It just raises too many questions. (Really? I’m quoting Batman Forever? This can’t be a good sign.)
What’s the Story?
Moments from death, Sorawo is saved by the mysterious Toriko. Somehow the two girls have found themselves in the strange and bizarre Otherside, where all manner of urban legends and folklore come to frightening life. Not that Sorawo or Toriko scare that easily, not when Toriko’s former mentor has vanished into this otherworldly wilderness and Sorawo finds herself drawn to Toriko for some reason. Even if the experience leaves them changed, Sorawo now able to see things as they truly are and Toriko with a translucent hand that can grapple with the Otherside, neither of them are giving up just yet. The question is, what’s going to happen first? Will Sorawo and Toriko admit their growing feelings for one another or will the Otherside drive them insane? My money’s on the later at this point.
I really wanted to love this series. You give me a series about folklore and urban legends and I’ll generally eat it up, admittedly I tend to lean more towards mythology and legends rather than creepypastas, but it’s all good in my book. Throw in a couple of likeable heroines with a cute burgeoning romance and, on paper, this series is right up my street. So why am I so disappointed in it? It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why this series hasn’t connected with me the way I wanted it to, but after some ruminating the best answer I come up with is that it has a split personality problem.
There are two distinct things that this show is trying to do in my opinion, tell fun, creepy horror stories in under twenty minutes, and also tell the growing love story of Sorawo and Toriko. Neither of these goals are mutually exclusive to the other, but the show just never finds the right way to blend them together. There are some moments that have some really creepy, effective atmosphere to them, and other moments where Sorawo and Toriko are super cute together. That’s the problem though, they’re just moments. Neither sticks around long enough to develop a proper vibe for the show and the rest of the time it’s weighed down by clunky dialogue and a shocking amount of vagueness and unanswered questions.
Let’s talk about writing horror for a minute, and I’ll preface all of this by pointing out that I’m not a horror writer, or that big of a horror fan. There are some horror stories I like (At the time of writing this I’m currently re-reading my way through my Hellboy collection), my tastes very much veer more towards the psychological and creepy, which is what this series appears to be aiming for. Part of the problem I’ll put down to the format, it’s really hard to tell an effective horror story in twenty plus minutes (not impossible, but you really have to know what you’re doing). Psychological horror takes time to build, you need to create a sense of dread and impending doom and when you’re doing episodic stories that’s really hard. How do you build that sense of dread when you also need to squeeze in the set up and resolution for this week’s adventure, introduce any new characters, cram in a romance subplot and maybe even explain what this week’s creepypasta is all about. It’s a lot and you need good writers to accomplish it, which this series sadly doesn’t have.
I mentioned explaining the creepypasta-of-the-week, and that is one of my continual frustrations I have with this show. It hardly ever explains what the week’s featured creepypasta is about, it’s origins, anything beyond just a brief summary of a couple of lines. As I said I’m interested in this stuff and I would like to know what they’re about other than some random monster and odd goings on. That’s just a me thing though. I get what the show is trying to do. It thinks by playing up the mystery and keeping things vague that will ramp up the horror. That’s how Lovecraftian horror works after all, beings far beyond our understanding or comprehension. Maybe with better writers it could have worked, but personally I have the opposite reaction. Because I don’t know what’s going on I don’t really see a need to care so instead I just sit back and let the random stream of events wash over me with no reaction whatsoever. I’m fairly certain that’s not the reaction the creators of this series were hoping for.
To finish off, let’s talk about the final nail in the coffin for this series and it does relate to its vagueness. The series, not content to keep the creepypastas vague, they also decided to throw in several mysteries that go precisely nowhere. What happened to the person Toriko is looking? Why does Sorawo look like her when she lets her hair grow out? What was with that time when Sorawo mind-controlled their friend just by looking at her? What exactly are the beings of the Otherside and just why are they so interested in our heroines? Heck if I know. Not to mention the fact that there’s never any resolution to that romance subplot. It does make the series feel entirely pointless and, however much I do actually like Sorawo and Toriko, those two alone aren’t enough to save this show.
In the end, Otherside Picnic is anything but a picnic. It’s unfocussed and vague in all the ways that a horror series really shouldn’t be. It never quite decides whether it wants to focus on it’s horror-story-of-the-week or its romance subplot and both elements suffer for it. The leads are likeable enough, but an over abundance of unanswered questions and poorly explained creepypastas leave the story feeling hollow. This one definitely belongs on the Otherside, where the rest of us can forget all about it.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.