Are you tired of the modern isekai boom? Of copy/pasted fantasy worlds with barely-conceived game mechanics and overpowered, milquetoast protagonists? Do you wish to return to the isekai days of yore, where the world in question genuinely intrigued you, the protagonists had personalities, and were potentially female? Are you a fan of eldritch, lovecraftian horror?
Urasekai Picnic (or ‘Otherside Picnic’) is a light novel written by Miyazawa Iori. It stars Kamikoshi Sorawo, a college student who’s tentative exploration of a bizarre otherworld she discovered behind the door of an abandoned house finds herself making the aquaintance of one Nishina Toriko, a friendly yet mysterious girl searching the otherworld for her missing friend. The Otherside as it comes to be called is filled with dangers, however, which take the form of terrifying monsters that alter their cognition and demand every piece of courage and wit the girls can muster if their simply to survive.
The story is told more or less in a monster of the week format, with each chapter featuring a particular terror inspired by urban legend, old folklore, and modern internet creepypasta, each given descriptions which would put them right at home in the works of Junji Ito or Guillermo del Toro. The plot is engaging, though it does tend to take backstage compared to the various threats the Otherside has to offer, yet this somewhat out of focus is never an issue due to some truly fantastic character writing. Surawo, though a deeply flawed, misanthropic individual, never wuite crosses the line into being truly unlikeable, and her developing relationship with the far more easily charismatic (though no less troubled) Toriko makes the pair easy to root for.
The Otherside itself makes for a fascinating character in its own right, its presence being felt throughout the entire story, and the ways in which it impacts our heros and the world around them are used to chilling effect at every turn.
All in all, Urasekai Picnic is an excellent read for those looking for something a little different on their bookshelf, and will feel right at home to fans of Junji Ito, Pan’s Labyrinth, or even John Dies at the End. The light novel itself is available in English through Bookwalker, and a manga adaptation is currently in the works and can be found easily enough on your digital manga platform of choice. I cannot recommend this title enough.