Otherside Picnic – 11 – Return of The Girls

Sorawo and Toriko continue to exhibit positive change, as evidenced by their commitment to return to the Otherside and rescue the American marines they left behind. Simply saying “it’s not our problem” doesn’t enter into their thoughts on the matter.

It all comes down to whether their Lady Hasshaku hat trick will work again, and fortunately it does, transporting them back to the side of the train track. While they’re initially shot at on sight, Toriko fires off “SOS” in Morse, and the marines stand down, realizing they’re dealing with humans.

While Greg, their contact the last time around, was killed in the battle that continued after the girls transported away, the new guy in command speaks Japanese and is both friendly and grateful to “The Girls”, as they’re called, for coming back to help them. They’re also happy to provide all the weapons and ammo they need.

Toriko, whose mom was in the Canadian military and tought her how to shoot and maintain firearms, teaches Sorawo the proper way to hold and aim a rifle, getting all close and personal in the process. The two of them take their place atop one of the customized MRAPs the marines prepared, and the entire unit heads out, blowing up their improvised base behind them.

Sorawo, buoyed by the fact Toriko is right beside her, ably guides the convoy around glitches. Enemies first approach under the guise of fellow marines, but Sorawo’s eye sees through the illusion; they’re monsters, soon joined by the two boss-level beasts. Sorawo serves as spotter for the marines, but even after a successful headshot, the antler-branch monster’s head simply grows back.

When they reach the forest form which the marines first emerged upon arriving, their enemies suddenly cease their advance. After some driving through the woods they eventually come upon a roped-off glowing offertory box, perhaps the very gate through which the marines came. Their memories are hazy, clouded by the fear of the “nightmare” they endured upon arriving.

Sorawo and Toriko investigate, and spot a pale woman in tattered robes and blood-red toothy grin, whom Sorawo identifies as Kakandara—no doubt from another urban legend with which she’s familiar. Now that they’ve come so close to accomplishing their mission of bringing the boys home, hopefully The Girls can defeat, delay, or otherwise repel this Kakandara woman, and not give in to her fear-inducing aura.

Otherside Picnic – 10 – Tenth Floor Barbecue

Looking in the mirror without her glasses, Sorawo sees a longer-haired version of herself. She’s still clearly troubled by Akari’s comment about her perceived resemblance to Uruma Satsuki. That night she goes out for barbecue in Ikebukuro with the gang, and the American soldiers trapped in the Otherside come up for the first time since she and Toriko left them there.

That doesn’t sit right with either of them, particularly Toriko, and Sorawo wonders if Lady Hasshaku’s hat (which apparently still exists) can still provide them with a way to get back there to rescue them. But that’s put on hold when they get a call from Akari. She’d gone up ahead to get their table, but the elevator started strangely, and now she’s lost.

More worryingly, while on the phone with Toriko and Sorawo, she sees an illusion of them and assumes it’s them, drawing her even deeper into the rabbit hole. The other two conclude that the elevator of this Ikebukuro building operates the same way as the one in Jimbocho—as a gate to the Otherside. And Akari got off early.

They head to the elevator and go through the same process as in Jimbocho they’ve executed dozens of times, if not more. They’re joined at the last minute by Kozakura, who unlike them is not used to this stuff and is scared out of her wits the whole time, a far cry from the collected demeanor when she’s home.

Eventually the elevator opens on the floor where a monstrous girl tries to get on, but instead they see Akari. Sorawo decides to get off here to follow her, and Toriko and Kozakura follow her. Eventually they find Akari seated at a vanity mirror, only to vanish. Sorawo uses her eye and Toriko’s hand, but end up shattering the mirror.

That seems to take them from the In-Between world to the Otherside, which takes the form of a dark corridor full of shuttered stores. Sorawo finally gets Akari to turn around; from her perspective she was chasing them, not the other way around. Suddenly, Sorawo’s eye and Toriko’s hand start to tingle—call it their Othersidey Sense.

The white glowing form of a woman, probably Satsuki, appears from a distance, then creates a thick blue cloud of smoke. The four turn tail and run for it, initially finding themselves in a continuous loop before emerging at the In-Between. Kozakura starts to fall behind, but urges the others to keep running and not slow down.

The four manage to get to the elevator, and shoot the smoke until it retreats, but after a few moments of rest it comes back with a vengeance. Sorawo wakes up to find everyone else unconscious, and the elevator doors open to reveal Satsuki standing over what looks like a volcano…or possibly just a massive barbecue? Sorawo directs her eye and the unconscious Toriko’s hand at the two, and she’s out again.

This time, everyone comes to, and the doors open to reveal the barbecue restaurant; they’re back in the normal world. Akari heads over, having made a reservation for four in Sorawo’s name. When Akari asks her what the heck just happened, Sorawo says “Don’t ask me. I have no idea,” which is both fair and accurate.

But with stomachs growling impatiently, perhaps it’s best for everyone fill up with grilled meats, knock back a couple brewskis, and count their blessings. Whatever happened, they survived it together. And now they know that any building of ten or more floors could potentially be a gate to the Otherside.

Otherside Picnic – 01 (First Impressions) – Sharing is Caring

Kamikoshi Sorao (Hanamori Yumiri) is a solitary young woman who has found her way into another world, but when we find her, she seems to be in a bit of a fix. She’s floating in a pond like Ophelia from Hamlet (and a famous Klimt painting) and not only does it seem like she’s about to drown, but she’s not particularly upset about it, admiring the beauty of the light through the water as she sinks.

Then Sorao is suddenly pulled out of the water in a princess hold by Nishina Toriko (Kayano Ai) clearly a far more cheerful and gregarious young woman. There’s also a strange monster that makes you nauseous if you even look at it, but thanks to Sorao looking at it just long enough and Toriko tossing some rock salt at it, it is defeated, leaving a curious reflective cube.

Having felt a rush of danger and accomplishment from their joint defeat of the “thing”—called a Kurekure or “Wiggle-Waggle”—Sorao and Toriko retreat back to their own world. There, Toriko refers to where they were as the “Otherside”, and asks Sorao for her contact info, wanting to meet again.

Sorao only feels comfortable telling Toriko where she attends college, and to her shock, Toriko shows up while she’s eating alone in the dining hall. Toriko has a backpack full of rock salt and wants to return to the Otherside to hunt some Wiggle-Waggle, and she wants Sorao to come with.

Their subsequent journey to the Otherside via a different portal makes for another pleasantly weird, creepy, and atmospheric sequence, aided by Watanable Takeshi’s nervy ambient score and both dreamlike and nightmarish visuals. They must press the elevator buttons in the right order, stopping at a certain sequence of floors, on some of which lurk frightening monsters both white and black.

But once on the Otherside, we see that it is something of an alternate, fallen version of where they came from. Between this ruined yet eerily beautiful setting and the two very different personalities who explore it, I was immediately reminded of 2017’s excellent Girls Last Tour, with more conventional character design and the fact these girls aren’t stuck in the ruined place, but can come and go as they please.

Predictably, Wiggle-Waggle Battle No.2 doesn’t go as planned, as neither Toriko’s rock salt or her handgun seem to have any effect on the beast. Sorao goes over how things went down before and remembers that she maintained eye contact with the thing as Toriko attacked. This time, doing so is an even more harrowing and trippy experience for Sorao, who hears layered voices as the dragon-like beast descends upon her.

Still, she only has to stare at the thing long enough to make it vulnerable to Toriko’s bullets—too long, and she’ll go mad, she’s told. Toriko keeps that from happening by giving Sorao a well-timed slap, while pulling the weird blue tendrils that started to grow out of Sorao’s face (and which apparently killed another explorer nearby).

Toriko puts some caps in the Kurekure’s ass, and their reward is another magic cube, the true purpose of which eludes both of them. Then they realize just how close they came to utter ruin, and run like crazy people to safety, settling on the roof of the building where the portal home is located. Toriko suggests they go out and celebrate when they return, after a short rest. Sorao betrays an easy smile and concurs.

In the beginning, Sorao preferred to keep the Otherside to herself, but after meeting Toriko and becoming “partners in crime”, she now realizes the value and novelty of sharing the place with someone. She may call Toriko a “weirdo”, but only because she knows she’s a weirdo too. As different as the two of them are, Sorao had fun being weird in a weird place with Toriko.

And you know what? I had fun watching them too! This is no Girls Last Tour—at least so far—but it has a wonderful stripped down quality, an otherworldly mood and atmosphere, and just the right amount of potential peril. It’s just enjoyable to spend time watching these two explore this strange place while simultaneously exploring each other. Looks to be a fun ride.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 57 – Going Up…

This will probably go down in the annals of CCS as a landmark episode in the development of Sakura x Syaoran. Specifically, the latter’s feelings for the former begin to boil over to such an extent that he can no longer lie or obfuscate to himself about what she means to him.

While he occasionally asks either out loud while alone or in his thoughts something along the lines of “What’s wrong with me?”, much of his realization comes wordlessly as he watches Sakura both close up and from afar, be it during class, gym, music, or recess.

When Sakura invites Syaoran to join her, Tomoyo and Eriol at a teddy bear exhibit, he’s reminded of the bear he made but has yet to give to anyone. As he wrestles with his feelings after school he bumps into Yukito, who can quickly tell that Syaoran cares for Sakura very much, even if he won’t admit it.

Try as he might to shake off or run away from his feelings, they’re there, and they’re only growing the more time he spends with her. In fact, when he hears her voice on the answering machine (she had to leave two separate messages thanks to her tripping on Kero-chan’s video games), he listens to her a second time, just to hear her lovely voice.

Syaoran decides to play it cool the next day when the four of them hang out, keeping his hands behind his head most of the time as he watches Sakura having fun. The sequence is one of two montages that place Sakura and Syaoran in interesting visual framing devices decorated with autumn leaves signifying change on the horizon.

However, when Eriol brings up Syaoran’s homemade bear and Sakura asks if he’s given it to anyone, he becomes embarrassed again and runs off. Sakura chases him down as he enters the elevator, but then, as seemingly both another test for Sakura and a chance for Syaoran to be alone with her, Eriol locks them in the elevator.

After a period of awkward silence in the dark, Sakura starts to cry, so Syaoran cheers her up with a flame taliasman. She lays out her handkerchief and invites him to sit beside her so they’ll be more comfortable.

But then Eriol activates the next stage of the test, which involves the walls of the elevator falling away and Sakura plummeting down a deep, dark pit. Panicking, Syaoran calls out to Sakura using her first name for the first time.

Sakura rises up out of the darkness, having converted and used the Float card, and Syaoran simply gathers her into a hug, overcome with relief and joy she’s okay. Eriol ends his spell, the elevator returns to working order, and Sakura and Syaoran are rejoined by Tomoyo and Eriol.

That evening, Syaoran gets another call from Sakura thanking him for being with her during the elevator incident, as well as expressing how happy she was to hear him call her Sakura. In exchange, Syaoran gives her the okay to call him by his first name.

This is a big deal! Syaoran has finally stopped running and accepted that Sakura is special to him. It’s another crucial step towards a Clear Card future in which they’re officially a couple.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 16 – Duel at Cloudtop

While Fanatio was able to endure Eugeo’s Enhance Armament, Kirito delivers the coup de grace with his own, overwhelming her sword of holy light. There’s a moment when it almost looks like she’s giving up, and that’s when she’s blown all the way up into the dome of the hall.

Kirito passes out once his attack is complete, but Eugeo is able to revive him by transferring some of his life. Kirito rushes to heal the critically injured Fanatio, but neither he nor Eugeo can stop the bleeding. Kirito decides to use the dagger meant for Administrator, asserting that there’s no way he can walk away from Fanatio carrying the tool of her salvation in his hand.

A bemused Cardinal takes her away and promises to heal her, assuring the lads that they can still defeat the pontifex without the dagger provided they get the jump on her while she’s sleeping, which is…often. Cardinal also sends them potions to bring them back to 100% for the next fight. I wonder if the Fanatio who wakes up will be grateful to her saviors…or regain her memories.

The only way to the higher levels is a kind of elevator shaft glowing with green light. A floating platform appears with an almost robot-like “operator” who simply asks which floor they’d like. It doesn’t matter that they’re criminals, fugitives, or enemies of the pontifex; her calling is to operate the elevator, and that’s it.

The dreary drudgery of such a calling calls to mind Eugeo’s constant hacking at the Gigas Cedar, but at least he got to go outside. The operator, who doesn’t even remember her name, would wish that if they succeed in bringing down the pontifex and her calling were recinded, she’d want to retain control of the floating platform and use it to ply the skies.

She brings the duo to the eightieth floor, the Cloudtop Garden, where they find Saber Alice reclining against a tree, asking for a little more time to relax in the sun. When the lads keep advancing, she reveals that the tree is the ancient form of her divine object, the Osmanthus Blade.

She acknowledges that the boys must have some skill if they were able to make it thus far, but promises them this is the end of the road for them. Kirito and Eugeo have no intention of defeating her, only restraining her long enough to use Eugeo’s dagger to send her to Cardinal.

To put it mildly, Saber Alice…doesn’t make that easy. Her Osmanthus Blade scatters into thousands of petal-like shards, giving her far more unpredictable and adaptable offensive power than a mere single blade. I likened it to the shikai of Kuchiki Byakuya’s Senbonzakura, though I’m sure there are plenty of other analogues.

Things seem to go according to plan at first, with Kirito constantly retreatin, then turning aside Alice’s blows until he’s close enough to grab her and hold her still. That allows Eugeo to unleash his Blue Rose Sword’s Enhanced Armament, capturing both Alice and Kirito in a block of ice.

But that’s where things stop going their way. Alice’s blade is exposed, and it scatters into petals and dissolves the ice. Suddenly on his heels, Kirito breaks out his AE again, and seemingly fights Alice to a draw, as the combined force of their attacks blows a big hole in the side of the cathedral.

They’re on the eightieth floor, the pressure differential sucks them both out before Eugeo can get to Alice with his dagger. Worse, the wall almost immediately completely repairs itself, sealing Kirito and Alice outside and Eugeo inside. Neither Kirito nor Eugeo alone were ever going to be able to face the Commander of the Integrity Knights—let alone Administrator. Yet alone is where Eugeo now finds himself.

I can’t imagine he’ll go all the way back down to the entrance to meet back up with Kirito, and possibly continue assisting him in his duel with Alice. Or perhaps the duel is over as far as Alice is concerned. In any case, getting the two lads back together will take some doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if a dragon was involved.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 03

This week on Girl’s Last Trip, something amazing happens; something perhaps more amazing than finding all the elements one needs to build a makeshift hot tub: Chito and Yuuri meet another survivor, a young man named Kanazawa.

The lit cigarette portended something potentially perilous, but Kanazawa is harmless. He has no gun and no vehicle, and has been making maps, but that’s about all we and the girls ever learn about him. Where he came from and how he survived are left a mystery.

While he doesn’t have a gun, he does have dynamite, which he uses to knock a building over so they can use it as a bridge across a gorge. His maps help lead them to a fueling station, and then they finally reach their destination: one of the mammoth towers that must lead to a higher level, where maybe there will be more people…or at least more food.

SSR excels at portraying just how tiny humans are before all this gargantuan infrastructure; Kanazawa offers some insight regarding the fact more contemporary civilizations couldn’t fully figure out the more ancient, yet in some cases, more advanced structures. At any rate, they’re very big and impressive.

Anyone who doesn’t like heights—like Chito—might just feel a bit of vertigo or tingling in the back as the elevator, which has no chain link fence, slowly rises higher and higher. Just as Chito is worried about what would happen if the elevator tilted, the elevator tilts, and Kanazawa’s sachel of maps slips off.

He nearly slips off as well trying to catch it, but he can’t. His maps are gone; scattered hundreds of feet above a level they may never return to. As he had earlier declared the maps were his life (i.e. the only thing keeping him going), he wants the girls to let him fall. They do not let him fall—Yuuri may be a book-burning glutton but she’s not evil.

They manage to fix the elevator and reach the top, and their seeming reward is the activation of all the streetlights around them, and a great light in the distance that is the girls’ next destination.

After Yuuri uncharacteristically shares her rations with Kanazawa (and Chito rewards her by giving her half of hers), Kanazawa heads North on his own. Looks like he was only ever going to be a temporary party member. Now on to that great light…whatever it is.

Another – 04

With Sakuragi and her relative dead, Class 3 is uneasy, for if the curse is back this year, it means one student will die per month, along with one of their relatives, in some cases. Sakakibara saves one of his classmates from falling plate glass. He returns to the doll shop and finds Misaki there, who warns him to be careful. As Nurse Mizuno tells Sakaki her brother isn’t aware of anyone named Misaki Mei, despite Sakaki’s insistance, she enters an elevator whose cable breaks while she’s inside, and she crashes to her death.

While they caught us by surprise with the first death last week, Another didn’t do a very good job concealing its hand. Maybe that’s not the point; the point is, people are going to start dying from now on. As soon as we learned Sakuragi’s relative died, we pretty much knew the cute nurse was going to bite it; it was just a matter of how. And what does she do? Step into a decrepit old elevator for no reason! We know; last week proved stairs can be deadly too, but we knew there was no way she’d ever be stepping out of that elevator alive.

People are still reserved about letting Sakakibara know too much, which is kind of annoying, since he’s still apparently confused about something as simple as the existence of Misaki. No one else can see her, kid. She’s a ghost. And she’s bad frikkin’ news. Even if she’s not consciously or maliciously causing these things to occur, she’s a part of the cause. So, the question is, exactly what “countermeasures” do Izumi & Co. possess that will stop the killing?


Rating: 3.5