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.

Zoku Owarimonogatari – 01 – Through the Loo(Koyomi)ng Glass

The long-awaited “epilogue” to Shinbou Akiyuki’s venerable Monogatari Series premiered in theaters last Fall. The movie can be cleanly split into six episodes. Here’s the RABUJOI review of the first, with more to come, on the 10-year anniversary of Bakemonogatari’s first episode. You can view a Big Board of the complete Monogatari anime saga in the order of when events occur here.—R.S.

It’s March 16, 2007 – just two days after the events of Owarimonogatari, and Araragi Koyomi has graduated from high school and has not yet been admitted to his college of choice. It’s a kind of purgatory he’s never experienced. From grade to middle to high school, he’d always known for sure what came next, whether he was a vampire or not. Now it’s all up in the air.

It’s not surprising for someone with such a murky view of the future to turn his gaze inward, thus undertaking a new adventure (or oddity): a mirror universe. Going into this movie (which I’ll be reviewing in six parts) I had no idea what to expect from these “bonus levels” or “lost levels,” but as a self-avowed Trekkie, exploring alternate realities is always a ton of fun and I’m glad to see Monogatari employ the device.

Aside from the familiar setting of his house being literally reversed, Koyomi starts to notice everyone’s a bit…alternate: Karen is short instead of tall; Tsukihi’s yukata is reversed; Yotsugi is extremely expressive. They’re all fun reflections the significance of which rely not only on the audience having pored over the previous ninety-seven episodes of Monogatari, but also having thoroughly enjoyed said poring, as I am on record as having done.

The most entertaining of alternate characters to date has to be Hachikuji Mayoi, the recently-installed town god whom Araragi visits to get some answers when Shinobu won’t respond to his summons. At first Mayoi doesn’t show when he presents an offering of aluminum 1-yen coins, two claps, and a prayer. But that’s because she’s stalking him.

Unlike the 10-year-old Mayoi who has been the victim of numerous Perverted Araragi Attacks™, Mirror Mayoi is 21; Koyomi’s senpai and onee-chan, and the hunter, not the hunted. Turnabout is certainly fair play, as Koyomi is the unconsenting recipient of wholly inappropriate verbal and physical manhandling. After her ambush, she helps him determine that the mirror world is a moment from his world that branched off, with some elements that have reversed and others that haven’t.

Drawing from the utilization of the temple’s torii as a time-portal back to 1995, Mayoi suggests that Koyomi attempt to return to his world by the same means. That means employing the unique talents of one former Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade to open the gate for him, even though her being a vampire means she has no counterpart in the mirror universe.

He just needs a way to convey that idea to Shinobu, who may be back in her prime if they’re truly separated. He suddenly recalls the cypress bath in Kanbaru’s house as a potential means to contact her. As the start to a new mystery box out of which Koyomi must think and network his way, Zoku is a welcome new addition to the mythos. Voice actors, art, design, and particularly Haneoka Kei’s pulsing soundtrack are all in top form. I can’t wait to see where this bonus stage goes.

Space Dandy 2 – 01

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Space Dandy is back, baby! But as Dandy himself laments in the middle of this particularly chaotic episode, they “came back too much.” After trying to pass a cow off as an alien, Scarlett gives them a stern life counseling session, suggesting they may not be cut out for alien hunting, being the worst such hunters she’s ever seen.

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As they ponder a future in space trucking, Dandy pulls at a stray hair on his head, it gets longer and longer until it envelops him, Meow and QT and zaps them into another dimension, where there is another set of Dandy, Meow, and QT (and Honey), only this set is much better at their jobs. They notice another stray hair, tug at it, and the process repeats.

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They’re not stray hairs, but cosmic strings, and continually tugging at them zaps the crew from one alternate universe to another, in all of which some form of Dandy & Crew exist. Those forms get more and more bizarre until we end up with a scary Meow who simply stands around grinning and holding a helmet he never wears, QT as an old codger who thinks he’s a robot, and a gloomy Dandy who just wants to die, having clearly been around the other two for far too long.

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With all the alternate Dandy crews springing up in one universe, not only does the Aloha Oe get overstuffed with people, but the universe itself starts to become full of contradictory information, to the point where even the normally unflappable narrator begins bickering with other narrators over what exactly is going on in the episode. If this goes on it can’t end well.

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So the Dandys and their crews come together and decide to light the cosmic strings like fuses. When that happens, a big explosion occurs and the universe is seemingly back to normal, until it’s dropped on us that Gloomy Dandy and his two insufferably strange companions are the new cast moving forward. The show is just joking, but in the end, Scarlett was wrong about the Dandy, Meow, and QT she knew being the worst. There’s always worse.

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