Creepypasta Critters from Otherside Picnic!

First a novel, then a 2017 manga, the Otherside Picnic anime debuted early 2021 and wrapped up after only around a dozen episodes. The basic premise of this series is...well, really the basic premise of this series is that a depressed, poor and awkward college student (also called "a college student") named Sorawo meets another girl named Toriko who's unfortunately searching for some other, older woman she might possibly have stronger feelings for. But the framing for that interpersonal drama is that the various urban legends, supernatural rumors and creepypasta circulating the Japanese internet are all very real in an eerie, empty alternate world with entries and exits hidden throughout our own, which both girls stumbled upon and began to explore before they met one another.

With the books still ongoing, the series ends with no conclusion or even any noteworthy cliffhanger, but until then, there's all sorts of weird phenomena frequently drawn from real urban legends, supernatural rumors and creepypasta, which we'll delve into wherever I can as we go over the various entities!


KUNEKUNE

RUMOR: this entity dates back to Japanese internet posts as far back as 2003, describing an encounter with a "white shadow" that writhes and distorts. If the Kunekune is ignored, it will ignore you back, but the more attention you give it, the more it will be drawn to you. Simply looking at a Kunekune is supposed to cause nausea, headaches or hallucinations, and actually touching one is lethal for reasons never quite specified. The name is an onomatopoeia for something wavering and rippling, but the official sub and dub for Picnic translates it as "Wiggle-Waggle!"



"Wiggle Waggles" are the first beings encountered in the series, and are said to be the "otherside's" most common creatures, though they're never really featured again after the introductory episode. While the manga gives them a smoother, more putty-like surface, their animated incarnation is a more vaporous and ghostly blue mass, crackling with static-like dark flecks. When a wiggly actually "attacks" our protagonists, we momentarily see its gaseous form split open to expose a more human-like eye, suspended in a dark void!



We also get to see what happens to a Wiggle-waggles victims...sort of. The girls come upon some poor guy's corpse with pale, fungus-like crystal filaments erupting from his eyes, and when Sorawo stares directly into a Wobbler for too long, she begins to babble strings of word salad as though having some sort of epiphany about the universe...as similar filaments begin to sprout up from her own eye sockets.



Fortunately, Toriko helps Sorawo snap out of it, and this is where one of the series' more interesting twists comes into play. Exposure to the "otherside" actually permanently alters Sorawo's right eye, and if she looks at one of its entities with that eye alone, she sees its "true form."

The thing is, these forms almost never clarify what any of these creatures are, actually only raising entirely new questions. In the case of the Wiggle-waggle, Sorawo sees a flaming, ghostly, snake-like entity before this spirit, or whatever it is, is put to rest.


EIGHT FEET TALL


RUMOR: the story of "Hasshaku-sama," the eight-foot woman, began around 2008. Resembling a pale-skinned, black haired woman dressed in white, the towering figure has an unnaturally deep voice, frequently repeats "PO" and can change her voice to imitate almost anyone. Because they more easily fall for this trick, she is prone to stalking children, sometimes for months, until she can catch them alone and presumably devour them.

In Otherside Picnic, she can both look and sound like whomever you feel strongest about, which is used to great effect for an eerie scene that ends in a surprising twist I'd rather not spoil here.



To Sorawo's eye, Miss Eight-Feet Tall is actually significantly more surreal: a structure of wooden bars arranged in a haphazard asymmetrical frame, and just one of these bars has a small, crude face cut into it.

While Sorawo gets a paradimensional eye, Toriko actually ends up with a ghostly left hand that can physically touch whatever Sorawo is able to see, so together, they're able to attack the bizarre object and send the towering bogeywoman back to wherever she spawned from.


WINDMILL WOMAN


RUMOR: this one isn't from a creepypasta, per se; its design in the manga is lifted directly from the Voynich Manuscript, a 15th century book whose strange writing and illustrations have actually never been deciphered. Nobody knows if it's written in a "lost" language, coded cypher or pure gibberish, the entire book quite possibly just someone's surreal art piece...or is it???



It's a shame the Voynich connection was dropped by the anime, and I'm really not sure why it was. Its anime design is still quite cool, however, a vaguely angel-shaped figure made of what resembles ornate iron, like a piece of an old cemetery gate. The figure has no face or head, but a flaming halo encircles the space where we would expect one to be.

This is another entity that can appear as almost anybody, fooling Toriko until Sorawo dissipates the illusion this time, though we never do get to see it in an alternate or "true" form.


BIG HEADS


RUMOR: this is actually one I was already familiar with, and in fact, the English translation of Big Head-O was the first "creepypasta" I ever read, way back in the early 2000's! In it, the narrator tries to find a small town they remember from the past, but found it long abandoned, with a strange sign that simply read "Big Head-O" or "Big Heads" depending on the version of the tale. They are then confronted with weird, pale humanoids with massive, swaying craniums and hands on their feet.

Sorawo and Toriko have basically the very same experience; the empty town, the sign, and the big heads themselves, whose design here is even more alien than most descriptions. Their humanoid bodies are pot-bellied but otherwise emaciated, while their enormous, smooth heads bear a pair of beady, red eyes, and a rather intriguing set of appendages roughly encircling their crescent shaped, blocky-toothed smiles: there's a pair of humanoid arms and hands so oversized that they reach from the head all the way to the ground, two pairs of what resemble large human fingers hanging from the back of the head, and one pair of more chitinous looking, segmented "fingers" between the eyes and mouth, giving the entire head the appearance of an enlarged dust mite!



When Sorawo takes a peek at a big head's "real form," we once again see something even weirder: a giant, spindly black spider whose swollen abdomen, raised on a thin stalk, possesses two small, glaring eyes and two whiplike red tentacles.

Though no further explanation is ever postulated for any of these beings thus far, we can definitely infer the concept here. These are giant arachnids pretending to be giant-headed hominids, but still poorly enough that the "disguise" is equally monstrous by human standards, and fails to completely hide the arthropod connection!


FACE DOGS


RUMOR: I'm actually not quite sure about this one. The name seems to reference the popular Japanese urban legend of a human-faced dog, but this entity appears as only a roiling, amorphous mass of simplistic, ghostly faces that produce a sound like a bunch of yapping dogs.

These are among several beings encountered near a camp of American military soldiers, who have apparently been trapped in the otherside for some time. The two protagonists befriend them, eventually, and help them escape in a later episode, both of which are very very funny in the original Japanese because the soldiers are given entirely English dialog that is neither written nor performed by anyone fully accustomed to the language. The soldiers even address their friends as "THE GIRLS" as if that's their actual name, by which I mean we get lines such as "THANK YOU, THE GIRLS! HELLO, THE GIRLS!"



The "face dogs" have one of the more surprising and creative true forms in the series, as they are actually a gigantic, cow-headed entity with a long caterpillar-like body. Small, anemone-like polyps sprout throughout the bovine worm, and the ghostly faces are actually generated by the black spots on its lumpy flesh! A luminous insignia also hovers between its horns, giving it an air of the spiritual, maybe even heavenly. Considering the fact that it appears to follow train tracks, perhaps it actually represents souls who have been killed by trains - which would include both people and, historically, wandering cattle.


WALKING GALLOWS


There's no particular urban legend I can connect to this one, and that's in part because this entity used to be the military unit's robotic mule! The otherside is littered with invisible anomalies that have completely unpredictable effects, and when the robot stepped into one, it not only went rogue but slowly began to change and grow.

Now, the machine has a towering, giraffe-like shape, with two heads, one atop the other, resembling metallic animal skulls. The body appears to incorporate an old car, more explicitly so in the manga, and from the underside of the robot dangle what appear to be human bodies wrapped in black cloth, strung to it by their feet! It's an incredibly striking design, briefly shown in the series intro, and feels to me like their most iconic original creature. This is the thing that should have cute, chibified merchandise if this franchise ever takes off to that degree.


HORNED MAN


This is another whose origins I'm not quite sure of, but only because there are quite a few legendary spirits, both ancient and more modern, that appear as men with antlers, such as Herne the Hunter, and various occult tales of antlered forest gods or fairy-kings.

This one is a towering, muscular, mostly naked giant who actually hangs out with the Walking Gallows for some unknown reason. The antlers on its head actually appear to be tree branches, with additional woody growths throughout its body, and its shaggy white hair completely covers a face briefly revealed as having only a a black, ragged mouth and a fractured, open skull from the nose up, where just one eye apparently hovers.

The face dogs, the gallows and the horned man together seem to regularly stalk and terrorize the trapped soldiers, and their arrival always heralds what they only fearfully call the "MEAT TRAIN." This is, perhaps disappointingly, just a normal looking train both inside and out, but when "THE GIRLS" jump aboard it to escape, Sorawo implores her friend to keep her eyes shut until the train stops, and we see only a quick, blurry flash of what Sorawo sees on board with them...


MONKEYSHINES


RUMOR: the story of the "Monkey Train" is actually one of Japan's most enduring internet tales, which describes a grotesque nightmare in which the dreamer boards an innocuous looking train - sometimes the kind of small train you might find at a zoo or a theme park - only for the conductor to announce that their next stop is "IKE-ZUKURI." This isn't the name of any station, but the name of the disturbing, controversial real-world meal in which a fish is prepared and eaten while at least its head end is still alive and gasping.

The dreamer sees four small figures, dressed in filthy monkey costumes, begin to cut apart one of the human passengers and remove their organs, preparing them precisely like the horrifying seafood dish. This is only the start of the story, which you can read here. Traditionally, it also circulated with a warning that if you finish reading the tale, you'll experience the monkey train dream yourself...which is inevitably, insidiously true for some percentage of readers, especially the more the story actually disturbs them.


NINJA CATS: Self Explanatory




SANNUKIKANO


RUMOR: in 2009, a member of a "mysterious stories" webforum claimed to have been visited by a monkeylike animal warning that someone named "Sannukikano" will be coming. The creature then presented a human molar, and explained that if the tooth is shown to Sannukikano, she'll present a second tooth, and both teeth must be buried together. Sannukikano supposedly arrived in the form of an elderly woman, the poster completed the strange task, and they never saw either of the manifestations again.

In Otherside Picnic, a friend of THE GIRLS has the same experience, but throws the teeth away, and the ghostly old woman begins to harm her and her family. When THE GIRLS try to help, Sannukikano attacks by telekinetically pulling random teeth right out of their mouths.



Hilariously, the same friend THE GIRLS are trying to help has her own "otherside" "superpower" that, when activated, drives her into a ballistic frenzy of mindless violence, and she defeats the tooth-loving specter with her bare fists.

Through Sorawo's eye, the entity simply appears to be a ghostly corpse rather than a ghostly old lady, which is QUITE disappointing, I have to say, and the manga even skips this entity entirely, but in the original book, its true form is described as multiple withered, mummified monkeys intertwined like a rat king...and surrounding by a flying swarm of teeth.


GLOBSTERS


RUMOR: good old Globsters! They certainly get referenced more in Japanese media than ours, don't they? The idea behind a globster is that it's impossible to identify, so it "must" be the rotten remains of a sea monster, but in reality it always turns out to be a fairly well-known animal.

Sorawo and Toriko, in this story, decide that the seclusion of an otherside beach would be the perfect place to unwind and relax, but are quickly interrupted by one monstrous phenomenon after another. In the anime, the first globster seen is a grey, fuzzy heap with long, pale limbs, but the beach is soon littered with a number of corpses that look more like stony meteors with blunt, turtle-like faces. Chunks of their rocky outer skin are broken off, but still attached by the pale, stretchy flesh underneath, and almost resemble twisted mushrooms sprouting from the central bodies!



The manga globster is still a bit more appealing to me, though: a pile of what looks more like seaweed with various large maggot-like shapes protruding from it along with a random scattering of crablike legs and paired, crabby eye stalks!

In all cases, the globsters begin to multiply in number and stir to life as the otherside sun begins to set...


LITTLE GREEN CHILDREN


...And as the globsters wake up for the night, an abandoned beach house comes alive with creepy, bug-eyed little babies, which Saworu sees as something like geoduck clams, or maybe sausages in croissant wraps? They look a LOT like delicious Pigs in a Blanket, actually, slithering around the beach house like snails.



The anime opts to throw many more monsters into this sequence, and we see the green children for only a moment. They're much less baby-like here, with noseless, mouthless faces and red eyes that aren't nearly as creepy, but their true forms are shown to be just vaguely humanoid, gelatinous shaps with dark, branching interior structures.


WATER HUMANOID


One of the anime's other beachside entities appears human at first, but melts into a dripping, viscous mass that seems to be dense, gellified seawater, and begins to attack with its stretching, shapeless limbs.


HUMANOID TRASH


...Then there's the gang of beachgoers who are revealed to be nothing but scrap metal, seaweed and other refuse, crudely assembled into a variety of creative, ghoulish bodies! I especially like the one with the trash can lid for a hat. We get nothing but one panning shot of these beings once their disguises drop, but together with the globsters, green children and water guy, the message is basically that you can't treat a mysterious alternate reality as a frivolous vacation spot.


MOSS MEN


Moss Men appear when THE GIRLS come back to help those soldiers escape to the real world. They're gooey, rotten figures of mud and roots with luminous red eyes, and they momentarily resemble some of the troop's missing members. Whether this is a trick or they were actually once human remains unknown, but they also seem to be connected in some way to the horned man.


KANKANDARA


RUMOR: the first one in a while from a legend I could actually track down! Kankandara hails from a somewhat long, rambling internet tale in which some reckless youth tamper with a shrine deep in the woods, and awaken a spirit that initially appears as a beautiful women, but reveals a mouthful of terrifying teeth, and later a form with six arms that appears to float in the air. This is actually because her lower body is a huge, dark snake that blends in with the surrounding forest, a pretty cool mental image!

Kankandara serves as the final boss threat of the stranded soldier story, as the shrine she guards is the nearest gateway between the two realms.



In the manga, Kankandara's snake demon mode is lifted straight from the original story's description, and as straightforward as it is, I like the eeriness of her ultra-dilated pupils and mouth stetched just somewhat too wide for a human. Also, nice, but still, put a shirt on!

The anime, for once, changes a design entirely to ramp up the weirdness. She gets a reptilian, double-jawed face and a long neck that aren't anything surprising for a snake spirit, but her body becomes a massive, amorphous blob of white flesh with multiple huge, gaping pores that emit some kind of sonic attack! That ain't even anything snakey, that's just cool!



And, to my delight, we're given one last baffling, abstract vision through Saworu's special main character eye - did we mention it's a different color from her other one? - as the "snake woman," for some reason, appears to her as a hovering chain of blocky, metallic bars.

It's roughly from this point onward that the anime begins to wind down, and basically just kind of "stops" instead of ending on some kind of climax or twist. Since the manga hasn't concluded, it's possible that there might be another season, OVA or movie down the road, but who knows, really. Either way, I can still recommend the anime as a pretty fun sci-fi horror adventure, and there's even a handful of other, more minor entities we've left out, as well as some fairly funny moments and enjoyable character writing. It all feels kind of like the anime version of one of those indie RPGmaker horror games, but one that just isn't quite finished yet. Will the manga ultimately explain what the otherside really is? Will we ever know why Velma Saworu sees so many monsters as entirely different, yet equally or more perplexing things? And will either of them ever even make it to first base before they're Jeff The Killed by some weird cube?!


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