Last week's gestures at the subject of the stranded soldiers come to fruition before you even actually start this week's episode of Otherside Picnic, just from clicking on the title. “Operation Rescue U.S. Forces”? Yes, thank you show, this is exactly why I'm here. I do feel like I'm harping on my hype for potential resolution of this plot thread a bit much, but I understand that the way I previously judged the plot as it was initially left hanging was off-putting to some fans of the source material with an understanding of where this story was really going. That's a pitfall of reviewing things on an episode-by-episode basis, dear readers, so the least I can do after the fact is admit my hastiness and make clear that I'm 100% on-board with what Otherside Picnic is doing now. Heck, the lingering issues of Sorawo and Toriko's last encounter with the Marines actually ups the quotient of entertaining tension that I initially went in thinking this episode was lacking!
Speaking to their newfound resolve towards assisting others with Otherside issues, especially on the part of Sorawo, this episode is all-business in their engagements. It's interesting how it was just something abstractly discussed in last week's episode, while here they immediately open having firmly decided to rescue the Marines, complete a solid plan for doing so. Their myriad misadventures have paid off in the form of a map of the dangerous dimension that's actually useful, they're asking for Kozakura's guidance ahead of time, and they're packing every preparatory provision they can think of. It's almost a little jarring, after so many accidental arrivals which they barely escaped by the skin of their teeth, to see this level of considered escalation. But if the transition is less than graceful, it's still effective to see as a character progression alongside Sorawo and Toriko's consideration of others besides themselves, and makes for a solid setup for an end-of-season climax.
It also lets the show continue building tension off of the understandable unknowns it's realized as a strength of its anime version. Heck, in the one scene that the monsters of the Otherside do appear in this episode, it's just a rush of zombies to ramp up the tension of escorting the soldiers while the hairy horned guy and the Boston Dynamics monstrosity just kinda look on and remind us that they exist. No, the real worries experienced, especially on the part of our focal gal-pals, are at the behest of the very military men they're there to help. There are obvious, inherent trust issues with the interactions between the Marines and the girls, borne out of the miscommunicated mess that ensued the last time they saw each other. It's the key example of why I should have shown the series patience towards what it was setting up for, since the shots-fired lead-up to the girls finding the Marines is made all the more effective by the uncertainty laid down by the previous parting. There's something to be said for a story like this driving up the tension via us having more understanding of something, apart from the typical attempts to root its horror in the incomprehensible.
That's the intense tightrope-walk of human interaction that's been the show's best asset in depicting, though. There's obvious tension and distrust and potential for one misinterpretation to blow up the entire process of rescuing the Marines, but at the same time getting on with Toriko and Sorawo is recognized as their only source of salvation (in the literal sense for the soldiers, if a bit more of an abstract personal element for the girls). In fact, the way the show almost downplays the intensity of that element is my only major gripe with this episode: They perhaps gloss over too briskly the way the girls get back into the good graces of the Marines to start leading them back home. I wouldn't have minded seeing some of the actual mending and reconciliation between the two sides, rather than the anime simply giving us the impression that the military just kinda figured out the girls were ultimately good on their own time and are so relieved to have a potential way home that they just go along with them. There are some moments, like Sorawo catching a stray glare from one of the soldiers as they march, making clear the inherent uncertainty still present in the partnership, which I appreciate. As well, some mind is paid to the way one of the Marines' deaths after they left clearly weighs on Sorawo, proof of her taking on the responsibility of empathy for these people. No one said being a better, more selfless person was necessarily easy, but it is ultimately worthwhile.
It's that potential for mistrust in the situation itself, amplified by the issues between the people involved, that makes this simple march to potential safety such a nail-biter. Even with the supposedly-scarier veneer of nighttime slapped over the proceedings, the Otherside Picnic anime still can't provide us with anything besides the most basic portrayal of actions. But by now the series is so effective at setting up these situations between these people and letting our understanding of their relations and foibles carry the tension that it works anyway. It's a praise I feel like I've had for this series for several weeks now, an appreciable example of an anime adaptation growing into its strengths instead of letting its weaknesses limit it all the way through. Revisiting a contentious plotline like this in a way that redeems it for hasty anime-only viewers like myself just comes across like a continuation of that kind of confidence. I was left unsure of where this story was going back when Sorawo and Toriko jumped on that train, but Otherside Picnic clearly always knew how it was going to lead them back here.
Otherside Picnic is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.