WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Otherside Picnic Episodes 1 and 2, streaming now on Funimation.
Isekai series have become a staple of every anime season, and Otherside Picnic was the first to premiere this Winter. However, though its main characters, Sorao Kamikoshi and Toriko Nishina, have adventures in another world, quite a few things set this anime apart from the genre's usual fare.
First of all, Otherside Picnic is a yuri series, and a focus on Sorao and Toriko as a potential couple marks a change from typical isekai harem set-ups. Even more noticeably, while the protagonists do travel to another world, they aren't stuck there permanently. Sorao and Toriko are able to return to the real world after each adventure, and the Otherside is easily accessible by pushing elevator buttons in a specific sequence. Most isekai feature a hero who has become trapped in their new world with no way home, often through reincarnation, but in Otherside Picnic, there isn't yet any worry that the main characters won't have a way to return home.
Instead, the danger lies in the Otherside itself. Rather than the high fantasy setting typical of most isekai, it is a world populated by monsters from Japanese urban legends, and running into them can have dire consequences. In the first episode, the girls hunt after the kunekune (translated in the subtitles as "the wiggle-waggle"), hoping to collect and sell the mysterious cubes they drop when killed.
In the real world, the legend of the kunekune first appeared on the internet around 2003, describing a wiggling white creature spotted from a distance in the countryside. According to some stories, if someone looks at the kunekune up close, they will go insane.
This is certainly true in the world of Otherside Picnic, and unfortunately for Sorao and Toriko, the kunekune can't be killed unless they continue to look directly at it. In order to gain anything from the Otherside, the girls must intentionally put themselves in danger. Toriko only asks Sorao to accompany her in her kunekune hunting because she knows that if she goes alone, she'll almost certainly be killed. Sorao is nearly driven mad by the kunekune before Toriko snaps her out of it, and the only other human we've seen in the Otherside so far has been dead.
Similarly, in episode 2, the girls face Lady Hasshaku, a ghostlike woman who lures in victims by making them perceive her as a loved one. This ruse works on Abarato, a man who has come to the Otherside to search for his missing wife; he sees Lady Hasshaku as his wife, and Sorao and Toriko watch as he runs toward her and disappears into thin air. Thanks to Sorao's eye and Toriko's hand, which gained supernatural powers of perception, they are able to defeat Lady Hassaku, but not before she almost successfully tricks Sorao by making her think Toriko is in danger. Once again, Sorao is only saved because Toriko is there to stop her.
The two protagonists are also standouts in the genre: Sorao is a college student who keeps to herself and is unwilling at first to "share" the Otherside, and Toriko is experienced with the gun she carries -- which, of course, is very illegal in Japan. When trying to convince Sorao to go back to the Otherside, Toriko even asks why she didn't report her to the police.
This doesn't make Toriko any less vulnerable to the creatures of the Otherside, though. She's been there more times than Sorao has in search of her missing friend Satsuki, but she doesn't know all the rules, such as how to hurt the kunekune. From the events of the first two episodes, it's clear that the girls will have to rely on teamwork to survive.
Otherside Picnic is an isekai, but it's very different from the usual high fantasy adventures in empowerment. As the series progresses and Sorao and Toriko face more challenges, it will be interesting to see how else the series sets itself apart.