hand and Sorao’s newly-deep blue eye, both marks of the Otherside that remain with them even in the normal world.

The researcher, the somewhat unkempt Kozakura, pays Toriko for another mirror cube, and Toriko splits the cash with Sorao 50/50, is astonished the two women survived “close contact of the fourth kind” with beings from the Otherside, but when asked about their marks she simply tells them she’s no medical doctor.

However, Sorao learns more about what seems to be self-evident about the Otherside: people who enter there (a group that doesn’t include Kozakura) can potentially become irrevicably addicted to it and the strange entities therein, and never return. Such was the fate of Toriko’s friend and mentor Satsuki.

Toriko asks Sorao to accompany her back to the Otherside, and while Sorao initially balks at the idea of further visits, she still meets up with Toriko the next day. Sorao seems both pushed towards Toriko’s companionship and the wonders of the Otherside, but when Toriko remarks that Satsuki is “more important than anyone else” to her, Sorao sulks.

There’s a sense of jealousy, yes, but also annoyance that Sorao even came upon Toriko, as she tells herself things were just fine when she had the Otherside “all to herself”. Toriko picks up on the sulking and confronts Sorao about it, but before they can get into it a man pulls a machine gun on them.

Turns out he doesn’t wish to harm them, but warn them not to move so freely and recklessly. Turns out there are invisible “glitches” all over the landscape of the Otherside (which he calls the “Zone”) that serve as dimensional traps, scorching whatever touches them into ash. Like Toriko, he’s looking for someone seemingly spirited away into the Otherside: his wife.

Toriko agrees to accompany this Mr. Abarato to search for their missing people, while Sorao hangs back, even more annoyed that now a third person has invaded her once solitary space. Of course, it should be clear to her by now that the Otherside never was “all to herself”, she just hadn’t yet come across other visitors.

The three follow very inhuman footsteps into a large, creepy building surrounded by thick, eerie fog. Inside, Sorao sees an abnormally tall, skinny woman dressed in white—the urban legend Lady Hasshaku, but Toriko and Abarato see their missing persons. When Abarato approaches the lady, she shows her face, lashes out, and he suddenly blinks out of existence.

When Sorao chases after Toriko to keep her from vanishing too, suddenly Toriko is grabbing her hand from behind; Lady Hasshaku used Sorao’s feelings against her to lure her in. Sorao figures out that while she can see the lady’s true form with her blue eye, their bullets won’t defeat her until Toriko’s translucent hand is in physical contact with that form.

It works, Hasshaku dissipates, and the pair are transported back to the real world through the same torii in the Chichibu mountains through which Abarato had first entered. The episode ends on a comic note, with the pair having insufficient funds for the bus home, but considering Abarato is seemingly gone forever, the tone seems a bit…flippant?

Now that Toriko and Sorao know about the glitches, I’m hoping they’ll exercise even more caution in future Otherside visits. It may well be that Toriko’s friend Satsuki suffered the same fate as Abarato, his wife, or the dead(?) guy we saw last week near the river.

This was decent if not overly inspiring “case-of-the-week” that introduces two new players (one on-screen, one missing), a concrete goal for Toriko (find Satsuki) which causes some discord with Sorao. While last week suggested she was glad to meet a friend, Sorao continues to oscillate between between wanting to be with Toriko (and only Toriko) and wanting to be left alone.

Adachi & Shimamura – 05 – Running Towards Sparkly Things

Throughout the episode Adachi is on edge until she achieves her objective: ask Shimamura to hang out with her for Christmas. Because she knows it will sound like asking her out on a date (’cause, well, that’s what she’d be doing) and thus change the complexion relationship forever, she struggles to find both the right time to ask and the words to use.

Her first opportunity comes when she asks if she can study at Shimamura’s place. This means Shimamura turns down an invite from Hino and Nagafuji, whom we learn have grown pretty darn close themselves, as Nagafuji for all the world looks like she’s about to kiss Hino on the lips before moving to her forehead.

Up in Shimamura’s dusty study room, she and Adachi get under the kotatsu, and Shimamura calls for a break while the room heats up. Rather than ask what she needs to ask, Adachi instead asks what kind of kid Shimamura was. Her answer is that she was pretty normal; her hair was shorter and undyed, and she wasn’t as inhibited.

She then nods off, and Adachi leans in to almost kiss her before withdrawing, only to have her lap commandeered by Shimamura once she wakes back up. Shimamura doesn’t explain why she’s so comfortable placing her head in Adachi’s lap, and Adachi is far too happy about it to ask why—or about Christmas. She just enjoys the moment for what it is: pure bliss.

The second half of the episode is from Shimamura’s perspective, and she lists all the weird things about Adachi lately. She’s constantly staring at her, always seems like she’s keeping herself from saying or asking something, and even got a higher grade on her English test. That last one is neither here nor there, but it’s proof that Shimamura has had a positive influence on Adachi’s academics.

Shimamura determines if Adachi can’t get the words out, she’ll have to help her do so, taking her by the hand to the roof for some deep breaths and to ask straight up what she wants to talk about. Adachi blushes and says she’ll tell her “after giving it some thought” even though she’s thought of nothing else for days.

Adachi somewhat reminds Shimamura of another friend she had in primary school, who always hid behind her like a trusty shield unless they came across “something sparkly”, then ran to that. That was, perhaps, the first time Shimamura started to question the value of getting close to anyone.

Adachi ends up appearing at Shimamura’s door early in the morning before school. She feels Adachi’s face and brings her in to warm up and, hopefully, finally ask her what she wanted to ask. And at long last, Adachi powers through her crippling hesitation to ask, in almost too roundabout a way, if Shimamura will hang out with her on the 25th of the month. That’s right—she can’t even say “Christmas”!

When Shimamura considers the question, its phrasing, the manner in which Adachi struggled to say it and the redness in her face, she almost asks “why”, but stops herself, knowing it could well irreparably harm their present relationship. She’s apparently so jaded about meaningful bonds that even if she did wreck them, she can’t see herself putting in the necessary effort to repair it.

It’s only when Adachi senses Shimamura pondering her question that she rephrases it in a way that simultaneously fails to get her true feelings across and makes it possible for Shimamura to accept. Adachi says she wants to hang out with “someone” for Christmas, which Shimamura takes to mean “not me specifically, but I’ll do since I’m really her only friend”. Of course, we know Adachi doesn’t want to hang out with anyone else, just like she doesn’t want to kiss or hold hands with or lie in the lap of anyone else.

That said, once Shimamura accepts, she can’t help but see how goshdarn giddy it makes Adachi, as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Is that really the reaction of someone for whom “anyone will do”? In her haste to start preparing their day, Adachi marches out of Shimamura’s house and bikes off without her, leaving Shimamura on the floor with her hand out yelling “Wait for li’l ol’ me!” in an uncharacteristic, old-timey way.

So yeah, these two aren’t quite on the same page, and at the moment Shimamura simply isn’t strongly considering the possibility of a romantic entanglement with Adachi in the near future. That said, if anyone can change Shimamura’s way of thinking about the matter, it’s Adachi. While her words continue to fail her, perhaps she can get the job done with her actions.

Momokuri – 17 + 18

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The rest of Summer Break breezes by without any contact between Momo and Yuki after accidentally ending up so close together. It wasn’t a matter of Yuki not liking it, but liking it too much and not being able to withstand any more. As a result, Momo is a little confused by their distance when the new semester arrives, but a nervous Yuki is later comforted by the fact that Momo not only worries about her, but is willing to call her to make sure everything’s okay.

Norika and Sawaguchi have a nice sidebar wherein the latter notices Yuki’s stalking, but comes to Yuki’s friend instead of Yuki directly, showing a degree of tact and delicacy. Norika is impressed by this, but as easily as Sawaguchi was able to detect Yuki’s bizarre behavior, he has a much tougher time reading Norika, who I feel genuinely believes he is a nice guy, even if her vitriol-spewing gives him cause to doubt it.

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Momo invites Yuki to a date at an amusement park, and the two have a grand old time, eventually ending up at the haunted house (where Yuki wants to hang off of Momo’s arm). A fortuitous power outage gives them both far more than they bargained for when Yuki trips on Momo, falls on him, and her hair gets tangled on his sweater button.

The house had legitimately made Yuki tremble in fear, so Momo’s correct and natural instinct is to hold and comfort her, which is what he does. Momo is surprised she’s more receptive to being held after running off and not being heard from the rest of the Summer, but due to the button entanglement they’re both in a situation of forced intimacy, and neither really has a problem with it.

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After they get entangled and Momo sees Yuki home, he crosses paths with Rio, who we know full well is jealous of Yuki, something she may only just be starting to realize when she gets to sit down, mend Momo’s sweater, and simply comes out and says things one could construe as critical of Momo and Yuki’s relationship.

Specifically, Rio sees Momo keeping a distance from Yuki, putting more value in his absence (and the trinkets he discards, like his button) than his presence, since his presence is often so overwhelming. At the same time, she sees Rio looking at Momo but not really looking.

What she really sees, jealous googles or not, is that Momo and Yuki are still fumbling through the basics of romance. Like Rio herself, neither of them have the slightest clue what they’re doing, and continue to put up walls when things get too intense. But there’s every indication, especially taking into account the progress they’ve made thus far, that they’ll figure it out eventualy.

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Momokuri – 15 + 16

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It’s a pool episode…another opportunity for Yuki and Momo to get a little closer. But after Norika inadvertently makes her feel weird about showing so much skin, Yuki covers up and sits alone. Momo thinks she’s caught his cold, but when she tells him that’s not the case, he starts blowing up a beach ball for them to play with.

This unlocks Yuki’s obsessive side, as she’s so preoccupied with the fact she’s batting a ball of Momo’s exhaled breath that she breaks the cheap ball, treating it with far more reverence than Momo, who’s content to buy another.

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When Momo is directed by his friend to hold Yuki’s hand as he escorts her to the bus stop, Yuki overprepares by dousing her hand in sanitizer spray. There’s no need for her to act so deferential; he wants to hold her hand.

More than that, he doesn’t want their day to end with her maturely saying goodbye as she boards the bus. Instead, he grabs her hand and takes the lead, surprising even Yuki.

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Momo really wants Yuki to understand he’s not just a cute animal, but a man, and believes being more assertive is the key. The only thing is, Yuki is so into Momo, his attempts to get closer end up overwhelming her, to the point she’s involuntarily spinning in her swing until she’s dizzy and collapses in his arms; no doubt an ideal outcome for both of them.

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Later, while studying with Yuki, Norika discovers her hidden stash of gifts Momo has given her, but also an obscene amount of used items he has cast away. In effect, it’s a cabinet full of junk that Yuki is placing far too much importance on, so Norika walks out of the room returns with bags, and starts cleaning up.

Even once the stuff is bagged with tight knots, Yuki still wants to get inside to retrieve her “treasures.” This kinda stuff in Momokuri walks a fine line, but the point is made that her love of Momo is so intense, sometimes she thinks she’s going crazy, an assertion Norika can’t argue with.

Purging her stash, and letting the stuff that doesn’t matter go, are necessary steps to tempering what is right on the line of being an unhealthy obsession. Love the guy, not his refuse.

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Momokuri – 13 + 14

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Momo and Kuri are taking their time, to put it mildly; so much so Momo’s friends are getting a little antsy with his slow progress. Because of her frequent assertions he’s cute, Momo’s worried Kuri doesn’t see him as a man (which his friends know not to be true), so they suggest he kiss her and see if that “does the trick.”

Turns out Momo is coming down with a fever, so his friend texts Kuri with Momo’s phone and she comes, full of nervousness. The fact is, both Momo and Kuri are incredibly timid when it comes to…one another. Krui constantly hides her more intense thoughts towards him (which we’re privy to), while Kuri…does pretty much the same thing.

They cannot deny how much their hearts pound when around one another, but as we see, Momo isn’t able to quite pull the trigger, faking a feverish collapse rather than go through a first kiss that Kuri definitely would have accepted.

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Still, as Chu2Koi! effectively demonstrated, every couple has it’s pace, and while Momo and Kuri’s pace may be slow for some, it shouldn’t be construed as anything other than the only pace they should be taking things: a pace they’re both comfortable with. They both love each other, so progress will be made given enough time.

Take their first-name-basis: Kuri has already started mixing in some “Shinya-kun’s”, and Momo decides in bed that he truly wants to start calling Kuri “Yuki”.

They’re both still very embarrassed to do it, but the fact they both do it, and share in that embarrassment, is a step in the right direction. The fact that hearing one another’s first names spoken by the one they love also serves as motivation to continue taking steps forward.

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